Saturday July 31st

Day 4 - Samburu National Park


Rooms at Samburu were very warm and the mosquito nets did not help much. The prospect of a 5:45 am call seemed pretty daunting, but in fact it was so difficult to sleep that we were ready to get up. There was just time for a quick cup of coffee and then we were off on the serious business of game viewing.

Morning Game Drive

For the first game drive, we stayed North of the Ewaso Nyiro River in the Samburu National Reserve itself.


The sun was just staring to appear as we headed out. Animals were all around:

  • A flock of Vulturine Guineafowl

  • The diminutive Kirk's Dik-Dik

  • A small group of female Gerenuk

  • An Oryx

A male Impala with characteristic S-shaped horms.


All of the vans are equipped with radios and after about 20 minutes driving about, our driver suddenly turned round and started heading back towards the Lodge area, but with a real sense of purpose.

We soon discovered why. One of the other vans had discovered a family of lions. By the time we got there, there were about eight other vans jockeying for position. Our driver guessed which way the lions were going and we got a great view of the whole family, first the lioness and her cub and the magnificent male. The finally disappeared from view walking along the track ahead of us.

The presence of the vans did not seem to concern the lions in the slightest!

Weaver Bird Nests

Apart from along the banks of the river, the countryside was coarse scrub with just the occasional termite mound and tree to break the monotony.

Many trees were festooned with precariously hanging weaver bird nests, like decorated Christmas trees.

Grevy's Zebra

Our first close-up of a zebra. The close spaced stripes and black line down the back and tail, and the white belly show this to be a Grevy's Zebra.

After the lions, the rest of the drive was less exciting:
  • We looked unsuccessfully for a cheetah that had been sighted.
  • The jackal was sitting stubbornly in the middle of the road.
  • We saw our first buffalo .. there would be many more


As we drew close to the Lodge (and breakfast) we got our first close up of a Reticulated Giraffe (with strong markings clearly separated by clear white lines).

Just outside of the gate to the Lodge a pair of monkees sitting high in a tree watched us carefully as we drove by.

Samburu Lodge

After breakfast, we had our first chance to see Samburu Lodge in the daylight. Situated on the North bank of the Ewaso Nyiro River, accomodation is in a series of thatched roofed wooden building along the river, set in attractive grounds, with flowers and shrubs all around.

The river has resident crocodiles, attracted, no doubt, by nightly feedings and many birds could be seen from the riverside terrace. There were no fences around the hotel. During the day, a family of giraffes came to the water to drink just downstream of the hotel and during the night, there were elephants walking through. 

The Ewaso Nyiro River

In July, the river was sluggish and hardly even deep enough for the crocodiles. At other times, as these flood marks in the terrace bar show, the river is much more lively!


There always seemed to be something to see in the hotel. There were no fences, only signs showing no go areas for humans.

With the crocodile just opposite our room, I did not feel the slightest temptation to go past the sign down to the river bank!

The unidentified lizard was about 12" long and popped out of a drainage pipe and crosses the terrace bar.

Termite Mounds

There were termite mounds to be seen right across both national parks. This particular, still very active, is in the Lodge grounds.

About 8 feet high, it represents an amazing feet of engineering. The large exit hole, allows termites to swarm out together for mutual protection.


Vervet Monkeys

These delightful animals, males with characteristic bright blue scrotums, were all around the lodge. On the bird walk, we came across a group posturing over territory.

The Bird Walk

We were told that we were at leisure between the morning and afternoon game drives. The hotel had other ideas and organised a bird-watching walk immediately after breakfast.

For a while we walked the paths of the hotel looking at isolated distant birds in trees and across the river. Eventually we were taken to one location where a sprinkler had created a "water hole". From there we spent about an hour looking at numerous very colourful birds on the ground or in the surrounding trees. All were a little distant for effective photographs.

One ground squirrel was making the most of the water.

Bird Watching from the Terrace Bar

Ironically, one of the best places to look at birds was the terrace bar! 

  • The magnificent Superb Starling was on a bird table in the bar area
  • The Yellow-Billed Stork was on a sand bank in the middle of the river
  • The Malachite Kingfisher was operating from the river bank just a few feet from the bar wall.

Leaping Samburu Warriers

After lunch, we got the first (of many) opportunities to watch tribal dancing .. this time it was Samburu warriors. Their main objective seemed to be to sell us curios; they really didn't seem to enjoy the dancing at all.


Afternoon Game Drive

At 4pm it was back to the mini-van for the afternoon game drive. Except for the roughest sections, we spent all of the time standing up in the van looking out.

There wasn't quite enough room for us all to stand up comfortably and certainly not enough room for us all to look at animals on the same side of the van.

We all accumulated bruises from being thrown unexpectedly against the edge of the van. As the week progressed, we got better at holding on, but were able to cope with every bump in the track.

For this drive, we crossed back across the river into the Buffalo Springs National Reserve, most of which is relatively dry bush like this landscape, with the occasional tree.

Reticulated Giraffe

Our first encounter of the afternoon was with a family of reticulated giraffe. We first spotted the adults against the skyline and then the single youngster.

As we continued, we got close to the adult, but the youngster stayed in the trees.

We continued to encounter isolated animals such as these Vulturine Guinea Fowl, Oryx and tantalising glimpses of elephants and ostrich on the skyline.

The Cheetah hunt

Then, there was a call on the radio .. someone had spotted a cheetah. We bounced across several miles of track to join a number of other vans and finally found two cheetah, a female and a cub sheltering under a tree and very well camouflaged. 

Our driver proved to have excellent judgment and picked exactly the right spots to wait. First of all, we were perfectly positioned as first the female and then the cub crossed the track just in front of our van. The adult seemed to have no fear of us .. the cub was much more wary and had to be encouraged to follow mum into the long grass.

The adult was hunting, with the cub keeping well behind. We tracked the pair of them for about an hour. The cheetah is the only predator that hunts by day and the one animal that is adversely affected by all of the safari vans. The highlight of the afternoon was the sight of the female using a termite mound as a lookout, with her cub waiting patiently below.


It was sunset by the time we crossed back across the river on our return to the camp.

We had missed the nightly visit of the leopard across from the lodge but were in time for the crocodile feeding and an impressive fight between two crocs. 

One chased another back towards the water and caught it by the tail. As they rotated in the water, there was a loud crack, which we all assumed was the crack of breaking bones in the tail.

The interest continued through dinner, with the visit of some kind of long-tailed cat to the restaurant and some people even reported elephants outside of their rooms as they went back after dinner.


Last updated: January 11, 2000 13:02 -0000