Samburu – Buffalo Springs – Shaba National Reserves
The three reserves lie about three hundred and twenty-five kilometers from Nairobi and about fifty kilometers from Isiolo town on the Isiolo-Marsabit road. Samburu and Buffalo Springs were established as one reserve known as the Samburu-Isiolo Game Reserve, which was part of Marsabit National Reserve under the former National Parks organization in 1948. In 1963, the two reserves were separated and the land on the Samburu side was established as a Game Reserve (255 sq. km.) under Samburu County council.
Shaba National Reserve established in 1974, is separated from the two other reserves by the Great North Road from Isiolo to Marsabit. The three reserves form what is known as the Samburu/Isiolo Complex – trio of beautiful game sanctuaries unsurpassed anywhere in the republic. Shaba got its name from a cone of volcanic rock in the reserve. Large mantles of volcanic lava preserve underground water which emerges as a spring making Shaba better watered than the other two reserves. It was here where the aging Joy Adamson performed her last rehabilitation feat with Penny, the orphaned leopard cub found near her lake Naivasha home and loaned to her. Penny the “Queen of Shaba” was almost ready to go to the bush when on the evening of 3rd January 1980, Joy went for her usual evening stroll in the reserve, and never returned. Her body was later recovered on a bush track having fallen victim to a brutal murder in one of the most mysterious a shocking cases in the country.
The reserves are famous for their great concentration of the rare species of animals found in northern Kenya – north of Tana River such as Grevy Zebra, Beisa oryx, Reticulated giraffe and the Blue-necked Somali ostrich. The reserves are also home to the graceful Gerenuk, along -necked gazelle found only in dry areas. Other animals commonly seen include: – elephant, buffalo, cheetah, lion, impala, common zebra, eland, grant’s gazelle, spotted hyena and leopard.
Nearly all the bird species found in the dry Savannah woodland are represented in these reserves, where over 100 bird species are easily seen within a day. Large flocks of Helmeted and Vulturine guinea fowl are a common sight. Buffalo Springs offer a drinking place for thousands of Sand grouse and Doves during dry season.