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Sibiloi National Park
Safari glossary
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More parks: Northern Kenya
Most safari-goers that come to Kenya visit the southern, central or south-eastern parts of the country, where the prime parks (Masai Mara, Tsavo etc) that offers the most animals are situated. But nature and wildlife can be enjoyed and explored also in other parts.

The vast north
Few packaged tours visit the vast northern half of Kenya, which is dry, remote and difficult to access. The roads and the overall infrastructure are poor.

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There are some interesting parks, which mainly attract visitors that are looking for places off the beaten track or places offering special features. The parks are too remote to be included in most safari tours.

New A2 road
Construction work is going on (2008) to rebuild the A2 between Isiolo in central Kenya and the Ethiopian border far north. When completed, today's poor bush road will be replaced by tarmac. The A2 passes Losai and Marsabit, and the improved road will make these parks much easier to access.

Northern Kenya is considered less safe for visitors than the tourist regions in the southern parts of the country. This is not because of the wildlife (there is much less than in the south), but because of bandits etc. Overland travelling also takes extra precautions due to the poor roads, the remoteness and the harsh climate.

Chalbi Desert
The Chalbi Desert of northern Kenya is a flat sandy desert covering some 100,000 km2/40,000 sq mi, continuing north into Ethiopia. Lake Turkana borders the desert to the west. Nomad tribes inhabit the area. Little wildlife can be seen.

Kalacha Camp is a basic lodge set in a permanent oasis in the Chalbi desert. It's built from doum palm trunks and leaves woven into mats for roofs and walls, and is run by members of the local Gabbra tribe. There are four bandas with bathrooms (flush toilet and cold shower) and verandas. There is also a central dining and lounge area, and a plunge pool. An airstrip is next to the camp. (The flight time from Nairobi is 2.5–3 hours by smaller aircraft.) Bring your own food and beverages.

Web site:

Lake Turkana
Lake Turkana (6,400 km2/2,470 sq mi), formerly known as Lake Rudolf, is situated in northern Kenya, bordering Ethiopia. It is 290 km/180 mi long and 50 km/30 mi wide, making it considerably larger than the other Kenyan Great Rift Valley lakes. It is the world's largest desert lake, and is often called the Jade Sea, a name deriving from its colour.

Few packaged tours include Lake Turkana. It is accessible by road, but the distance to Nairobi is 650 km/400 mi, and very poor roads cross vast desert and semi-desert areas. Some roads may be inaccessible during wet seasons. Tours in overland buses go there, and you may access the lake by air from Nairobi.

The Lake Turkana areas is very hot, very dry and very wild. As a result of evaporation and poor inflow of water, the surface of the lake keeps sinking. Many migrant birds pass Ferguson's Gulf on the eastern side of the lake during March and April, on their way north, and during September and October, on their way south.

Lake Turkana has some interesting fishing. There are Nile perch, which can reach weights exceeding 100 kg/220 lb, tiger fish and tilapia. There are two fishing lodges on the western side of the lake: Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge and Eliye Springs Fishing Lodge. Their present status is unknown to us.

Sibiloi National Park borders Lake Turkana in the north-east, and South Island and Central Island National Parks are situated on islands in the lake.

Oasis Lodge is a basic lodge by an oasis near Loyengalani, on the eastern side of the southmost part of Lake Turkana. There are guest rooms in 24 cottages, a central dining area and a swimming pool. There is also an airstrip. The lodge offers outings in the surroundings, including visits to an El Molo tribe village, and is otherwise mainly focused on fishing for Nile perch, tiger fish and tilapia in the lake.

Web site:

Losai National Reserve
Losai National Reserve (1,806 km2/697 sq mi) is situated 80 km/50 mi south of Marsabit, some 450 km/280 mi north of Nairobi. The wildlife is mainly similar to that of Marsabit's drier areas, but not as rich. Some animals that you may see are elephants, greater and lesser kudus, gerenuks and lions. The park lacks infrastructure for tourism, so four-wheel drive and dry weather is required to visit the area.

Maralal National Sanctuary
Maralal National Sanctuary (250 km2/100 sq mi) is a dry and rocky park surrounding Maralal Town some 350 km/220 mi north of Nairobi. Impala, eland, African buffalo, baboon, warthog, leopard, hyaena, giraffe and zebra may be seen. Elephants are sometimes observed when passing from the forested hills north of the park.

Maralal Safari Lodge is a tourist class lodge set by a lit waterhole in the southern part of the park. It has 48 beds in rooms with ensuite bathrooms and (for most rooms) verandas. The lodge has restaurant, bar, lounge, swimming pool, game viewing terrace facing the waterhole (which is the only permanent source of water in the park and thus attracts a lot of wildlife), and conference facilities. The activities offered include bush walks and safaris by donkey or camel.

Marsabit National Park
Mount Marsabit (1,707 m/5,600 ft) is an extinct volcano rising out of the surrounding desert and semi-desert 560 km/350 mi north of Nairobi. It's covered by dense forest, and is often swept in mists during nights and mornings. There are at least three major craters, of which two are more or less filled with water, depending on the rainfall. The mountain is protected by Marsabit National Park (2,088 km2/806 sq mi).

The lower slopes of the mountain are, like the surrounding areas, dry and barren. To the north are dry bush and acacia lands, followed by a desert of black lava. Some rare birds can be found here, including Heuglin's bustard and Somali ostrich.

Huge elephants
Mount Marsabit is mainly known for its huge elephants and its population of greater kudu, but also has a fairly rich general wildlife. You may see caracal, cheetah, lion and giraffe, and also striped hyaena and aardwolf, which are less uncommon than in the parks further south in Kenya. 13 bat species have been recorded, and 350 bird species. Some 50 of these are birds of prey, including the lammergeir, a large vulture living in mountains.

The north and west of the national park borders the much larger Marsabit National Reserve, a dry area that passes into the sandy Chalbi Desert. The desert continues all the way to Lake Turkana 300 km/185 mi to the north-west.

Getting there
The first 200 km/125 mi from Nairobi to Isiolo is a four- to five- hour drive on fair tarmac. From Isiolo (just south of Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National reserves) and onwards, it's all bush road. After more than 300 km/185 mi northwards through a drier and drier landscape, and passing Losai National Reserve en route, you finally reach Mount Marsabit. Much of the road is poor, and four-wheel drive is essential. You may need a police permit to drive the Isiolo–Marsabit road.

Game viewing in the park is mainly done by foot, as it has few roads.

Marsabit Lodge is a fairly basic lodge set not far from one of the crater lakes in northern Marsabit National Park. It has 24 rooms, a restaurant and a swimming pool. An airstrip is 8 km/5 mi from the lodge – it's a 2.5-hour flight from Nairobi.

Mathews Range
The Mathews Range is a mountain range north of Samburu National Reserve, stretching 150 km/90 mi towards the north. Its highest peak is Warges at 2,690 m/8,825 ft. Much of the range is covered in mountain forest, dominated by tall evergreen trees. There are also areas of cedars and African olive trees.

The wildlife includes species typical for this type of forest, for example elephants, African buffalos, bushbucks and colobus monkeys. Researchers and conservationists have recently become aware of a healthy population of de Brazza's monkeys, numbering 200–300 individuals (out of Kenya's total population of about 1,000).

Kitich Camp is a tented camp on the bank of a seasonal river in the southern part of the Mathews Range. It has six tents ensuite bathrooms with open-air showers and verandas. The camp offers safari activities such as bush walks and game stalking, and outings to Samburu tribe villages and markets.

Web site:

Mount Nyiru
Mount Nyiru, situated between Lake Turkana (to the north) and the Samburu Hills, Ndoto Mountains and the Mathews Range (to the south), reaches 2,750 m/9,000 ft above sea level. Together with the other mountains, all consisting of Precambrian rock (mainly granite and gneiss), it forms the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley.

Much of Mount Nyiru is covered by evergreen montane forest, including cedar and African olive (mainly in the southern parts of the area). Very dense bamboo forests can be found in areas of high mist condensation. The lower land surrounding the mountain is mainly a dense thorny bushland, dominated by acacia and commiphora species.

Desert Rose Lodge is an environmentally friendly lodge set at 1,680 m/5,500 ft at the southern end of Mount Nyiru. The lodge has five houses with ensuite bathrooms, a lounge and dining area, and a swimming pool. An airstrip is a 30–40 minute drive from the lodge, which has it's own Cessna. The lodge offers activities such as walks and trekks, camel safaris, meeting the local Samburu tribe, and excursions to Lake Turkana and the Chalbi desert.

Web site:

Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy
Namunyak Wildlife Conservancy (750 km2/290 sq mi) borders the southern parts of the Mathews Range. The area was haunted by poaching in the 1970's and 1980's, but conservation efforts since have brought back good numbers of elephants and other mammals, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, African buffalos, kudus, reticulated giraffes and impala. Much of the conservancy is covered by acacia and commiphora bushland, bordering the mountain forests of the Mathews Range.

Sarara Camp is a tented camp set at the foot of the Warges Mountain (some 40 km/25 mi north-west of Samburu National Reserve). It has five tents with open-air showers and verandas. The dining and lounging area is on a wooden deck with wide views of the surroundings. There is also a natural rock swimming pool, and a waterhole where wildlife comes to drink. The camp offers activities such as game drives, bush walks, hiking in the Mathews Range, and fly camping.

Sibiloi National Park
Sibiloi National Park (1,570 km2/606 sq mi), on the shore of north-eastern Lake Turkana, is home to some animals adapted to heat and dry environments, including gerenuks, ostriches, zebras and a local form of topi. The lake itself is estimated to have a crocodile population of more than 10,000 individuals. More than 350 bird species have been recorded in the area.

Koobi Fora, an area inside the park, is rich in fossil, including hominid fossils from the Homo and Australopithecus genera. These ancestors of ours lived on the lakeshores more than two million years ago.

South Island & Central Island National Parks
Lake Turkana has three main islands, of which two are national parks. South Island National Park (39 km2/15 sq mi) has crater lakes and a rich bird life, while Central Island National Park (5 km2/2 sq mi) belongs to the crocodiles; the island is an important crocodile breeding site. You may visit the island by boat from Kalekol on the western lakeshore.

Accommodation can be found on the shores of Lake Turkana, for example Oasis Lodge on the south-western shore, not very far from South Island.

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Page updated 18 February 2009