Shaba National Reserve in northern Kenya offers the astute African traveler 92 square miles (239 square kilometers) of breathtaking scenery amidst arid grasslands and sparse woodland set against the backdrop hills of Shaba, a volcanic extinct highland.
The reserve is named for the 1525-meter Mount Shaba that was the yesteryear source of varied lava flow across the reserve. Along the northern border, the Ewaso Nyiro River winds through deep gorges, along sandbanks, then cascades down Chandler’s Falls and finally draining it all at Lorian Swamp.
The Shaba National Reserve, together with the Samburu National reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve, forms an ecological unit. The three nature reserves are not separated by fences and the wild animals are free to wander from one reserve to the next.
The Shaba National Reserve is one of the less visited areas in Kenya and is located off the main tourism paths. It is one of the most northerly parks in the country and here you will experience the fascinating landscapes north of Mount Kenya in absolute seclusion.
Shaba National Reserve enjoys the greatest abundance of water amongst the three. The water and marshes enrich the soil with moisture to nurture vegetation upon which herbivores graze and forage, including the endangered grevy’s zebra, the most distinct in its stripes.
Other rare species include beisa oryx, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe and Somali ostrich. While these animals are endemic to Shaba national reserve and its surrounding wilderness, pallid safaris guests are also sure to see common species such as buffalos, elephants, grant’s gazelles, dik-diks, hippos, waterbucks and many more!
The shaba national reserve is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges and intersected by the Ewaso Nyiro River. The vegetation of the plain consists of grasslands, bushes and individual trees, while along the river you will find gallery forests growing.
Predators survive well with numerous prey animals, so you are likely to see cheetahs, lions, leopards and even Nile crocodiles to nocturnal fauna like aardwolves and striped hyenas. Shaba national reserve is one of the best places to spot a caracal, one of the small cats. The forests and arid areas attract more than 450 species of birds.
White-throated bee-eaters, palm nut vultures, verreaux’s eagles, yellow-necked spur fowls, red-billed hornbills and secretary birds are just some of the avi-fauna that have been recorded in Shaba. The reserve is also the southern limit for three arid country species – Donaldson’s Smith sparrow-weavers, bristle-crowned starlings and shining sunbirds.
In this dry landscape, the Ewaso Ngiro River is an important lifeline for many plants and animals. The animals living here have adapted to the arid climate and have developed their own unique characteristics.
While staying in any of the accommodation places in the shaba national reserve, guided nature walks are customized to your pace to suit your fitness and interest level. Guides describe small aspects of the ecosystem that are easily missed during high-paced game drives.
Pallid safaris highly recommends that you schedule time for a village visit to interact with the local Samburu tribe. While you learn about some of the native cultures during game drives and nature walks, being in a village is quite a different experience.
You may be invited into a home for meal preparation, learn traditional jewelry making, cattle herding and even attend an elder’s counsel. Members of the local villages are especially accommodating to children and arrange unique activities to fit their age level and curiosity.
At Shaba National Reserve we recommend a boutique accommodation. Joys Camp offers the utmost in service, food, room quality, location, exclusivity, guides and much more. The camp overlooks a natural spring that attracts wildlife looking to satisfy their thirst and hunger.
The architecture of the camp’s main areas adds a hint of unexpected coastal charm, from the arched windows of the boutique to the courtyard with a sparkling swimming pool. Surrounded by stone verandahs, the camp immerses you in nature every moment of the day. Ten spacious luxury tents are available, each embracing you with adventure and romance.
A private patio is set on an elevated stone foundation giving you almost unfettered views. Inside natural light dances upon polished floors accented with native rugs while the Swahili design shares a bit of the diverse culture of Kenya. The en-suite bathroom features a shower, double-sink vanity and other luxurious appointments.
Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is situated on a large private property with gardens by the Ewaso Nyiro River. Although the lodge is a value accommodation, you do not sacrifice serenity and tranquility. Listen to the soft songs of birds as you walk through the property or relax under a shade tree.
Playful monkeys chasing each other through the property enhances your authentic bush holiday in Kenya, and even the slow movement of fish in tiny pools gives you a sense of peace. The lodge features eighty guest rooms and five suites to suit the needs of solo travelers, couples, small groups and families. All guest rooms feature en-suite bathrooms, coffee and tea maker, mini-refrigerator for chilled drinks and other basic amenities.
The Born Free Suite (aka Presidential Suite) celebrates the life and work of Joy Adamson, the woman behind the story of Elsa the lioness whose story is told in her book and film. The suite is situated in a distinct private villa and features a bedroom, dining room, lounge and Jacuzzi in the ensuite bathroom.
The warm climate makes Shaba National Reserve a wonderful year-round destination for your dream trip to East Africa. From the concentrations of animals around the Ewaso Nyiro River during the dry seasons to the lush flora that springs forth after the rains, this parched northern Kenya landscape offers a renewed wildlife safari experience every time you visit.