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 immortalized 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 neighboring 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 more lush, 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.
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