Spot leopards in Samburu National Reserve

Although most people call it ‘Samburu’, we actually mean three splendid National Reserves which are connected and form one big wilderness reserve: Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. Samburu offers fantastic game viewing and is a 4x4 self-drive safari heaven, as there are hundreds of off-road dirt roads tracks. Some follow the riverbanks; others wander off to the nearby hills. Samburu is famous for leopard sightings. Located in the North of Laikipia, one of the less-visited regions in Kenya, this reserve promises an authentic wilderness experience. 

Covered in Roadtrip Kenya's Visitors Guide to Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba:

  • Why you should include Samburu in your Kenya travel itinerary
  • How much are the entrance fees?
  • How to get to Samburu?
  • Best time to visit Samburu?
  • Campsites and best places to stay in Samburu?

Why you should include Samburu in your Kenya travel itinerary

Palm groves and riverine forests, in the midst of arid and semi-arid ecosystems, create the magnificent landscape of the Samburu National Reserve. It's inhabited by iconic wildlife and is the traditional homeland of the Samburu people, cousins to the Maasai. The culture of the Samburu people has remained relatively undisturbed by the modern world and they are proud to share their customs and knowledge with visitors. The Samburu people were drawn to this area due to the reliability of the Ewaso Nyiro river that provides water for their herds. Likewise, the river also provides for the livelihood of the wildlife that roam this reserve. 

Samburu is home to the rare northern special five species, or as local guides call them the “Samburu Five”: the Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, Reticulated giraffe, Gerenuk and the Beisa oryx. These five can't be found in any other Kenya National Park. Samburu is also famous for its residing leopards. Roadtrip Kenya highly recommends going with an experienced ranger, who knows their whereabouts. A ranger can be picked up from any of the entrance gates. 

Another exciting aspect of a visit to Samburu is that's it a well-known walking destination. Explore Samburu on a camel, just as the Samburu people do! 

How much are the entrance fees for Samburu Reserve?

Entrance fee is USD 70 / person. Vehicle fee is 400 KES ( appr USD 3.70). Camping fee is USD 30 / person. For an up to date overview, check the Samburu Reserve website

How to get to Samburu?

Most of Northern Kenya (bordering Somalia) is off limits for self-drive rentals. A visit to these three National Reserves is the most north you can go. No self drive safaris are allowed past Archers Post.

Samburu is mostly accessed coming from Nairobi or from Nakuru.

  • Coming from Nairobi, its 322 km and approximately 7 Hours’ drive. The recommended route will be joining the A2 to Archers Post.
  • Coming from Nakuru, its 323 Kms and approximately 6 Hours drive. The recommended route is to join the C83 to Nyahururu town, where you join the B5 which will lead you to the A2 highway to Archer’s post

What is the best time to visit Samburu

Samburu can be visited year-round, but wildlife watching is usually best in the dry months from June to October and December to March. The rainy months are in April, May and November. 

Campsites and best places to stay in Samburu

Samburu hosts a number of upmarket lodges and hotel chains. Some are very expensive, going up to 2000 dollars for a night. The more affordable chains are Sentrim Samburu Lodge, Ashnil Samburu Camp and Sopa Samburu lodge (all are more or less $250 USD per night for a double room). The rather grand-scale set up of these chain hotels shall not appeal to everyone. 

One camp which is fairly priced and at least more authentic is the Lion King Bush Camp; though a cheesy name, its an affordable mid-range alternative with friendly staff. 

There are two great special campsites in Buffalo Springs and Shaba, and Roadtrip Kenya has recieved great feedback from roadtrippers about these sites. The River Special Campsite in Bufallo Springs is next to the river and good game-spotting areas. Funan special campsite in Shaba is located near a water hole and surrounded by big trees providing you with enough shadow during the hot days. No prior booking is needed for these special campsites, as these National Parks of Kenya don't see many tourists.

There is an excellent website on Samburu Reserve. You can find more information about accomodation and campsites in Samburu, here