Samburu National Reserve is ranked among the best parks in northern Kenya - and it’s easy to see why. Nestled on the banks of the Ewaso Ng'iro River with views of the Koitogor and Ololokwe mountains, the park’s picturesque setting is hard to beat. And the wildlife is pretty spectacular too. The main hub of activity is along the meandering river, which attracts elephants, zebras, buffaloes, hippos and various other mammals to its lush banks to feed and drink. It sounds like your typical African wildlife experience, but Samburu has a slight edge that sets it apart from the rest. Thanks to its smaller size and far-flung location, the park has a remarkably peaceful atmosphere and more concentrated game viewings. Less driving, more wildlife. What’s not to love?
As well as being celebrated for its rare and endemic species, Samburu National Reserve has been the home of some of the world’s most famous predators. Elsa the lioness, known from the best-selling book and film ‘Born Free’, was raised by Joy and George Adamson in the reserve. You may have also heard of Kamunyak, the lioness known for adopting several oryx calves and starring in the popular film ‘Heart of a Lioness’. Visitors can trace the paw prints of these legendary residents and hear tales of their unique adventures.
Though the wildlife is a major draw, Samburu also offers the chance to immerse yourself in the local culture. The reserve derives its name from the Samburu people, who have lived in the area for hundreds of years. This colourful nomadic tribe are closely related to the Maasai and just like them, they still practice age-old traditions and have learned to live in harmony with Kenya’s animal kingdom.
If exciting wildlife encounters with a dose of authentic culture sounds like your kind of trip, make sure you add Samburu National Reserve to your East Africa itinerary.
A drive through Samburu National Reserve is an adventure in itself, with its vast plains, doum palms, acacia forests and mountainous backdrop. But the main event, as always, is the wildlife. Safaris tend to focus on the winding roads around the Ewaso Ng'iro River, which slices through the middle of the park leaving a trail of lush vegetation behind. There’s a good chance of seeing Africa’s famous big cats, with lions, cheetahs and leopards all present within the park. Other residents include elephants, giraffes, baboons, zebras, hippos, buffalos and crocodiles. The park is also renowned for its unique and rare species, which are reason enough to visit. These include the long-necked gerenuk, Grevy's zebra, beisa oryx, Somali ostrich and reticulated giraffe.
Samburu is also a haven for bird-watchers, with more than 350 species to look for. You can expect to see colourful birds such as the lilac-breasted roller, sunbirds and bee-eaters, plus larger varieties such as vultures and eagles.
Aside from the wildlife, the Samburu villages are a popular attraction. A typical village visit offers the chance to interact with these warm and welcoming people, watch traditional dances and learn about their traditional cattle herding techniques. You’ll also have the chance to buy some handmade crafts and jewellery - the perfect way to remember your trip.
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