Kenya wildlife safari in Samburu – our tips for safari bliss

Published on: January 1, 2024

Personal recommendations from our visit to Samburu in 2024, key facts about Samburu, best Samburu lodges to suit your budget, the key wildlife species you will see, and how to organize your safari from Nairobi to Samburu with no stressful traveling and more time on safari.

We also discuss budget and luxury Samburu safaris and the best time of year to visit Samburu. This is one of our best short wildlife guides to Samburu and will be very helpful with your personal trip planning

Kenya wildlife safari to Samburu. Photo of a cheetah

Samburu national reserve – key facts!

Samburu national reserve is one of the most famous wildlife destinations in Kenya. Although from a safari experience point of view we can consider it as three reserves, any of which can be visited with the entrance ticket which is valid for 24 hours. These are Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba national reserves. The central theme being the magnificent Ewaso Nyiro river, which originates from Aberdare range and Mount Kenya and flows from south to north through northern Kenya.

The habitat in Samburu is characterized by sandy plains, extensive riverine forest along the Ewaso Nyiro river, which is sometimes prone to flooding and only rarely runs dry. It is this river which attracts the many different species of herbivores and the key predators who follow them on their migration.

You will also see extensive acacia thickets, doum palm groves, and saltbush grasslands where you might be lucky enough to spot the elusive cheetah.

The wildlife of Samburu national reserve

Although a relatively small reserve it packs a punch when it comes to wildlife; especially during the dry season, when the Ewaso Nyiro river attracts wildlife from all around to its life-giving waters. Two species found in good numbers here are African elephants and leopards, but you will also come across lions in good numbers and herbivores such as giraffe, zebra, oryx and generuk.

Samburu special 5 – lets get funky with our wildlife spotting!

Of course, many will say that the Big 5 or Special 5 are simply marketing strategies for Kenya wildlife reserves to attract their fair share of visitors through the gates. However, what is nice about the Samburu special 5 is the focus switches away from the always popular apex predators, towards truly unique local wildlife perfectly adapted to the semi-arid habitat of Samburu.

The Samburu special 5 are Grevy’s Zebra, Somali Ostrich, Beisa Oryx, Reticulated Giraffe and Gerenuk.

Samburu special 5 on your Kenya safari with Wildlife Trails

Samburu Lodges – this is where you should stay for longer!

Wildlife Trails always visit our African wildlife lodges in person and the number one determining factor is location. There is no point staying in a luxury Samburu lodge if it is located 30km from the main entrance to the park. We also try hard to find safari lodges which are more mid-range in price or offer discounts for longer stays. Long stays at Samburu national reserve is always something we recommend and most of our clients spend 3 to 4 nights at each property.

Our choice for a luxury Samburu lodge in a perfect location to maximise your wildlife encounters while thoroughly spoiling yourselves is Sasaab lodge. Perched on the edge of a river valley, the architecture of Sasaab blends Swahili and Moroccan design principals to create a cool oasis in this dry and hot region. Each of the nine luxury tents have their own private plunge pools and breath-taking views across the Laikipia Plateau towards the jagged peaks of Mount Kenya

Our two choices for best value for money wildlife lodges at Samburu are as follows.

Larsens camp is located in a dense stand of riverine forest on the north bank of the Ewaso Ngiro River in the Samburu area of northern Kenya, Larsen’s Camp is a decent mid-range facility, with guest accommodation in 12 luxury tented camp. There are also two family unit and two deluxe luxury tented suites. Activities include nature walks, game drives, cultural visits and bird watching.

Ashnil Samburu Camp is a deluxe mid-range tented camp set in the spectacular backdrop drop of the Mighty Ol Olokwe mountain with epic views of the Ewaso Nyiro River. A range of activities are available on request and comprise of game drives, nature Walks and a cultural visit to the Samburu Village, bush meals like bush lunch/dinner and sundowners.

The 19 exclusive luxury tents are spread out amongst the shady banks of the river under a thick stand of Doum Palms. Each tent has its own private terrace with views of the Ewaso Nyiro River.

Samburu from Nairobi – how to plan your safari

Depending on the amount of time you have for your Kenya wildlife safari you have two main ways to organize your Samburu safari. Firstly, we can provide you with your own private 4X4 vehicle and expert driver/naturalist for the entire Kenya safari. They will meet you at the airport and then transfer you direct to Samburu national reserve. The obvious advantage of this style of private Kenya wildlife holiday is you have full control over the type of wildlife you want to view as the vehicle is yours.

Some people are a little short on time, or prefer to avoid the longer car journeys between Nairobi and Kenya’s national parks. If that is your preferred method of travel we simply book bush flights with Safarilink, including an additional 10kg luggage allowance, and fly you to the nearest airport to your Samburu wildlife lodge. On arrival you will be picked up by the lodges vehicle and transferred direct. Generally at the lodge you will enjoy shared safari activities with other guests as to upgrade to a private vehicle is very expensive. The big advantage with this form of safari is the driver/guides are generally local and have intimate knowledge of the park and the best locations to see wildlife in Samburu.

How to travel from Nairobi to Samburu on your Kenya wildlife safaris. Photo of chanting Goshawk

Best time of the year to visit Samburu

Samburu National Reserve can be visited year-round, but wildlife watching is usually best in the dry months from June to October and again from January to February. During the months of November and April you have the long rains and this can make driving in the park more difficult and the longer grass wildlife viewing more challenging.

If you would like to read our expert guide about the 8 best parks to visit on your Kenya wildlife safari then click here.

Check our this amazing value 8 day safari to Samburu national reserve

About the Author

Allan Blanchard

Allan Blanchard is the founder of Wildlife Trails, a biologist, and conservationist. He studied animal behaviour and has a passion for using real time data to pick the ideal time to see endangered flagship species. Whether that be Snow Leopards in India, Gorillas in Uganda, or Jaguars in Brazil. 27 years of continuous recces to the best safari destinations in the world, is both a privilege and a huge advantage when curating award winning wildlife holidays for Wildlife Trails.