Located just a short elephant walk north of the Equator and 350km from Nairobi, the tightly-protected 165km² Samburu National Park is made up of an almost unfathomable variety of grand-standing attractions.
Expect jaw-dropping landscapes, equatorial weather, fierce wilderness, lush river-scapes, flora, fauna, big game, a strong local Samburu tribal culture and an exciting selection of lodges, camps and hideaway retreats… all to rival some of the best known destinations in the world.
At 800 – 1230 metres, Samburu is home to such an abundance of wildlife that even the most experienced of safari enthusiasts and wilderness hunters cannot fail to be totally seduced. This extraordinary region is named after the proud, always colourful, humble, yet determinedly resourceful Samburu tribal people who have lived in the region for hundreds of years.
Like many people, I was first introduced to this part of north Kenya by the 1966 drama film Born Free, in which George and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the lioness. More recently the world’s attention has focused on another ‘miracle lioness’ – Kamunyak, who so famously adopted oryx calves. It was an astonishing discovery which is proudly recounted by rangers, villagers and park wardens. There is a large picture of lioness and cub at the entrance of the national park gate.
Visiting the National Park this week, I was entranced from the moment I arrived. Driving through the fierce pre-rains midday heat, I felt the magnet of the Ewaso Ng’iro River sucking me in like a twisting giant green serpent, across the dusty savannah grasslands and thorn-tree desert scrub, towards the riverine forests and jungle. This river is the lifeblood of the region, not only for all those living there, but also for travellers, tourists, guides and game-watchers.
The waterway is beautiful at any time of day, but especially so during the twilight hours, when the park’s prolific wildlife congregates in such great numbers. As my photos show, the river-tracking animal life is prolific. So abundant that even during my relatively brief visit, I witnessed a huge number of species, including massive herds of elephant, buffalo, reticulated giraffe, zebra, Grevy zebra, gerenuk, bush buck, beisa oryx, Somali ostrich, baboon, eland, duiker, hippo, crocodile, warthog, large gazelle, dik-dik and Masai lion. Furthermore, Tanzania cheetah and leopard sightings are common.
Bird life is also prolific with over 450 recorded species, including some of my favourites: grey-headed kingfishers, Marabou stork, secretary birds, tawny eagles, bateleur, lilac-breasted rollers and variety of horn-bills.
We at Nomadic Thoughts have, over the years, delighted in watching the gentle growth in up-market accommodation options. Having just visited an exciting mix of venues I am even more enthused by the variety of classic luxury tented camps, river lodges and remoter mountain top boutique hideaways. The choices on offer are truly diverse and charming.
So much so that when planning a trip to Samburu National Park, I strongly suggest building a healthy whack of downtime, in addition to national park exploration. The locations of some properties are so impressive you can easily substitute some traditional beach downtime for a more exclusive Uber-luxury wilderness break.
It is after all one of nature’s true paradise locations, offering a wealth of outlandish venues, activities and experiences.
And that’s before you’ve tasted your first horizon-stretching sundowner, to the backdrop of crisp, crystal-clear night skies.