Northern Adventure – Samburu

The great unexplored

Northern Adventure – Samburu. The great unexplored.

Located on the edge of Kenya’s vast, hot and arid northern region, It is a photographers dream with Samburu’s rugged scenery, endless skies and vast panoramas creating a powerful and unique backdrop for some of Africa’s rarest game and several hundred bird species.

Samburu National Reserve is one of the 56 protected areas in Kenya. It is famous North of the equator because of the richness of flora and fauna found there; it can be reached through Nairobi-Isiolo-Marsabit road and Maralal-Wamba-Isiolo road. Lying on the flood plains and bottom land of Ewaso Ngiro drainage system in the Great Rift Valley. It rises to an altitude of 2785 ft above sea level and covers an area of 390 km2.Samburu National Reserve was established in 1948 as part of the enormous Marsabit National Reserve under the national park ordinance.

The reserve is part of the ancestral territory of the colourful Samburu people, close relatives of the Masai, and is home to a number of species rarely found elsewhere in any number.

Species to be seen include, Grevy’s zebra, Reticulated giraffe, Greater and Lesser Kudu, Beisa oryx, and the long-necked gerenuk, a graceful antelope that spends much of its time on its hind legs seeking out succulent leaves in the withered scrub that dots this harsh terrain.

Samburu’s dramatic scenery is scorched for most of the year by the relentless equatorial sun, but the wide Ewaso Ngiro River offers some relief. This river rises some hundreds of kms to the west in the foothills of the Aberdares and eventually vanishes beyond Samburu into the recesses of the Lorian Swamp, but is at its wide and dramatic best in the reserve, where you can see large numbers of crocodile on sandbanks at almost every turn. There are also many hippos, and the banks are lined with giant acacias, figs and doum palms, which provide shade and a vital food source to the wildlife that comes to the water. Herds of elephant roam the gaunt hills that punctuate the scrubland, some appear a vibrant red colour after rolling and bathing in the mud and dust.


Climate: The climate for Samburu is hot dry with cool nights with an average annual maximum temperature of 30ºc (86F) and minimum annual temperature of 20ºc (68F).

Rainfall: Samburu National Reserve receives 350mm (14 inches) during peak rainfall in April and November (Variable). Long rains are expected in early April to the end of May and short rains from mid October to mid December. Dry conditions usually prevail from June to early October and from January to March.

Vegetation: Botanist have identified more than 2 dozen plant communities, but thorny scrubs cover much of the reserve and the most common are Acacia Elator, Acacia Tortolise, Salvadora Pesica and the Doum palms.

Communities: The neighboring communities to the reserve are the Samburu tribe a clan of the Maasai. They play a major role as part of tourism in the area due to their unique cultural experiences offered to visitors through traditional ceremonies, village visits, food, dances and sale of traditional crafts.

Major Attractions

Its home to the big five:- Elephant, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Buffalo.

Other animals of interest are: Cheetah, Gerenuk, Reticulated Giraffe, Somali Ostrich, Grevys Zebra, Besia Oryx, Wild Dog(Endangered) Pancake Tortoise (Endangered).

It also contains over 450 species of indigenous birds.


Why I love Samburu

I first visited Samburu in 2003 and have been back almost every year since. Samburu is a unique location for photography and it is possible to capture breathtaking images throughout the reserve. Samburu is particularly nice to visit in low season due to the lack of visitors, at time you can have the reserve to yourself and spend many an afternoon sat by the river photographing Elephants cooling off in the water. Samburu also tends to provide the unexpected, I have witnessed crocodiles eating a giraffe, tree climbing lions, oryx being stung by bees, wild dogs hunting and killing a dikdik, an aardvark drinking at the waterhole at our lodge and many other extraordinary things. Samburu is usually an overnight tick box safari destination on a busy and hectic safari itinerary.

Samburu really needs a week on its own to be explored, enjoyed and appreciated.

The Photographic Tour

I will be leading various small group (maximum 8 people) Photographic Tours throughout 2016. Join me on a scheduled departure, or contact us for a privately guided tour. Or if you prefer to travel with one of our very knowledgeable guides then also get in touch. With Touch the Wild we will travel in landcruisers, with pop up roofs and wind down windows for easy photographic opportunities. I will split my time between vehicles to advise and help with any photographic needs.

The itinerary for this trip is as follows:

Day 1

Pick up from Nairobi Serena Hotel. (Please note that Serena will be included in the cost of your trip for the night before departure) Additional nights can be booked if required. We will have a morning briefing in the Serena Hotel and then will start our drive North to Nanyuki. On the way we will stop at the equator for refreshments. We will drive past coffee and tea plantations and see some beautiful and colourful Kenyan landscapes. When we reach Nanyuki, we will visit Ol Pajeta Conservancy, and stay overnight in Sweetwaters. Time permitting we will visit the chimpanzee sanctuary enroute to the lodge.

Day 2

After an early breakfast we will do a short game drive on our way out of the conservancy. We will then continue our drive North to Samburu. As we get further North we will notice a big change in the temperature and the landscape, as we drive past Isiolo we will start to see domesticated camels and possibly wild elephants and other animals on the side of the road. We will enter Samburu mid afternoon and will head to the river to have our packed lunch. We will relax in the shade of the trees for a while and then will embark on our first taste of Samburu and see whether we can find any of the rare species found in this beautiful reserve. We will stay overnight in Samburu Lodge which will be home for the next 5 nights.

Day 3 – Day 6.

After an early breakfast we will set out to explore Samburu.Generally we will rise early to make the most of the coolest time of day, when the birdlife is at its most active, we will stay out for as long as we need, looking for all of the key species that we have come here to photograph, then we will return to our lodge where there will be time to rest and relax following lunch, when the sun is at its highest and relatively little wildlife is stirring.  Heading out once again in the mid to late afternoon, we have an opportunity to see the day’s other period of transition as the sun drops and nocturnal species start to emerge. It’s at this time that most predators start to become active. We can be flexible with the above itinerary and can go out before breakfast and return for a late breakfast and stay in the lodge until after lunch. Or if the weather allows we can go out for full days, we will review and discuss this as a group daily and can make arrangements to suit everyones needs.

Day 7.

After an early breakfast we will pack and leave Samburu for our drive back to Nairobi. We will stop at intervals on the way back to break up the journey. We will arrive at Serena mid evening. It is suggested that you arrange your return flights for Sunday 21st June.

Touch the Wild Tours

Prices start from £1600 per person (based on 2 people sharing – single supplement available on request).

The price includes.

  • 2 nights accommodation in Nairobi Serena Hotel. Bed and breakfast only.
  • 1 nights accommodation in Sweetwaters Ol Pajeta. Full Board
  • 5 nights accommodation in Samburu Lodge. Full Board
  • All meals whilst on safari.
  • All park fees and government taxes.
  • Transport in landcruiser (as described)
  • All services from tour driver/guide.
  • All services from photographic guide.
  • Bottled Water whilst on safari

The price excludes.

  • Any flights
  • Tips and Gratuitees
  • Samburu Village Visit (Available on day 2 or day 7)
  • Any drinks other than water.
  • Travel Insurance.

(Please Note accommodation options detailed above are  subject to availability and may be changed)

To book a place we require a £500 deposit paid at time of booking. The balance is paid 2 months before departure.

(Want to spread the payment costs. Monthly no interest payment scheme available)

Samburu Tour Enquiry

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Your Touch the Wild Guide:
Paul McDougall

Wildlife Tour dates:
February 2016

March 2017

April 2017

May 2017