Samburu national reserve and the adjacent buffalo springs national reserve are two of the most active parks that i know of in Kenya. Both parks are almost similar in size. They are small compared to other places like the Mara and Tsavo, and that makes easy game drive since the animals are concentrated on a small grazing area. The months of august and September are traditionally very good months. It is not very dry and the scrubs and grass is usually greener than what one would see during the months of January and February. And that was what I expected when I drafted the itinerary that I am on now. But that is not what it is on the ground. This place is as dry and unforgivingly hot. The grass is all gone and replaced by very fine dust that does not help the thirsty animals.
Surprisingly, the lifeline of this area, the river uaso nyiro, is active. There is enough flow to serve the dying animals, both domestic and wild. As is tradition for the people of this area during such dry spells, they have begun bringing their cows and goats to the park, offering stiff completion for whatever small grazing area that can be used. During the time I have been here, I saw several time the park minders going about in their inspection routine but I have not seen them bothering the herders. This means they have an understanding of some sort, to keep the peace and in return, get some grazing time in the park. Otherwise, with the love of their animals, the locals would use force to get into the park and save their herds. That was a statement I overheard from one of the herders while explaining their presence in the park.
The uaso Nyiro River is the only river that flows to the north, ending up in the lorian swamps near the Kenya-Ethiopian border. as the only water source for the entire population of the communities living along the river route, it becomes chaotic when the river dries up. the animals in the park also depends on this river. But with no grass to feed, most of the animals have migrated to the east, towards Mount Kenya region and the lewa down hills. Very few animals can be seen in the park. Majority of the animals here are the endemic semi-arid dwellers who hardly need green grass. They are the browsers who survive by eating the young leaves of acacia trees. These are the likes of gerenuk, grants gazelles, impalas, reticulated giraffes, and the Somali ostrich. Most of the elephants, buffalos and the common zebras have disappeared.
At this point you want to be at Ashnil lodge. Ashnil is one of the new chains of world class game lodges that have entered into the industry. Since the name came to be known in the hotel industry, Ashnil has been giving the big players the run for their money. With their teams of highly professional players, some of whom have been poached from the established chains and some home grown individuals, Ashnil has cut out its niche in the highly competitive industry. The samburu Ashnil lodge is located right in the middle of a popular wildlife concentration area. While it is still difficult to find animals in the whole samburu area during draught, the lodge itself plays a role in easing the discomfort of the heat and unproductive game drive.
Tucked away in a dense riverine forest of doom palms, it is difficult to see the camp as one does game drive only meters from the structures. The road that leads to the camp is just as rugged as the rest. As one gets closer to the ever green palms, suddenly you are confronted by a gate that literally opens into paradise. The green, well-manicured garden teaming with singing birds welcomes you into a lobby and a welcoming team of immaculately dressed staff holding chilled face towels sweetly scented to wipe away the sweat and dust from outside. As you place the towel on your face and grab the iced tea, all the hardship of the search of the elusive wildlife is erased from your mind. From the lobby, the aroma of the kitchen business whets your appetite to a point where you forget to ask for the key to your room and you head straight to the dinning.
If only the government can work out the issue of insecurity, the tourism industry has shown it can easily deal with the natural calamities and still be able to keep the holiday makers happy and willing to come back.