The NFD is a vast area covering much of the north-east of Kenya; reaching north from Laikipia and Mount Kenya in the south, and east from the Rift valley, this massive wilderness includes Kenya's wildest and most remote safari destinations.
Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves cover a region of seasonal sand rivers, 'island' mountains with sheer cliffs rising up out of the arid plains, cut though by the beautiful Ewaso Nyiro river providing a ribbon oasis through the barren northern landscapes. River Acacia and Doum Palms fringe the meandering brown river, providing shade and fodder for countless animals.
Dry for much of the year - this part of Kenya experiences massive thunderstorms, causing the dry river tributaries to torrent, and the Ewaso Nyiro to fill its flood plains and show its awesome power, before quickly subsiding to its usual gentle flow.
The Ewaso passes through all three Game Reserves in the region - Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba.
Buffalo Springs covers 130 square kilometres. Named after the natural springs of fresh water that have flowed underground from the Nyambeni Hills, this fresh water provides a vibrant green year long aquatic habitat in an otherwise desert area. Chalky soils that were once a lake bed make up much of the reserve, although a lava terrace named Champagne Ridge provides some elevation and suitable soils to sustain an Acacia Forest. The Isiolo River bisects the Reserve, and it's deceptive trickling stream is home to some of the largest crocodiles in the region.
Samburu is probably the most well know of the three, covering 165 square kilometres. Again, dominated by the Ewaso Nyiro River, the reserve gently rises in altitude further north from the banks. Dusty flood plains with salt tolerant vegetation conceal much wildlife including buffalo, lion, and cheetah. Koitogor, a long impressive inselberg rising from the basement rocks is a significant feature of the park, with a number of smaller inselbergs breaking up the woodlands and plains.
Shaba is the largest of the three reserves, an area of 239 square kilometres, and is situated further to the east of Samburu and Buffalo Springs. A topographical wonder dominated by the cliffs of Mount Bodech rising up above the Ewaso River. Far more rocky than the other two reserves, the gorges and waterfalls provide stunning backdrops to wildlife viewing, and the changing of the light throughout the day gives a constantly new perspective.
These three reserves make up only a small area in the south of the Northern Frontier District, local tribe lands and Community Conservation Areas, are contiguous with the reserves, allowing for wildlife to migrate through this vast wilderness area deeding on the seasons. Further conservation areas extending north include Kalama Conservancy, the Karisia Hills, Namunyak, the impressive Mathews Range, the Ndoto Mountains and Mt Nyiru, Marsabit National Reserve, the Milgis Lugga and beyond to Lake Turkana.
The people of the Northern Frontier District are varied, complex and fascinating, as is the history, and a visit to this wonderful area of Kenya is not complete without setting aside a good amount of time to learn about the customs and ways of the people who live here.