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Samburu County

Samburu County borders Baringo County to the west, Laikipia County to the south, lsiolo County to the East and Turkana County to the northwest and Marsabit County to the north. Maralal town is its headquarters.  Samburu County is administratively divided into three sub-counties: – Central, East and North.

Samburu County land covers an area of 20,826 Km2 with a total population of 224,000 out of whom 90% are nomadic pastoralists.

The area is inhabited by the Samburu who are the majority and a few Turkana, Somali and rendille ethnic groups whose main economic activity is livestock keeping. They practice a seasonal migratory lifestyle in continuous search of grazing pasture and water for their livestock, which provides them with milk, meat and blood for food as well as serving other socio-economic functions such a paying dowry.

The rainfall pattern in Samburu District is quite erratic and on average receives rainfall ranging from 750mm in the lowlands to 1200mm on the mountain and plateaus making the area not quite suitable for arable farming in the lowlands.

In areas where dry land agriculture is practiced the persistent and severe droughts/famine causes crop failure as well as livestock deaths further compounding the problem causing Samburu county to be ranked among the poorest in Kenya (UNDP 2005).

Economy of Samburu County

A small percentage of semi-pastoral inhabitants do practice agriculture. Another sector that has a great potential is tourism. The county lies within the northern tourist circuit and has a vast potential for exploitation.
It is endowed with a variety of abundant wildlife resources that is a source of attraction in tourism industry.

Population of Samburu County

Samburu County is sparsely populated with approximately 200,000 people 80% being the Samburu which, the main ethnic group and 20% unevenly shared by Turkana, Kikuyu, Meru, Somali and others. The county is Semi arid in nature and notable for its immense potential and contribution to the National Livestock industry particularly the slaughter stock.

Tourist Attractions in Samburu County

Samburu Game Reserve

Located on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and neighbors Buffalo Springs National Reserve on the opposite bank. It covers 165km2 and 350km from Nairobi.

In the middle of the reserve, the Ewaso Ng’iro flows through doum palm groves and thick riverine forests that provide water without which the game in the reserve would not survive. The Samburu National Reserve was one of the two areas in which conservationists George Adamson and Joy Adamson raised Elsa the Lioness, made famous in the best-selling book and award winning movie, Born Free and its sequels. The Samburu National Reserve is also the home of Kamunyak (the blessed one), a lioness who adopted six oryx calves between 2002 and 2003.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve is separated from the Samburu National Reserve by the Ewaso Ngiro river. It is less hilly and less dense than Samburu but equally attractive. Buffalo Springs takes its name from an oasis of clear water at the western end of the sanctuary. The Reserve is 131 km and lies on the leeward side of Mount Kenya, rarely receiving rain. During the struggle for independence in Kenya, Mau Mau freedom fighter hid in the park. The legendary Mau Mau General Mathenge passed through when fleeing to Ethiopia. There is a pool of spring water caused by bombing during the 2nd World War by European forces.


365 species of birds, Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, elephant, Beisa Oryx, Somali ostrich, hippo, crocodile, gerenuk, buffalo, lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, spring pool.


  1. Bird watching
  2. Hiking
  3. Camping
  4. Game drives

Shaba National Game Reserve

The remote reserve in north Kenya is rugged wilderness featuring hot springs, rolling savannah, miles of scrub and desert, a waterfall and the Ewaso Ngiro River which supports a diversity of wildlife. This reserve was established in 1968. A solitary mountain rises to 2,145m from an otherwise flat area.


Gravy zebra, the Somali ostrich, gerenuk, the Reticulated giraffe, gazelles, Lesser kudu, leopard, lion, elephants and bird life.

How to get there

  1. Road: 314km from Nairobi
  2. Air: 45 mins flight.


  1. Bird watching
  2. Hiking
  3. Camping
  4. Game drives

Where to stay

Many hotel chains have their presence in the county – Sarova Shaba (in Shaba), Samburu Serena, Larsens Camp, Samburu Lodge, Samburu Intrepids among others.

Contact Samburu County


Other Counties in Kenya