Shaba National Reserve, a game sanctuary between Isiolo and Marsabit.


Shaba National Reserve.

Shaba National Reserve, which lies east of the road linking Isiolo with Marsabit, forms a trio of unusual and attractive game sanctuaries very different from others in Kenya. Shaba National Reserve has a particular place in the history of Kenya game conservation for it was in this reserve that the authoress, Joy Adamson, died; her trilogy of books on the rehabilitation of the compliant leopard to a wild environment remained unfinished.

Shaba was one of Joy Adamson's greatest African loves; it was in this tranquil wilderness where she released the first hand-raised leopards Shaba took its name from the Mount Shaba, a volcanic mountain that became extinct around 5,000 years ago. Mount Shaba lies on the border of the reserve.


The reserve consists of a low lying, semi arid plain on the southern bank of the Northern Ewaso Ngiro River. It lies 9 km east of buffalo springs national reserve, from which it is separated by the main road from isiolo to Marsabit.

The reserve was gazetted in 1974 and is administered by the Isiolo County Council. Its Northern section includes a 34km stretch of the Ewaso Ngiro river; here and elsewhere in the reserve are numerous springs and swampy areas, although some have bitter tasting water.

The starkly beautiful landscape is dominated by Shaba hill to the south, at the foot of which is a rugged area with steep ravines. The sandy soils are volcanic in origin. Animals commonly seen are elephants, lions, cheetahs, grevy's zebras, giraffes, gerenuks, buffalos, oryx, grants gazelles, dikdik and waterbucks. The river forest attracts a wide variety of birds.

The reserve takes its name from a massive cone of volcanic rock, which dominates the region, and evidence of the intensity of its upheaval is demonstrated by the formidable lava flow, which the traveler has to cross to reach the reserve and the lodge.

The reserve's northern boundary is marked by the wide, sauntering motion of the Ewaso Ngiro on its way to Chandlerís Falls and beyond to its final destination at the Lorian Swamp; the tall dome palms which mark its course in silent contrast to the rugged and pitted tracts which make up much of the sanctuary.

Many small hills dot the landscape and with four springs, Shaba is better watered than its neighbours. Heavy downpours during the rainy months may render the already rough tracks accessible only for four-wheel drive vehicles. But this only serves to make the Shaba National reserve even more of a getaway delight. And that is the essence of Shaba. It is a place for the connoisseur, where the quality of the experience exceeds the extreme concentrations of wildlife.

The vegetation in the reserve includes; thicket with patches of Acacia tortilis woodland; riverine woodland and forest dominated by patches of Acacia elatior and doum palm, Hyphaene coriacea; bushland and open areas of lava rock with scattered grass and shrubs, dominated by communities of Commiphora spp. with Ipomoea, Grewia, Acacia senegal and Salvadora; and Sporobolus spicatus alkaline grasslands dotted with springs and swamps.

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