Kenya – Two Reserves, no reservations!

Visiting Kenya? Samburu and Buffalo Springs Game Reserves offer you a diversity and variety of landscape that you’ll miss if you restrict yourself to the Masai Mara.

These relatively small but vital conservation areas host all of the big five animals together with a wide spectrum of other wildlife in surroundings that aren’t always overrun by the intrusion of tourists with little regard for conservation.

Set either side of the Isiolo and Samburu County lines and divided east/west by the life-giving Ewaso Nyiro River both Samburu and Buffalo Springs offer a fascinating landscape and unprecedented viewing.

Each is approx. (165Kms) in area, so not big by Masai Mara standards (approx. 900 but are you likely to traverse all 900 sq. mls. on your tour in search of an abundance of wildlife? That’s not to say that the Mara hasn’t a plethora of animals and isn’t beautiful in its own right – but the flat endless rolling plains can make your safari seem a little repetitive whilst in search of your chosen wildlife.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs are approximately 300 miles north of Nairobi – so a decent drive but over relatively well-maintained roads that mean you can keep up a sensible schedule.

The distance alone is sufficient deterrent for many visitors, who prefer the closer proximity of the Mara to Nairobi but with some beautiful places to stay in Nairobi and en route there’s no need to restrict or condense your tour by leaving out Samburu and its sister.
We travelled north in May, on the cusp of the ‘long rains’ and the summer – so the landscape was lush, green and fascinating – yet to suffer the ravages of the sun that would soon leave everything a bleached and parched ochre.

Mount Kenya, to our right, the Aberdares to our left across an undulating pastoral landscape, keep us company for some miles as we drive north; small villages and dwellings huddle alongside the road with colourful busy street markets, outcrops of forest with swinging Colobus Monkeys and trundling ox-carts of the pastoralists and smallholding vegetable-farmers all add to the tapestry of interest on our journey.

Water is at a premium in Isiolo County (the area we’re travelling through, parts of which get no rainfall at all each year) which makes the Ewaso Nyiro River even more important for the wildlife in the Reserves we’ll visit.

The main entrances to both Samburu and Buffalo Springs are unassuming but straightforward in terms of formalities and before we realise it we’re driving through the reserve in search of game.

The landscape here is a fascinating mix of semi-arid savannah with rough bare granite volcanic highlands that punctuate the surface, interspersed with riparian forest , dry river beds and, of course, the Ewaso Nyiro.


The best sign of a good reserve is a healthy population of prey base – as it’s a sure-fire indicator that the predators will also be present.

There are healthy numbers of Grant’s zebra and the endangered Grevy’s Zebra here, as well as Reticulated Giraffe, Oryx, Gerenuk, and smaller mammals such as Dik-dik – so the big cats such as Cheetah, Leopard and Lion are present as well as the smaller hunters such as Jackal and Spotted Hyena.

Water Buffalo put in an appearance but Elephants dominate the scenery in all senses of the word.
We spend inordinate amounts of time simply sitting in our vehicle watching families of elephant wallow in the river, or males tussling for dominance, or young being schooled or protected by their mothers.

And that’s the beauty of Samburu and Buffalo Springs – time!
All of the Reserves have schedules that you must adhere to but as most of the lodges you’ll stay in are within the park boundaries, there’s a little more wiggle room on your timings than in some of the more populated reserves.

We spend time watching two Reticulated Giraffe thrashing out their superiority over one another, a thoroughly bruising experience – but there’s a host of other wildlife of all sizes to keep you enthralled. We’ve never seen the Giraffe-necked Gazelle before, standing on its hind legs to browse and the sight of a lone lion cub, beautifully camouflaged in the undergrowth waiting for its mother, is a real treat.

Add to this the relatively fewer numbers of people in these reserves and you can find yourself alone in the bush for hours. That’s not to say that it doesn’t get busy at times, especially if you travel peak season (June-October & December-March) when the grass is shortest and the landscape driest – so wildlife sighting is easier, as animals aren’t so well camouflaged and congregate more by available water.

We had no reservations about our time in the bush, especially as we’d rather trade fewer sightings of wildlife (not that we missed anything – as our photos prove) for the benefit of fewer sightings of tourists!
The camps you can stay in offer a broad choice of standard, so you can accommodate yourself either in basic but more than adequate accommodation, or make it as exclusive as you like – it’s simply down to budget really and also whether you prefer luxury tented or more formal sleep-overs.
Samburu and Buffalo Springs are not everyone’s first choice of nature reserve but we highly recommend them if you want to see something more of Kenya.


Cherrie's Notes

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