In this article, we will discuss interesting facts about the Samburu Special Five. You’ve probably heard of the ‘Big 5′ and maybe even the Little 5’, but what about the Samburu ‘Special 5?’. The Samburu Special Five refers to a distinctive collection of wildlife species found in the Samburu National Reserve in northern Kenya. This group includes the Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy’s Zebra, Beisa Oryx, Somali Ostrich, and the Gerenuk.

The Samburu National Reserve stands out for having the Special Five. It is one of the finest wildlife reserves in Kenya, teeming with wildlife and endless scenic landscapes. Situated alongside the Ewaso Nyiro River, there is plenty to attract wildlife from the surrounding savanna plains, offering unforgettable experiences.

The reserve is located in Samburu County. The county stretches from Laikipia and Isiolo counties in the south to the southern shores of Lake Turkana in the north. It marks the dramatic transition from the lush savannas of south Kenya to the vast deserts that extend through the Horn of Africa.

Situated at a much lower altitude than the neighbouring Laikipia Plateau, the weather is usually hot, and rainfall levels are low. The resultant scenery is beautiful in a way unique to arid areas: rugged and austere, overlooked by magnificent outcrops and rolling hills. Below are the members of the Samburu Special Five.

The Samburu Special Five

1. Reticulated Giraffe

The reticulated giraffes are huge, looking different from the Rothschild giraffe and Maasai giraffe found in other national parks and reserves in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa. These giraffes have striking red hides divided by a jigsaw pattern of white lines (reticulations).

The spots of the reticulated giraffes are easily identifiable, and they are shaped like polygons with straight, smooth sides and are lighter brown. Reticulated giraffes are normally shorter than the common Masai giraffe, they perfectly blend in with the red Samburu landscape, and they are fond of taking a morning stroll down the dried-up river bed, which is a great spot for them to have their breakfast.

The reticulated giraffes are only found in Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya in the Samburu National Reserve. In the whole world, there are only about 8,500 individuals left.

2. Beisa Oryx

These majestic antelope have pale grey coats to reflect the excess sunlight. They possess spear-like horns, with the females having longer horns than the males. They also have black and white facial markings and a black side stripe along the flank. They are quite shy and will normally walk away when you approach a group. They will tend to feed on succulent plants to obtain moisture and have adapted to feeding at night and early in the morning while retreating under shades during the day to escape the heat.

There are two subspecies of the beisa oryx: the common beisa oryx found throughout the Horn of Africa and north of the Tana River, and the fringe-eared oryx found south of the Tana River in southern Kenya and Tanzania.

3. Grevy’s Zebra

Grevy’s zebras (or imperial zebras) are the largest living equid and the most endangered of the three species of zebra. They can only be found in northern Kenya and a few isolated pockets of land in Ethiopia. Most safari-goers are familiar with plains zebras (this is the most populous species found throughout East and Southern Africa), and some have seen the mountain zebras of South Africa and Namibia.

Grevy’s zebras can be distinguished by their large heads, rounded ears, and narrow black and white body stripes. The stripes do extend to the flank, leaving a white belly. They are both day and night active, and they occur in small groups since they are less social than the plains zebras, showing less social behaviours such as grooming.

4. Somali Ostrich

There are only two species of ostrich: the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich. They look very similar, but the male common ostrich has a pink neck and pink legs, while the male Somali ostrich has a blueish neck and blueish thighs.

The Somali Ostrich is an elusive bird species and possibly the biggest bird on earth. The Somali Ostrich is different from the common ostrich, and in 2014 they were declared a distinct species of ostrich. The Somali ostriches are large, flightless birds identified by their grey-blue necks and thighs. In the mating season, the blue on male ostriches becomes bright blue.

Though Somali ostriches are a distinct species of ostrich, they can be found in the Horn of Africa in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve.

5. Gerenuk

Gerenuk, also known as giraffe gazelle, is a notably tall, slender bird with an abnormally long neck adapted to feeding on acacia trees while standing on its hind legs with a wedge-like head and large, round eyes. It is characterised by its long, slender neck and limbs. They have two types of coloration that are visible on their smooth coat: the reddish brown back, or “saddle,”, and the lighter flanks, fawn to buff. The horns, present only in males, are lyre-shaped. Curved backwards, then slightly forward. Their underbelly and insides of the legs are cream in colour. The eyes and the mouth are surrounded by white fur. Females have a dark patch on the crown.

The gerenuk is a diurnal animal, active mainly during the day, though it typically stands or rests in shade during the afternoon. Foraging and feeding are the major activities throughout the day. Females appear to spend more time feeding. The gerenuk may expose itself to rain, probably to cool its body. The social structure consists of small herds of two to six members. Herds typically comprise members of a single-sex, though female herds additionally have juveniles. Some males lead a solitary life.

Samburu National Reserve Entrance Fees

Citizen – KenyaCharges
AdultKsh 2600
ChildKsh 1300
Residents – East AfricaCharges
AdultKsh 1000
ChildKsh 500
Non-ResidentsCharges
Adult70 USD
Child40 USD

Note: The daily fees allow you 24 hours in the park. The fees are the same for Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves. If you are driving your car, vehicle fees are on top of this. It’s Ksh 300 per day for a car with up to 6 seats.

Best Time To Visit Samburu National Reserve

The best time is in Kenya’s dry seasons, from June to September/early October (cooler season) or December to March (warmer season). The rainy seasons usually run from April to May (long rains) and September/mid-October to December (short rains).

Samburu National Reserve Opening Hours

The park is open daily from 06:00 Hrs to 18:00 Hrs, year-round and always accessible.

Samburu National Reserve Contacts

Phone: +254 20 801 2301

Email: samburu@kws.go.ke