Samburu - Buffalo Springs - Shaba National Reserves
The three reserves lie about three hundred and twenty-five kilometers from Nairobi and about fifty kilometers from Isiolo town on the Isiolo-Marsabit road. Samburu and Buffalo Springs were established as one reserve known as the Samburu-Isiolo Game Reserve, which was part of Marsabit National Reserve under the former National Parks organization in 1948. In 1963, the two reserves were separated and the land on the Samburu side was established as a Game Reserve (255 sq. km.) under Samburu County council. The Isiolo section was similarly established as a Game Reserve (339 sq. km.) under the Isiolo County Council. The two reserves and the third newly established Shaba National Reserve (239 sq. kms.) lie on the ecological zone with hot and dry climate during the day and cool at night. They receive annual average rainfall between 255-510 mm and have a maximum annual mean temperature of 30°C and minimum annual mean temperature of 18°C - 22°C. The first two reserves are transversed by the Uaso Nyiro river which is adequately augmented by crystal clear springs and swamps providing surface water for dry land animals and home for the crocodiles and hippos. The beautiful scenery along the Uaso Nyiro river is one of the great attractions of these reserves, with tall feathery Doum palms and a strip of riverine forest and thicket where many animals are found during the heat of the day. Clusters of palms fringe the river creating a lively habitat for various species of primates.
Shaba National Reserve established in 1974, is separated from the two other reserves by the Great North Road from Isiolo to Marsabit. The three reserves form what is known as the Samburu/Isiolo Complex - trio of beautiful game sanctuaries unsurpassed anywhere in the republic. Shaba got its name from a cone of volcanic rock in the reserve. Large mantles of volcanic lava preserve underground water which emerges as a spring making Shaba better watered than the other two reserves. It was here where the aging Joy Adamson performed her last rehabilitation feat with Penny, the orphaned leopard cub found near her lake Naivasha home and loaned to her. Penny the "Queen of Shaba" was almost ready to go to the bush when on the evening of 3rd January 1980, Joy went for her usual evening stroll in the reserve, and never returned. Her body was later recovered on a bush track having fallen victim to a brutal murder in one of the most mysterious a shocking cases in the country.
The reserves are famous for their great concentration of the rare species of animals found in northern Kenya - north of Tana River such as Grevy Zebra, Beisa oryx, Reticulated giraffe and the Blue-necked Somali ostrich. The reserves are also home to the graceful Gerenuk, along -necked gazelle found only in dry areas. Other animals commonly seen include:- elephant, buffalo, cheetah, lion, impala, common zebra, eland, grant’s gazelle, spotted hyena and leopard.
Nearly all the bird species found in the dry Savannah woodland are represented in these reserves, where over 100 bird species are easily seen within a day. Large flocks of Helmeted and Vulturine guinea fowl are a common sight. Buffalo Springs offer a drinking place for thousands of Sand grouse and Doves during dry season.