The Great Rift Valley is the continuous geographic trough, about 6,000 km long, that cuts through Africa and runs from Syria in North West Asia to Mozambique in Eastern Africa. The name was given by the late 19th century explorer John Walter Gregory. Scientists say that the Rift Valley was formed about 20 million years ago when the earth’s crust weakened and tore itself apart creating the jagged rift across the African continent. During this phenomenon, great volcanic mountains were formed by eruptions on either side of the valley, while the valley floor gradually sank into the flat plain as it is known today.
The Great Rift Valley divides Kenya down the length of the country. The width varies from about 100 km to its narrowest width of about 45 km just north of Nairobi. The depth of the valley floor also varies, being at the lowest near the Lake Turkana. Apart from the Rift Valley itself, the area has other important geographic features such as the extinct volcanoes, Mount Longonot and Mount Suswa, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Magadi, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, the Suguta Valley and Lake Turkana.
Rift Valley covers an area of 173,854 km2 (42,960,000 acres), and has 13 counties namely; Turkana, West Pokot, Samburu, Trans-nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi, Baringo, Laikipia, Nakuru, Kajiado, Kericho and Bomet.
Turkana County in north-western Kenya borders Marsabit County to the east, Samburu County to the south-east, and Baringo and West Pokot Counties to the south. Lodwar Town is the county’s headquarter.
Attractions in Turkana
This is the world’s largest permanent alkaline desert lake located in the north-western part of Kenya and covering an area of 6,405 km2. Its northern tip crosses into Ethiopia and is fed by three rivers – the Omo of Ethiopia, the Turkwel and the Kerio. The lake is also called the Jade Sea because of its azure-green colour from algae in bloom.
Lake Turkana became known after Count Teleki’s expedition struggled over incredibly barren and inhospitable terrain and reached its shore on 6th March 1888. Teleki named his discovery Lake Rudolf to honor the Crown Prince of Austria. In 1975 the Kenya Government changed the name to Lake Turkana to honor the lakeshore people.
- Sport fishing
- Island hopping
CENTRAL ISLAND NATIONAL PARK
The Central island park in Lake Turkana is 5km2.Central Island has three scenic crater lakes – Crocodile,Flamingo and Tilapia and an active crater.
How To Get There
800km from Nairobi to Lake Turkana, then take a boat from Sibiloi National Park or from Lodwar.
Access from Nairobi is on the main Nairobi-Moyale road or from Maralal to Loiyengalani through Baragoi
and South Horr.
• By Air: Two airstrips at Sibiloi
Three crater lakes – Crocodile Lake, Flamingo Lake and Tilapia Lake and an active volcano.
The site with a museum lies on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana. Koobi Fora is one of the world’s leading
pre-historic sites for the study of human evolution. In 1972 the area was gazetted as Sibiloi national park
and is a World Heritage Site since 1977.
Loiyangalani Desert Museum
The museum on a hill overlooks Lake Turkana. Opened in 2008, it focuses on the lives of the eight communities living in the area and on the natural environment in this harsh county. The eight communities are Turkana, El-molo, Rendille, Samburu, Gabbra, Watta, Boran and Dassanash (Merillle).
The sand dunes are best enjoyed in a four-wheel drive adventure to an oasis surrounded by palm trees. The dunes measure over 40 feet high with breathtaking sceneries.
SIBILOI NATIONAL PARK
Dubbed “The Cradle of Mankind”. It lies on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana about 800km from Nairobi. The semi-desert ecosystem was established to protect its petrified cedar forest, wildlife and the unique prehistoric and
archaeological sites linked to the origin of man.
The park is waterless except for the alkaline lake. It is nonetheless rich in wildlife such as zebra, giraffe, hippo, crocodile and numerous bird species such as flamingos, pelicans and ducks. Other attractions are the preserved wildlife fossils, which include the Giant Tortoise and the 20-foot long crocodile.
How To Get There
• By Air: There are two all weather air strips.
• Gates: One gate
• Roads: High-clearance 4WD is essential all year round. Travel in convoy is recommended. The lake is a three-day continuous drive from Nairobi via Marsabit and North Horr. The other route is Maralal via South Horr. It’s best to take a few extra days to enjoy stops enroute. Alternatively travel by road from Nairobi to Kalokol on the lake’s western shores, via Kitale and Lodwar. From Kalokol, boat hire services are available across the lake to Allia Bay.
Scorching hot and arid (especially December- March). June and July are the coolest months. May- September very strong winds blow most of the day. Rainfall less than 250mm per annum.
• Origin of man: Koobi Fora museum and research base
• The tempestuous ‘Jade Sea’
• Petrified forests
• Prolific birdlife
Zebra, Grant’s gazelle, Reticulated giraffe, Beisa oryx, topi, Greater kudu, hippo, lion, cheetah, leopard, Striped hyena and Silver-backed jackal. The world’s largest Nile crocodile population breeds on Lake Turkana’s Central Island.
Two public campsites:
i. Turkana campsite, and
ii. Koobi Fora Campsite
• Game drives
• Archeological safaris
• Bird watching
Where To Stay
• Loyiangalani (south tip of Lake Turkana)
• Oasis Lodge
• Lobolo Tented Camp
• Palm Shade (bandas and campsite).
• Self – Catering Accommodation
i. Allia Bay Guesthouse: offers 3-double
bedrooms, solar generated electricity and
furnished indoor sitting, dining and kitchen.
ii. National Museum of Kenya, Koobi – For a
research base and campsite.
iii. Lake Turkana Lodge.