My first visit to the Masai Mara, Samburu and Shaba National Reserves
A tale of two landscapes during the wet season
08 Dec 2017
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When planning a safari in Kenya, it is great to experience the range of geography on offer!
The Masai Mara and Samburu, along with neighbouring Shaba, are excellent examples of how different the national reserves in Kenya can be. This article shows those key geographical differences, as well as revealing a side many tourists will not see - the rainy season.
Samburu and Shaba National Reserves
Located in the northern reaches of Kenya, The Samburu and Shaba reserves are one of the lower regions at around 800m above sea level. They make up part of Kenya's expanse of desert and semi-desert areas and provides a home to the Samburu people, one of the Maa speaking tribes. Across Samburu and Shaba, the scrub and brush horizon is broken by rocky outcrops and escarpments. The Uaso Nyiro river cuts through this reserve and runs along the edge of the Shaba National Reserve.
From the air you can see clearly the abundance of acacia and thorn trees that makes up the scrub vegetation that attracts so much wildlife to Samburu. During the rains, the attractive pink desert rose makes an appearance, bringing a little more variety in colour across the landscape. In the Shaba, there a numerous isolated springs which allows much bigger plants, such as docum palms, to break out of the grow. During the wet season, the plant life is richer and more green, but the sandy soils, ranging from bright white to deep orange, show these are still desert regions.
The Masai Mara has a much higher elevation than Samburu and Shaba, rising to 1500- 2170 metres above sea level. The landscape is covered by grassy plains and dotted with the iconic acacia tree and clumps of brush. The contrast with the northern desert regions is stark, particularly during the wet season, as rich green grass covers the whole horizon, and the soil is more mud and dirt than sand.
The rains are very welcome in the Mara, and life flourishes. You can expect to see many infant animals around as they take advantage of the abundant food supply. There is no migration at this time (November/December), so it is actually a better time to see the elephant in particular, as the noisy wildebeest herds tend to send them into hiding!
Whatever time of year you visit the Masai Mara, Shaba or Samburu reserves, you are sure to be taken in by the contrasting landscapes and fascinating plants and animals that inhabit them.