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Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba

Samburu scenic

Typical habitat

In Buffalo Springs and Shaba reserves, there are areas of Acacia Tortilis 'parklands'. Like the riverine forest, this is a good area for viewing many of the animals. Acacia Tortilis is the famous flat-topped 'umbrella tree'.
This photo was taken from Observation Hill, the only place inside the reserve
(apart from the lodges/camps) where you can get out of your vehicle.

Away from the riverine forest, the most common type of vegetation in the Samburu complex is thorn scrub, dominated by Acacia and Commiphora species. The Acacias have curly seed-pods with a high protein content which are enjoyed by Elephants as well as Impalas, Gazelles and Beisa Oryx. Smaller shrubs of less than a metre high are also found in these areas, and are enjoyed by the Grant's Gazelles and the Gerenuks.
At times, especially after rain, the thorn scrub will flower. The red-flowering flame trees, the pink-flowered 'desert roses' and the large, purple morning glories are common - the latter enjoyed by at least one male Kudu! Apparently, the pretty desert rose bush provides the poison for poisoned arrows or darts.



The Samburu complex is our favourite reserve in East Africa. All our driver/guides in Kenya have said the same.
The Reticulated Giraffes are more handsome than the others. The extremely endangered Grevy's Zebra is even more attractive than the Plains Zebra, and you can see them side-by side in Samburu/Buffalo Springs, although they do not interbreed. It is also the best place to see Gerenuk and Beisa Oryx, though these are also seen in Tsavo and apparently in Lake Manyara reserve in Tanzania, in small numbers.

Another famous sight seldom seen elsewhere is the elephants crossing the Uaso Nyiro river. On one trip, we watched a family of elephants crossing the river - away from us (the real secret is to be on the side of the river that the elephants are coming towards, for better photography, although elephant rears are cuter than most.) The following year, we spent several hours watching a larger herd who were drinking and bathing from the river, around mid-day. This time, we were on the opposite bank, so they were facing us.

These reserves are hot, especially Shaba, and this is where the lodge swimming pools are most welcome for a dip before lunch. (Having said that, in July 1999 even Samburu was fairly cool!) If possible, buy lots of water at African prices before you get there.

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Text and images © Liz Leyden, 2008
Email: liz [at] v-liz [dot] com
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