Shaba National Reserve Safari Guide
Shaba,Samburu and Buffalo are a trio of ecologically similar, unfenced reserves that share common borders. Despite being the largest of the three reserves, there is less wildlife in Shaba, and most tours based in the reserve conduct game drives in Buffalo Springs. Tourist traffic is very low, but the scenery is magnificent.
Pros & Cons
Little visited reserve with great wilderness appeal
Easy access to Buffalo Springs for great wildlife viewing
Beautiful and arid scenery
Excellent birding with many dry-country specials
Only two lodges
Very hot and dry
Wildlife & Animals
Shaba lacks the wildlife densities of its neighboring reserves, Samburu and Buffalo Springs, but all the same species are present. Of the Big Five, only rhino is absent. Most likely to be seen on a game drive are antelopes, which might include Thomson's and Grant's gazelle and Beisa oryx. There are some enormous Nile crocodiles in the river.
Shaba is home to several dry-country adapted mammals that don’t occur in most Kenya parks. The reticulated giraffe can be seen loping around the reserve. Beisa oryx is particularly well adapted to arid conditions. The gerenuk, with its elongated neck, stands on its hind legs to reach the higher branches of acacia bushes. Both the common Burchell's zebra and the bigger Grevy's zebra can be found alongside each other.
Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba national reserves have recorded over 390 bird species. The dry, open country offers very rewarding birding opportunities. The area holds a number of northeast African, dry-country species that are also found in Ethiopia and Somalia. If bird watching is your main interest, Shaba is a great choice. The reserve has very little tourist traffic compared to Buffalo Springs and Samburu, which have higher mammal densities.
Best Time to Visit
Shaba, which is often used as a base for wildlife viewing in neighboring Samburu and Buffalo Springs, can be visited year-round. The dry months from June to October and December to March, however, are recognized as the best time to see wildlife. During the wettest months of the year (November, April and May) animals tend to disperse across the reserve and might be harder to spot.
June to October – Dry Season
Best time for wildlife viewing – vegetation is shorter and animals gather at water sources
Sunny and little rainfall
Not much malaria around in the Dry season
Conditions are dry and dusty
Scenically the park is not at its best
November to May – Wet Season
The lush scenery is beautiful
April to June is low season and lower rates may apply
Wildlife viewing is better in the Dry season, but there are still plenty of animals around
Best time for bird watchers (migratory birds are around)
Road conditions can be frustrating when it’s wet in April and May
Rain can hinder your wildlife viewing plans in the peak rainfall months, especially April
Weather & Climate
Shaba has a hot and dry weather pattern. The average temperatures are 32°C/90°F in the daytime, and 16°C/61°F at night. Shaba has a low annual rainfall which usually occurs as short, heavy showers. The ‘long rains’ generally occur between mid-March and mid-May, while the ‘short rains’ fall between mid-October and mid-December. The peak months for rainfall are April and November.
Dry Season – June to September
It is very dry with almost no rain and hot, sunny days.
June & July – The days are full of sunshine. Afternoon temperatures average around 31°C/87°F.
August & September – Daytime temperatures rise in the build-up to the breaking rains. During the day in September, the mercury will average 32°C/90°F, although peaks are much higher.
Wet Season – October to May
There are two Wet seasons – the ‘short rains’ and the ‘long rains’. Separating the two Wet seasons is a brief, dry period during January and February.
October, November & December – The rains frequently break sometime in October. November is one of the wettest months. Storms in the afternoon are typical. The average temperature is 32°C/90°F, but it sneaks higher prior to rain and cools down afterwards.
January & February – This dry patch separates the short and long rains. Its beginning and duration is unpredictable. February is the hottest month – the average afternoon temperature is 34°C/93°F and it peaks higher.
March, April & May – The long rains typically begin to fall mid- to late-March. While it rarely rains all day, brief afternoon showers are common. April is the wettest month. Roads become slippery as driving conditions worsen. Afternoon temperatures are around 33°C/91°F.
Shaba is situated 355km/220mi north of Nairobi. If you’re in Nairobi or another park, you can drive yourself here if it works in with your itinerary. If you prefer to fly, there are daily scheduled flights to neighboring Samburu NR from Nairobi.
Nairobi is the largest transport hub in the region – most visitors from Europe and North America enter the country here. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) is 15km/9mi southeast of Nairobi. Kenya’s second international airport is Moi International Airport (MBA), 9km/6mi west of Mombasa.