Rift Valley National Parks:

The three national reserves in the Rift Valley region are located in the remote area north of Isiolo cover over 300 sq km (117 sq miles). Samburu, Buffalo Spring, and Shaba are situated along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River and are surrounded by a combination of desert scrub and open savannah plains. The 32km (19 mile) river supports abundant wildlife as it never dries up. Visitors to the Samburu region will see two species found only in northern Kenya: Grevy's zebra and the reticulated giraffe. The reserves are approximately 64 km (38 miles) north of the equator and the temperatures remain hot with low humidity. Marsabit National Park and Reserve is one of Kenya's most remote and least visited national parks. Getting to the park is difficult and dangerous so arriving by plane is highly advised. Driving requires a 4WD vehicle as well as a special permit from the Provincial Headquarters in Isiolo. Marsabit contains a forested mountain within its 2,070 sq km (787sq mi) borders is an oasis in the middle of the surrounding desert. The Dida Galgalla desert lies to the north of Marsabit. This expanse of black lava, although inhospitable, sustains numerous rare species of birds. Beyond Marsabit is a region of desert and semi-desert that is sparsely populated and harsh. Poaching is common here and bandits known as shiftas discourage all but the most ambitious traveler.

Samburu, Shaba & Buffalo Springs

In the aria North of Kenya, water means life. The waters of the great Ewaso Nyiro river draw wildlife in great numbers to its banks, creating an oasis of green.

This river flows through three great northern reserves, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba. This is spectacular country, set against a backdrop of the mighty Mountain Ol Olokwe.

The verdant riverine forest is a stark contrast to the arid thorn studded plains. Samburu is visited by large herds of Elephants, drawn by the promise of water. In the dry season, the elephants use their tusks to dig deep into the dry river beds, unearthing precious water. These waterholes then become a focal point for other game.

The Samburu region is the best place to find several endemic Northern species, including Gerenuk, the Reticulated Giraffe, and Grevy's Zebra.

The forests along the river banks are home to many birds, including local species such as the Palm Nut Vulture and the Vinaceous Dove. These forests are also home to many Leopards, often seen at dusk. The sight of one of these beautiful and elusive creatures is always a rare treat.

Lions are also frequently seen on the riverbanks, and Cheetah can be found on the open plains. On rare occasion, packs of African Hunting Dogs are sighted passing through the reserve.

Shaba was where Joy Adamson, author of Born Free spent her final years, returning a leopard to the wild. This was the subject of her final book, Queen of Shaba.

More recently, Shaba served as the location for the hit series Survivor Africa, which pitted its contestants against the challenges of this wild remote country.

The Ewaso Nyiro is also an important water source for the Samburu villages surrounding the reserves. The Samburu culture is a truly fascinating one, sharing a great deal of ancestral and linguistic ties to the Maasai.

The Samburu are herders of Camels and Goats, and are often seen on the reserve boundaries bringing their animals to water.

In areas around the reserves, there are several private sanctuaries working closely with the Samburu to protect both their tribal lands and the local wildlife. These sanctuaries are open to guests, and are well worth visiting for those interested in Samburu culture.

The entire Samburu region is a place of breathtaking and magical beauty, a place where the vision of a deep red sunset silhouetting the doum palms along the river as a leopard emerges to hunt brings the perfect end to a day on safari.....

North to Lake Bogoria

This long, slender soda lake lies at the foot of the towering Laikipia Escarpment. Towards the southern end of the lake are a series of geysers, boiling pools and hot springs. The 107sq km national park also protects one of Kenya's remaining herds of greater kudu. The lake also boasts flamingoes and pelicans, but the region is best known for the physical beauty of the setting. Traveling further north, one finds Lake Baringo, a freshwater lake that is home to a host of bird life. This is the most northerly in the chain of Rift Valley lakes and is a spectacular center for bird-watching. The Lake Baringo Club offers a variety of services including wildlife walks guided by an ornithologist, boat rides, camel rides, and local trips to the local Njemps tribal village and a local snake park.

Lake Naivasha Region

As a freshwater lake, Naivasha is used to irrigate the surrounding countryside. Its cool climate and fertile soil attracts Nairobi residents seeking refuge from city life. Farms, vegetable gardens, and vineyards contribute to this weekend retreat atmosphere. Over 400 species of birds have been reported at Lake Naivasha alone, making it a mecca for bird lovers and researchers. Joy Adamson, author of Born Free, lived on the shores of Lake Naivasha. Her home, Elsamere, is now a wildlife education and conservation center.

Also nearby is Hell's Gate National Park, one of only two parks in Kenya where you are allowed to explore of foot. The Njorowa Gorge was once the outlet from Lake Naivasha. Today the passageway is dried up leaving sheer, red crumbling cliffs through which you walk unguided. The loop between the two main gates is 22km long, but there is a 6km nature trail from the Interpretation Center. Another attraction in the Lake Naivasha region is the privately owned Crater Lake Game Sanctuary. Situated on part of the former estate of Lady Diana Delamere, the scenery around the lake located in a volcanic crater is splendid. This is also the home of the ox-wagon safaris.

Nakuru Region

North of Lake Naivasha is Nakuru, the fourth largest town in Kenya. This agriculturally oriented area is home to Lake Nakuru, one of the Rift Valley soda lakes. Lake Nakuru is best known for its thousands, sometimes millions of flamingoes nesting along the shores. The surface of the shallow lake is often hardly recognizable due to the continually shifting mass of pink. The number of flamingoes on the lake varies with water and food conditions and the best vantage point is from Baboon Rocks. Also of interest, an area of 188 km around the lake fenced off as a sanctuary to protect Rothchild giraffe and black rhinos. Other sites of interest around Nakuru include Menengai Crater, an extinct volcano 2,490 m (8,167 feet) high. The views of the crater itself, as well as the surrounding countryside, are spectacular. Hyrax Hill Prehistoric Site, discovered by the Leakeys in 1926, is considered a major Neolithic and Iron Age site. The adjoining museum features finds from various nearby excavations.

The second largest surviving volcanic crater in the world, the Menengai Crater, is 2,242 meters above sea level at its highest point. The crater plunges 483m down from the rim and the summit is accessible by foot or vehicle 8km from the main road. The mountain is also surrounded by a nature reserve.

Mount Longonot is the highest of the Rift Valley volcanoes. The crater is approximately 1km in diameter and forms an almost perfect circle. The crater floor supports its own fertile ecosystem. Allow up to six hours for the steep climb up from the ranger station and around the circumference of the rim.

Nyahururu is a small market town north of Nakuru that evolved as a result of the railway in 1929. Dubbed "T-Falls" by locals, Nyahururu was one of the last White settlements to be established in the colonial era. The town is home to Thomson's Falls, the 72m-high waterfall on the Ewaso Narok river. The falls cascade 72 meters into a gorge beside the Thomson Falls Lodge. There is a precarious path to the bottom, but take great care should you venture down the slippery slope.

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