The Northern Frontier landscape:
One of the most exciting places in Kenya is the whole consisting of Samburu, Buffalo and Shaba reserves. This can be graded as unequalled to, because of various reasons. Of all the reserved places in the country’s rough north, right at the edge of what was initially called NFD of Northern Frontier District, these reserves are reached and toured most. It is at this place that some scarce species in Kenya or species hard to see on other parks are viewed, since they only reside above the equator. Some of them include; Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe and Beisa Oryx.
Unfortunately, these three reserves are also the most scandalous example of a practice
I personally find exceeding, even for such a good aspect as conservation of nature. Samburu and Buffalo springs are near to each other, being separated by only a river.
Since this stream makes the border between two different districts and reserves are under district authorities, in proper code of conduct, you are bound to pay the entrance fee to both reserves differently, when actually they are one natural unit. Surprisingly, the chance to go through one reserve to another with no double payment to both reserves seems to rely entirely on the ranger’s notions, of course putting a side the other counter practice of “tipping” which I do not concur with as an individual. There is a bridge across the river some 3Km upstream Samburu lodge.
The frontier condition given to this area also refers to the traditional problems with the Somali guerrillas that happen time after time north of this region. Shortly after the gazetting of the reserves, in the 1960’s-1970’s, they were left closed for many years because of ongoing encroachment by the rebels. Though this and the more current safety problems sadly stamed some keepers of the reserves, touring these reserves is obligatory within the basic plan of the journey. Formally, Buffalo springs occupied both grounds at the edge of river Ewaso Nyiro (Uaso Ngiro, Dark waters”) along 16Km, but afterwards, the north ground at the edge of the river was separated as an independent reserve, since this region is under the Samburu District (“butterfly” in the Ma language) and the south side belongs to the jurisdiction of Ijolo District, to which Shaba also belongs. Isolo District is under the eastern province, while Samburu district is found in the Rift valley Province.
Shaba, the less found among the three reserves, is also the widest, with a total area of 239Km2. Samburu and Buffalo springs are not so different in surface, for Samburu covers 165Km2 and Buffalo springs occupy 128Km2. The region has been traditionally occupied by the Sambuu people, a nomad parandotic tribe with close relations to the Maasai.
The Sambru complex landscape introduces what the visitor should anticipate if he sets his feet to go to the Northern Province, thus its classical “frontier” epithet: arid thorn bush, savannah, scrubland and scattered acacia. The dusty plains are broken by smooth hills, outstanding the Koitogorr uplift in Samburu (1.245m) and lying far beyond, the flat head of the reddish Ol Oloka mountain. The much heat, inspite of the height above sea level, often times over 1,000m, and the landscape devastation, are very important ingredients of Samburu’s specific charm. It is the face of the less hospitable Africa, probably hence, prouder. Seeing them at first, these reserves could suggest a wildlife desert. Infact, this arid scrub is abetter liked home for some mammals very used to this harsh and cruel environment, some of them a bit scarcely viewed in milder climates.
Indeed, it is true that the greater number of wildlife comes around the scarce wet regions, mostly the forested grounds at the edge of Ewaso Nyiro, which carries the Aberdare waters, and the obvious Buffalo springs, at the eastern side of the reserve, which are formed by the rise of underground streams coming from Kenya mountain. The moist places enable a more prolific vegetation to rise, with the prehistorical-looking bi-branched doum palms, riverine forests and grasslands. The high faunal concentration at the waterholes and streams is a present for the watcher of wildlife, whereas animals also seem to entertain themselves gazing fixedly with eyes wide open, at the visitors dipping in one of the Buffalo springs pools, which is conditioned for bathing.
Past Samburu and Buffalo springs, the river goes on licking the north border of Shaba. This place acquires its name from a volcanic cone that rises upon the plain and whose lava flow is crossed while going to the lodge. Past Shaba, the river wanders about down to Chanler’s falls, to finally end in the Lonan swamp.
Shaba’s landscape is dealt with low hills and its four natural springs bestow a much higher wetness level than its nearby reserves, to such an extent that when the rains come, Shaba’s paths are only accessed by 4WD vehicles. Generally, the reserve is under developed and is thus more peaceful and secluded than its sisters.
Shaba is the place known for the incident which happened in 1980, when Joy Adamson, female writer of “Born free”, was unlawfully killed by poachers. At the time when she died, the popular conservationist was involved in a project having a purpose of introducing hand-neared leopards to the natural environment.