Samburu National Reserve is located on the northern banks of the Ewaso Nyiro river, about 350 kms north of Nairobi. The park is 165 sq kms in size and is dominated by the river on one side and the mountains of Koitogor and Ololokwe on the other. South of the river lies Buffalo Springs Reserve and to the East, Shaba, where Joy Adamson spent the last few years of her life.

The Ewaso Nyiro River has its source in the Kenya highlands and flows through the Laikipia Plateau before arriving at Samburu and then going on to empty itself into the Lorian Swamp. The river is lined by Doum Palms and riverine forest and provides the only permanent water in what is otherwise a land of dry acacia thorn-bush and sparse grassland. The water attracts a lot of wildlife, including herds of elephant, buffalo, hippo and all three of the big cats. Lying on the edge of Kenya's dry and arid northern semi-desert country Samburu is also home to a large number of dry country animal species including the highly endangered Grevy's zebra, beisa oryx, gerenuk and reticulated giraffe. The animal and birdlife is very different from that found further south making the trip north well worth while.

There are plenty of places to stay, with a number of excellent lodges and camps situated along the river and a basic camp site which is also in a great location on the river bank, but which is plagued by baboons and monkeys that have become used to getting hold of food left by careless visitors.

Being relatively small the park can get quite busy and any sighting of one of the big cats can quickly attract a crowd of vehicles but the park remains an excellent destination for people interested in seeing a very different range of wildlife species.