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shaba-national-reserveShaba National Reserve is a tiny gem of a reserve in the north of Kenya. It lies in an area of harsh, dry terrain that’s part of the same ecosystem as Samburu and Buffalo Springs. Shaba, however, is virtually cut off to all but those with access to a 4 wheel drive vehicle or an aircraft, so it’s mercifully free from traffic.

Shaba has surprisingly good game and wonderful birdlife, drawn by small permanent springs in the south.There are regular sightings of elephant and lion in Shaba and you have a good chance of seeing Kenya’s ‘northern five’; oryx, reticulated giraffe, gerenuk, Grevy’s zebra and lesser kudu. Shaba is small at only a couple of hundred square kilometres, but your eye is constantly drawn to the grand-scale views of the surrounding hills.Despite its diminutive size Shaba punches well above its weight and is dominated by a sense of scale that most people simply don’t get to experience.

On a clear day, OlOlokwe is visible to the north west. This sacred mountain of the latter-day explorer stands at the southern end of the Matthews Range, an icon of adventure, gateway to Kenya’s wild Northern Frontier District – the NFD. Virtually everything about Shaba feels hard and unyielding,the hills blister with blood red volcanic extrusions and the gritty volcanic sand is scattered with scrubby acacia and commiphora trees.

Almost everything here has thorns. In the centre of the Shaba the EwasoN’giro River provides welcome contrast, having tumbled out of Laikipia on its way from the foothills of Mt Kenya. It flows thick and brown under the granite hills, its banks lined with large mature fig trees and dense stands of palms trees. Massive crocs bask on sand banks and game of all kinds is drawn to the rich riparian woodland.