In the past, large variations in Samburu’s animal numbers (as the availability of water varies greatly through the year), have meant that wildlife viewing at Samburu could sometimes be disappointing. Our visits in the last few years in various seasons have, however, proved really rewarding, both in the variety and the numbers of the mammals and birds seen here.
As well as the distinctive, blue-skinned Somali ostrich, which you’ll see stepping out across the plains, the Samburu ecosystem’s oasis of vegetation in this arid region supports a very wide range of smaller birds, and birdwatchers can expect to see several dozen species on the average game drive. You’re not likely to miss the big flocks of vividly plumaged helmeted and vulturine guinea fowl, while among the many birds of prey, pygmy falcon and martial eagle from opposite ends of the raptor spectrum are both easily seen, as are Kori, Heuglin’s and buff-crested bustards, and lots of weavers, shrikes, woodpeckers and flycatchers.
The camel-, cattle- and goat-herding Samburu people are closely related to the Maasai (they speak the same language, Maa), wear a similar traditional dress of blankets and beads, and maintain a very similar lifestyle – although they have been quicker to absorb non-traditional practices, such as farming and trading, into their economy. Despite the reserve’s name, the Samburu heartland is further to the north, and especially in the forest-flanked hills and mountain ranges that rise out of the desert. Nevertheless, at all the camps and gates you’ll meet Samburu staff, askaris (security guards), guides, spotters and rangers, and visits to Samburu villages are available – as are plenty of opportunities to buy Samburu crafts and beaded jewelry.