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Another great trip report of yours with fantastic photos @@michael-ibk! Amazing itinerary! I and my wife just came back from Ruaha and Zanzibar and were very happy with Turkish Airlines, as well. Looking forward to seeing the rest of the TR, thanks for sharing!

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Thank you, @@FlyTraveler , and welcome back! Hope you had a great trip. Not much time for you to settle back in - you know we're all eager to hear about Ruaha, so get cracking! ;)

Edited by michael-ibk
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We left Meru at 07:30. Once we reached the main road again we made good progress, traffic was not too heavy and the road itself was in good condition. We passed through areas where animals had been driven out almost completely - all of this was Kikuyu land, all soil here served its purpose as controlled farming land, and no space for wildlife was left. Very much like home. Once in a while we caught a distant glimpse of Mt. Kenya which preferred to remain shy and hid in clouds most of the time.


We refuelled in Isiolo where we also had to notify a police security post that we were going North. The Somali border is still very far from here, hundreds and hundreds of kilometres, and the road leading there is in a terrible condition according to James. The A2, the Great Northern Road, in contrast, is in a perfect state. Here in Samburu land it´s a very different Kenya from the parts of Meru and Kirinyaga districts we had seen, no acres, no crops, nothing of that kind here. Not really possible in this harsh, arid zone. The Samburu are pure pastoralists, so here wildlife can (and does) wander in and out from and between parks.

We reached the Eastern gate (Archer´s post) at about 10:30. I think it´s from here on North that for security reasons one should only travel farther North in a security convoy. And one really should, a friend of mine living in Nairoibi (whom I met on our last evening there) told us she once made the mistake of paying no heed to the warnings and went with a few friends to Lake Turkana, just two cars. They came under heavy gunfire somewhere farther North, the second car had several bullet-holes afterwards. Luckily nothing happened to them, miraculously they all came out unharmed. A lesson learned for them, she told me.



Samburu National Reserve is quite a small national park, only a fraction of Meru. As can be seen above most lodges are situated near the river, which is also the area with the highest density of wildlife (and minibusses.) The reserve is famous for its very special animals of the North, especially the "Samburu Five": Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich and Grevy Zebra. These species - and the Vulturine Guinea Fowl - were what I most hoped to find here.

Well, three of them didn´t take long. It ´s a bit more than 20 km from the gate to the lodge, and only 100 m in we saw our first Gerenuks:



We would see dozens of them, and here they are so habituated that they take almost no notice of cars. I don´t have anything like a "shotlist" but for this trip I had one wish: getting pics of them feeding in their well-known pose, standing on their hindlegs. We´ll see if that worked out.




Reticulated Giraffes were very common as well here, even more so than in Meru.


Unstriped Ground Squirrel, abundant. In some areas they are all over. As tends to happen to so numerous animals on safari we took almost no pics of them.



Beisa Oryx. I love Oryx, and was delighted to see these youngsters. We saw plenty of them as well, especially at the aptly-named Oryx Plains, but they are not as frequently seen as Giraffes or Gerenuks, we had drives where none of them would show up.


Which would be impossible for Kirk-Dikdiks in Samburu. There´s an incredible lot of them here, especially near the river every bush seems to have their own pair. I don´t keep notes of sightings but I´m quite sure we saw hundreds of them. Easily.

So, there was plenty to see on the way in (not even to mention all the birds for which Samburu is super, too), and it took us more than two hours to reach the lodge.

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Samburu looks wonderful - I love Gerenuk - they are amazing looking animals (I haven't seen one yet but you are providing ideas!)

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I will, Boss @@Game Warden, after I´ve finished Samburu here. :)


Samburu Game Lodge


Here we spent the next three nights. A very easy criterion for the quality of a lodge is always Would I return there? Not that easy to answer for this one, there´s a resounding yes from me and a resounding no.


The No-Part:


It´s a huge place with 70(!) rooms, so I shudder to think what it would be like at full capacity. Luckily it was not even booked to a quarter, not more than 30 guests were there. (Curiously almost all of those seemed to be German.) Not all rooms are ready for use, though, a whole building is still out of operations after the flood a few years ago.


A lodge of this size (a Wilderness property btw) does of course feel very, very impersonal, it was a stark contrast to the small, intimate ambience of Murera Springs Eco Lodge. Don´t get me wrong, staff were friendly enough but of course you were lucky if they recognized you again at dinner. Food (buffet-style) was alright, though everything tended to taste a bit lukewarm and a bit the same. What really irked me was payment at check-out when they "miscalculated" a bit with the bill and would not even try to apologize for it.


The rooms themselves were good and comfy, as was the bathroom, though very run-of-the-mill, hotel-like.




Our room, Nr. 38, to the right. Right next to the dining area.






The dining area


Another no-aspect:


They put on a crocodile show at night, feeding them at 19:00, and four or five always come out to get their share. I´m not feeling that strongly about that as others here on ST, but still didn´t care much for it - I go to Africa to see wildlife, not a fabricated imitation of it. There were times when Samburu Game Lodge was infamous for even baiting leopards, at least they have stopped that.




The one on the right was huge, easily twice as big as his "friends".


So what´s the Yes-Part?


Well, there´s price, it´s one of the cheapest accomodations along the river.


And location. Perfectly situated at the Uaso Nyiro river, right in the middle of the most game-rich part of the park. And the premises are very beautiful.








Lots and lots of animals to see, countless birds (Hornbills, Starlings, Spoonbills, Yellow-billed Storks, Vultures and much more).




Hadeda Ibis


Baboons and Vervets. Which were very feisty, there are always some Samburu walking around with slingshots to scare them off (with limited success.)





This Red-Headed Agama called the terrace its home.




Here it was trying to get a bit cozy with his lady friend but she would have none of it.



I saw several Water Monitor Lizards when sitting near the river (which I loved to do.) In fact, this (very big) one gave me quite a scare when I realized it was there two metres next to me. (It felt the same way, btw.)




Blotched Genets always came to dinner, begging for scraps. (The lodge was not feeding them, at least not to my knowledge, but other guests were.) I know, this doesn´t mesh well with what I said about the crocs earlier but it´s really hard not to be enamoured with these beautiful animals (especially since I´d never seen one before).






So, Samburu Game Lodge is a bit of a mixed bag. Good value for money, great location, but definitely with some issues.


Would I return? For budget reasons maybe, but I would rather like to try something different.

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Lovely to see Meru again, Just seeing it makes me feel happy. Your impression that the animals are shyer between the sanctuary and Elsa's Kopje has been my experience too - and further on that way they get even shyer still.. And they really are impressive mmale gazelles, aren't they?

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@@michael-ibk how lucky to have a gerenuk welcoming committee!


Great photos of the reticulated giraffe, they always remind me of crazy paving.


I stayed at Samburu Game Lodge back in 2005 and had similar thoughts to you, the location is fabulous right on the river but I thought it was a bit rundown and impersonal certainly. They also used to bait leopard at night on the opposite side of the river.

Edited by Treepol
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Thank you for you balanced reviews of each property. Matt

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Interesting to hear the pros and cons...I agree that the croc feeding is not ideal, however it looks like budget and location were worth the tradeoff in this instance. Beautiful photos all around, and of course I like the map especially. I wonder what the "elephant bedroom" on it is?


Edit: looking at the key, I guess it's a camp? Quite a name, though!

Edited by Marks
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Samburu Game Lodge… wow, I was there in 1989. Memories are flooding back… of those croc feedings. Keep it coming please.

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Murera Springs Eco Lodge is a nice recommendation. I liked your yes/no approach for Samburu Game Lodge. It didn't take long for you to find your hoopoe. Gorgeous scenery along with the wildlife. The gerenuk suspense is building. Looking forward to the rest.

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Thanks, @@Atravelynn , @@Marks , @@Safaridude , @@Game Warden , @@Treepol , @@pault .

After lunch and settling in at the lodge we started our afternoon drive at 15:00. We drove a bit away from the river into the dryer hinterland.


We found a few Gerenuk soon:


They are never ever found drinking, they get all fluids they need from the dry tree-foliage they are almost exclusively browsing. Their pointed muzzle can extract leaves from very thorny tangles. When they rise on their hindlegs they can reach a zone over 2 m high. Unfortunately, they still were not very interested in doing that for us.


Like in Meru, Ellipsen-Waterbucks are very common in Samburu. Unlike the Gerenuks they of course have always to return to the river to drink.


Crested Francolin


Yellow-Necked Spurfowl. All over the place.

Game density in Samburu is of course nowhere near as high as in the Mara for example, but we never drove long without seeing any mammals. Impala, Dik-Diks and Waterbucks are common, and Warthogs, Grant´s Gazelles, Oryx, Reticulated Giraffes and Gerenuks were also seen regularly. No Buffaloes, Elands or Kudus, though.

This afternoon was a bit of an exception, it was a pretty quiet drive. I didn´t mind much, I just enjoyed the beatiful scenery of Samburu and there were always birds around to entertain.


Back at the river other cars (mainly minibusses) started to show up. After 10:00 a.m. and before 16:00 p.m. it´s not bad at all, but during the "golden hours" it can happen that many cars congregate. If a sighting is reported it doesn´t take them long to get there.

Not today, though, no predators were found. Lions hadn´t been seen for more than 4 days, Wild Dogs for weeks, and Leopard and Cheetah remained elusive.


Egyptian Goose

I especially liked watching all the Dikdiks in Samburu. They are such delightful little antelopes, miniature versions. This one was dung-marking its territory here. His wife thoroughly checked if he had done well and then approved:


Other notable sightings this afternoon included Crocs on sandbanks in the river, a Secretary Bird, a few Elephants and - shortly before dark - a few Gerenuks standing up - finally. (No photos though, too dark.)

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Fantastic weather next morning! Blue skies were awaiting us when we started our gamedrive at 06:30, and they would remain almost cloudless all day - a rare thing on this trip.


Waterbucks, Vervets and Impalas were enjoying the morning near the river, and we saw some eles on the opposite banks (in Buffalo Springs therefore).




Red-Billed Hornbill. Seen very often but not as abundant as the Eastern Yellow-Billed Hornbill.


We soon found another Samburu "target animal" for me - Grevy Zebra!


Two stallions were holding down the fort, the mares had apparently migrated to the North outside of the park, in the Kalama Wildlife Conservancy.


Unlike Plain´s Zebras Grevys don´t keep harems, the stallions are territorial and then seek the company of visiting females.


A stripeless white belly.


Immature Eastern Chanting Goshawk

A nice-looking journey of Reticulated Giraffes was next:




We then saw four cars standing on the road, all passengers staring at some trees in a dried-out river bed. Which could only mean predator - leopard in this case!

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We had a hard time finding her, my eyes started to hurt, but with the helpful directions from James we finally were able to see her between all the branches. Their camouflage really is very effective. A beautiful female leopard who luckily began to change positions after a while and became a bit more visible.




Unlike the pricate concessions of Botswana it´s very hard to get closer in the National Parks of Kenya. No offroading allowed, and the rangers in Samburu are monitoring that rule rigidly.


The leopard then wandered a bit up the dry riverbed, and just seemed to relax for a while.








But then her posture changed completely - she went into stalking mode!




She had spotted some Unstriped Ground Squirrels nearby. Which were totally oblivious to the mortal danger they were in. The leopard didn´t even blink, she appeared to be totally frozen, until she tried to get closer very, very carefully.


And then jumped off to get herself a little snack!




Well, this could have been a cool photo... B)




The squirrels (visible on the rock on the photo above) were too fast for her, though, and she wandered around a bit frustrated in the riverbed for a while until she decided to rest again.






After a while she retreated down the riverbed where we couldn´t follow her anymore and so we left. A great sighting, we had been with her for more than one hours, and the few other cars (never more than four) had not been a distraction at all. Everyone had been behaving very civilized, no pushing for positions, everyone whispering and just enjoying watching this beautiful cat.

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reading your TR just reminds me why I love Samburu so much @@michael-ibk

very enjoyable although I don't think Samburu Game Lodge is my cup of chai.

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Thanks, and that´s ok, @@Soukous , it will never make my "Best of"-list neither. :)


The rest of the game drive became very bird-centric.


I needed quite a while until I figured out what was so special about the Black-Faced Sandgrouse James pointed out to us:




They were with tiny chicks, and both parents did an admirable job shielding their little ones both from the sun and us.






Superb Starlings were all over Samburu.








Grey-Headed Kingfisher


By now (10:30) all other cars had left, and we pretty much had the park to ourselves.






African Fish Eagle




Little Bee-Eater




Mourning Collared Dove


Next was a highlight - not only of this game drive and Samburu, but of the whole trip for me.




No, not this Tawny Eagle. We approached it very carefully and were very surprised to find another one on the ground - feeding on a Dikdik!




The Eagle was clearly nervous, always scanning the area, and it didn´t seem to be all that happy with our presence as well. But all that didn´t stop it from tearing into the little antelope and feeding voraciously on it.




I literally got goosebumps watching this scene unfold, it was such a "raw" archaic moment.




James was very sceptic that the Eagle had made the kill itself - Tawny Eagles are powerful, but going after full-grown Dikdiks would be quite a challenge for them. So probably someone else was the culprit, Leopard or Martial Eagle. Of course odd why another predator would leave its prey like that.



After a good 20 minutes the Eagle flew off. As did we. A powerful, gripping sighting for us, though it was sad looking into the broken, lifeless eyes of the Dikdik.






Grey Crowned Cranes




"Safaribird" aka Lilac-Breasted Roller




Black-Headed Heron




We returned to the lodge at 12:30, very happy with this drive.

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those gerenuks are really so cute. as are the grevy's and the reticulateds.


beautiful landscape photos.

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Lots of really good sightings here - the Dik Dik, the Gerenuk, zebra, giraffe

And then the leopard sequence and of course your Eagle Owl.

Very enjoyable!

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Really enjoying this report! Beautiful photos and really get a sense for what it is like in each place from your writing. Love that last photo in your last post, # 45 - lovely combo of the scenic view with the animals.

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The Black-Faced Sandgrouse chick is so cute. Great bird shots, leopard activity, and scenes of a very full river, all under such bright blue skies. Thanks for pointing out the tiny squirrels in the chase scene. Glad you saw the Grevy!

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@@michael-ibk a wonderful collection of Samburu specials this morning - gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, dik-dik, Grevy's zebra, crowned cranes (one of my favourite birds) and some 'reticulated' looking sandgrouse chicks. The leopard sequence tells its own story.

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