Samburu National Park / Reserve

Samburu National Park / Reserve is the most popular destination in northern Kenya and a great spot for wildlife viewing especially the big five. There are no Rhinos in this park but elephants are commonly seen and they are usually relaxed.

Given it’s arid environment, Samburu is home to a variety of northern Kenya specials; both in terms of birds and mammals making it a worthwhile addition to a standard Kenya safari.

Size: 165km² / 64mi²

Altitude: 845-1,236m / 2,772-4,055ft

The highs and lows

  • Game viewing is excellent with four of the Big Five easy to find (rhino excluded)
  • You will find interesting mammal species that are restricted to Kenya’s arid north
  • Enjoy the beautiful barren scenery
  • There are excellent birding opportunities with lots of dry-country specials
  • A good range of accommodation catering to different budgets
  • The park is very hot and dry


Samburu offers great wildlife viewing and four of the Big Five are present. Rhinos are absent, but big herds of elephant cross the reserve. Of the big cats, leopards are very rewarding with some habituated individuals giving high-quality sightings. Most interesting are the northern Kenya specials including Beisa oryx, lesser kudu, Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and the odd-looking gerenuk.


Samburu protects an area of semi-arid savannah extending from the lovely Ewaso Nyero River. The reserve is made up of riverine forest along the water and dry acacia scrub peppered with termite mounds. Koitogor Hill marks the middle of the reserve. Two community conservancies – Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy and West Gate Community Conservancy adjoin the reserve.

Animals & Wildlife in Samburu National Reserve

Samburu offers great wildlife viewing, and good densities mean that most safari animals can be seen within a couple of days. There are several habituated leopards, and sightings are not unusual. Elephants are plentiful, and there is a variety of antelope, including both the greater and lesser kudu, with their impressive horns. Only rhino is absent from the Big Five.

Wildlife highlights

Several dry-country adapted mammals that don’t occur in most Kenyan parks can be found here. The Reticulated giraffe has a more striking pattern than the common Masai giraffe. Beisa Oryx is particularly well adapted to arid conditions. The gerenuk, with its elongated neck, is able to stand on its hind legs to reach sparse leaves. Both the common Burchell’s zebra and the bigger Grevy’s zebra are found next to each other.

Best time for wildlife viewing

It doesn’t rain much in Samburu so it can be visited in any month, but the most productive time of year for watching wildlife is in the Dry season (June to October). The vegetation really thins out in the Dry season, and animals gather around the few remaining water sources. The wettest month is April, and the rains can make wildlife watching more challenging at this time.

Best time to visit

Samburu can be visited year-round, but wildlife watching is usually best in the dry months from June to October and December to March. It is wise to avoid the height of the Wet seasons (November, April and May). During these months, spotting wildlife (which has spread out anyway with the availability of water) in the long grass is more challenging.

How to get to Samburu National Reserve

Samburu is located 355km/220mi north of Nairobi. Self-drive to the reserve is an easy option. There are also daily scheduled flights from Nairobi to Samburu’s airstrip.

Safari-goers flying from Europe or North America to this part of Africa usually arrive at Nairobi – it’s the largest hub for most transport (including flights) in the region. The main airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), which is located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), which is 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.