The three areas do differ slightly in character. Shaba is the dryest, almost barren seeming in except in the North along the river, Buffalo Springs is the least arid seeming and is mostly rolling plains while Samburu is more rugged with a number of rocky outcrops. All three are fairly small; Samburu and Buffalo springs which started life as one park are adjacent to each other and Shaba is a few miles east of them.
The Uaso Ngiro river runs through all three reserves and in parts is the border between the Samburu and Buffalo Springs. The complex formed by Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba reserves is one of the most interesting places in Kenya and can be ranked as unique. Shaba, the less visited of the three, is also the largest, with a total extension of 239 km2.
Samburu and Buffalo Springs are similar in surface, 165 km2 the first and 128 km2 the second. The area has been traditionally inhabited by the Samburu people, a nomad paranilotic tribe closely related to the Maasai.
Samburu National Reserve is situated on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River in the dry northern reaches of Kenya. It is a hot and arid area characterised by a parched landscape of hills and plains. Arid and semi-arid with hot days and cool nights. Annual mean temperature between 18°C and 30°C. All three reserves offer unique vistas of rounded and rugged hills and undulating plains. The mix of wood and grassland with riverine forest and swamp is home wide variety of animal and birdlife. Samburu’s surrounding terrain is renowned for rare game and game viewing and visibility is excellent: Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy’s Zebra, Elephant, Oryx, Somali Ostrich, Hippo, Crocodile, Gerenuk, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Hyena. Game drives and bird-watching safaris are the ideal way to experience the native wildlife in its natural splendor.
Buffalo Springs records over 365 species of birds. It takes its name from an oasis of crystal clear water at the western end of the reserve. It is separated from Samburu National Reserve by Ewaso Nyiro River and is less hilly and dense yet equally very attractive.
Deep in Kenya's semi arid North lands is Shaba National Park, "Born Free" country. Joy Adamson’s Monument is where she spent her final years reintegrating her lioness Elsa, into the wild. More recently, Shaba was the location for the popular TV show Survivor Africa and numerous world acclaimed films such as To Walk with Lions, Born Free, Out of Africa, and The Great Crocodile Trial. It is also notable for its hot springs. The reserve is rich in wildlife with an abundance of rare northern specialist species such as the Grevy’s zebra, Somali ostrich, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk and the beisa oryx (also referred to as Samburu Special Five). Birdlife is abundant with over 450. Five species categorized as vulnerable have also been recorded in the reserve. These are the African darter, great egret, white-headed vulture, martial eagle and the yellowbilled ox-pecker. The critically endangered pancake tortoise (malacochersus tornieri) is also found in the reserve.
The reserve houses a number of visitor facilities including Lodges: Ashnil Camp, Bedouin, Saruni Samburu lodge, Samburu Game Lodge, Samburu Larsen’s Camp, Samburu Sopa, Samburu Intrepids, Elephant Bedroom and Elephant Watch Safaris.
Accommodation is Shaba: Sarova Shaba and Joy's Camp.