Animals that never or seldom need to drink thrive at the twin reserves of Samburu/Buffalo Springs which stretch for miles on both sides of the Ewaso Nyiro River, an oasis amid harsh but stunning scenery (and superb sunsets) in northern Kenya. It is the main Kenyan gathering-place for a wonderfully diverse and interesting array of creatures, some which have adapted to cope with arid, hostile conditions, and others drawn like a magnet to the only permanent water around.
True desert dwellers like the Beisa oryx, gerenuks, and Grant’s gazelles are virtually waterindependent; others have learned to get by with little. Harlequin-marked oryx can live on moisture from roots and tubers which they dig, and, like the elands here, can endure extreme heat by letting their body temperature rise several degrees in daytime and then cool down at night. Elands also conserve water by halting perspiration.
Gerenuks stand bolt upright on hind legs to stretch for succulent leaves most other browsers can’t reach. The gerenuk’s high reach is helpful in areas overgrazed by goats, where high-strung little dik-dik antelopes are at a distinct disadvantage—their numbers are declining. Others, such as Grant’s gazelles, can make a living beyond the range of water-dependent grazers.
Grevy’s zebras in neat pin-striped suits (unlike their broad-striped common cousins) and reticulated giraffes (the most beautiful giraffe with neater geometric markings than the rest) need moisture but not in great amounts.
Along the river, waterbucks feed on riverine grasses. Saddle-billed storks hunt frogs and fish. Crocodiles bask on sandbars.
Elephants come in herds of a hundred or so to drink and bathe making this muddy river even muddier. Huge flocks of helmeted and cobalt-blue-breasted vulturine guinea fowls may quench their thirst here. Thousands of sandgrouse and doves appear at freshwater streams and pools at Buffalo Springs.
Shaggy-maned striped hyenas, uncommon elsewhere, thrive. Lion prides are reclusive, but leopards, for years baited for tourists at lodges, are less shy than elsewhere.
Samburu is about five hours’ drive (220 miles/355 km) north of Nairobi, a dramatic descent of almost 6,000 feet (1,830 m) from the flanks of Mt. Kenya to the desert floor. Air temperatures rise as the road descends.
There are several lodges and campsites on the two reserves. Samburu Lodge (which also has an airstrip) has especially good viewing of crocodiles, water-oriented birds and others such as hornbills, weavers, and starlings. Nile monitors, semi-aquatic lizards up to seven feet (2+ m) long, are frequent visitors to the terrace, looking for scraps.
for lodging information about this Reserve