Samburu National Reserve

Located just north of Mount Kenya, Samburu National Reserve sits in the arid geographic center of Kenya on land protected since 1948 but not formalized into a dedicated reserve until the 1960s.

Since then, Samburu has become an extraordinary safari destination thanks to the River Ewaso Ng’iro (meaning ‘brown water’), which flows along the reserve’s southern border and provides a year-round water source for 450 recorded species and a mix of habitats from riverine forest to swampland.

However, Samburu is undoubtedly best known as the place where Elsa the lion cub, from movie Born Free, was raised. It’s also the site of Elephant Watch Camp, giving a hint at the species list visitors to Samburu can expect to encounter.

As well as the continued presence of all three species of big cat (lion, leopard, and cheetah), the reserve also features elephant, black rhino, Cape buffalo – making Samburu a Big Five reserve – plus hippos and Nile crocodiles.

At the same time, Samburu is one of the best, and easiest, places in Kenya to sight northern plains species including endangered reticulated giraffe and Grevy’s zebra, beisa (East African oryx), gerenuk (also known as the giraffe gazelle because of its elongated neck) and Somali ostrich. Together, these species are known as the Special Five.

The Samburu ecosystem extends beyond the reserves formal boundaries into several community run conservancies and ranches offering impressive accommodation options, including West Gate Community Conservancy and Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy.

Not only do these operations provide vital employment opportunities for local Samburu families, but they also substantially increase the area of protected land for Samburu’s vast array of species. To visit Samburu is therefore to actively participate in the conservation of Africa’s most-loved animals while enjoying experiences which cannot be had anywhere else in East Africa.

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Top Kenya Travel Destinations

Amboseli National Park / Laikipia Plateau / Masai Mara National Reserve / Meru National Park / Mombasa / Nairobi / Tsavo East National Park / Tsavo West National Park

The Big Five

African Elephant / Cape Buffalo / Leopard / Lion / Rhino

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