Lake Turkana Kenya is a massive Inland Sea from northern Kenya, the largest permanent desert lake in the world stretching some 250 km long- longer than the entire Kenyan coast and occupying an area of 6,405 sq km from the northern region of the Great Rift Valley. Formerly known as Lake Rudolf, it lies in the far north of Kenya and is bordered at its northernmost point by Sudan and Ethiopia. At the southern end of the lake stand two primeval sentinels – Teliki’s Volcano and the Nabiyatum Cone.
Also known as the Jade Sea, this lake is an extraordinary sight as the shimmering colors of its surface contrast sharply with the barren landscape of extinct volcanoes and lava beds that surround it. The lake owes its lovely nickname to algae particles that shift with changes of the wind and light, so that the water surface moves from blue to grey to fabulous jade.
The Omo, Turkwel and Kerio River flowing from Ethiopia feed Turkana and as it has no outlet and the water level fluctuates with the rainfall in Ethiopia. The climate is harsh around the lake with little human activity.
Lake Turkana National park
The dry lakeshore and grasslands have been listed as a world heritage site together with the neighboring Sibloi National Park. Over on the northeastern shore, Sibiloi National Park – close to the Koobi Fora archaeological site at Alia Bay – is one of Kenya’s remotest parks, and protects a surprising variety of wildlife.
Today the lake is home to some 22,000 Nile crocodiles, hippos and more than 40 different species of fish – the fishing up here is good. The rocky shore is home to scorpions, carpet vipers, large water turtles and mammals. To protect the breeding grounds of birds and crocs, two islands, Southern Island and Central Island, have been declared national parks.
The dry grasslands also support snakes, Grevy’s zebra, topi, Grant’s gazelles, reticulated giraffe, and camels. You’ll also find predators like lions and cheetahs that chase for the preys animals found here. It is however unsafe to tour the lake without an expert guide or ranger
Around the lake there is a rich variety of bird life – more than 350 species of resident and migratory birds depend on the water of the Jade Sea. Examples of birds found here include little stint, wood snipper, sand pipper, African skimmer, white necked cormorant and Heuglin’s Bustard that nests east for the lake.
Fishing is a major part of activity around the lake thanks to the algae growing on the lake that feeds fishes like Nile perch, tiger fish, bichir, elephant fish, tilapia species and other kinds of fish.
Turkana Tribes and People
Lake Turkana Africa is also a source of life for some of Kenya’s most remote tribes. The Turkana, with ancestral ties to Uganda, live a semi-nomadic existence around the Lake. The country’s smallest tribe, the El Molo, live a hunter-gatherer existence on the shores and their villages are made up of distinctive rounded reed huts.
Loyangalani is a remote settlement on the shores of the lake populated by Turkana people under UNESCO Mount Kulal Biosphere Reserve. In 1967, Richard Leakey discovered the Koobi Fora fossil site on Lake Turkana, the cradle of Mankind. This area is protected now as an important prehistoric research site as it lies within the Sibiloi National Park. Other settlements and villages around the lake include El Molo, Kalokol, Eliye Springs, lleret and Fort Banya.
There are efforts to develop the area with Lake Turkana wind power project by tapping wind for electricity to the villages around the shore.
Access to Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana is the most remote destination on Kenya Safaris and getting there is definitely an adventure. The East and West Shores of Turkana are accessed separately, and are physically separated by the vast Suguta Valley south of the Lake. The east shore is reached via Maralal and Marsabit while the west shore is reached via Kitale and Lodwar.
There are airstrips that service chartered aircrafts that bring tourist in the air. Few dust roads are found around the lake which is often explored on foot. Boat rides are also available along the shore of the lake with rides to the central islands.
Lake Turkana accommodation is quite remote and offers self catering accommodation, and hotel or guesthouses in neighboring Marasabit town. Find Lake Turkana Safari lodge at El molo with 31 guestrooms offering basic hotel facilities like running water, shuttles and transfer.
Kenya’s North is in fact a dry and desert like area- hot, dry and even ruined by volcanic activity, with ancient blackened molten rocks- lava flows plus countless thorn trees stretch from horizon to hill. Visiting Turkana through the road or highway is no easy task. Whilst it really is achievable to go by flight to the Lake in the Chartered airliner, it must be said that flying into Turkana some what shortens the grand adventure. Nevertheless, the trip itself is incredibly an experience, experiencing fantastic views across the Suguta Valley and providing a distinct view of the Lake as well.
The majority of vacationers get the long tour from Nairobi spanning a 2-3 days, stopping en route from Maralal, Samburu, or Marsabit. This excursion winds via some attractive country, and travellers often find Rendille camel trains, and go by tiny villages and nomadic camps on the way.
At the South East tip of the Lake, reached through South Horr, the incredibly small oasis of Loiyangalani “the location of the trees” allures several tourists to the palm groves, where by fresh wind offers therapy from the searing warmth. There is a well kept campsite as well as very simple lodge there.Loiyangalani is a good base for exploring- whether by boat to South Island National Park, or even by climbing close by Mount Kulal- a.
For people who’re significantly more daring, the long road North leads to Sibiloi,a 1600 square km National Park. This specific park is a genuine amaze following a very long desert adventure- there is certainly enough lush green, grassland- and an abundance of game. Giraffe, Zebra, Topi, Ostrich, Hippo along with the spontaneous Lion and also Cheetah are occasionally seen while in the park.
Western Turkana will be more on hand, via the road North from Kitale and later to Ferguson’s Gulf and to the town of Kalokol. There’s a simple and easy lodge right here- at first a fishing villa for all those wanting to catch the prized Nile Perch. Deeper North will be outstanding Eliye Springs, home to spring nourished oases, great crocodile populations, and numerous small Turkana villages. You can find a couple of convenient lodgings offered here.
Somewhere further North, the great Lobolo Camp, cozier as well as very simple tented camp located in Kenya plus more convenient while getting to the Parks and Reserves. The camp offers 6 exquisite spacious, spotless tents which have spring water showers and specially raised bedding furniture to make use of the chilly breezes, also allow sights of the sunset on the Lake.
Using quality fishing boats and also guides- cruises around the Lake, customized day fishing outings for Nile Perch and many others are doable. Lobolo attracts those who continue to need to take part in the adventure of visiting this wild country side, most surely realize the worth of a cosy bed furniture, a great shower on the evening, plus the occasional sumptuous luxuries- like tasty great samosas with soy sauce while at the campfire.