Samburu National Reserve is in the southern corner of Samburu District in Kenya's Rift Valley Province. The region is often referred to as the Northern Frontier District, a colonial-era hangover denoting its untamable remoteness. The Ewaso Nyiro River forms its southern border, separating it from neighboring Buffalo Springs National Reserve which, in turn, connects to Shaba National Reserve that lies farther east. Together the three reserves make up the Samburu ecosystem.
Samburu National Reserve is managed by the Samburu County Council; limited (and sometimes confusing) information is available directly from these authorities (P.O. Box 519, Isiolo; tel. 65/22-83; www.samburucouncil.com), but don't expect a swift or particularly helpful response. A better contact -- particularly if you have a serious interest in conservation issues -- is Save the Elephants (P.O. Box 54667, 00200 Nairobi; tel. 020/89-1673 or 720/44-1178; www.savetheelephants.org), one of the world's most respected conservation projects, operated by Ian and Oria Douglas-Hamilton and based in Samburu. Shaba and Buffalo Springs are managed by the County Council of Isiolo (tel. 064/52-519), so there's little hope of getting anything useful out of them.
By Road -- It's a hard but doable 6-hour drive from Nairobi, crossing the equator and bypassing Mount Kenya on the A2 (Isiolo-Marsabit main road) before reaching Kenya's Northern Frontier District. The main point of entry for travelers driving from Nairobi to Samburu is Archer's Gate (354km/220 miles).
By Air -- A far more convenient and time-saving option is to fly. AirKenya (www.airkenya.com) flies to Buffalo Springs and Samburu twice daily; the flight from Nairobi takes between 45 minutes and an hour (depending on whether it's direct). Private charters are also easily organized and can be handled directly by your travel operator or lodge; the best operator out of Nairobi is Boskovic Air (tel. 020/60-6364; www.boskovicaircharters.com). Or, if you're arriving from Laikipia or Nanyuki, use Tropic Air (www.tropicair-kenya.com).
Samburu's road network is fairly extensive and well maintained, although it's not unknown to be held up by ill-equipped larger vehicles getting stuck in the sand while trying to cross luggas (dry river beds).
Daily fees for Samburu are $40 per adult, $20 per child; the same fee applies to Shaba and Buffalo Springs, but tickets are interchangeable for these two reserves.
When to Go
The Northern Frontier District is generally hot and dry. April through October is a marginally cooler period, with some rain, and may be more comfortable.