A Guide To Buffalo Springs National Reserve Kenya

Buffalo Springs National Reserve Kenya was named after an oasis of clear water at its western end. It is the natural home to five rare species known as the five northern species which are endemic to this area: Grevys Zebra, Somali ostrich, Reticulated Giraffe, Gerenuk and the Beisa oryx.

Facts About Buffalo Springs National Reserve Kenya

Altitude: 850-1,230 meters above sea level.
Area: 131 sq km.
Location: Eastern Province, Isiolo District.
Distance from Nairobi: 340 km north-east of Nairobi.
Gazetted: Presently managed by Isiolo County Council, the national reserve was established in 1948 as part of the Samburu – Isiolo Game Reserve. The present boundaries were formed in 1985.
Climate: Hot, dry and semi-arid.
Vegetation: Varies between acacia woodland, bushland and scrubland and riverine woodlands.
Wildlife: Includes plentiful elephant, and features such rarities as reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and Beisa oryx.
Birds: Over 320 species have been recorded.
Roads: 4WD is recommended for the journey to and within the national reserve although 2WD vehicles with good ground clearance can be used outside the rainy seasons.

What To See At Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve Kenya is an alternate choice for guests who desire a discerning and unfettered safari trip in northern Kenya’s bush country. As one of the several hidden landscapes, the reserve offers a serene setting where you escape into a vast landscape of remarkable flora and fauna. Unique features of the reserve include lava terraces, rolling grasslands, doum palms, forests, scrub brush, Ewaso Nyiro River and springs for which the reserve is named.

The reserve is part of a larger ecosystem that includes Samburu National Reserve to the north and Shaba National Reserve to the northeast. With so much open protected land available, wildlife traverse safely between the reserves, including rare northern species of reticulated giraffes, vulturine guinea fowls and Grevy’s zebras, all of which are unique to the region. These beautiful animals are joined by other rare species, including Somali ostriches, beisa oryx and gerenuks. You also see wildlife that are present in many of Kenya’s other protected areas. Foragers and grazers include elephants, hippos, olive baboons, buffalos, Grant’s gazelles, to name a few. Your African Mecca guide also helps you locate the well-hidden hunters, such as leopards, lions, cheetahs and Nile crocodiles. You may even have a chance to see African wild dogs.

For our bird-watching guests, Buffalo Springs is a mecca of avi-fauna with more than 450 species recorded that includes birds that are found in northern bush country and riverine forests. The lesser kestrels and Taita falcons are globally threatened species that thrive under the protection of the reserve. Other vulnerable species include great egrets, martial eagles, African darters and yellow-billed ox-peckers. Common species include bee-eaters, yellow-billed hornbills, lilac-breasted rollers, grey-headed kingfishers and many more.

For an adventurous tour of Buffalo Springs Reserve, explore the land, animals and people with a game drive. Travel across vast distances with an expert guide to locate diverse wildlife. You may even witness a lion or cheetah kill, protective elephant mother fend off crocodiles on the beach banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and the playful banter of gazelles on the savannah. African Mecca also recommends that you plan a guided nature and birding walk so that you can discover the small and delicate details of the reserve while uncovering the hidden smaller denizens that peer from bushes, trees and rocks. Along the way, you are accompanied by members of the local Samburu communities. The Samburu are generously personable and happy to share their traditions and beliefs, and you may visit their villages for a complete immersion into their ancient culture.

What To Do At Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Wildlife watching
As is the case with most dry country ecosystems, wildlife watching varies greatly as the animal populations move about in search of water and pasture.

Bird Watching
There is a large variety of bird species to be spotted in Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The vast majority of birds will be seen in the riverine forested areas near the river banks, or in the vicinity of the fresh water springs and pools that lend their name to the reserve. Large flocks of Helmeted Guinea Fowl descend on the sandy river banks at sunset to quench their thirst.

Game Drives
Game Drives are definitely the best way to see a large variety of wildlife. At Buffalo Springs a drive through the riverine forest area should yield good sightings at any time of the day, as large numbers of animals tend to converge on the shady river banks to escape the heat. To see predators on the move in the open scrubby areas, choose early morning and late afternoon game drives.

Cultural Visits
The Samburu tribesmen are very happy to share their culture and traditions with visitors. Visit one of the nearby villages to completely immerse yourself in their ancient culture and find out what life is like as a pastoralist in northern Kenya!

Accommodation And Hotels In Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Our innovative African Mecca Safaris Tier System simplifies your accommodation choice by providing you with an accurate and up-to-date rating. Our team personnel visit accommodations and base our evaluation on a guest perspective. Our criterion includes every aspect that is important to you, such as location, exclusivity, food, service, guides, room quality and much more. We then assign a rating of Tier 1 for premium, Tier 2 for mid-range deluxe and Tier 3 for value. To give our guests the best and most pleasant safari in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, we recommend two accommodations – Ashnil Samburu Camp and Samburu Simba Lodge. Both of these accommodations not only give you access to Buffalo Springs National Reserve, but also the sister reserve – Samburu National Reserve. The reserves are separated only by the Ewaso Nyiro River, and wildlife frequently roam between them by crossing the river at low water points, so fauna experiences are similar in both reserves. Additionally, the reserves share the ecosystem, so birdlife, flora, terrain and other aspects are the same. Staying at Buffalo Springs, though, does afford you the advantage of being away from the more crowded accommodations in Samburu National Reserve.

Buffalo Springs National Reserve
Buffalo Springs National Reserve

At Tier 2, we recommend Ashnil Samburu Camp, a deluxe accommodation that offers you a good balance between quality and price. The camp is situated on the banks of the river in a natural setting that immerses you in beauty of the Kenyan wilderness. Thirty guest tents feature hexagon designs with ample windows, giving you almost 360-views from every part of your tent. The en-suite bathroom and dressing area are perfect for freshening up after your outdoor Kenyan safari activities, and the sitting area and private verandah invite you to relax and exchange stories with friends and family amidst resident wildlife (read more on when is the best time to go to Buffalo Springs). Guest tents are sited to maximize views of the river or offer guests easy access to common areas. For the budget-conscious traveler in Buffalo Springs National Reserve, we recommend Samburu Simba Lodge. At the AfricanMecca Tier 3 level, you stay in a modest accommodation that may have more guests when compared to a Tier 2 or 1. You still have access to the same safari activities within the reserves. Samburu Simba is situated in a beautiful forest near the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. Seventy guest rooms are divided amongst seven villas, and each villa has six guest rooms on the lower level with another four rooms on the upper floor. Families may prefer the interconnected rooms to ensure a bonded vacation in the Kenyan wilderness. The lodge is designed to embrace the natural elements outdoors as reflected in brick and stone. A ceiling fan, sitting area and writing desk offer ample space, and outside you have a private verandah for enjoying nature, reading and napping.


Buffalo Springs National Reserve offers something for every guest, from thrill-seeking AfricanMecca travelers seeking excitement and adventure to the more introverted guests who prefer to study the smallest details of micro-ecosystems. Game drives are the most popular activity as you safari across vast distances in a custom vehicle with an expert guide sharing knowledge, personal stories and local folklore. Game drives are offered in the morning and afternoon, and we can arrange for a full-day drive that includes a bush lunch. Your heart-pounding trip of Buffalo Springs is your best chance to see some of Kenya’s most popular large mammals. Cheetahs stand at well-chosen vantage points scanning the plans for prey kill while majestic prides of lions rest most of the time, play and then strategize with its female counterparts for an opportune ambush moment. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to spot the elusive leopard on the tree or hiding in the bush. These graceful and skilled hunters are joined by a variety of grazing and foraging herbivores, such as buffalos, impalas, gazelles, hippos, dik-diks, elephants and many more. 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. Buffalo Springs Reserve also has some unique species, such as gerenuks, grevy’s zebras, beisa oryx and reticulated giraffes. Imagine your anticipation of sighting most of these incredible animals!

For African Mecca adventurers who prefer more leisurely activities after a game drive or simply need a more relaxed pace, nature and birdwatching walks offer intriguing excursions of Buffalo Springs. Like game drives, you are escorted by a Samburu guide but the pace is set by your personal fitness level and desire to discover smaller details of the bush. Your guide explains traditional methods of tracking, scat and print identification, medicinal uses or plants and much more. You also have the opportunity to peer into branches, brush and other foliage to locate and identify many of the 450 species of avian-life that have been recorded in the reserve (read more on where to stay in Buffalo Springs). Bird lovers are overwhelmed by the diversity that includes common and threatened avi-fauna. Look forward to seeing Somali ostriches, bristle-crowned starlings and shining sunbirds to name a few of the feathered inhabitants. The reserve is also one of the reliable locations for seeing Donaldson Smith’s sparrow weavers. Some of the other species are vultures, marabou storks, guinea fowl and kingfishers. If threatened species are on your wish list of bird species, you will be surprised on what is on offer. The lesser falcons and lesser kestrels in the reserve are globally threatened alongside other regionally vulnerable species. The Samburu people 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. The native tribe welcomes you to their homes and 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 environ.

When to Visit Buffalo Springs National Reserve Kenya

At any time of year, Buffalo Springs National Reserve offers an authentic setting for your adventure-filled tour. The climate offers a comfortable ambience so you can enjoy the immense beauty of the landscape, wildlife and local villages. As with other wondrous East African safari destinations, the weather patterns include rainy and dry seasons. The presence or absence of precipitation affects some parts of your experience, so we recommend that you consider these subtle differences as you plan. We consider the long dry season from July through October to be the best time of year to visit Buffalo Springs National Reserve. The reason for this is that the watering holes that are sustained by the rains dry up, giving the animals few options for hydration and food. During these months, the animals are found gathered around permanent springs, as well as along the Ewaso Nyiro River. Therefore, fauna are easier to locate, and the minimal vegetation makes wildlife observation easier as well. While the terrestrial animal experience is optimum, visitor levels do increase as this coincides with the months when Americans and Europeans plan their family vacations to Kenyan parks like Masai Mara alongside Buffalo Springs Reserve. In the highlands, the drop in evening temperatures can be quite apparent, so we recommend that you bring a warm fleece. The long dry season is followed by a short rainy season in late October, November and most parts of December. While the weather may reduce visitor levels somewhat, spending Christmas and New Year’s in the wilderness is a popular African holiday dream of many guests.

Accommodation rates are slightly reduced during November and the first three weeks of December due to the short rains. While you may pay less for your room during the shower season, other costs remain constant throughout the year, including logistical travel including vehicle rates, park entrance fees, AfricanMecca guided services, meals and others. Accommodation prices are increased to normal levels from late December through the short dry season of January and February. Late March begins the long rainy season that lasts until late May through parts of June. The transformation of the reserve makes this the perfect time for an intimate trip to Buffalo Springs Reserve. Vegetation erupts from parched earth that is awakened with the rains, and the heart-touching events such as the birth of a herbivore will give you a lifetime of memories. Watch quietly as newborns stand and take their first steps under the gentle encouragement of their mothers who masterfully keep watch for stealthy predators hiding in the tall grasses. Navigating the terrain can be challenging, as roads and trails may be muddy and slippery. Your guide’s intimate knowledge of the area ensures that you can reach the best possible locations. As with the short rainy seasons, room costs are reduced during this time of year while other mentioned prices remain the same year-round. Daytime high range from 84 F (29 C) to 90 F (32 C) degrees depending on the month of travel while nighttime temperature drops to a degrees range of 61 F (16 C) to 66 F (19 C). The cool seasons are June to August with January and February being the hottest.

How to get to Buffalo Springs National Reserve

By road: Buffalo Springs is situated about 300 km northwest of Nairobi, and the driving time is approximately 4.5 hours.

By air: You can fly into Buffalo Springs from Nairobi – there are two scheduled flights per day, or you can use a chartered flight. Flying time is around 1 hour and 20 min.

A Map to Buffalo Springs National Reserve

Buffalo Springs National Reserve Contacts

Attraction Type: Wildlife
Category: Game Reserve
Region: Eastern
City / Town: Isiolo
Telephone: 254 20 600 0800, 254 20 600 2345, 254 20 237 9407
Entrance Fee: Yes

Watch a Video of Buffalo Springs National Reserve