Shaba National Reserve is a peaceful reserve made famous by Joy Adamson, author of the famous book and film, 'Born Free'. Shaba, along with Samburu and Buffalo Springs are 3 small, adjoining savannah national reserves that lie on either side of the northern Ewaso Ngiro River. They were established in 1948 as the Samburu Isiolo Game Reserve.
The reserve is a semi desert, but attracts a good range of animals because of the river, which acts as a lifeline, while the combination of the arid desert, volcanic rocks and riverine forests make for a very interesting landscape.
Shaba Reserve has paid tribute to Joy Adamson in the form of a memorial, while her fascinating life is immortalised in the Joy Adamson Museum. Guests are invited to visit the museum as an addition to regular safari activities. There is also the opportunity to learn about the local culture and the Samburu tribe with seasonal village visits.
Shaba is greener than its neighbouring Samburu with more forests, making game viewing less easy; however, this game reserve is one of the best places to view some of the rarer species in Kenya including, such as Grevy's zebra, Somali ostrich, generuk and the reticulated giraffe, amongst others.
Shaba National Reserve was the setting for the book and film Born Free, for the film Out of Africa and for the reality show Survivor: Africa. This is also the burial place of Joy Adamson - conservationist and writer, and human mother to Elsa the Lioness - who was sadly killed here in 1980.
Shaba is well known for its large prides of lions, which doze under thickets of toothbrush trees during the day. Elsa, the lioness that was brought up by the Adamsons, was raised partly in this reserve.
This area is known as the Samburu Ecosystem and it famously sustains free-ranging wildlife species both within the three reserves and far into community lands.
Shaba's landscape and vegetation is lusher, making it more difficult to spot wildlife, but it is indeed home to a wide variety of game, particularly special are the number of endangered species: Grevy's zebra, reticulated giraffe, gerenuks and Somali ostrich. Elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, oryx, Grant's gazelle, dik dik and waterbuck can also be found in here.
The river forest of Shaba attracts many species of bird. The near-threatened and little-known Williams's Lark is found in the reserve, while it has not been spotted in any other protected area. Additionally, the endangered lesser kestrel, whose migration route passes through the reserve, can be spotted by diligent bird-watchers.
Guests visiting this unique reserve can wholly enjoy it through a range of activities that are designed to bring one closer to nature. Regular game drives are offered from any of the lodges, while guided bush walks make for an energetic alternative. Breakfasts can be served in the bush, away from the lodge, while sundowners are traditionally taken out in the open, halfway through evening game drive.
Kenya lies on the equator and has a warm, tropical climate, but factors such as altitude and regional location can affect climate. Kenya’s daytime temperatures average between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius, but it is warmer on the coast.
Due to its positioning on the equator, Kenya does not have a specific summer and winter, but seasons can be distinctly divided into dry and wet seasons.
During the dry season (June to October) the sky is clear and the sun is shining, although these include the coldest months of the year. Early mornings can drop to around 12 degrees, so it is advised to pack warm clothing as morning game drives in open vehicles will be cold.
During the wet season (November to May) daytime temperatures vary between 24 and 30 degrees Celsius, depending on altitude. A period of ‘short rains’ occur between November and December, while the main rainy season, called the ‘long rains’ arrive after a short dry spell, in March April and May.
There are not many options for accommodation in the Shaba Reserve, but there are more options in the surrounding areas. Two options for superb accommodation within Shaba are as follows:
Joy's Camp, named after Shaba legend, Joy Adamson. It is built on the site that was once Joy's tented home, which really connects guests to the fascinating history of the area. It is a small, exclusive camp set in a quiet part of the greater Samburu ecosystem. Joy's Camp overlooks a large natural spring where elephant and lion join daily to drink, as well as herds of buffalo, Beisa oryx, reticulated giraffe and Grevy's zebra.
Sarova Shaba Game Lodge has chalet style rooms, positioned to overlook the Ewaso Ngiro River. Natural spring water gently meanders in streams around the property and a large free-form swimming pool that flows around the lush gardens and tall trees makes for a Shaba oasis.
Guests travelling to Kenya for a game-viewing holiday will opt for either a ‘fly-in-fly’ or a ‘fly-in-drive’ safari, which will determine whether they make use of air or road transfers to get to their destination.
All guests will enter Kenya at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the capital city. This airport is the travel portal for Kenya and can get very busy, so guests will often continue with their domestic flights from Wilson airport, which is 18km away.
Depending on the safari destination, guests will either connect with a charter flight from Wilson or Jomo Kenyatta airports to the reserve, or they will embark on a road journey from Nairobi to the reserve.
Shaba National Reserve is usually visited in conjunction with Samburu and Buffalo Springs. Guests will be flown to a local airstrip from Nairobi and the remaining part of the journey to the lodge will be taken by road.