You are here:

Samburu National Reserve

Overview

Wildlife

Birds

Best Time To Visit

Weather & Climate

Getting There

Malaria & Safety

By Samburu NP

If you visit only one reserve in northern Kenya, make it Samburu National Reserve. This reserve is teeming with wildlife, including many desert-adapted species, and offers stunning scenery. The park is relatively compact, nestled between stark, barren mountains and the lush banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. You’ll also experience the rich cultural backdrop of the heart of Samburu country.
samburu (4)
Best Time To Go
June to September and January to February
High Season
December to March and July to October (Busy)
Size
165km² / 64mi²
Altitude
842-1,064m / 2,762-3,491ft
Pros & Cons
Excellent wildlife viewing during the Dry season
Four of the Big Five are easily spotted (except for rhinos)
Unique mammal species found only in the arid north
Stunning scenery
Exceptional birdwatching with many dry-country specialties
A variety of accommodations to suit different budgets
Very hot and dry climate
Wildlife
Samburu provides excellent wildlife viewing, featuring four of the Big Five, though rhinos are absent. The reserve is frequently traversed by herds of elephants. Among the big cats, leopards are commonly seen, with opportunities for high-quality sightings. Notably, Samburu is home to the northern Kenya specials, often referred to as the Samburu Five: Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, and gerenuk. Additionally, Samburu is one of the few parks where you can spot the lesser kudu.

The primary activities in Samburu include guided game drives, where you’ll explore in a 4WD safari vehicle or minibus to spot animals and birds. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to visit a local Samburu village community with a local guide.
Scenery
Samburu is one of Kenya’s most picturesque reserves, featuring riverine forest along the beautiful Ewaso Nyiro River, where leopard sightings are most likely. Beyond the river, dry acacia scrub and semi-arid savannah, dotted with termite mounds, stretch to the mountains that form the park’s northern boundary. Koitogor Hill is a prominent landmark at the center of the reserve.
Weather & Climate
“Hot” best describes Samburu, though nighttime temperatures drop significantly. Be sure to dress warmly for early morning game drives. The Dry season (June to September) is true to its name, with nearly no rain. In favorable years, the Wet season (October to May) transforms the landscape into a lush green.
Best Time To Visit
During the Dry season (June to September), dust lingers in the air, giving the landscape a hazy appearance. Despite this, it remains the best time for wildlife viewing due to favorable road conditions and sparse vegetation that doesn’t obstruct your view. The hot, dry months of January and February are also ideal for spotting wildlife. Birdlife is most vibrant and spectacular during the wetter months (November to April).

By Samburu NP

Samburu National Reserve provides excellent wildlife viewing, with high animal densities ensuring that many safari species can be spotted within just a few days. The woodlands along the riverbanks offer some of the best leopard sightings in Kenya. Elephants are abundant, and the reserve is home to a variety of antelope, including both the greater and lesser kudu with their impressive horns. Rhinos are the only members of the Big Five not found here.

Elephant
Giraffe
Hippo
Buffalo
Zebra
Wildebeest
White Rhino
Black Rhino
Lion
Leopard
Cheetah
Hyena
Wildlife Highlights

Samburu features its own unique version of the Big Five, known as the ‘Samburu Five.’ These dry-country-adapted mammals are found in only a few Kenyan parks and include the reticulated giraffe, noted for its striking pattern, Beisa oryx, gerenuk, known for its elongated neck and ability to stand on its hind legs to reach sparse leaves, Grevy’s zebra, and Somali ostrich.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

Rainfall in Samburu is minimal, making it a year-round destination. However, the best time for wildlife viewing is during the Dry season (June to September), when vegetation is sparse and animals congregate around the remaining water sources. The dry period from January to February is also excellent for spotting wildlife. The wettest months, April and November, can make wildlife watching more challenging.

Wildlife Photos
samburu (3)

By Samburu NP

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are home to over 390 bird species. These reserves encompass diverse habitats, including arid acacia savannah, scrub, and gallery forest along the Ewaso Nyiro River. The dry, open landscapes provide excellent birdwatching opportunities, featuring several northeastern African dry-country species also found in Ethiopia and Somalia, such as the vulturine guineafowl, Somali bee-eater, and golden-breasted starling.
D’Arnaud’s barbet
common
White-bellied bustard
common
Vulturine guineafowl
common
Black-faced sandgrouse
common
Black-capped social weaver
common
Best Time for Bird Watching

Samburu is a bird-watcher’s paradise year-round, hosting many unique dry-country species that can be seen throughout the year. The excitement peaks when migratory birds arrive around November and stay until April. However, weather conditions are crucial to consider, as heavy showers can disrupt birding activities. November and April have the most rainfall, making December to February or March generally the best months for bird watching.

Facts & Figures

Bird Species

450+

Migratory Birds

Nov to Apr

By Samburu NP

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Samburu National Reserve is accessible year-round, but the prime time for wildlife viewing is during the dry months from June to September and January to February. It’s best to avoid the peak wet seasons in November and April. During these months, wildlife disperses due to abundant water, making animals harder to spot in the tall grass.
Best Time
June to September and January to February (Ideal for general wildlife viewing with minimal rainfall)
High Season
December to March and July to October (The reserve can become quite busy)
Low Season
April to June (Low-season rates may apply)
Best Weather
June and December (Cooler and fresher after the rains)
Worst Weather
April and November (Wettest months)
June to September – Dry Season
Optimal time for wildlife viewing as animals gather around water sources
Minimal rain and abundant sunshine
Malaria risk is nearly nonexistent
Extremely hot, dry, and dusty conditions
Less scenic with hazy skies
October to May – Wet Season
The lush scenery is beautiful.
April to June is the low season, so lower rates may apply.
There are still plenty of animals, even though wildlife viewing is better in the Dry season.
This is the best time for bird enthusiasts due to the presence of migratory birds.
Road conditions can be poor in April, May, and November.
Wildlife Photos
samburu (3)

By Samburu NP

During the day, Samburu National Reserve is hot and dry, but it cools down at night. Daytime temperatures typically reach around 32°C (90°F), while nighttime averages drop to 17°C (63°F). It’s advisable to bring warm clothing for early morning game drives. The heaviest rains occur in April and November, although overall annual rainfall is low.
Dry Season – June to September

This time of year is characterized by hot and sunny days with virtually no rainfall.

 

June & July: Hot and sunny conditions prevail, with afternoon temperatures around 29°C (84°F).

 

August & September: Daytime temperatures increase as the rainy season approaches. In September, the average temperature is about 29°C (84°F), but it can reach significantly higher.

Wet Season – October to May

The Wet season is characterized by short rains followed by more intense long rains. January and February experience a dry period that separates the two rainy seasons.

 

October, November & December: ‘Short rains’ – November is the wettest month. It rarely rains all day, but afternoon storms are common. Daytime temperatures are around 29°C (84°F), rising before the rain and cooling afterward.

 

January & February: This dry spell falls between the short and long rains, though the exact timing is unpredictable. February is the hottest month, with afternoon temperatures averaging 30°C (86°F), though it can get much hotter.

 

March, April & May: ‘Long rains’ – Short afternoon showers are typical, beginning in late March. April is the wettest month, making driving on deteriorating roads challenging. Afternoon temperatures are around 31°C (88°F).

Samburu National Reserve
samburu (4)

By Samburu NP

Your likely entry point into Kenya will be Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), situated 15km (9 mi) southeast of Nairobi, the capital city.

 

Samburu National Reserve is 355km (220mi) north of Nairobi. Self-driving to the reserve is a convenient option, with a driving time of approximately 6 to 8 hours*.

*Driving times are approximate. Please account for the potential of significant delays.
Main Park Map
samburu map
Airlines & Ticket Prices

Please use Skyscanner to find airlines that fly to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) and to compare ticket prices.

Domestic Flights

Bush 2 City Adventure arranges charter flights between parks as part of your tour package.

 

Domestic flights from Nairobi depart from Wilson Airport (WIL), located 6km (4mi) south of the city. You can book scheduled flights with the following domestic carriers:

 

AirKenya: Flights to/from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, Loisaba, Lewa Downs, Nanyuki, Meru, and the Masai Mara.

 

Safarilink: Flights to/from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport and the Masai Mara.

Passport, Visa & Other Entry Requirements

Please visit our Kenya page for information on passport, visa, vaccination, and other entry requirements.

By Samburu NP

Safety

In our opinion, Samburu National Reserve is a safe destination, particularly on an organized tour. However, recent low-level conflicts between the Samburu and Turkana communities have led to isolated incidents of banditry near the park boundaries. For the latest safety information in Kenya, please refer to the government travel advisories on the ‘Safety & Security – Kenya’ page (see link below).

Malaria & Vaccinations

Your doctor can advise you on which vaccinations are necessary before traveling to Kenya. Malaria is present in Samburu, but the risk is minimal if you take antimalarials. It is also advisable to take additional precautions, such as covering up at dusk and using mosquito repellent containing DEET. The risk of malaria is highest during and immediately after the rainy seasons, from April to May and November to December.

Wildlife Viewing

Wildlife viewing in Samburu is very safe. As long as you follow your guide’s instructions, you should have no issues. For more details, please refer to the ‘Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions’ section below.

Photo Gallery of Samburu National Reserve

Map of Samburu National Reserve

Photo Gallery of Samburu National Reserve

Main Park Map

Our Destinations