Off The Beaten track: Visit Turkana!
Thinking of vacay spots? Mombasa and Naivasha probably rank high on your list of places to see. Outside of the “top” destinations, however, there are other gems off the beaten track in Kenya that are totally worth a trip.
When one pictures Turkana, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t a laid-back Lake Turkana shoreline – the world’s largest permanent desert lake dotted with resorts, occasional live bands, great food, and beautiful cultural shows. Unless, of course, you’ve spent some time in Turkana.
The Northern frontier of Kenya is expansive and painfully underrated. There’s so much to experience and explore in Turkana. Here are some sites you can visit in the second largest county in Kenya.
Central Island is one of the gazetted national parks in the region. Although an arid landscape, the island is teeming with wildlife. Famous for its unique volcanic landscape, Central Island is also teeming with bird life, home to hundreds of species of birds native to Kenya and also an important flyway passage and stopover for migrant birds from northern Asia and Europe.
The island has three crater lakes; Flamingo Lake, Tilapia Lake and Crocodile Lake (reputed to have the highest density of crocodiles in the world). There are numerous walking trails around the island. A hike to the highest elevation on the island affords you a sweeping view of the two crater lakes and majestic Lake Turkana.
Climb one of the many hills and enjoy an uninterrupted view of Lodwar town and its environs which is on the west side of Lake Turkana As you get to the hill close to the catholic mission, a colossus of a statue, Turkana’s rendition of the famous Rio’s Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), beckons you. The hike is a relatively gentle ascent with staircases leading to the top.
The Kenyatta House in Lokitaung, Lodwar,is a landmark of Kenya’s struggle against British imperialism. The house is referred to as Kenyatta House because it served as a detention camp for five of the Kapenguria six, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Ramogi Achieng Oneko, Kung’u Karumba, Paul Ngei and Fred Kubai as they served their sentences in Lokitaung prison. Kenyatta remained in prison until 1959, when he was detained in Lodwar under house arrest for two years.
South Turkana National Reserve
Like many of the reserves in Kenya, South Turkana National reserve has something special to offer. This vast expanse of harsh brown terrain is definitely hotter than most, but still teeming with wildlife. It is home to elephant, gazelle, warthog, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, leopard, hyena and a smattering of avian species such as the Kori bustard which occurs in higher numbers than anywhere else in Kenya, making it ostensibly the park’s unofficial mascot.
The vastness and purity of the South Turkana landscape will make every visit a unique experience. Enjoy great views of Mount Mtelo and Mount Nasolot in the west. In the center of the national reserve rests Kailongol Mountain which at 2067m is one of the highest points in the region and can be climbed on foot. Expect to camp on the mountain as there are no regular tracks yet and it is a tenuous bush walk through dense shoulder-high thickets.
Situated along the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana is Koobi Fora Site and Museum, a World Heritage Site also popularly known as the Cradle of Mankind. On site are mainly extinct fossils like the crocodile, giraffe and tortoise at least four times larger than today’s.
You can also relax at the Koobi Fora camp overlooking the lake away from city life, enjoy spectacular sunsets and teeming wildlife. Koobi Fora is a very important site for Hominid Fossils, famous internationally since Richard Leakey’s discovery of ‘1470’ a 2 million year old skull of Homo Habilis.
As interest in visiting this area increases, there is promise of improved visitor facilities and safari options in this area.