Samburu Tribe, Kenya
The Samburu People are a semi-nomadic pastoralist tribe that lives in northern Kenya. They mainly herd cattle, but also keep sheep, goats, and camels. The Samburu are closely related to the Masaai Tribe, although the Samburu have retained more of their customs and traditions. Due to the drier, arid areas in which the Samburu live, they must move their livestock and homes every few weeks to ensure they have enough fresh grazing for their animals. Their huts are made from animal hides, mud, grass mats, and wooden poles, surrounded by a thorn fence to protect them from wild animals. Villages are usually made up of 5 to 10 families.
Traditionally the men look after the cattle and livestock and are also responsible for the overall safety of the family, while the women are responsible for collecting vegetables and roots, collecting water, and looking after the children. The tribe is ruled by the elders who decide when certain men and women get married and circumcised. In Samburu culture, entry into manhood or womanhood is only recognized once the man or woman has been circumcised. Once a boy has been circumcised, he is then considered a Moran or worrier.
The traditional dress of the Samburu consists of brightly colored red cloth worn like a skirt, called a shukka) and then finished with a white sash. Beaded jewelry is worn by both men and women in the form of necklaces, earrings and headdress. The more jewelry they wear the higher their social status is.
Stanley Safaris’ preferred lodges and camps that offer the opportunity to meet Samburu People. Over the years the Samburu have realized the importance of tourism and wildlife and have gone into joint ventures in eco-lodges in Northern Kenya, extending from the Samburu National Park, right up to the border with Ethiopia. Visiting any of these lodges or camps will mean you will get a chance to see and meet Samburu as they often work at the camps and lodges as askaris, guides, managers or hosts.
For us here at Stanley Safaris, there are 3 lodges that stand out that offer the most authentic Samburu experiences.
Situated in the Mathews Range of mountains on an 850,000-acre wildlife conservancy, Sarara offers some of the most exclusive safaris and cultural experiences in Kenya. Home to northern species of animals like reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, and Grevy’s zebra. It is also home to elephants, leopard, wild dogs, buffalo, kudu, and more. With just 6 luxurious safari tents set on a ridge with uninterrupted views of the Mathew’s Range, guests are guaranteed privacy and exclusivity.
Sarara means “meeting Place” and signifies the meeting of the mountain ranges which acts as a catchment area for water that filters down to valley floors below. What makes Sarara so special is that the 2,300 Samburu families that live on the conservancy collectively own and manage the land and so benefit directly from the tourists that come and stay. The families still maintain a very traditional way of life here, herding their livestock, and collecting honey, but at the same time conserving the wildlife.
Guests staying at Sarara will be guided by a local Samburu guide who will take them on game drives on the conservancy, walking safaris, hikes into the Mathew’s Range of mountains, fly-camping, swimming in the natural pools, visits to the Reteti Elephant Sanctuary and of course visits to local Samburu villages. This is a highlight of your stay at Sarara as you can learn more about the traditional way of life, their cultures, and beliefs and you can even learn how to make some of their stunning bead jewelry.
Sarara is also well known for the “singing wells”. Every day during the dry season, families of Samburu bring their cattle, goats, and camels to the dry riverbeds. The men form human chains down into the wells they have dug and as they pass buckets of water along the human chain to the top, they sing to keep the rhythm as they go. The water is then poured into troughs for the animals to drink from and the bucket is passed back down along the chain again. This is an incredible thing to experience and is so authentic they do not allow tourists to take photos or videos.
Saruni Samburu Camp
Saruni Samburu is perched on the edge of a mountain overlooking the 200,00-acre Kalama Conservancy and Mount Kenya. The 6 luxury eco-villas are open to take in the views from all angles, including the bathtubs.
Guests staying at Saruni Samburu have a wide range of activities on offer, all guided by expert Samburu guides. Game drives, night drives and walking safaris are all possible on the private conservancy teeming with wildlife including Grevy’s zebra, reticulated giraffe, wild dog, leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and more. Saruni Samburu is the only lodge in the conservancy and has been working with the local Samburu tribes to provide training, jobs and an income directly from tourism. It is this relationship that has meant visits to the local Samburu villages are authentic and not a “tourist” show.
It is also possible to visit the famous singing wells from Saruni Samburu. Here Samburu families gather in the dry riverbeds, bringing their livestock with them. The men go down into the wells and form a human chain. They then pass buckets of water to the top, singing as they go to keep the rhythm during the hot says. The water is then poured into troughs for the animals to drink. This incredibly authentic experience is so unique guests are not allowed to take photos or videos of the “Singing Wells”.
Desert Rose is one of the most northerly luxury lodges in Kenya and is somewhat of an iconic lodge of Africa. The remote location and lack of connectivity means guests get closer to nature and completely switch off from the outside hustle and bustle of everyday life. Here things move at their own pace and you quickly get into the same rhythm. And with just 5 stone cottages accommodating a maximum of 12 guests, everyone is guaranteed a personalised experience.
People come to Desert Rose to explore the extreme northern areas of Kenya which happen to be some of the most off the beaten track locations in Africa. Very few tourists make it this far north and so those that do are rewarded with exceptionally authentic experiences and sights. There are several excursions guests can take from Desert Rose, including full day drives to Lake Turkana and other sights of Northern Kenya. We include Desert Rose on our Kenyan Helicopter Safari. This gives guests the freedom to explore the furthest reaches of northern Kenya and to land and experience things out of reach of most foreigners.
Desert Rose has built a close relationship with the local Samburu communities, especially those from the local village of Waso Rongai located at the bottom of the sacred mountain of Oldonyo Nyiru. This close relationship allows a few fortunate outsiders the opportunity to witness a traditional Samburu ceremony, whether a wedding or circumcision. As these ceremonies happen on top of the sacred mountain and are difficult to know when they take place, this is experience cannot be guaranteed.
A visit to the local Samburu Village or manyatta will offer an authentic Samburu experience. The men will teach guests how to track animals and teach you the different medicinal uses of plants. Again, due to the remoteness of Desert Rose, these experiences are not touristy and offer you the opportunity to learn more about the local Samburu traditions and customs.