The Samburu Special Five – Exceptional Game Drive

The Samburu National Reserve is a game reserve located on the banks of northern Kenya’s biggest river, Ewaso Nyiro. It is home to the rare northern special five species: Grevy zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and the oryx. All three big cats, the lion, cheetah, and African leopard can also be found here, as well as many other animals.
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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Croatian-Slovenian full-time travel duo, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists for over 4 years. We write in-depth travel guides about destinations we have personally visited, providing practical travel tips and recommendations.

Although it’s not the most famous reserve in Kenya, we decided to base ourselves in Samburu National Reserve and stayed at Ashnil Samburu Camp.

Read more about my stay at Ashnil Samburu Camp, Kenya
View from the room at Ashnil Lodge at Samburu National Reserve
View from the room at Ashnil Lodge at Samburu National Reserve

What are game drives?

The game drives are generally sightseeing safaris where you mostly search for the Big Five. For Samburu Park, that’s the Grevy’s zebra, the long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, oryx, and the Somali ostrich.

You can also see some of the original African Big Five there too; the lion, leopard, elephant, and buffalo. Unfortunately, rhinos are extinct in Samburu National Reserve due to heavy poaching. But the Park is quite popular with its leopard sightings.

We had game drives twice a day, in the morning and afternoon. In the morning we started at sunrise and spent a couple of hours driving around searching for animals. The afternoon one usually finishes a bit before sunset because of safety reasons.

Jeep on a game drive in Samburu National Reserve

PRO TIP: Mornings can be a bit chilly so make sure to take a vest.

You can even arrange to have longer game drives so you have lunch somewhere in the middle of the park. You get little lunch boxes with everything inside, actual meals to desserts, fruits, and drinks. Then you just place it on the car and enjoy the view. We had a great view of a family of elephants bathing in the river.

Elephants on a game drive at Samburu National Reserve

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You’ll for sure see the leopards

Our main goal was to see the big cats. We were able to see leopards a few times, mostly with the help of monkeys as they get excited when they see them. They make loud noises to let other monkeys know that a leopard is there and to let the leopard know they see him. The good thing is that drivers let each other know if they see some big cat so everyone can come and also see them.

Unfortunately, we did not see a lion. Our driver tried so hard and we even spent one whole morning trying to find one. We got close, saw fresh lion footprints, but he was probably hiding in the shade as it was hot. Next time, I hope.

Monkeys at Samburu National Reserve
Monkey’s reaction to leopard spotting.

Which animals can I see on a game drive in the Samburu National Reserve?

Besides leopards, we saw many giraffes, elephants, zebras, dik-diks, impalas, baboons, gerenuks, oryx, monkeys. We even saw a crocodile, Pumba (warthog) and hippos (we got really lucky as it’s hard to spot them in May when we visited). We also saw many other animals, especially birds as there are over 350 species of birds in the park.

When is the best time for a game drive at the Samburu National Reserve?

Samburu National Reserve can be visited throughout the whole year, but dry months are usually the best. That’s from December to March and July to October. Wildlife viewing is at its prime at those months as animals are attracted to water sources. However, it will not be that scenic as it tends to be hazy in that period.

Safari Bookings – Best time to visit Samburu National Reserve

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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Full-time travelers, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists.

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We're Arijana and Matej, a couple and travel blogging duo from Croatia and Slovenia who thrive while slow-traveling. And we have been doing it for over 4 years.

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