Tales of the Treacherous Brown Waters

 Samburu and Isiolo districts have for a long time been among the remote and most marginalised districts in Kenya when it comes to allocation of government resources such as health facilities, infrastructure and education.




Despite this setback, this region has got one of the most striking and beautiful sunsets and sunrises in Kenya. It also boasts of having several national reserves, i.e, Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba national reserves, and a huge number of community-led conservancies including Kalama, Westgate, Namunyak, Sera and the just newly created Nasuulu conservancy among others, all of which fall under the Northern Rangelands Trust management.



These vast lands are mostly arid, with open plains and mountains lining the horizon, creating an enchanting landscape and a breathtaking view. Every sunrise spells a new beginning, a new dawn, for the people of Samburu.

Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves are situated adjacent to each other, though they lie in different provinces. These two reserves are home to some of the rarest wildlife such as the African elephant, the long-necked gerenuk, kirk’s dik dik, the Beisa Oryx, the reticulated giraffe, the gerenuk, the secretary bird, the kori bastard, the giant martial eagle, and the Grevy’s zebra.

Meandering through the native lands’ thick riverine forests and doum palm groves on its way to Lorian Swamp, a distance away from the Lowangishu hills and the Mathew ranges is the very wide, brown waters of the sandy Ewasonyiro river, which distinctively border and define the boundaries of Samburu and Buffalo Springs National Reserves, two of the most visited tourist destinations in northern Kenya.

Originating from the west side of Mt. Kenya, Ewaso Nyiro is the main source of water for the wider Laikipia and Samburu area in the arid, northern parts of Kenya. Not only is it a source of rich biodiversity and life source for all wild animals in these two reserves, but also for people and livestock in the local communities surrounding these two reserves. The Samburu people are a warrior tribe, who are mostly semi-nomadic. They live in traditional manyatta houses and occasionally trespass into the reserves in search of pasture and water for their livestock, especially during the dry season.

With the hot, sunny weather that mostly characterises this region, every single day, the sun’s scorching heat and intense rays rapidly evaporate the waters of Ewaso, and this is during the Januray-March, Late May to October dry seasons. And as the days progress, the river becomes lesser and quieter. And as weeks pass by, the river is transformed into a small stream, and it soon completely dries up. Survival strategies then kick in. As the largest and one of the most intelligent animals on earth, elephants use their tusks and trunks to dig hole on the dry river bed to access water beneath, a very important gesture that most smaller wild animals rely on, in order for them too, to survive.

 (Photo-The Reticulated Giraffe )                                   

The long rainy season in March to May, brings with it life and abundance resulting from the torrential rains. At this time of the year, its green everywhere and there’s plenty of food both for the carnivores and the herbivores alike. New born calves and cubs can be seen everywhere, jumping around playfully under the watchful protection of their mothers. The river is full, and is once again home to large numbers of the Nile crocodile.

The Nile crocodile is Africa’s largest reptile and can reach lengths of up to 6 meters and weigh up to 1 metric tonne. Adult crocodile have no predators, though territorial disputes between males can cause serious injuries and even death. This crocodile can regularly be seen basking on the sandbanks that line the river.  A large number of people, children and wildlife have fallen victim to these crocodiles, especially when attempting to cross the river.

Unfortunately, with all these blessings, a terrible disaster looms. No one knows when, for the umpteenth time, the river will break its banks, and all are cautious during this season.

The recent occurrences in 2010 and 2011 are all too clear. The flash floods of March 2010 left several people and wildlife dead. The acacia reficiens trees lining the flooded shores of the river were also not spared, as the angry waters carried with it the top sandy soil, leaving no support for the trees, which end up being washed downstream, leaving a trail of disaster. Six tourist lodges situated next to the river bank were completely washed out and families living next to the river outside of the reserve were left homeless. In December last year (2011), the river once again broke its banks, this time as a result of heavy rains received upstream, around the Ngare ndare water catchment area in Laikipia district.

Connecting the two reserves across the river is a bridge built in 2011 by the British Army, after its destruction by the 2010 flash floods. The bridge was once again destroyed completely by the December 2011 floods, and is yet to be re-built. This has greatly hampered tourism activities, as tourists now have no way of crossing over to Buffalo springs and vice versa, and are forced to go round on tarmac road for them to access either reserve.


Same story can be found at www.ecodata.co.ke


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