Overview of Samburu County
Samburu County is located in the former Rift Valley Province of Kenya, about 300km north of Nairobi.
The county covers an area of 21,022.27 sq km with a population of about 224,000 people.
Samburu shares its borders with four other counties; Marsabit to the north and northeast, Isiolo to the east, Turkana to the west and northwest, and Laikipia and Baringo to the southwest.
The Maasai people, in reference to the colourful adornments worn by Samburu people, used the name Samburu, which means 'butterflies' in the Maasai language, to name the area.
Samburu County Government
Samburu County constitutes three constituencies: Samburu North, Samburu East and Samburu West.
The county's top leaders are Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal (Governor), Wilson Nyakwanga (County Commissioner), Sammy Leshore (Senator) and Maison Leshoomo (Women Representative).
Other top leaders in Samburu County include Alois Lentoimaga (MP-Samburu North), Letimalo Lakalei (MP-Samburu East) and Jonathan Lati (MP-Samburu West).
Who lives in Samburu County?
Samburu is home to 223,947 people (male - 50.01% and female - 49.99%), according to the 2009 National Census. The Samburu people, who are nomadic pastoralists and closely related to the Maasai, mainly occupy the county.
The Samburus rely on sheep, goats, cattle and camels as their source of livelihood. Their main food consists of maize, milk and blood, although they eat meat on special occasions such as during circumcision ceremonies, marriage and birth of a child. Other ethnic groups living in Samburu County include Rendille, Turkana and Borana. These are nomadic pastoralists who rear cattle, donkeys, camels and goats.
Religion and Culture
Majority of people living in Samburu County adhere to traditional beliefs, although some Samburus have converted to Christianity.
The Samburu believe in a god called Nkai - a distant creator who lives on top of mountains. Nkai is the protector of the community against all calamities. The Samburu language is similar to that of the Maasais, although Samburus usually speak with a faster tongue than Maasais. They are renowned for their brightly coloured shukas, which they wrap loose around their bodies. Samburu men usually dye their hair with red earth colour, whereas their women wear colourful multi-beaded necklaces and bracelets.
Cattle are an essential feature of the Samburu culture, especially because milk is an important part of the Samburu diet-a mixture of blood and milk. Traditionally, men are supposed to protect their villages and the livestock, whereas the women are tasked with looking after children and performing domestic duties such as cooking, fetching water and gathering firewood.
Maralal town is the headquarters of Samburu County. Located about 350km north of Nairobi and 150 km north of Nyahururu, Maralal is a cultural rich centre for the Samburu people. It is the last frontier town for tourists looking to explore northern Kenya. The town is a thriving trade centre with men trading their livestock and women selling baskets and jewellery.
Maralal is quickly becoming a popular international attraction thanks to the Maralal Camel Derby - an annual camel race held mid-year near the town that attracts many locals and international camel racing enthusiasts.
Baragoi is a small market town located about 155km north of Maralal. The town serves as a major livestock market in Samburu. Cattle, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels are usually traded in Baragoi, with buyers coming from as far as Nairobi.
Other urban centres in Samburu include Archers Post and Wamba.
Samburu is one of the driest counties in Kenya with temperatures ranging between 25°C during the coldest months (June and July) and 35°C during the hottest months (January to March). The county receives between 200mm and 250mm of rainfall annually. The rainfall pattern is unpredictable and at times the county receives no rain in a whole year.
Livestock rearing is the backbone of Samburu County's economy. The majority of people are nomadic pastoralists who mainly keep cattle, camels, sheep and goats. These animals are mainly sold to the Kenya Meat Commission as well as traders from Nairobi and other neighbouring towns especially during droughts. Bee-keeping is also a major economic activity.
Despite the harsh climatic conditions, some Samburu residents have recently started growing crops in effort to fight starvation. Drought-resistant crops such as millet, sorghum and certain species of maize are grown in areas such as Lpartuk, Poros and Malaso.
Tourism is also a major source of revenue to the Samburu people, with some of the residents being employed in the county's safari lodges and others working as tourist guides. The county's main attraction sites offer a thriving market for Samburu artifacts such as beads, necklaces and bracelets.
Samburu has few healthcare facilities, although the government and donors such as MNS Foundation have recently embarked on plans to build health centres in the county. Currently, Baragoi and Maralal district hospitals are the only notable facilities serving the health needs of the people of Samburu.
As of 2013, there are 140 primary schools and 15 secondary schools in Samburu County, serving 32,783 pupils and 2,871 students respectively. The county's Teacher to Pupil Ratio is 1: 41 for public primary schools and 1:27 for public secondary schools.
Some of the top high schools include St. Teresa Girls Secondary School, Maralal High School, Baragoi High School Saburu High School and Kisima Girls High School.
Institutions of higher learning in Samburu include Laikipia University (Maralal Campus), Samburu Teachers College, Kenya Medical Training College and several commercial colleges.
Attractions and Places of Interest
Tourist attractions in Samburu County include Samburu National Reserve, Shaba National Park, Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Maralal National Reserve.
Samburu National Reserve is situated along the Ewaso Ngiro River about 350km from Nairobi. The 165 sq km reserve is home to a thriving population of wildlife including elephants, cheetah, leopard, gerenuk, wild dogs and many other species. A variety of over 450 bird species are also found in this park.
To the south of Samburu National Park is the 131sq.KM Buffalo Springs National Reserve, an animal sanctuary that supports many rare species of wildlife including the endangered Grevy’s zebra, Beisa oryx and the reticulated giraffe.
Shaba National Reserve, also located to the south of Samburu National Park, supports a huge population of wildlife as well as over 350 bird species. The little known Maralal National Reserve situated in the heart of Samburu County is an ideal destination for wildlife viewing safari. Some of the animals that can be spotted here include zebra, hyena, buffalo, leopard and eland.
Traveling to Samburu County
Samburu is accessible from Nairobi by road through Isiolo via Archers Post, along the Isiolo-Marsabit road. The 350 km road journey usually takes about five hours. The route is serviced by one bus daily in either direction between Maralal and Isiolo.
The county is also accessible from Nyahururu via the 150km Nyahururu-Rumuruti-Maralal road. The route is serviced by one bus daily in either direction between Maralal and Nyahururu. However, this road has not been repaired for many years and may be impassable during the rains.
You can also access Samburu by air from Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Air Kenya operates daily scheduled flights to Samburu and Buffalo Spring airstrips.
Samburu County offers a wide choice of places to stay. Popular ones include Samburu Desert Rose Lodge, Samburu Sopa Lodge, Samburu Saasab Camp, Samburu Intrepids Camp, Samburu Saruni Lodge and Samburu Serena Lodge.
Other leading facilities include Samburu Elephant Watch Camp, Samburu Bedouin Camp, Samburu Elephant Bedroom Camp, Samburu Larsens Tented Camp and Samburu Kitich Camp. Quality budget lodgings can be found in Maralal town.
The county is served by Kenya Commercial Bank and Equity Bank, both located in Maralal town. Equity Bank has an ATM lobby at Archers Post along Isiolo-Marsabit road.
Small markets and gift shops can be found around Maralal, Archers Post and Baragoi. These shops sell local handicrafts and gift items such as bracelets, necklaces, spears and belts.
TOP of the Samburu County