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Travel: Attractions in Marsabit

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2 weeks ago we did an article on the Marsabit Lake Turkana Festival that happens annually at Marsabit but we thought the land itself was a little more deserving of a more in depth article. So here is why Marsabit is a gorgeous destination that is worth the visit.

The Marsabit Cultural festival. Image from https://rove.me/to/kenya/the-lake-turkana-festival

Marsabit County is located on the Eastern part of Kenya; towards the north (it borders Ethiopia to its northern border). The county’s total land mass is 66,923.7 square kilometres. Marsabit Town is the capital town of the county; while Laisamis is also a major trading centre in the county. Marsabit County is bordered by Ethiopia Republic to its northern border, Lake Turkana to the west, Samburu County to the south-west, Isiolo County to the south-east and Wajir County to the east.

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An article by the Daily Nation shares how Marsabit County could actually help boost the tourism industry in Kenya by offering an alternative form of tourism: heritage tourism. According to the National Tourism Industry Strategy, 2013-2018, Kenya has developed an over-reliance on wildlife and the Indian Ocean beaches as tourist attractions.

While Kenyan wildlife coupled with beaches have in the past made Kenya one of Africa’s top tourist destinations, both wildlife and their habitats are threatened by climate change with poaching posing a big challenge to the industry while Kenyan beaches are facing stiff competition from the pristine beaches of Mauritius and Zanzibar.

In these circumstances, Kenya has to shift its focus from beach and safari products to cultural and historical destinations. And with its rich cultural heritage, Marsabit County is the best for heritage tourism. The County has always carried a mystique of the remote and unexplored. It boasts six World Heritage Sites, a part of 981 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value. We have talked about the Marsabit Lake Turkana Cultural Festival which you should attend at least once in your lifetime. We will focus on other attractions.

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Marsabit Attractions

1.Sibiloi National Park  lies on the North-eastern shore of Lake Turkana in Marsabit County, about 800km from Nairobi. The 1570km² park was established in 1973 by the government for the protection of wildlife and the unique prehistoric and archaeological sites found there some of which are linked to the origin of man. This has made it famous internationally as ‘The cradle of mankind’.  Activities include Game viewing, Camping, Archaeological safaris, and Bird watching.

2.The 1,554 Km2 Marsabit National Park lies 560km north of Nairobi in Marsabit County encompassing Mt. Marsabit, an extinct volcano which rises to 1,707M (5,600ft). The height of the mountain creates a microclimate that supports the montane forest which is supplied water by thick mist which forms overnight as the hot air rises off the desert and cools. The park comprises of the densely forested mountain and three crater lakes.

Lake Paradise (Gof Sokorte Guda and Crater Lake (Gof Sokorte Dida) are the only permanent surface of water in the region and they provide the habitat that sustains the ecology of the park. The largest is Lake Paradise and it is ringed with a scenic forest. The park is the only source of drinking water for Marsabit town residents and the main source of replenishment for other aquifers in the lowlands. The major attractions of this region include Land of Gofs (Craters), the great Elephant Tuskers, pristine forests, diverse birdlife, the greater Kudu, realm of raptors, and bird life.  Check out this article on Marsabit National Park Reserve by Kishiswakisha on some of the things we saw on a roadtrip there.

The Park is known for its Elephants that have impressive tusks and the endangered Grevy’s zebra. The magical Paradise Lake is home to a wide variety of waterfowl, the singing wells where locals fetch water.

Marsabit National Park was the home of Ahmed the Great Tusker known as the “King of Marsabit”. He was a giant Elephant and was the only Elephant to get state protection.  President Jomo Kenyatta in 1970 placed Ahmed under state protection by presidential decree. Ahmed was the only Elephant to be declared a living monument. He was guarded day and night to protect him from poachers. Ahmed was a loner and was quite elusive. In 1974 when he was 55, he was found dead resting majestically on his tusks, half learning against a tree. If you go to the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi you will see a mounted exhibit of him at the entrance.

Ahmed the Elephant. Image from http://www.schenk-taxidermy.com/ahmed—a-story.html

3.Central and South Island National Parks, the island is located in Lake Turkana and is only 5km2. The volcanic active Central Island with two of its crater lakes. It is a small active volcano and has three scenic Crater Lakes; Crocodile Lake, Flamingo Lake and Tilapia Lake.

4.LOIYANGALANI

Last but not least, for those looking to interact with the smallest tribe in Kenya, Loiyangalani is a fascinating place to visit. Loiyangalani is a small native town located on the southern coast of the Lake Turkana. In the native Samburu language, the name Loiyangalani means a place of many trees. Loiyangalani is the home of the El molos, the smallest tribe in Kenya still living in their traditional ways.

Naku a young girl from the small El Molo tribe. The El Molo live on the shores of L. Turkana in Loyiangalani
Naku a young girl from the small El Molo tribe. The El Molo live on the shores of L. Turkana in Loyiangalani

El molos Lake Turkana

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Located on top of a hill, with the picturesque Lake Turkana as a backdrop, the Desert Museum in Loiyangalani was opened in June 2008. In a bid to promote local and international tourism in the region, The Kenya Tourism Board together with the National Museums of Kenya and  in collaboration with other partners have been organizing the Lake Turkana Festival, a cultural festival held annually in Loiyangalani to celebrate the culture of the region.

The Marsabit County government took over the festival this year and it was a success. The county says that it ready to work with the Kenya Tourism Board and the National Museums of Kenya to promote heritage tourism, with county governor Ukur Yatani says that his government is investing in infrastructure to make the sights easily accessible to both local and international tourists.

Shabiq Kenya gave some of the best recommended Lodge and resorts facilities such as Normads Trail Hotel, Turkwel Lodge, Jirime Hotel and Resort, Ahmed and Abdul Camp Sites, Al-Yusra Hotel, Hotel Abreham in Moyale, Marsabit Lodge. Normads Trail Hotel, Turkwel Lodge, Jirime Hotel and Resort, Ahmed and Abdul Camp Sites, Al-Yusra Hotel, Hotel Abreham in Moyale, and Marsabit Lodge.

In case you would like more information, one more site that may be good to check out, besides the others given above would be the Kenya County Guide.

We will be doing a review of some of the hotels we visited so keep it here.

Article by Shingai Kagunda and Rayhab Gachango.

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