Camping In Samburu – Panic & Pachyderms

The car was surrounded by a large family of around 30 elephants, the matriarchs worried that I am too close to their young ones. The young males charged the car, only to back off at the last minute. I wasn’t too worried though, I was not a threat to them and their mock charges were only meant to establish their dominance. I had  been in Samburu National Reserve for only 30 minutes.


The reserve at 390 sq km is part of the larger conservation area that includes Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Shaba National Reserve. This is the same area Joy Adamson raised the famous lioness Elsa. Its also where decades later another lioness famously adopted a baby oryx.

Getting There

The road from Nairobi is all very good  tarmac until the turn until Archers Post. Roads in the parks are very good graded murram. A 2WD with good clearance would make it in the dry season. Ngare Ndare Forest is a great place to break the journey to Samburu.


Below are the prices for the park. This is information I couldn’t find anywhere on the internet no matter where I looked. Can I dare you to find them? A big thanks to Richard,  manager of one of the lodges there who shed some light on the campsite before the trip. Nice of him to patiently answer my queries even though i wasn’t patronizing the lodge.


 The Campsite

The public campsite is in beautiful location complete with a nice sandy beach down to the Ewaso Nyiro river. No fences so you’re right in the thick of things. Crocodiles abound so no swimming unfortunately. There is a rangers camp very close to the campsite so security is assured.


This guy was just across from the campsite, so if crocodiles aren’t your thing you might want to consider other accomodations. Though there’s really nothing to worry about, they keep to the other side of the river.


The Ewaso Nyiru (this river has like 10 different spellings) separates Samburu National Reserve from Buffalo Springs National Reserve and also divides the Samburu people from the Borana. If you know your geo-politics youll know these two have a less than cordial relationship in the past.

Campsite is well shaded but also note there is no man made shelter so if its raining that might be something to take note of. There are toilets (latrines) and showers (not heated of course) but Samburu is hot enough that the cold shower is a welcome relief. The resident kudu below is also quite friendly.


There are also many monkeys and baboons around the campsite. There is the dreaded ‘Christina’ a female baboon troop leader who leads food raids on campers (I’m not joking) so its necessary to hire a camp guard at around 500 a day. Do not think you can get away with not hiring a guard, you also need to be very careful not to leave food unattended and keep your tent and vehicle closed at all times. All they need is a second and its gone.


I know what madness lurks within you.


Genet cat whisperer.

Its actually quite sad that we were able to get close to these animals. They have become too used to humans so they come around the camp looking for scraps. Please DO NOT feed the animals.


Some kind of hornbill? I’m getting better at my birds.

A point to note is that the monkeys spend the night in the trees above so be careful not to pitch your tent directly above them. Not unless you want to spend a sleepless night listening to them defecating all over your tent.

What To See

This park had a higher density of elephants than ive seen anywhere before. They were all over the place. I actually almost got bored of seeing them. Almost.


I know nothing on elephant behavior but it looked like birthing season had just ended they were very many young elephant.


Young ones in the middle as usual. What an experience following these large families of 30 elephants around, watching them feeding, interacting, eating, drinking at the river. And to get to do this without anyone else around, these are experiences not easily forgotten. I take back what I said about boredom.


I had about 200 photos of the elephants, choosing the ones to share was a task. This is my favorite one…and i didn’t take it.


These two have got to be some kind of tawny eagle.I insist until someone comes along to correct me.


Aaaaaaaa. What birthed you??? The banded mongoose, he sat surprisingly still.


Twelve years later i spot my 2nd leopard!….well kind of, its that blur of white in the middle.


If looks could kill….and they did.


Sundowners at Lolkoitoi Viewpoint are a good idea. Drive is around 45 minutes from the public campsite.


Yet another ok sunset. Cue Toto’s ‘Africa!’


Last night by the fire. Great times, ive never been so close to so many animals. The guys at the park are all very helpful and really make the experience that much better.



  • Campsite well shaded from sun, no man made structure.
  • Toilets and showers available
  • Running water available (not potable)
  • Firewood available for a small price
  • Guards available at campsite for a small price (Patrick 0710 – 748604 or Marcus – 0712 – 845152)
  • Lolkoitoi view point for sundowners

Final Verdict

I have visited many campsites and hands down this is one of the best locations for camping I’ve come across in Kenya, but the questions remain; Why is it not advertised? Why is there no information about it online? Why was it so difficult to contact the park directly and get the costs? Is there someone in charge of marketing at Samburu County Council? I truly hope this changes for the better in future.

If you want a bit more information about Samburu National Reserve you can tool around here and here.


47 thoughts on “Camping In Samburu – Panic & Pachyderms

  1. Bush Baby

    Hi there,
    I worked for Save The Elephants for a short while and was based in Samburu National Reserve so I share your sentiments on its beauty and your struggles with rifling through all the elephant pictures trying to choose one! Quick question; Do you remember if you got a leaflet of information as you entered the reserve?

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Bush Baby,
      You worked in Samburu? Lucky you 🙂 Sorry I don’t remember if I got a leaflet or not, but if I were pushed to the wall I’d say no I didn’t get one.

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  4. Olivier

    HI, indeed this place is nice, but you should have try a few meters up the river, just before save the elephants, you have the Lion King Safari bush camp, very nice as weel and Nahim is an excellent guide and host. You can have a look at the website:
    Best regards,

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Olivier, I should not have allowed your comment as it’s kind of advertising. But I’ll allow it as it looks like my kind of place and I’m always looking to learn about new places 🙂

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  6. Zarek Cockar

    Hi Kenyan Camper,

    Do you know if there are any decent campsites OUTSIDE the gate of Shaba National Reserve?



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  10. Jennifer

    Thanks for the info! Like you, I’m kind of amazed at the lack of info for this park. I did at least find that the fees are online now: They look pretty much the same to the sign you posted. One question you might be able to answer: do you need a reservation for the public campsite, or can you just show up? Thanks!

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Jennifer, nice to see the prices are finally available online! The rest of that site is pretty lean on info though. You can just rock up to the campsite, it’s public so no booking required. Download ‘’ to your phone before you go, I’ve done loads of mapping in the reserve to help you get around. Let me know how your trip goes!

  11. Paul

    Well done on creating a great resource on some of the amazing places around Kenya like Samburu – really enjoying it. You might get this question all the time, but any recommendations on a guide with car for a budget camping trip visiting Samburu and other parts of Northern Kenya – will be travelling with my partner there in August from Nairobi 🙂

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Paul, thanks for your kind words always good to hear! Awesome that you’re headed to Samburu, should be a blast! Unfortunately don’t personally know of any guides who can help you out, when it comes to the formal tourism industry I’m usually quite hopeless.

    2. jeninkenya

      Paul, check with Andrew Conway–he’s actually in Samburu right now! He has been a guide for Encounter Mara and is now doing more independent guiding. Find him at @conwaysafrica on Instagram and Conway’s Africa on facebook.

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      1. Anonymous


        Search “Conway’s Africa” on facebook and send a message to Andrew Conway. He can help you out!


  13. shreyasaha1987

    Hi, I am visiting Kenya this July end, which is a high season. I was wondering if we have to book these campsites beforehand? Or we just reach there with our rented safari car and will always get a space to put our camp? Can you give me some information on how to book them?

  14. Anonymous

    Great info..Never been on a safari before…how would a small car (Daihatsu Charade), great clearance, fair in the park? Or if i needed to rent a car/van at the park, would I get one? and at what cost?
    Best Regards.

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Welcome safari newbie. There are some parks you can visit in a small car, Samburu is not one of them. Rough tracks with deep sand would not make an enjoyable experience. Sorry I don’t know about vehicle hire.

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  17. Fred

    Great post, we really want to make this trip! I was wondering if you could recommend a guide for Samburu National Reserve. Did you hire one for going around in the day? We plan to camp a night at Sabache Camp before spending the next night in the park. Do you know if the park entrance ticket is for a 24 period, or would we have to buy two tickets? Thanks a lot!

  18. joanna Marshall-Cook

    Hello, We have been reading your many blog posts avidly as we are planning a trip to Turkana – thank you for all your amazing advice!

    On a separate trip we are planning to go to Samburu – the vehicle we’ll have is a mitsibushi outlander – it’s 4X4 but it doesn’t have very high clearance or waterproof exhaust etc.. Do you think we’d be ok on the roads in Samburu and Shaba – or would it be tricky? Many thanks for your help,

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Joanna, always so good to hear the blog continues to be a resource that’s actually helpful.
      For both reserves you will be more than fine in the Outlander, most of Samburu is sandy tracks, Shaba is slightly more rocky but nothing any car with slight clearance wont handle so no worries there. Signage a bit of a problem though! Download the app I mention in my articles, it will really make your trip so much easier ( Turkana included).
      Have a great trip, sounds like quite an adventure and let me know how it all goes.

  19. Flo

    Just wanted to say thanks for your blog posts – so helpful in a world lacking info on public camping in Kenya! Thinking of going in April after reading this 🙂 one question, can you get a camp guard/ ranger at the gate? Or is that something that has be arranged before hand?

    Thanks so much, keep blogging!!

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Flo, that same frustration is the reason I started putting this info out there. You don’t need a ranger for the public campsite, there is a caretaker on site plus it’s right next to the ranger HQ. Have a great trip!

  20. Chintan Gohel

    Hi, I had a few questions about Samburu National Reserve.

    My friend and I run a traveling club called Matembezi Travelers. We do different things every month like hiking, safari etc.

    We’ve been thinking of going to Samburu in August. Now our group is mostly composed of budget minded individuals, so 2 days is the max we can do.

    We’ve found the rates for entry – so that is a known value.
    However, is the entry paid on a daily basis on entry or for a 24 hour period? Meaning if we enter at midday on day 1, then leave at 6pm and come back the next day at 6am, will that be counted as 1 entry or 2?

    Second is if there are any cheap hotels in Isiolo that we can stay at? Let’s say we could 8-16 people. We just need a place to stay for the night. We can’t do camping as we don’t have the equipment

    Finally, is August a good month to go for? Or shall we try end of October when there have been some rains?

    Thank you

    1. thekenyancamper Post author

      Hi Chitan,
      I remember you, we’ve talked before right? Okay this is a tricky one – I THINK if you stay inside the park then ticket should be valid for 24hrs. However if you leave the park they might log you out on that ticket and you have to buy another one the next day? I might have to do some research on this, now I’m curious! let me know what you find as well.
      August should be fine to visit, you want a time when there’s still water in the Ewaso but not too rainy in the area so all the animals have to come to drink there. Also not as interesting if the river is totally dry.


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