DOMESTIC TOURISM

All hail the North Part 2: L Turkana, Loiyangalani

The lake shimmers with brilliant colours from the sun rays

In Summary

• The lake announces itself with clear blue waters and the famous southern islands

Sunset at Lake Turkana, Marsabit county
Sunset at Lake Turkana, Marsabit county
Image: TEVIN MWENDA

Do you have a crazy friend, the one who every time you meet, you never know what to expect? Lake Turkana is like that friend, you never know what to expect with it.

The first time I visited the lake was four years ago, the Lodwar, Turkana county side. This time I had the chance of visiting the Loiyangalani side located in Marsabit county courtesy of Begin North Adventures.

Lake Turkana is a spectacular lake. It is known as the world's largest permanent desert lake and the world's largest alkaline lake. At first, all you see is the dry land and Mount Kulal. This is followed by the Lake Turkana wind power project, which happens to be the largest wind power project in Africa.

 

This is replaced by black volcanic rock that looks like something straight out of a sci-fi Hollywood movie, then out of nowhere, the lake announces itself with clear blue waters and the famous southern islands.

We arrived in the evening, just as the sun was setting over the lake, lighting the entire sky with a fierce orange colour and the waters with such a surreal blue. Loiyangalani is a small but vibrant town located at the shores of Lake Turkana. We stayed at the Tilamari Inn, a nice little hotel located on one of the oases at Loiyangalani.

The inn is covered by palm trees, creating the much-needed shade against the sun and the high temperatures. Our host was more than gracious to serve us with the famous Turkana fish. The fish from Lake Turkana tends to have a very unique taste and perhaps the best fish I have ever had. I spent most of my time four years ago looking for that fish during my last visit. It is a must-have when you visit.

The next day, given our limited time, we embarked on a visit to one of the El Molo villages located on the shores of the lake. The El Molo happens to be one of the smallest ethnic groups in Kenya. It is estimated that only about 400 pure El Molos are left in Kenya, as most of them have intermarried with the other ethnic groups in the region.

Apart from the El Molo, one can find the Turkana, Samburu and Rendile ethnic groups on the Marsabit side of Lake Turkana. It is always a pleasure learning about Kenyan ethnic groups' way of life, how they correlate and live together.

 
 

We proceeded to visit the desert museum. The museum is crescent-shaped and offers some magnificent views of the lake as it is located on a cliff overlooking the lake. The museum is rich with artefacts from the various ethnic groups that inhabit Marsabit county. However, the museum is a bit rundown and not properly curated and taken care of.

After lunch, our host at Tilamari offered to take us to the lake for a swim and to show us some of the economic activities that can be done along Lake Turkana. Swimming in Lake Turkana is truly an adventure of a lifetime. However, it is highly encouraged that one goes swimming with a local and one who knows the lake well, as it has crocodiles in some areas.

An interesting fact about the lake is that the sand tends to be black. Further, the lake tends to have hot and cold waves that hit you intermittently.

Once again, we were treated to the spectacular sunset over Lake Turkana. The lake shimmers with brilliant colours from the sun rays. The sky turns bright orange, a literal fire in the sky, and on the opposite side, Mt Kulal is covered in a flood of light, turning the mountain yellow. At that moment, words and photos cannot explain the phenomena, you witness.

Lake Turkana and the surrounding areas are full of economic potential that is yet to be fully utilised. Some of the activities one can do are tourism, cultural expeditions, filming location and water activities, such as boat rides along the lake, sports fishing and commercial fishing.

 

The downside is that it appears the government is yet to fully realise the full potential of Lake Turkana. The road to get there cannot be classified as the best, and the area is yet to be connected to the national grid, yet it is only a few kilometres away from the Lake Turkana wind power project.

We as a nation need to start changing the narrative around Lake Turkana from the desolate remote place we perceive but to what it truly is: the cradle of mankind, the beginning, where humanity first walked this earth. When you visit, you see why we chose this place as our beginning.

Special thank you to Mike, Begin North Adventures and Kelvin, Tilamari Inn, and the friends who came along for the ride.

For more information on travelling to Marsabit county email [email protected]

Tevin Mwenda is a lawyer based in Nairobi and an avid traveller

Edited by T Jalio