The Kingdom of Thorns

The most famous national parks in the world are located close to the border between Kenya and Tanzania, however, far removed from the famous border, there are other far less well-known reserves containing animals that the large majority of travellers have never even heard of. This is the Samburu National Reserve.

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Samburu National Reserve, in northern Kenya, is spread over a region of semi-desert, ranging to the north from Mount Kenya as far as Sudan and Ethiopia. This is the Samburu region, the heart of the kingdom of thorns in eastern Africa.

The Reserve’s 165 km2 give shelter to some of the species best-adapted to heat and lack of water. This is the case of the orix beisa, a powerful and timid antelope that abounds in Samburu, and of the region’s two zoological stars: the reticulated giraffe and a zebra that is different to the species normally grazing on the African savannah: the Grevy zebra.
The Ewaso Ngiro river, meaning “brown waters” in Maa language, serves as a boundary between the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Reserves, providing a constant water source, which encourages the animal species to stay in the protected areas.
The territory of the three Reserves combined covers an area of 522 km2, where species live with no greater threat than that of poachers who make incursions from the Ethiopian border. The Reserves are linked together, so that in practice, they are like one, except that tourists have to pay different entrance fees.
The climate of this region is extremely dry and the vegetation is adapted accordingly, with hard and thorny branches, which has prevented people from settling, except for one people accustomed to the climatic rigours: the Samburu.
It is thought that the 73,000 Samburu who live in the region migrated from the north of Lake Turkana several centuries ago, in the same way as their cousins, the Masai, from whom they separated 200 years ago. The two peoples still retain similarities in their social structure, their way of dressing and their diet.

The Samburu, or “Loikop”, as they call themselves, keep goats and dromedaries. Milk is their staple diet, supplemented by blood let from the veins of their herds.

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