Samburu County

Attractions in Samburu County

1. Shaba National Reserve

Most travellers to Northern Kenya take in a tour of the famous Shaba National Reserve, either on their way to Marsabit and Sibiloi National Parks or from Samburu National Reserve – which it is linked to by a causeway across River Ewaso Nyiro. Gazetted in 1974, this exotic 60 km2 reserve, located east of River Ewaso Nyiro, does indeed, offer endless wildlife excursions. It carries a similar fare to that of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserve; that of a superb ever-changing sweep of scrubland only interspersed by acacia and distinctive rocky uplands. That is to say, its relatively flat terrain makes it easy to drive across and easily spot game. On the flip side, this does make it harder to spot game, because one can hardly see more than the length of the savanna glades. “Historically, Shaba National Reserve had gained unwelcome notoriety as the place where Joy Adamson was murdered while trying to release a leopard back into the wild, but fortune and fate have favoured Shaba since.”  The Sarova Shaba Lodge and Joy’s Camp, both rated up-market safari resorts, are the chief accommodation options at the Shaba National Reserve. Some places of interest around the reserve include River Ewaso Nyiro, the Magado Crater and Samburu National Reserve. Also of interest is the abutting Nakuprat Gotu Conservancy operated by the Northern Rangelands Trust and which encircles Shaba National Reserve. It is found 52 kms north of Isiolo Town and 21 kms from Archer’s Post.

Inside Shaba National Reserve. Image Courtesy of Ever Wild Africa
Inside Shaba National Reserve. Image Courtesy of Ever Wild Africa

2. Buffalo Springs National Reserve

The 131 km2 Buffalo Springs National Reserve, a sweep of semi-arid outback separated from Samburu National Reserve by River Ewaso Nyiro and forming part of the Laikipia-Samburu Arc, was established as a way to safeguard these wildlife plenty plains. Much the same as Shaba National Reserve just alluded to and Samburu National Reserve, immediately north across Ewaso Nyiro River, Buffalo Springs National Reserve is best-known for its spectacular game drives and the striking rolling topography. Unique to this area are the sparkling waters of Buffalo Springs where plenty of wildlife gather. The springs are on the left of the main road (if travelling north) shortly before taking the turnoff to Samburu National Reserve. The Samburu Simba Lodge, Elephant Bedroom Camp, Ashnil Samburu Camp, Larsens Tented Camp, Samburu Game Lodge, and the public campsite all align with Ewaso Nyiro River (west to east) in the northern area of the reserve. From Nanyuki the A2 Nanyuki-Isiolo-Archer’s Post Road, which is in great condition and motorable throughout the year, bends and drops some 2,000 ft., down the Timau Escarpment, and provides memorable views across the plains below through Isiolo and to the turnoff into Buffalo Springs, 98 kms from Nanyuki. From the A2 it is a 10 kms drive along a goodly all-weather road.

Distance from Isiolo Town to Buffalo Springs National Reserve
Distance from Isiolo Town to Buffalo Springs National Reserve

3. Ashnil Samburu Camp

Aligning with the marches of River Ewaso Nyiro Ashnil Samburu Camp, within the Buffalo Springs National Reserve, is one of the most popular middle-budget safari spots in Samburu County. Ashnil, translating in the Samburu language as ‘an oasis of crystal clear water’, is centered around the jim-dandy pools of water situated at the western border. The camp is comprised of 30-luxury tents set on the banks of Ewaso Nyiro River. Among the highlights at Ashnil are its privacy, its serenity and the unrivaled views of wildlife when they congregate to water at the bank of the river, especially at dusk and dawn. Callers to the camp can enjoy guided walks along the river or tour Samburu National Reserve.  For those who fancy hiking, Mount Ololokwe and Mathews Range are within striking distance.

Ashnil Samburu Experiential Video. Published by Backdrop Agency

4. Archer’s Post

Samburu National Reserve can be reached through the Buffalo Springs National Reserve or using the Archer’s Gate. The latter means heading out until Archer’s Post and then onto a dirt road to the reserve’s headquarter, 13 kms from the A2 Road. More strategic than charming, the outpost of Archer’s Post however lacks little in uniqueness and character thanks to the sentimental value attached to it by travellers to this region; it being the last outpost where they can stock up on supplies before the long and hard-push north. It was historically utilised by the British Army as a training ground. The discerning traveller may be interested to unravel that Archer’s Post, cardinally dissected by the Ewaso Nyiro River, which sprung its origin, roughly demarcates the halfway point between its headwaters and mouth at Lorian Swamp. This lengthy river drains the slopes of Aberdare Range and Mount Kenya, crossing over the arid Laikipia Plateau and through Archer’s Post beyond which it crosses an undulating plateau where it changes to a dwindling river that discharge its water, near Habaswein, into Lorian Swamp.

5. Chanler’s Falls

Generally speaking, the Ewaso Nyiro River flows with low water for much of the year, lowest in March and highest around May. The river often runs much faster soon after the rains in March and April, over its traditional river line, extending up to 100 yards, although this rarely causes concern or damage. After the rains, it revitalizes the small Chanler’s Falls. “Below Archer’s Post, River Ewaso Nyiro crosses an undulating plateau eastwards, descending Chanler’s Falls and then flowing northeast, spreading its waters near Sericho into the vast swamp. The upper swamp is generally called Lorian Swamp, but this narrows and continues southeast and east into Somalia. Here Ewaso Nyiro used to be known as Lak or Lagh Dera, a variant of which name is still used in Somalia”. It was named during Lieutenant Ludwig von Höhnel’s second expedition in East Africa, this time accompanying William Astor Chanler, a wealthy American, who wished to travel to Lake Rudolf. On September 18th, 1892, they set out from the coast along a slightly more northerly route than that previously traversed with Count Samuel Teleki von Szek from 1887. On December 26th, 1892, they came upon a waterfall some sixty feet in height on the Ewaso Nyiro River, which they called Chanler Falls. Local people reported that the river emptied into Lake Lorian, and this rapidly became Chanler’s quest. He soon found, however, that the Lake Lorian was actually a ‘swamp’, that has since been known as the Lorian Swamp.