Turkana County

A Guide to Turkana County

View of a traditional homestead in Turkana County.  Photo Courtesy of Pulitzer Centre
View of a traditional homestead in Turkana County. Photo Courtesy of Pulitzer Centre

About Turkana County

It may come as a surprise to think of tourism becoming important in Turkana County.  As a destination, it gets a putrid press – which tends to conjure up images of a desert littered with dry bones, sand storms and the worst kind of human suffering.  But, Turkana County is a wildly beautiful place, whose remoteness has preserved it as a natural wilderness. Its claim to fame is that it is the base for one of the most important archaeological sites in Africa, simply known as Turkana Boy Site or Nariokotome Boy Monument.

Perhaps, it is the discovery of oil and underground water aquifers that has brought to the forefront the plight of Turkana County, previously, one of the most under-invested and marginalized regions in Kenya.  Nevertheless, the discovery of these vital resources has ignited the interest of both the local and foreign players.  The excitement to visit Turkana is mounting. Of course, all good people hope that the Turkana People will have the first priority in benefiting from these resources, and that, it will finally open up Turkana.

Turkana is not an an easy destination to reach. Most of its roads are just coming of age. The LAPSSET project, which is set to lay bitumen surface road, crossing the entire county, will be a game-changer for Turkana County.  Although not a common travel corridor in Kenya, and for all the difficulty of getting there, Turkana County is a rewarding place, with all the makings of a spectacular adventure, to unfamiliar landscapes and cultures.

Salient Features of Turkana County

  • County Number 23
  • Area – 77000 km2
  • Altitude – 370 to 700 ft
  • Major Towns – Lodwar, Lokichar, Lokichoggio
  • Borders – West Pokot, Elgeyo Marakwet, Baringo, Samburu, Marsabit

Brief History of Turkana County

Like most of the other regions in the Northern Frontier, Turkana County had been declared a “closed district” by the British Empire. This meant, that no one except for government officials and resident traders could enter it without written permission of the District Commissioner.  Because of the harsh climate and environment, once described by Jomo Kenyatta as Hell on Earth, the population and importance of Turkana grew slowly.  As it happens, British officials working here were not expected to do more than a year of service.

Boy herding livestock in Turkana.  Photo Courtesy of HuffPost
Boy herding livestock in Turkana. Photo Courtesy of HuffPost

Best Places to Visit in Turkana County

1. Ilemi Triangle

Going through many particulars of Turkana County, it would be unavoidable to comment on the precarious and mysterious Ilemi Triangle; its top corner which resembles a triangle drawn with an unsteady hand, and, which magically appears in some maps of Kenya and disappears in others. When it does appear, Turkana County in the largest in Kenya and without it, it is the second largest county, following Marsabit County. The 14,000 km2 Ilemi Traingle is quite literally a triangular piece of land between Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, dubbed the wedge. Disputes over its ‘unwanted’ ownership began in 1907 in the colonial treaties and arbitrary boundaries. Forthwith, different caravans of Eurocentric surveyors swayed its complexity. Today, it is almost impossible to tell the exact precision of its border. On the Kenyan, it is roughly demarcated by the Nadapal or Mogila Range (west) and Lapurr Range at Todenyang (east). The triangle is home to the famed Lokwama Moru Range and the Lorionetom Range.

Claimed by all three states, it has been at the center of mind-blowing treaties, dishevels and wars unlike anywhere else in Kenya. Likewise, Ilemi Triangle, which is a no-mans land, is a porous triangle and a crisis place for small arms proliferation, which has also fueled the unending affray for its water and pasture resources.  Remarkably, in recent decades, the Turkana, Didinga, Toposa, Inyangatom and Dassanech tribes, from all three countries, have by some extraordinary means found ways to co-exist affably in the mysterious Ilemi Triangle. “Long before the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement of 6th December 1907 was drawn, the Inyangatom, Didinga, Turkana, Toposa and Dassanech traded and grazed in the Ilemi through mutual arrangements” – Nene Mburu.  

2. Mogila Range

The rock face of the 1,693 ms Mogila Range, which lies just a short distance north of Lokichoggio Airport and south of the Ilemi Triangle, offers great prospect for the adventure climbing.  Its closeness to the Lokichoggio Airport, served by direct flights from Nairobi, gives it a logistical advantage and potential for development. What’s more, it has stunning scenery of the Lokitipi Plains. Found nearby the Mogila Range is the rustic Kate Camp, in Lokichoggio Town. This small, ever-busy, town is a cultural passage border point between Kenya and Sudan. A word of caution is required here, cross cultural conflicts have become a norm rather than the exception, making Lokochoggio unpopular with both local and international visitors.

3. Kate’s Camp

The modest safari inspired Kate’s Camp, in the ever-busy Lokichoggio Border Town – which is a growing logistics and supply town between Kenya and Sudan – is as a serene and snug base from which trippers to this far flung corner of Turkana County may enjoy its offerings.  Among the highlights at Kate’s Camp are its spacious bandas, its neat camp grounds, its swimming pool, its views of the Mogila Range, Lokichoggio Airport and Lokitipi Plains.  From Kate’s Camp, trippers can walk to Mogila Range, with the help of local guides, who allude to captivating insights of the cultural conflicts in the area, the intricate history of the humanitarian agencies based here and guiding trips to some of the villages. 

4. Lokitipi Plains

Turkana County’s vast open-lying plains are epitomized by Kalapata and Lokitipi Plains, which form part of the seemingly unending wasteland typified by dwarf shrubs and grasslands. The former is larger and drier, only providing forage for livestock over the rain season.  At first glance, the gently-pitching windswept aridscape of Lokitipi Plains has has squat to commend it, apart from Lokwana Moru Range, seen to its north, but, in the recent years, teams of local and international experts have discovered vast water aquifers underneath the immense and desolate, saucer-shaped Lokitipi Plains. This is a game-changer.

5. Nayeche Site

The 93 kms expedition from Lokichoggio to Kakuma goes through an interesting and unusual arid landscape interspersed by fetching hillocks and ranges, most notably of the Songot Mountain (near Lokichoggio), Pelekech Range and Loima Hills (near Kakuma). Just 10 kms south of Kakuma Town, near Murwana Nayeche Hill, is one of the most culturally important sites in Turkana County. The sacred Nayeche Site is venerated as the final resting place for Nayeche, the Turkana Community’s heroine of origin.  As it goes, the Jie People of northern Uganda and the Turkana of Kenya all believe that Nayeche – a Jie woman, followed the footprints of a gray bull across the vast dry plains and settled around the shore of Lake Turkana, where she gave rise to the Turkana Tribe. The site is marked by a pile of stones, neatly arranges around an almost circular enclosure. Traditionally, a layer of stone is usually built over an eminent leader’s grave and anyone who passes by afterwards adds a stone to the top of the pile. Also impressive here are striking views of the Loima Hills.

6. Loima Hills

The forest cover in Turkana County is estimated at only 4 %. Some of its more impressive forests can be seen at Loima Hills, near Kakuma and Murwana Nayeche, in the northwestern area. Because of their higher elevation, Loima Hills are normally green, covered with dense bushes and high woody cover. As a result, they support important economic activities like farming, grazing, honey production, wood and charcoal production. They are also famous for their legendary deposits of gold and gemstones, which remain untapped, except by a few natives who collect the gemstones after the rains. Loima Hills trend in a north-south strike from near Lorugum, in the south, to Kakuma, in the north.

7. Lokiriama Peace Monument

A trip to the untravelled border post of Lokiriama from Lodwar has to be well calculated and one of purpose. It takes to a parched and dusty stretch with few and far between centres, that are no more than a row of dukas. The ways-out Lokiriama is best-known for two things; its traditional gemstone mining and the peace accord between the Turkana and the Matheniiko communities. The Lokiriama Peace Monument, founded in 1973, memorializes the unity between the Turkana Tribe of Kenya and Matheniiko Tribe of Uganda, where they buried their weapons after decades of ruthless wars.  Each year, during World Peace Day, these two tribes, and many other tribes living in Turkana County, hold a joyous fiesta at Lokiriama to celebrate years of continued peace and kinship.

8. Christ the Redeemer Statue

On arrival at Lodwar, by air, the large statue of Christ – with arms open wide – standing sentinel over Lodwar Town, atop a moderate hill adjacent Lodwar Airport, is a universal welcome to the Northern Frontier. Quite unmistakable and reminiscent of its opposite-number namesake in Brazil, albeit on a much miniature scale, this Christ the Redeemer Statue at Lodwar is impressive, considering its location. It was built by the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar, to re-enacts the way to the cross.  There is a stairway, with guard rails, that takes to the top of hill and to the base of the Statue, where spectacular views of Lodwar Town, Turkwel River, Lodwar Airport and Loima Hills unfold. Of interest near Christ the Redeemer is Portcaeli Resort, Lodwar House and River Kawalasee.

9. Lodwar House

This tiny Lodwar House, set on a hill near St. Augustine Cathedral Church, is best-known for housing the famous Kapenguria-Six, during Kenya’s struggle for independence, and, by the same token, is one of the most significant historic sites in Turkana County.  Among the six detained here – sentenced to seven years with hard labour – was Kenya’s first President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta placed in custody at Lodwar House between 1959 to 1961, before he was moved to Kenyatta House in Maralal, in Samburu, to serve the remainder of his term under house arrest.  Lodwar House, also known as Kenyatta House in Lodwar, is found near the Lodwar Law Courts and the Lodwar-Lokichoggio Junction.

10. Ceamo Lodge

The fast-growing tourism industry in Turkana County has brought with it a rise in its number of star-rated hotel resorts, to include, the Ceamo Lodge.  This tastefully-outfitted hotel, in the heart of Lodwar Town, caters to both business and leisure travellers, on a middle-budget, in a homey and serene layout.  Ceamo Lodge offers a variety of accommodation options – standard, executive and governors suite – with all its rooms spruced-up with climate control air conditioners. What’s more, Ceamo is located within easy reach of Lodwar Airport, Central Island National Park, Eliye Springs and Cradle Camp.  It is also a perfect jump-off spot to many of Turkana County’s lighthouse attractions.

11. Cradle Tented Camp

Equally impressive in Turkana’s growing list of resorts, is the award-winning Cradle Tented Camp, christened “an oasis of peace and comfort in Turkana County.”  The 20-rooms resort, set-up on a 16-acres property, just a short distance from the banks of Turkwel River, near Lodwar Town, is interspersed with lovely palm trees, manicured lawns and flourishing gardens – earning its reputation for being a quaint and idyllic paradise in the middle of the arid Turkana.  One of the outstanding features at the Cradle Tented Camp is its sprawling pool, which offers an inviting comfy chaises, where trippers can surround themselves with the cool cobalt blue waters and escape the heat.  Cradle Tented Camp is within easy reach Central Island National Parks, Turkana Boy and Eliye Springs.  It is found off Kerio Road, in Lodwar Town. 

12. Turkana Films

Turkana Films, a media and film start-up, which is focused on documenting the enormous touring resources in Turkana County and the diverse cultural diversity found across the untravelled Turkana County, is a great stop-over for trippers looking for information and history of the area.  At Turkana Films, there is an elaborate exposition of photographs, good reads, and even some documentary films illustrating both people and places.  It also has fully-functioning stand-alone filming project, media school, workshops and cultural tourism.  Turkana Films is found in Republican House, in Lodwar Town.

13. Eliye Springs

Eliye Springs, the most distinguished and developed beach along Turkana’s 250 kms shoreline, matches-up to the 512 kms shore at the Coast Region.  Away from mass tourism and congestion, the beaches at Eliye Springs are far prettier, secluded and perhaps more splendid with their added element of surprise. One of the oldest and most reputed destinations at Eliye Springs is the Eliye Springs Resort, typified by its woven palm-frond traditional hut cottages – which pay homage to the traditional design of the Turkana Community. Located on the western-side of Lake Turkana, near River Turkwel, Eliye Springs has steadily grown in popularity over the last decade, not least for, its virgin sandy shores, great sunsets, cultural passages and its proximity to many areas of interest. It is also a place of unprecedented tranquility. From Lodwar, the junction to Eliye is about 10 kms, en-route Kalokol. From Eliye Springs this ringroad rejoins the Lodwar-Kalokol Road near Namoratunga. It is located 60 kms from Lodwar.

14. Lobolo Swamp

10 kms north of Eliye Springs and just south of Kalokol sits Lobolo Swamp, located on the banks of Lake Turkana. It is is best known for its spring, which supports a palm groove at its littorals, and its plenitude of birds, notably of its flamingos. But even without the flamingo, the remaining birdlife is still lovely. Lobolo Swamp makes for a lovely afternoon’s walk for trippers staying at the 8-safari-tents Lobolo Camp. It is also within easy reach from Eliye Springs.

15. Namoratunga Dancing Stones

Namoratunga, a term which loosely describes a number of stone pillar sites in Turkana County, marked by large upright stones, is most associated with the Namoratunga Stone Pillar Site located on the eastern edge of Losidok Hill, about 25 kms from Kalokol. First documented by Mark Lynch and L.H. Robbinsp in 1978, and dated back to 300 BC, Namoratunga Dancing Stones Site contains 19 basalt pillars, surprisingly aligned with seven star systems – Triangulum, Pleiades, Bellatrix, Aldebaran, Central Orion, Saiph and Sirius.

In Turkana mythology, the mysterious and fascinating Namoratunga Dancing Stones, eke-named the miniature Stonehenge of Kenya, represent dancers who were turned to stone after they mocked a malevolent spirit. Also of interest at the site, is a grave partially circled by upright stones, indicative that a complete circle of stone cobbles may have once formed an intricate inner circle. This site appears to have some striking similarities to the Jarigole Site in Marsabit, specially in the use of large basalt pillars. Both these the pillar sites appear to have held social significance for centuries after their construction began.

Also known as the Kalokol Pillar Site, this special ring of basalt stones that stands over a platform of smaller rounded stones is a stone monument thought to depict the astrological know-how of the hunter-gather people that resided here hundred of years ago.  The Kalokol Pillars were lugged in by dedicated herdsmen.  The small piles on top are recent, left by latter day folks and passersby as an emblem of respect.  Kalokol is found 58 kms from Lodwar.

16. Lake Turkana

Lake Turkana is the largest and most saline lake in Kenya’s Lake System in the Great Rift Valley. Estimated to be 250 kms long and 30 kms wide, it the world’s largest desert lake, covering a mind-boggling 7000 km2. With no outlets and a high evaporation rate, it increases in salinity year-in, year-out as a result of the depositing of salt in its soil and capping on the surface-river. Lake Turkana is principally fed by River Omo, from Ethiopia, and Rivers Turkwel and Kerio. Formerly known as Lake Rudolf and renamed after the native Turkana, Lake Turkana, located on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, was formed by faulting.

No amount of info-graphics quite prepares anyone for the sight of Lake Turkana. Perhaps, the most exciting and most memorable way to explore this oddity it to cruise along the shore by boat. There are three exceptional national parks in, and along its bays – Sibiloi National Park, Central Island and South Island National Parks – which are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known as Lake Turkana National Parks.  It is found 800 kms from Nairobi.

17. Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge

There are few things creepier than abandoned buildings, but, arriving at Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge, also known as Ferguson’s Gulf Fishing Lodge, near Kalokol, is akin to visiting an institution. This dissipating lodge, set on a split at the mouth of Ferguson Gulf and surrounded by water on three sides, was a thing of beauty and a loved hideout, widely-popular among anglers on fishing expeditions and explorers visiting Central Island National Park. There was nothing pretentious about the simplicity of Lake Turkana Fishing Lodge. Unobtrusively glam and in harmony with the landscape, its 6-wooden-cabin bandas were outfitted with a thatched-roof that extended to form a sun-awning deck. It is, perhaps, needless to point out that the star-gazing here was epic.

18. Ferguson Gulf

More impressive for its potential rather than the site itself, Ferguson Gulf located on the western shore of Lake Turkana and mostly used as a place to board the hop-on hop-off boat taxis to Central Island National Park was poised to be one of the largest fishing ports in Kenya. It is widely thought that Lake Turkana is the largest, virtually untapped, fishing resource in Kenya. In an attempt to develop this untapped lake, a fishery station had been set up in 1964 at Ferguson Gulf, to encourage and assist the native Turkana to grow fishing.

The fishery station was “in dead water from the onset” and its challenges unrolled back to back. The problem of transporting fish to Lodwar, 60 kms away, on an all weather road, was the first of many setbacks to stall the projects. Still largely a fishing spot, typified by a sandy ridge overgrown by doum palm trees, Ferguson Gulf is not where it was imagined, but, is still an impressive landscape containing a respectable number of flamingos and pelicans. It is also the cardinal jump-off for adventure-fishing at Lake Turkana – Kenya’s most exceptional fishing destinations, which since the early 1900’s bore its distinct reputation of being the leading mecca for Nile perch fishing enthusiasts.

19. Central Island National Park

Central Island National Park, the second largest of the three islands on Lake Turkana, is best-known for its three separate crater lake tubes that hold the triad of its lakes marked by emerald-green waters. Each of the lakes – Flamingo Lake, Tilapia Lake and Crocodile Lake – is named after its native inhabitants; with the latter providing breeding grounds for the world’s largest concentration of Nile crocodiles.  Central Island is within reach of many areas of interest in Turkana County and easily accessed on a short boat ride from various bays like Ferguson and Eliye Springs. It is located 5 kms coastal from Ferguson Gulf.

20. Lokallalei Site

From Kalokol the road, which is motorable throughout year, marches along the shores of Lake Turkana, passing through Kataboi (a much-liked fishing spot), provides memorable views of the lake and the plains, on the opposite side, before arriving at Nachukui. Lokallalei, which forms part of the Nachukui Formation, is the oldest archaeological site in the Rift Valley System and its importance in the understanding of hominid “knapping activity,” the early hominidal tool factories and technical artistry, dating back 2.34  MYA, makes it an important location in the understanding of human evolution.  Lokalallei Site is found at the edge of the Lake Turkana, about 66 kms north of Kalokol.

Nachukui Formation, is a sedimentary sequence, 730 ms thick, that includes deposits from formation members including the Lonyumun (4.2-4 million years ago or Ma), Kataboi (3.9-3.4 Ma), Lomekwi (3.4-2.5 Ma), Lokalalei (2.5-2.3 Ma), Kalochoro (2.3–1.9 Ma), Kaitio (1.9–1.6 Ma), Natoo (1.6–1.3 Ma), and Nariokotome (1.3–0.6 Ma). Most deposits fer formed under lacustrine, fluvial and alluvial fan contexts including remains of Kenyanthropus.

21. Nariokotome Boy Monument

Turkana is home to some of the outstanding archaeological sites in Kenya, many of which have garnered lots of global interest.  One of the unsurpassed archaeological finds in Turkana, which was excavated in 1984 by a team led by Richard Leakey, and simply named Turkana Boy or Nariokotome Boy (symbolic of the place where it was excavated) is also one of world’s earliest discovered hominids; a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus youth who lived 1.6 million years ago. It is the most complete early human skeleton ever found.

Turkana or Nariokotome Boy added to a very impressive history of the study of pre-human history in Turkana County – widely christened as the Cradle of Mankind. The original Turkana or Nariokotome Boy was moved to a climate controlled safe in the National Museums of Kenya, in Nairobi, catalog number KNM-WT 15000. At Nariokotome, a monument bearing the replica of Turkana Boy and a tall monumental obelisk are symbolic of Turkana’s Boy value in the story of evolution. A trip to this site should not omit a visit to the Nariokotome Catholic Mission Church and lagoons of Nariokotome from where the Northern Island is easily sighted.  Nariokotome Site is located 80 kms north of Kalokol.

22. Nariokotome Catholic Mission

Not too far from Nariokotome Boy Monument sits one of the most beautiful village Churches you’ll ever set your eyes on in Kenya. With its unparalleled beauty of landscape, halfway between the lake and the mountains (Murua Rith), the Nariokotome Catholic Mission is blessed with a timeless charm that is only amplified by its desolate surroundings. Established in 1993 by Mons. John C. Mahon, the then Bishop of Lodwar, it appreciably adds to the beauty of Nariokotome, in an unobtrusive and delicate way. Its roughcast finish topped by a mosaic of stones found in area shows a care and respect for its landscape, and, in a way, makes this Church part of the landscape. “Inside the catholic church of Nariokotome; the beautiful building is airy and friendly and offers a view onto Lake Turkana. The church’s bell bears inscriptions in four languages: Turkana, Kiswahili, English and German” – TurkanaLand. Nariokotome Mission is also the Mother House of the MCSPA worldwide. It is at the center of building dams, drilling boreholes, establishing dispensaries and schools.

23. Northern Island

Northern Island, in Lake Turkana, is most notable as the only of its large islands excluded from the UNESCO World Heritage Area. This 2 kms wide island is also the smallest and the northernmost of the three major volcanic islands in Lake Turkana. Similar to the other two, it is endowed with varied wildlife specially hippos, crocodiles and fowls.  It also provides great fishing adventures. While Northern Island is not a popular touring destination, the aerial views of its 1 km ring, enclosing smaller older rings, in middle of the island, are entrancing. It is located 16 kms coastal from Nariokotome Bay.

24. The Golden Hill

The 121 kms drive from Kalokol to Lokitaung (30 kms north of Nariokotome) finally reaches the Golden Hill, eke-named after the perceived deposits of gold believed to exist on the Hill. When mining commences it will permanently alter a most impressive landform. Likewise, it will reaffirm Turkana as Kenya’s unsurpassed mining frontier; which was confirmed by the 2012 discovery of oil. If, instead of doubling back through Nariokotome and Kataboi back to Kalokol, one proceeds west, the Mlangoni Gorge is guaranteed to make this decision worthwhile. Here, the road goes through the Mlangoni Gorge, nearly 1,000 ft deep, with precipitous sides, before emerging on the plains, to the view of the Lapurr Range. From here, there is a death-or-glory 150 kms route to Makutano, halfway between Kakuma and Lodwar. From Lokitaung, heading north, the road terminates at Todenyang, which roughly marks the northern tip of Kenya. To the west, 140 kms away (in a straight line) Nadapal marks the other end.

25. Turkana Basin Institute

The southern region of Turkana, or the area south of Lodwar Town, which almost sits in the middle of the County, is in much the same league, in areas of interest, as the the northern region just alluded to. Turkana Basin Institute, located 50 kms west Lodwar, is especially worth a visit by anyone interested in the prehistory of man. Founded by the renown paleo-anthropologist Richard E. Leakey in conjunction with Stony Brook University, it aims to advance the studies on Human Histories and Related Earth.  Turkana Basin Institute has two operational field centers – Turkwel and Illeret – which both contribute to the understanding of early human prehistory.  Turkana County, of course, has a long history of research in unearthing human origins and evolution and this center is a huge-step forward in advancing this school of knowledge.

The Turkana Basin Institute is patronized by students, experts and researchers from the world over who come to gain valuable experience in the fields of anthropology and paleontology.  A trip to Turkana County, which is revered as the Cradle of Mankind, cannot omit a visit to one or more “human pre-history sites” and this is a one-stop-shop. It is also within easy reach of Eliye Springs.

26. Lothagam Valley

The exemplary Lothagam Valley, found near the shores of Lake Turkana, which it was part of until about 8000 years ago, is geologically one of the most beautiful places on the west edge of Lake Turkana and one of the most intriguing, historically.  As it goes, 5000 years ago, the first people to settle here built its first settlement which would have been at the littorals of Lake Turkana.  In 2017, a team of specialists, led by Turkana Basin Institute, unearthed the 120 m2 ancient burial shrine containing the remains of 600 (men, women and children). It also contained a vast holding of ornaments and other artefacts. 

27. Andrew’s Cone

The step-sided scalp of Andrew’s Cone, found on the volcanic-barrier that separates Lake Turkana and Lake Logipi, whose rugged appearances results from erosion, is also known as the Teleki’s Volcano. Andrew’s Cone first gained interest in 1888, when the duo explorer team of Andrew and Cavendish reported volcanic eruption, fresh lava flows and rows of active geysers, which was an indication of some recent volcanic whirls at the site. Since then, a few more citations of volcanic activity at the Andrew’s Cone have been made, mostly of spewing mist clouds.  Not easily accessible, about 60 kms west of Lokichar, through rough-and-ready dusty roads, Andrew’s Cone is located between Lake Turkana and Lake Logipi, on the ‘barrier’, and is only accessible to 4×4 vehicles.

28. Lake Logipi

The photogenic 6 kms long and shallow Lake Logipi, which is separated from Lake Turkana by a volcanic-complex, at the northern edge of Suguta Valley, is famous as a hot-spot for flocks of flamingo, best encountered on a flying-safari according to avid trippers to the region.  The most striking feature at Lake Logipi is the Cathedral Rock in the middle of the lake, locally known as the Naperito, which is a favoured rendezvous point for the hundreds of thousands of flamingoes that throng this pretty-as-a-picture alkaline Lake Logipi.

29. Lake Alablab

At most times of the year just a dry salt-pan in the Turkana basin, Lake Alablab is recharged by River Suguta in the rainy season and it lasts for only about a month, before it is eventually evaporated by the scorching and brutal sun in Turkana County.  The short term Lake Alablab usually connects with the Lake Logipi to form an 81 km2 lake, almost two times the extent of Lake Nakuru.  Lake Alablab is located on the southern marches of Lake Logipi.

30. Namuruni Cone

Namaruni Cone, which geologically resembles Andrew’s Cone (on the northern end of Lake Logipi) is found on the southern edge of Lake Logipi. It also bears many geological similarities of its counterpart.  Similar to Andrew’s Cone, the Namarunu is a barrier volcano and active shield volcano, last known to have erupted in 1921. Namuruni Cone is part of the nine axial volcanoes located within the northern sector of the Kenyan Rift, alongside, Lake Turkana Islands, Andrew’s Cone and Barrier, Paka, Emuruangogolak, Silali, Chepchuk and Korosi. It also forms part of the lava-plateau west of Lake Logipi, which also includes Limi, Kowum, Nasaken, Kailimerlim, Kafkandal and Oliyamur cones.

31. The Suguta Valley

Few adventures capture the imagination of a wild and untamed Kenya better than a flying-safari over the fabled Suguta Valley, sensationally dubbed the valley of death. Bounded by Samburu Hills, Losiolo Escarpment and Mount Nyiro in the south, with Lake Logipi marking its northern end, the 30 kms-wide, 80 kms long, flat bottom valley is thought to have once been occupied by the mythical Lake Suguta. “The valley is a vast segment of the Rift Valley set between Lake Baringo to the south and Lake Turkana to the north. Towards the north end, bordering Turkana, the valley floor is only a few hundred metres above sea level, making it one of the lowest parts of the Rift Valley” – The Star. It is a landscape of unusual beauty. Resembling an endless mud flat, with no sign of life, Suguta Valley is typified by scoria cones ring-shaped hills and stupefying boulder beds, formed by outwash fans of the rivers draining into it.

Despite its beauty, Suguta Valley, which sits at 400 ms asl, is one of the most brutal and inhospitable sun-scorched valleys in Kenya, rarely topping road trip objectives. A trip to the Suguta Valley by road is reserved only for the strong-minded, death-or-glory intrepid with a pedestrian regard for safety and harsh climate. By road, the journey across the treacherous Suguta is best achieved on the Maralal-Loiyangalani Pass. Remarkably, the biggest danger is neither the sun nor the terrain, but the gun-trotting bandits who rule the Suguta Valley: “in this part of Kenya, raids and counter-raids are part of the violent pastoralist economy” – Nation Media. There are however, safe viewpoint of the Suguta Valley, most notably Suguta Viewpoint near Maralal, in Samburu County. 

Although there are many river beds in Suguta Valley, which might suggest rivers flow here, none of them is faintly permanent. They are all intermittent, that is, they flow immediately after a period of rain, but dry up completely. This obviously indicates a dry climate. Similarly the marshes near Mount Nyiro and Lake Logipi – are seasonal.

32. Lokichar Plains

Leaving Lodwar, the next major town is Lokichar, 80 kms south. The peripheral area between Lodwar and Lokichar is dominated by Lokichar Plains. Trending north-south, the 60 kms long and 30 kms wide Lokichar Plains, typified by bare soils, shrubland and a semi-deciduous forest, for miles upon miles, are bound to the east by Lochreesokon Hills and to the west by Kamutile Hills. Lokichar Hills are found at its southern edge. In 2012, the Plains made global headlines when 600 million barrels of recoverable oil were discovered. The principle reservoir unit was the Lokone Sandstone, which belongs to a larger family of sandstones called the ‘Turkana Grits’. Ngamia 1 plant, in Lokichar, marked the start of a significant program of drilling-activities in Turkana.  This success has since been followed by further exploration at Amosing, Twiga, Etuko, Ekales, Agete, Ewoi, Ekunyuk, Etom, Erut and Emekuya.  A total of 21 appraisal wells have to-date been drilled in the Lokichar Plains, by Tullow Oil East Africa.

33. Katilu Irrigation Scheme

32 kms west of Lokichar Plain sits the little-known oddity of Katilu Irrigation Scheme. In 1964, the Government of Kenya, in the company of UK’s Freedom From Hunger Campaign, set up the first irrigation scheme in Turkana County, at Lorengipe, that was to be naturally irrigated by flood-water and provide a useful place to farm. The first crop was maize, but this was a failure. The next year, 1965, the scheme was taken over by Range Management who were more successful with grass seed. During 1969, they established three other schemes – two at Turkwel Valley (at Lokichar and Lokorikippe) and a third at Narongole. Eventually, the problems of unreliable rainfall, remoteness and marketing outweighed their efforts and they eventually wound down their operation

Katilu Irrigation Scheme, west of Lokichar, was started in 1966, along River Turkwel, which is one of tow perennial rivers in Turkana. Irrigation water was diverted by gravity through earth canal to the scheme. Today, it still stands as a relic of the ambitious projects aimed at enriching the lives of the Turkana. The scheme has been under rehabilitation since 2011, with the aim of reinstating its furrows. The main crops grown here include maize and green grams, sorghum.

34. Lokichar Hills

The scattered scrubland, covered with herbaceous plants, seen on the Lokichar Plains only subsides near Lokichar Hills. The increasing density of the woody plants on the hilly ground of these Hills beaks the monotony of the shrubby vegetation, which is repeated again and again until it becomes exhausting. “The Lokichar Hills with their impressive rocks stretch, offer tempting opportunities for hiking and a wonderful view from the top. Lokichar Town doesn’t offer any touring attractions but you get decent accommodation, food and petrol here”.

35. South Turkana National Reserve

Leaving Lokichar, en-route Kainuk, 65 kms south, one finally arrives at South Turkana National Reserve, near Katilu. This little oasis, teeming with a variety of fauna and flora, defies the odds of this austere, dry and arid inhospitable Turkana County.  Some of its notable wildlife are gazelles, dik-diks, lions and cheetahs, zebras and hyenas. South Turkana National Park is also home to large basks of crocodiles, over 80 species of birds, sweeping landscapes, hiking trails and camps.  There is a ring-road that runs across the park, from near Lokoro, in the east, to Katilu, in the west. It remains fairly undeveloped and unexplored.

36. Lokori Pillar Site

In contrast to the four prominent pillar site around Lake Turkana, Lokori Pillar Site, also known as Nariokotome II, lacks massive basalt pillars. In instead, the site is comprised of dozens of upright black slabs driven into ground to form low-lying concentric circle formations, with the larger often surrounding the smaller. These circular rings of short, upright slabs enclose burial pits covered by several layers of stone slabs. Also of interest nearby this site are several huge rocks bearing ancient rock art, depicting mainly animals. Not easily spotted from the road, as is with the Namoratunga Stones, Lokori Pillar Site is located 5 kms east of South Turkana National Reserve and about 64 kms from Lokichar.

37. Turkwel Dam

Just over the border of Turkana County, in West Pokot County, sits the 150 ms Turkwel Dam. Built between 1986-1991, it is Kenya’s tallest. Its hydro plant supplies the grid with 106 MW. Despite its relatively large output, power from the Turkwel Dam only connects to Kainuk Centre, south of Katilu. All other regions in Turkana rely on costly diesel powered generators.  Callers to Turkwel Dam can enjoy boating on the expansive dam or walk along its walkway, to view the Turkwel Escarpment.  Also found near Turkwel Dam is Nasolot National Reserve and the abandoned State House. It is located 42 kms from Katilu.

38. Nakegere Falls

Quite exceptional in that it is fed by warm waters from the Kapedo geysers, the 60 ms twin Nakegere Falls are one of the most scenically-splendid waterfalls in Kenya, overlooking the picturesque Silale Hills. Also known as Kapedo Falls and occurring along River Kapedo, they are also culturally important. Nakegere, which in the local language means a crack, has been a meeting place for the communities living around it; where peace has been maintained for decades despite the differences between the fierce tribes – Turkana and Kalenjin – who rarely see eye-to-eye. By the same token, a trip to the hauntingly beautiful falls is worth all the trouble of getting there. It is found 100 kms south of Lokori.

39. Marich Pass

The steep descent from 6110 ft, in Kitale Town, to 1500 ft, on the Lokichar Plains, loops and bends on a rocky cleft carved where the Muruny River emerges from the splendorous Cherangany Hills, known as the Marich Pass. The hair-raising drive pass cuts the Cherangani Hills from the Sekerr Ranges, passing past the abrupt peaks of the Morobus Hill, to its north, and the Samor Hills, to its south, which mark the unofficial gateposts of Marich Pass, where the heart-stopping 41 kms descend starts. It is located 32 kms from Kainuk. 

40. The Desert Mountains

Substantial volcanic activity in Turkana has produced a chain of impressive mountains, seen on any direction you take in the County.  The mountains, owing to their high elevation, are normally green year round, covered with thick bushes and high wooded covered peaks.  The main mountain ranges include, but not limited to, Loima, Lorengippi, Mogila, Songit, Kalapata, Lokichar Loriu, Kailongol,Kamutile, Taiti, Pelekech Range, Morua Rith and the Silale Hills. 

View of Cradle Tented Camp in Lodwar.  Photo Courtesy of Wangechi Gitahi Travels
View of Cradle Tented Camp in Lodwar.  Photo Courtesy of Wangechi Gitahi Travels

Geography of Turkana County

The major features of Turkana County includes low-lying open plains, mountain ranges and river drainage patterns. Lake Turkana is at an elevation of 360 meters (1,181 feet) while the surrounding basin is lies at 375-914 meters (1,230-3,000 feet). The main mountain ranges in Turkana County are Loima, Lorengippi, Mogila, Songot, Kalapata, Loriu, Kailongol and Silale mountains. The hills in Turkana County consist of Tepes Hills in Kibish Division, Lokwanamor Hills and Lorionotom Hills in Kaikor Division, Pelekech Hills in Kakuma Division and Loima Hills in Loima Division which are characterized by large forests. The open lying plains consist of the Kalapata and Lotikipi Plains.

Land Use in Turkana County

The settlement patterns in the Turkana County are determined largely by climate, soil fertility and infrastructure. Katilu has the largest number of people because of irrigated agriculture at Katilu Irrigation Scheme along the Turkwel River. Turkana People are traditionally pastoralists and the only notable migration pattern is rural to rural movement in the form of nomadism.  Most of the land in Turkana County is communally owned and the land is held in trust for the community by the County Council of Turkana.  Since land in the county is owned communally, there are very minimal  incidences of landlessness. In the rural areas, pastrolist herders are free to graze and settle in any area. 

Highlights in Turkana County

The main tourism attractions in the county are; Lake Turkana, inscribed as part of the Lake Turkana National Parks UNESCO World Heritage Site, Central Island National Park and South Turkana Game Reserve. It is the largest and most saline of the Rift Valley lakes. It is situated on the eastern part of Turkana.

Population in Turkana County

Turkana County’s population during the Kenya Population and Housing Census of 2009 stood at 855,399. The county’s population average growth rate is 6.4% per annum. Projected population for Turkana County in 2012 and 2017 was 1,036,586 and 1,256,152. Turkana County has a young population with 60% being under the age of 19 years.  Lodwar Town has the highest population projected to be 54,978 in 2012 – attributed to influx of people seeking jobs and the availability of infrastructure.  Turkana County the poorest of the 47 Counties of Kenya with 92% of the population living below the poverty line.

Lothagam Valley North Pillar Site.  Photo Courtesy of Turkana Basin Institute
Lothagam Valley North Pillar Site.  Photo Courtesy of Turkana Basin Institute

Airports in Turkana County

There is only one airport, in Lokichoggio and 22 air strips across the county. Lodwar Airstrip is tarmacked, while the rest are just leveled grounds. Over the past five years, Lodwar Airpot has become busy and three airlines operate regular scheduled flights.

Roads in Turkana County

Turkana County road network is poorly developed. The county has a total road network of 5,496.2 kms of which 488.5 kms are bitumen and 5007.7 kms earth surface. The challenges faced by this sub-sector include seasonal rivers that cut through roads and poor soils that increase the cost of road maintenance.

Climate in Turkana County

Rainfall in Turkana County follows a fairly erratic pattern, varying significantly both over time and space.  Turkana County is arid and semi-arid, with warm and hot climate that ranges between 20ºC and 41ºC with a mean of 30.5ºC. The driest months are January, February and September. The long rains season falls between April to July. Short rains occur in October and December.

View of Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle in Nariokotome
View of Missionary Community of Saint Paul the Apostle at Nariokotome

National Monuments in Turkana County

There are no designated national monuments in Turkana County