Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

A Glance At Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

  • Size: 131 km2
  • Location-Northern Kenya
  • History-Gazzeted in 1948. Named after the Buffalo springs at the western end of the reserve

Safari Attractions  in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

  • Animals
  • Northern Kenya specials-Grevy’s zebras, gerenuk Beisa oryxes & reticulated giraffes
  • All three big cats-lions, leopards, cheetahs
  • Others elephants, greater and lesser kudus, Grant’s gazelles, elands and buffalos.
  • Bird species
  • More than 390 species of birds
  • Include Somali ostrich, vulturine guineafowls and Abyssinian ground hornbill.
  • Flora
  • Salvadora persica/toothbrush
  • doum palm
  • Ewaso Nyiro River
  • Buffalo springs
  • The Samburu people

What to do in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve?

  • Game drives
  • Walking safaris
  • Bird watching
  • Cultural visits

Where to stay in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve?

  • There is luxury, mid-range and budget safaris lodges

How to get there?

  • Roads: From Nairobi through Nanyuki on a tarmac road to Isiolo, then a 22km murram road.
  • Air: Buffalo Springs Airstrip is used by scheduled flights from Nairobi each day linking the reserves to other tourism destinations.

Background of Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Established in 1948, Buffalo Springs National Reserve is a formidably arid but beautiful place. The reserve offers simply one of the most adventurous Kenya wildlife safari experience. The most spectacular feature of Buffalo springs is that it serves as a place where animals that never or seldom drink thrive. This reserve which stretches for miles is on the side of Ewaso-Nyiro River, an oasis amid a harsh environment of Northern Kenya.

Buffalo Springs is the gathering place for a wonderfully diverse and interesting array of creatures, some of which have adapted to cope with arid, hostile conditions and others drawn like a magnet to only permanent water ground. True desert dwellers like Beisa oryxes, gerenuks, and Grant’s gazelles are virtually water independent, others like reticulated giraffes and Grevy’s zebras, have learned to get by with little.

Along the banks of Ewaso Nyiro river, waterbucks, Burchell’s Zebras, and buffaloes feed on river grasses. Elephants come in herds of hundreds or so to drink and bathe making this muddy river even muddier. Shaggy maned striped hyenas and cheetahs are uncommon elsewhere but thrive in the reserve. Lion pride is elusive but traveler on a Kenya tour to the reserve are rewarded with easy sightings of leopards.

Buffalo Springs is also a superb bird watching safari destination in Kenya with more than 390 bird species recorded. The reserve offers stunning sights of a number of northeast African dry-country species that are shared with Ethiopia and Somalia. Some of the heavyweights to look out for are Somali ostrich, vulturine guineafowls and Abyssinian ground hornbill. This area is also great to see the unusual Egyptian vulture.

Geography of Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

ElephantsThe Buffalo Springs National Reserve is set in the south of the Samburu National Reserve, which lies on the other side of the Ewaso Ngiro river. The entire ecosystem in this area is sustained mainly by the water from Ewaso Nyiro where there’s a narrow band of doum palms, riverine forests, and grasslands. The high faunal concentration at the waterholes and riverbank is a gift for the wildlife watcher. The reserve has an area of 131 square kilometers and is at an altitude of between 850 meters and 1,230 meters above sea level.

It is a gently rolling lowland plain of old lava flows and volcanic soils of olivine basalt. The main feature is the Champagne Ride in the southeast, an ancient lava-terrace. The climate is hot, dry and semi-arid. Buffalo Springs National Reserve is named after an oasis of clear water which can be found at the western end of the reserve. These springs were formed by rising of underground streams coming from Mount Kenya

Kenya Safari Attractions in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve contains a wide variety of tourist attractions. The main tourist attractions in the park including variety of animals and bird species. Other attractions include flora, Ewaso Ng’iro River and the Samburu local people, and their culture.

1) Animals in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Buffalo Springs offers great wildlife watching opportunities to a visitor during their Kenya wildlife safaris. This is the key area for seeing all of Kenya’s northern varieties including the Grevy’s zebras, gerenuk antelope, Beisa oryxes, reticulated giraffes, Grant’s gazelles, elands, greater and lesser kudus. All three species of big cats reside in the reserves, with a good number of leopards, always present in the wooded riverbank areas and lion prides often using riverine forest cover to ambush their prey as they come to drink. Cheetahs are harder to spot here but they are known to exist in the reserve. Hyenas are also common in the reserve. The dominant mammal of Samburu, however, is the elephants that are often seen in herds hundreds at the Ewaso Ngiro River. Other animals to see while on Kenya trip to the reserve include buffalos, impalas, waterbucks, dik-diks, common Burchell’s zebras and wild dogs.

Beisa oryx; these harlequin –marked antelope can live on moisture from roots and tubers which they dig. Physically, oryxes are very beautiful animals, and quite large in size. Their coat is grey with black stripes along the spine, white undercoat, black stripes where the face attaches to the neck, and black and white facial markings. Both male and female oryx sport an impressive set of long, ribbed horns that are narrow and straight

Elands; The cow-like eland, the largest of African antelopes inhabit Buffalo Springs National Reserve. It is interesting to note that these massive antelopes can endure extreme heat by letting their body temperature rise several degrees in the day time and then cool down at night. Elands also conserve water by halting perspiration. Both males and females have horns that spiral tightly, though female horns tend to be longer and thinner. Apart from a rough mane, the coat is smooth. Females have a tan coat, while the coats of males are darker, with a bluish-grey coloration. As males age, their coat becomes greyer. Males also have dense fur on their foreheads and a large dewlap on their throats.

Gerenuks; These longe necked antelopes stand to bolt upright on hind legs to stretch for succulent leaves most other browsers cannot reach. The gerenuk’s high reach is helpful in areas overgrazed by goats, where high –strong little dik-dik antelopes are at distinct disadvantage-their number are declining. Dik-dik is the smallest of African antelopes and their name comes from a repetitive dik sound female dik-diks whistle through their long, tubular snouts when they feel threatened. Dik-diks are monogamous and mate for life.

Other such as Grant’s gazelles, can make leaving beyond the range of water-dependent grazers. These gazelles are slightly larger than their cousin (the Thomson’s gazelle) but the Grant lacks the dark side stripe which is on the Thomson’s gazelles and is much more drought-tolerant species that can go weeks without water. Their coat is a beige orange on the back with a white belly.

Grevy’s Zebras in neat pin-striped suits (unlike their cousins; the broad striped Burchell’s zebras) and reticulated giraffes (the most beautiful giraffes with neater geometric marking with the rest) need moisture but not in great amounts.

Waterbucks are never far from water and are common along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River.  Their shaggy coat is reddish-brown to grey and becomes progressively darker with age. Though apparently thick, the hair is sparse on the coat. The hair on the neck is, however, long and shaggy. Waterbuck are known to secrete a greasy substance with the odour of musk, giving it the name “greasy kob”. The odor of this is so unpleasant that it repels predators. It actually makes them appetizing to only the hungriest lion. This secretion also assists in water-proofing the body when the animal dives into the water.

2) Bird species in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

One of the best destinations for a Kenya birding safari Buffalo Springs National Reserve is home to over 390 species of birds. The Somali ostriches are widespread within the national reserve. It is larger than the common ostrich and is distinctive for their indigo legs and blue neck. The striking Cobalt-blue-breasted vulturine guinea fowls provide one of the most spectacular views not only to birdwatching enthusiasts. Another bird special in the reserve is the Abyssinian ground hornbill. As big and black as turkeys, wielding bills like hatchets, these charismatic birds cut an unmistakable dash as they strut around the bush in small family parties. Since traditional African cultures saw ground hornbills as harbingers of rain, killing them was taboo. Thus, sadly, with the passing of such beliefs, these birds have become increasingly threatened. This area is also great to see the unusual Egyptian vulture.

Other notable bird species to see while on your Kenya tours in the reserve include Acacia tit, Bare-eyed thrush, African palm swifts, Ashy cisticola, Bare-eyed thrush, Black-bellied sunbirds, Black-capped social weavers, Bristle-crowned starling, Brown-tailed rock chat, Chestnut weavers, Chestnut-headed sparrow lark, Donaldson-Smith’s sparrow-weavers, Fischer’s starling, Golden pipit, Golden-breasted starling, Greater kestrels, Grey wren-warblers, Hunter’s Sunbirds, Lanner falcons, Mariqua sunbirds, Northern brownbuls, Palm-nut vultures, Pink-breasted lark, Pygmy batis, Red-bellied Parrots, Red-necked falcons, Red-winged lark,  Reichenow’s seedeater, Rosy-patched bush-shrikes, Rufous chatterer, Secretary birds, Singing bush lark, Somali bee-eaters, Spotted palm-thrush, Von der Decken’s hornbill, White-headed mousebirds, and Yellow-vented eremomela.

3) Flora in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

While on a Kenya safari to Buffalo Springs National Reserve, visitors will be rewarded with spectacular views of unique plant species.  The river determines much of the character of the reserves’ plant life. There is a narrow band of riverine forest along the Ewaso Ngiro which includes Tana River Poplar; Doum Palm and magnificent specimens of Acacia elatior. In some areas, lava rock is exposed, with scattered grass and shrubs. Other parts have alkaline grasslands with occasional springs and swamps. Here and there the “Desert Rose” (Adenium obesum) is found in the scrub, with bright pink blooms. The Salvadora persica (tooth-brush tree) shrub provides food to elephants, and its twigs are used as toothbrushes by the nomadic Samburu people.

  1. a) Salvadora persica/toothbrush tree in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Salvadora persica is also known as a toothbrush tree or mustard tree.  The tree is known as Mswaki’ in the Swahili and ‘Sokotu’ in the Samburu language. As the name suggests, it has been used for centuries as a natural toothbrush and its fibrous branches have been mentioned by the World Health Organization for oral hygiene use.

Salvadora persica is a small tree or shrub with a crooked trunk, typically 6–7 meters in height. Its bark is scabrous and cracked, whitish with pendulous extremities. The root bark of the tree is similar in color to sand, and the inner surfaces are an even lighter shade of brown. It has a pleasant fragrance, of cress or mustard, as well as a warm and pungent taste. The leaves break with a fine crisp crackle when trodden on. The tree produces small red edible fruits, juicy but pungent, in clusters. The fresh leaves can be eaten as part of a salad and are used in traditional medicine. The flowers are small and fragrant and are used as a stimulant and are mildly purgative.

  1. b) Doum palm in Buffalo Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

The doum palm (in Kiswahili: Mkoche) is also known as a gingerbread tree or doom palm grows along the shores of the Ewaso Ngi’ro river.  It is a type of palm tree with edible oval fruit. It has been shown that dietary supplementation with doum palm extract has hypotensive and hypolipidemic effects.

The doum palm is a dioecious palm and grows up to 17 m high. The trunk, which can have a girth of up to 90 cm, branches dichotomously and has tufts of large leaves at the ends of the branches. The bark is fairly smooth, dark grey and bears the scars of fallen leaves. The petioles (leaf stalks) are about a meter long, sheathing the branch at the base and armed with stout upward-curving claws. The leaves are fan-shaped and measure about 120 by 180 cm. Male and female flowers are produced on separate trees. The inflorescences are similar in general appearance, up to about 1.2 m long, branching irregularly and with two or three spikes arising from each branchlet. Female trees produce large woody fruits, each containing a single seed, that remain on the tree for a long period

Functional uses of doum palm

The covering of the fruit is edible and can either be pounded to form a powder or cut off in slices; the powder is often dried then added to food as a flavoring agent. Young shoots produce tasty palm cabbage; the hypocotyl is edible, and so are the immature seeds if well prepared.  In Turkana, Kenya, the powder made from the outer covering of the fruit is added to water and milk and left to stand to make a mildly alcoholic drink; in other countries, the terminal meristem is tapped for making palm wine. Roots are used in the treatment of bilharzia, while fruit pulp is chewed to control hypertension.  The hard seed inside the fruit, known as ‘vegetable ivory’, is used to make buttons and small carvings, and as artificial pearls.

In Egypt, the doum palm has been cultivated since ancient times and has long been considered a sacred tree, symbolizing masculine strength. It was also planted in the belief that it protected and supplied people with shade, water, and food after death.

4) Ewaso Nyiro River in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Ewaso Nyiro River is the reserve’s most delightful habitat and it is a most exciting spot for visitors on Kenya wildlife tours in Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The river’s name is derived from the Samburu language of the local Samburu people. It means ‘the river of brown or muddy water’. It is also called by some the “Ewaso Ng’iro.” Ewaso in northern Kenya’s biggest and least seasonal river, that attracts plenty of wildlife. Dozens of species of plain grazers and browsers gather in the thick acacia and doum palm forest along the river banks to drink and seek shade. The riverside grasses draw a large number of waterbucks. Saddle-billed storks hunt frogs and fish.

On its raised sandbanks immense Nile crocodiles bask, remaining stock still, utterly camouflaged and menacingly patient. Plentiful pods of snorting and chortling hippos can be observed in the water. Reticulated giraffes are commonly seen feeding on the acacia trees that dot river banks. Lumbering elephants and graceful elands are also regular visitors to the Ewaso Nyiro River. Buffalos and shimmering bands of resident impala melt in and out of dense riverside thickets. Also, huge flocks of Helmeted and Cobalt-blue-breasted vulturine guinea fowls may quench their thirst here.

Although this mighty river normally courses through the reserve without impedance, the waters stop during the most extreme droughts. When this happens, the animals and communities depend on the Isiolo River that the reserve shares with neighboring Samburu National Reserve.

5) Buffalo springs in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

The permanent Buffalo springs, after which Buffalo Springs National Reserve is named, are among the main notable feature of the reserve that travelers should visit during their safaris in Kenya. The two are now walled, while the third break onto the plain and forms a small marshy waterhole that flows into the Ewaso Nyiro. One of the walled springs provides the water supply for the nearby small town of Archer’s Post; the other was formerly a natural swimming pool. Swimming is now prohibited – occasional crocs and the presence of predators by the waterhole make it far too risky.

6) The Samburu people around Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

The camel-, cattle- and goat-herding Samburu people are closely related to the Maasai (they speak the same language, Maa), wear a similar traditional dress of blankets and beads, and maintain a very similar lifestyle.  The Samburu are generously personable and happy to share their traditions and beliefs, and you may have a Kenya cultural safari to their villages for a complete immersion into their ancient culture. There are also plenty of opportunities to buy Samburu crafts and beaded jewelry.

What to do in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve/ Things to do in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is one of the most unique reserves in northern Kenya where travelers enjoy a wide range of activities. Things to do in the Buffalo Springs National Reserve range from game drives, walking safaris, bird watching and cultural visits. All the activities are done after paying a park entry fee.

Entry fees at Buffalo Spring National Reserve

Non-resident visitors –Adults/Children- US$70/40

East Africa Citizens – Adults/Children- KSH860/215

Residents –  Adults/Children- KSH1000/500

Citizens: Refer to Kenya Citizens with valid National ID/Passports and Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi citizens with valid Passports.

Residents: Refers to persons of other nationalities residing in Kenya with valid documentation from the Kenyan government.

1) Game drives in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Game drives are the most popular activity as you tour Kenya across vast distances in a custom vehicle with an expert guide who is knowledgeable about the country’s wildlife and traditions. Game drives in Buffalo Springs National Reserve are offered in the morning and afternoon. Your heart-pounding tour of Buffalo Springs is your best chance to see some of Kenya’s unique wildlife species in a couple of days. Several dry-country adapted mammals that don’t occur in most Kenyan parks can be found here during your Kenya wildlife tour. These include the reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, and gerenuk. The common Burchell’s zebras and the bigger Grevy’s zebras can also be found alongside each other.

Large herds of elephants can be seen bathing in the muddy waters of Ewaso Ngiro River. The notoriously elusive leopards can be spotted on a tree or hiding in the bush. Majestic pride of lions tends to rest most of the time, play and strategize with its female counterparts for an opportune ambush moment. As you travel along the Ewaso Nyiro River, your guide’s experience is key in noticing signs of Nile crocodiles swimming just below the surface. Imagine your anticipation of sighting most of these incredible animals!

Buffalo Springs doesn’t get a lot of rain and can be visited throughout the year, but the best wildlife viewing time is in the Dry season from June to October. At this time, the vegetation is minimal and animals congregate around predictable water sources. April is the wettest month, and wildlife viewing can sometimes be more challenging at this time

2) Walking safaris in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Game drives prove to be the most tourist activities, but as your safari Kenya you can also undertake more leisurely activities. Walking safaris in Buffalo Springs National Reserve offers intriguing excursions to travelers. Like game drives, you are escorted by a guide but the pace is set by your personal fitness level and desire to discover smaller details of the bush. Your guide will explain traditional methods of tracking, scat and print identification, plants and their medicinal uses plus much more.

3) Bird watching in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

While on Kenya birding safaris in Buffalo springs, look forward to northeast African dry-country bird species including the vulturine guinea fowls, the Somali ostriches, and the Abyssinian ground hornbills. A range of small birds will also be spotted during your Kenya birding tour in the reserve. You’re not likely to miss the big flocks of vividly plumaged helmeted guinea fowls, while among the many birds of prey, pygmy falcon and martial eagle from opposite ends of the raptor spectrum are both easily seen, as are Kori, Heuglin’s and buff-crested bustards, and lots of weavers, shrikes, woodpeckers, and flycatchers.

If threatened species are on your wish list of bird species, you will be surprised at what is on offer. The lesser falcons and lesser kestrels in the reserve are globally threatened alongside other regionally vulnerable species.

4) Cultural visit to Samburu Villages around Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

Explore the culture and traditions of the Samburu tribe. These tribesmen are friendly and welcoming. You’ll discover their lifestyle during your safaris in Kenya as they share their beliefs, artwork to craft making, cattle herding techniques and so much more. Families with children can spend time with these tribal men and women learning how to throw spears, milk goats and make jewelry. Romantics can even be blessed by the village elders by renewing their wedding vows in a pristine environment. The Samburu people’s lives are an integral part of the reserve, and cultural tours of Kenyan villages is the finest way to gain insight and appreciation for ancient ways of life.

Where to Stay in Buffalo Springs National Game Reserve

There are some excellent accommodation options inside the national reserve itself, including a handful of luxury, mid-range and budget safaris lodges and Camps.

1) Samburu Simba Lodge-Luxury

Overlooking the Buffalo springs and the Uaso Nyiro River, Samburu Simba Lodge offers a fantastic view over the stunning plains, where elephants are grazing. The nearby rare game including reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx, and long-necked gerenuk can be seen. Samburu Simba Lodge is 300 km north of Nairobi, in Buffalo Springs Game reserve.

Accommodation at Samburu Simba Lodge include;

Samburu Simba Lodge has 18 cottages and over 70 rooms. The rooms are spacious, well furnished with a reading desk and several lounge chairs. The bathrooms have a shower with warm and cold water. The rooms have an overhead fan, telephone extension. Mosquito nets & hairdryers are available upon request. There is also a large terrace that faces the river valley below, where you are able to see a variety of birdlife and elephants roaming, especially in the morning. There are also facilities with internet access and network coverage for cell phone usage.

Lodge facilities

  • Safety Deposit Box
  • Swimming Pool
  • Gift Shop
  • Restaurant
  • Massage Parlour
  • Banqueting Facilities
  • Dry Cleaning/Laundry
  • Currency Exchange
  • Pool/Snooker
  • Wi-Fi Available
  • Facilities for Disabled
  • Bush Dinner/Breakfast
  • Bar & Lounge TV

2) Ashnil Samburu Camp-Luxury

Ashnil Samburu Camp is a luxury tented set in the spectacular backdrop drop of the Mighty Ol Olokwe mountain fronting Ewaso Nyiro River. The 30 exclusive luxury Tents are spread out along the shady banks of the river under a thick stand of doum palms.

It features an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by sun lounges, a garden and a Lounge bar offering views of the African savannah. Each tent features a decked Terrance with views of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The restaurant offers views of the river and serves a variety of menus comprising of Oriental, traditional and international cuisines. A range of activities are available on request and comprise of game drives, Nature Walks and a cultural visit to the Samburu village, bush meals like bush lunch/dinner and sundowners.

Room types and features at Ashnil Samburu Camp include;

  • Deluxe Twin -25 sqm, Two king-size beds, Hot water, shower, hairdryer, terrace, and sunbed.
  • Deluxe Double- 25 sqm, One queen size bed, Hot water, shower, hairdryer, terrace, and sunbed.
  • Deluxe Triple– Ensuite Deluxe Triple room with three single beds.

Facilities & services at Ashnil Samburu Camp include;

Restaurant: The restaurant serves set buffets featuring international, oriental and traditional African cuisine.

Lounge Bar: The lounge is located in the main building away from the main dining area. The décor has an African touch that makes it a wonderful place to pass time and relax. There is a variety of drinks served and include liqueur, soft drinks, cocktails, wines, and spirits, local and international beers. The seating capacity is about 60 guests.

Swimming Pool: After your game drive you can take a dip in our swimming pool or simply relax by the pool which overlooks the game park. This is the perfect place to relax and laze around in the calm afternoons.

Business Services: e-mails, internet browsing, and general secretarial services are available on request at the reception.

3) Lion King Bush Camp-Budget

Lion King Bush Camp is located inside along the Ewaso Nyiro River near Buffalo Springs National Reserve. It offers a natural, unspoiled environment with very little interference to the bush and its inhabitants. As such, the camp remains home to myriad birds, mongoose, vervet monkeys, genet cats, tortoises, monitor lizards, to name a few. Elephants are regular visitors, often crossing the river, or taking mud baths directly in front of the camp.

The atmosphere is informal, authentic, and designed for the experience-led adventure traveler. We usually dine together in the open-sided dining area or around the campfire… though some prefer to have a private table set up under the stars. And by night, owner Nahim will entertain with stories of a lifetime spent in the African bush. We also offer 3-course dining for outside guests

Accommodation at Lion King Bush Camp include;

Lion King Bush Camp offers 6 very private tents, each with outside seating area, double beds, private showers, and toilets. The camp can also accommodate requests for triples or four people sharing. Full board rates include accommodation, three home-cooked meals each day, and early morning tea and coffee served either at the tents or in the dining area. Half board rates include breakfast and dinner. It can also arrange packed lunches for those who wish to spend full days out in the reserve.

Facilities and services at Lion King Bush Camp include;

  • Restuarant
  • Indoor Fireplace
  • Parking on Premises

How to get to Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Kenya’s main airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO), located 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), located 9km/6mi west of Mombasa, but aside from flights to Zanzibar, this is primarily used for domestic and charter flights.

From Nairobi or Mombasa, one can fly or drive between reserves, or opt to do a bit of both. Most domestic flights out of Nairobi depart from Wilson Airport (WIL), 6km/4mi south of Nairobi.

Whichever mode one chooses for travel, in most cases the local tour operator will arrange pick-up at the airport and all further transportation as part of the safari-package.

Roads: From Nairobi through Nanyuki on a tarmac road to Isiolo, then a 22km murram road. Air: Buffalo Springs Airstrip is used by scheduled flights from Nairobi each day linking the reserves to other tourism destinations.