Part 5: Samburu National Park

Photography and report by Bert Duplessis

Skip to Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

14 October 2010

I was up before 0530 this morning to check and respond to e-mails. As a result, no time for breakfast before having to head out to Wilson Airport to catch a Safarilink Cessna Caravan (just two passengers) via Nanyuki (40 minutes) to Samburu (20 minutes).

My room at Elephant Bedroom Camp on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River was large and comfortable, and I quite enjoyed the lounge and dining area which also overlooked the river. The area was extremely dry with several dead cows to be seen all around, as well as other dead mammals including the hardy Impala.

On the afternoon game drive, we saw large numbers of Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa Oryx, plenty of the fascinating gerenuk, impala, many dik-dik, a few elephant, and a couple of female lions. Despite the drought, the area was very productive.

Lunch on this day was most enjoyable – a pasta stirfry and salad, with fresh fruit salad for dessert. Dinner later on was perfect: ugali (the local maize polenta) with spinach, onion soup, and peach fritters.

My tent at Elephant Bedroom Camp on the banks of the Uaso Nyiro River in Samburu National Park

Interior of the room at Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu

Another part of the room. I never got to sit on the couch – but I did use the desk

Unlike years of average rainfall, Samburu was almost devoid of elephants. We found this solitary one wandering around the Uaso Nyiro River

Of course Samburu is famous for its endemic mammals, including the superb Reticulated Giraffe. This is the original oil painting – the Plains (southern) Giraffe is the watercolor

There were Reticulated Giraffes all over Samburu

This was the conclusion of a really amazing giraffe sighting when we followed a group of almost 30 giraffes including several youngsters. There are few sights quite as striking as a large group of Reticulated giraffe against the backdrop of the sun setting over the mountains.

Another endemic is the handsome Beisa Oryx

Perfectly adapted for this arid region, the oryx all appeared to be in pretty good shape, especially when compared with the buffalo and other mammal species suffering from the drought

The Kori Bustard is found all over Africa and is not endemic to Samburu. Doesn’t make it any less special of a bird though

The gerenuk is a rather odd antelope, especially when it adopts this typical feeding posture

It gets right up there

There were hundreds of dik-diks all over the Samburu area. Literally everywhere

While I was in the Samburu area, it started to rain heavily and the Uaso Nyiro River came down in a flood

At first it was just some light rain on the afternoon we arrived, but by evening heavy thunderstorms were rolling in. Eventually the area was totally soaked and as a result of similar rain falling elsewhere in the catchment area of the Uaso Nyiro River, it started to run very strongly. Amazingly, we could see the area becoming green just 2 days later; we were told that it gets noticeably green just 3 days after significant rain.

The rain and resulting flooding of the river was quite spectacular and it made everybody happy

An immature Bateleur pretending to be an owl

A Tawny Eagle at Samburu

The Vulturine Guineafowls are abundant in Samburu. I definitely need to get some better photographs of them the next time!

Yet another Samburu endemic is the striking Grevy’s Zebra. Their thin stripes and the absence of a ‘shadow’ effect give them a particularly elegant appearance.

The very morning after the first rains of the season had fallen, the game started to disperse and all the endemics which had been bunched together the previous day along the river, seemed to have disappeared. Our morning game drive started very very slowly but improved with a couple of good buffalo and elephant sightings, and a far-off (across the river) sighting of a cheetah. Ten minutes or so later, we came upon a couple of stationary minibuses observing a leopard in a tree. As we approached the scene, the leopard clambered down and walked to a nearby bush where it had left its impala kill.

The leopard then proceeded to wrestle and drag the dead impala a good 30 to 40 meters along the ground, disappearing into a gully. I fired off a quick few pics with mixed results, even so I was happy to be able to tick off leopard on my trip mammal list. Then it was back to the lodge for breakfast. With just two guests that morning, breakfast was a la carte and quite enjoyable. I had a fresh fruit platter, vegan pancakes with syrup, and a mixed plate with baked beans on toast, grilled tomato and sauteed potatoes. Nobody ever goes hungry on safari!

I did get some pretty good views of a cheetah. Due to their habitat preference (open areas) and hunting habits (diurnal) they are usually fairly easily seen when present

This one made no secret of its presence

There were many species of birds in and around the campsite at Elephant Bedroom Camp, some trying to snatch your food off your plate! Others, like this woodhoopoe, was content to look for its own source of food

Vervet monkeys are plentiful all over Kenya and Samburu is certainly no exception

The spectacular Superb Starling is very common in Samburu

I loved the ‘big sky’ feel of the Samburu area, very much out of Africa

The mountains and hazy sky adds to the scenic appeal of the area

These two Olive Baboons were feeding on Doum Palm nuts, very high up in the massive palm tree.

While down below the rest of their troop plus a solitary elephant was scavenging around for dropped palm nuts and other edible bits

Samburu is known for some pretty reliable leopard sightings and it did not disappoint, this particular leopard had just jumped down from a tree and was on its way to drag its prey into a nearby donga.

While in the area, I spent a night at Intrepids Samburu Camp. This is a fairly large camp with 28 rooms, 14 on each side of the main lodge. I found the camp to be very comfortable and would really have liked to spend more time there. The tents are well-equipped with adequate lighting, seating, a separate toilet with door and a large shower. This is ‘luxury camping’ for sure. All the rooms have river views and there are few if any steps. Beds are of the 4-post type with effective mosquito netting, although there were no mosquitoes to speak of.

The food and catering at Samburu Intrepids was amongst the best of any of the camps on my trip. Dinner one evening was really fun in the company of a couple of Canadian ladies (Marly and Erica) and Jenny from Sydney, Australia. As is customary on safari, we talked about what we had each experienced thus far, and amongst others there was a rave review of Singita and a not-so-great report about the food at Chobe Game Lodge. My dinner entree of risotto with a tomato-based sauce was excellent, as was the butternut squash starter and fresh fruit dessert.

By 1140A on 16 October I was on my way back to Nairobi, to meet my Origins Safaris guide for a road trip to the Lake Nakuru area, in the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley.

Continue to Part 6

Return to Trip Reports