Buffalo Springs National Reserve, Samburu, and Shaba are a trio of similar, adjoining reserves. Buffalo Springs offers good wildlife viewing of most big safari animals and is particularly renowned for its excellent leopard sightings.
Samburu pastoralists live a semi-nomadic lifestyle on the peripheries of the reserve and a visit to a traditional homestead is highly recommended.
Regarding the Big Five, elephants are particularly abundant, and leopard sightings are very reliable. There are no rhinos, and lion sightings are a bit hit-and-miss, but it is the northern Kenya dry-country specials that attract many visitors. They include beisa oryx, lesser kudu, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, and the odd-looking gerenuk.
The reserve protects a tract of semi-arid savannah flanking the scenic Ewaso Nyero River. The ecology is defined by contrasting habitats of riverine forest along the watercourse, and dry acacia scrub dotted with termite mounds extending away from it. The springs, after which the reserve has been named, are a scenic landmark and attract a steady stream of thirsty animals.
There are decent wildlife densities in Buffalo Springs, and most safari animals can be spotted in a couple of days. Several habituated leopards make their home in the reserve and can be relied on for great sightings. Rhinos are absent, but elephants are plentiful, and there is a good variety of antelopes, including both the greater and lesser kudu.
Several dry-country adapted mammals that don’t occur in most Kenyan parks can be found here. The reticulated giraffe with its striking pattern is common. Beisa oryx is particularly well adapted to arid conditions. The gerenuk, with its elongated neck, is able to stand on its hind legs and nibble hard-to-reach leaves. Both the common Burch ell’s zebra and the bigger Grevy’s zebra can be found alongside each other.
Buffalo Springs doesn’t get a lot of rain and can be visited throughout the year, but the best wildlife viewing is in the Dry season from June to October. At this time, the vegetation is minimal and animals congregate around predictable water sources. April is the wettest month, and wildlife viewing can sometimes be more challenging at this time.
Together, Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves have over 390 bird species recorded. The dry, open country offers very rewarding birding opportunities. The area holds a number of northeast African dry-country species that are shared with Ethiopia and Somalia. Some of the heavyweights to look out for are Somali ostrich, vulturine guineafowl, and Abyssinian ground hornbill. This area is also great to see the unusual Egyptian vulture.
Buffalo Springs is a bird-watching utopia and produces good birding year-round. Bird watching is exceptional because many unusual, dry-country specials are here all of the time. The birding only gets better when the migratory birds check-in from November to April. The short and long rains peak during November and April, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Wildlife viewing in Buffalo Springs is superior in the dry months, from June to October and December to March. If a visit coincides with the peak of the short rains (November), and in particular during the long rains (April and May), your wildlife watching experience may be slightly compromised. At those times of year, animals disperse, making spotting more difficult.
Buffalo Springs has a hot and dry climate. Nights are usually cool. The average daytime temperature is 32°C/90°F, while the average nighttime temperature is 16°C/61°F. It is advisable to take warm clothing for early morning game drives. The annual rainfall is low, but peaks in April and November. Rain tends to fall as short, heavy showers, which are widely scattered.
Dry season –June to September
Days are sunny and hot. It is very dry, and there is almost no rain at all.
June & July – It is hot and sunny. Afternoon temperatures are around 32°C/90°F.
August & September – Daytime temperatures increase before the rain breaks. The average temperature in September is 33°C/88°F, but the peaks are much higher.
Wet season –October to May
The Wet season sees the ‘short rains’ followed by the ‘long rains’. In between is a dry period during the months of January and February. Road conditions can deteriorate in April and May.
October, November & December – The rains usually break sometime in October. November is a peak month for rainfall. It doesn’t often rain all day, but afternoon storms can be expected. The average daytime temperature is 32°C/90°F.
January & February – This is a dry spell between the short and long rains. The exact timing is unpredictable. February is the hottest month, with average afternoon temperatures of 34°C/93°F and higher peaks.
March, April & May – The long rains usually break mid- to late-March. It seldom rains all day, but short, afternoon showers can be expected. April is the wettest month. Afternoon temperatures are around 33°C/91°F.
Buffalo Springs is located 355km/220mi north of Nairobi. You can drive to the reserve from Nairobi or another park depending on your itinerary. There are also daily scheduled flights to airstrips in Buffalo Springs or neighboring Samburu NR from Nairobi.
Most visitors from Europe or North America flying to Kenya choose to arrive in Nairobi, as this is the biggest transport hub. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) is located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Moi International Airport (MBA) is Kenya’s second international airport and is located 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.
Your tour operator should book any charter flights between parks as part of their tour package. Domestic flights from Nairobi leave from Wilson Airport (WIL), 6km/4mi south of Nairobi. Scheduled flights can be booked with two domestic carriers.
In our opinion, Buffalo Springs is a very safe destination to visit. Developed parks and reserves in Kenya do not usually have problems with crime. If you are driving yourself to Buffalo Springs, read the advice below on ‘Cities and Other Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ to familiarize yourself with possible issues between the parks.
The main concern when traveling in Kenya is malaria. Precautions against malaria include taking antimalarials and covering up in the evening. Also remember to use a mosquito repellent (those containing DEET are most effective). Malaria risk is worst in the peaks of the rainy seasons from April to May and October to November. Seek advice from your healthcare professional about antimalarials and vaccinations.
Incidents with wild animals are very rare – listen to the instructions given by your guide. Remember that the behavior of wild animals is unpredictable, so observe safety precautions.