Shaba Game Reserve
is a little-visited conservation area which lies to the east of the Great North Road around 100km north of Mount Kenya in the Central Kenya
At just 84 square kilometres, Shaba is a relatively small national park, but one which serves as an important dry season centre for wildlife from a much broader hinterland. The reserve is set against a backdrop of impressive granite outcrops, notably Shaba Hill, which sits across the river and rises 500 metres above the surrounding plains.
The key feature is the palm-lined Ewaso Ngiro River, which winds its way through otherwise parched acacia scrub and sparse grasslands, fringed by a shock of verdant hardwood forests and characteristic doum palms. The river and its fringing woodlands make it possible for a wide range of wildlife to survive and thrive in this otherwise harsh environment.
As well as many of the usual suspects, Samburu is home to some of less familiar species which are characteristic of the area, notably including imperial zebras, gerenuks, reticulated giraffes and Somali ostriches. There is also a good range of predators, including lions, leopards and spotted hyenas.
Although Samburu National Park
lies just the other side of the Great North Road, the two areas could not be more different in terms of visitor traffic, with Shaba far more quiet.
Another distinct advantage is that walking and hiking is permitted inside the reserve and there are some excellent routes, especially along the river.
Shaba was also home for many years to Joy Adamson of 'Born Free' fame and it is still possible to visit the grave of Elsa the lioness.
The main downside in Shaba is the relatively low animal densities, largely due to heavy poaching and severe encroachment by livestock, especially during the dry season. The local council seems unable or unwilling to control the situation.
Shaba is a potentially very attractive reserve, but the low animal densities and the issues with poachers and domestic herds do significantly reduce its appeal.
We therefore tend to recommend it only to experienced safari travellers who are specifically looking for new and unusual locations to visit, or guests who are particularly interested to visit Elsa's Grave.Joy's Camp
... is the stand-out accommodation, an upmarket option situated on the remote eastern side and notable for offering some particularly pleasant walking safari.
The most common way to visit is simply to fly in and stay for 2 to 4 nights, in which case it is most commonly combined with other higher quality locations around Kenya such as the Masai Mara
, Laikipia North
and Chyulu Hills
It is also possible to create some superb overland safaris through the various areas of Central Kenya
, for example combining Lewa Downs
, the Il Ngwesi Valley
, Samburu National Park
, Shaba and the Mathew's Range
over 10 to 14 nights.