A Guide To Planning Your Trip To Turkana County
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My trip to Turkana County was a road trip spanning one week. It began from Kitale where I took a day’s rest from the western circuit tour. From Kitale, it is a 7-hour drive to Lodwar town and somewhere along the way the road network changes. Tarmacked roads end at Kapenguria town. From here on its lots of sandy roads.
The roads are underdeveloped and very bumpy. There is lots of sand and the remainder of the trip to the shores of Lake Turkana involves driving through sand terrain. Along the way you see some pastoralists and little development in terms of infrastructure and road network. Lodwar town is sleepy and has little development.
How To Get There
This is a long journey that will require an overnight stay in Kitale and if you are going all the way to the shores of Lake Turkana then another night stay in Lodwar town. I spent the night at Kitale Town at Crane Suites. Once in Lodwar Town, I checked in at Stegra Hotel and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Lodwar Town before heading over to Eliye Springs Resort at the shores of Lake Turkana.
This is the fastest way to get to Turkana County. There are two major airports in Turkana County. One is in Lokichoggio and the other one is in Lodwar. The Lodwar airport is busy with flights from Eldoret and Nairobi. The flight from Lodwar to Nairobi is about 2 hours via Eldoret.
Lake Turkana Tourism
Turkana County is Kenya’s second-largest county with a population of slightly over a million people. The county also has two permanent rivers – River Turkwel and River Kerio and a bounty of diverse ecosystems just waiting to be explored by visitors. The main town in Turkana County is Lodwar town.
Most people know Lake Turkana as the lake in Northern Kenya that is surrounded by lots of drylands. Lake Turkana, also known as the Jade Sea, was originally named Lake Rudolf in 1888. It was renamed Lake Turkana in 1975.
The lake is famous for its greenish-blue colours hence the nickname Jade Sea. It is the largest alkaline lake in the world and I must add the best place to swim too. The Lake is a place of relaxation, I found the water to be very calming especially swimming in the evening to a night under the stars and after an active day exploring and hiking. The water was soothing and the atmosphere breathtaking
On our way to Eliye Springs, we stopped over along the way where we came across standing stones of Namorutunga also called the pillars of truth located off the main road between Lodwar and Kalokol. These stones remain a sacred place for the Turkana people to date and this area is believed to be from about 2,000 years ago.
Turkana county is one of the counties that have the most significant archaeological sites making it the cradle of mankind. A Homo Erectus skeleton was discovered here in 1984 by a Kenyan conservationist named Dr. Richard Leakey. It is believed that the skeleton that was that of a boy who lived in Turkana about 1.6 million years ago.
We lost our way a couple of times as the road network was unclear. We finally got to our destination Eliye Springs Resort about a two-hour drive from Lodwar, where we spent a couple of days and I will be sharing a guide on the things to do while on this part of Turkana County.
Where To Stay In Lodwar Turkana County
Stegra Hotel is along the main highway. This makes it convenient for any business traveller as its conveniently located near Lodwar Town. If you have meetings in Lodwar then it’s easily accessible. I had an overnight stay here before heading to Eliye Springs Resort. Staying here also gave me a chance to tour Lodwar Town.
Eliye Springs Resort
Eliye Springs Resort has located at the shores of Lake Turkana a great place for travellers of leisure who want to experience the natural aspect of the northern frontier. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to wind down the last month of the year. I am still marvelling over Eliye Springs Resort. Read more on my stay here.
Things To Do In Turkana County
Visit the Jesus Statue
The Jesus statue is located at the heart of Lodwar Town, inside the Catholic Archdiocese of Lodwar. It resembles the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The sunset views here are spectacular. While standing here you will see the Turkwel river that goes across Lodwar town and feeds into Lake Turkana.
Experience The Turkana Culture
There are very few places remaining in Kenya where you can witness a traditional culture of such beauty and integrity. The Turkana culture is seen by a unique wealth of dresses, hairstyles, jewellery, songs, and craftsmanship. A visit to Turkana Land offers you the chance to experience the fascinating pastoralist way of life.
About 70% of Turkana people continue to practice their traditional way of life to date. When you visit Turkana, you will encounter their traditional homesteads known as Bomas, that are built in a temporary way. This is because they are pastoralists and they move from place to place in search of pasture for their livestock.
The Turkana people also depend on their culture as a way to earn a living through tourism. When you visit the homesteads, experience their way of life, the locals earn a living through local and international tourists who visit their homesteads, purchase their unique jewellery, dress, traditional craftsmanship and entertainment from their traditional songs and dance.
Homesteads are run by the women. They build the homesteads including where their animals stay. Their homesteads are quite small made of locally available materials. These are reed plants found at the shores of the lake.
Explore South Turkana National Reserve
Here you will find wild animals such as Elephants, Leopards and Zebras.
See Nature At Its Best
You will see Silali Volcano, Loima Hills, Mogila Range and the Lokichar Hills where you can take hiking tours. Being a dry place why not explore the area through camel walks
Take Boat Trips
Explore the large expanse of Lake Turkana using boat trips. One of the unforgettable experiences I had was the one-hour boat trip from Eliye Springs to Central Island National Park. Unforgettable because I was seasick, however the arrival to the Island was truly worth it. You can also go for fishing trips around the Fergusson Gulf.
Water Sporting Activities
These can easily be done at River Turkwel where you can go angling or river rafting.
Places to Visit
Central Islands National Park
It is managed by The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is located in the heart of Lake Turkana. There are 3 crater lakes inside Central Islands. The crocodile lake, flamingo lake and fish lake. I didn’t get to see flamingos as they had migrated elsewhere but the views around are stunning and its a good place to do some low key hiking. However, reports from the staff at KWS tells me that this is a beautiful site to see when the flamingos are on site. It takes about an hour to get to the top of the islands, with directed hiking paths.
The Islands are wilderness with spectacular views of the lake from the top of the craters. The crocodile lake is home to crocodiles, a breeding area for these animals making it a protected area. I saw a few swimming across the lake and the best place to view them is to hike to the top of the lake to see them.
Another lake is tilapia lake that hosts plenty of fish. This lake is in the middle and sandwiched between the crocodile lake and the flamingo lake.
There’s little fishing that happens in Lake Turkana especially when it’s dry. There are few fishermen too. The fish harvested here suffers a lot of loss, lack of hygiene and sanitation facilities for its handling. The bulk of what remains is dried under dusty conditions diminishing its market value. The dried fish is tasty… I tried one and I loved it.
It is a great place to watch fishermen as they go about their fishing business. You can also see the process of how they harvest their fish, store it and prepare it for sale. Their biggest market in Central Africa.
- There are certain items are a must carry. I share a comprehensive packing guide here.
- The best way to experience a Turkana tour is by staying there for at least 7 days. Read the complete 7-day itinerary here.
- Travelling to a new destination requires a lot of planning. This process can be daunting too. I have made it easier by creating a budget for you. Download it below.
- The easiest and convenient way to travel to Turkana county to explore all its beauty and splendour is by air. It is a much shorter option. Travelling by road is much longer and exhausting.
- Since Turkana is far, accessibility to most tourist attractions is much pricier than other tourist destinations in Kenya. For instance, a boat ride from Eliye Springs Resort to Central Island National park is Ksh. 20,000. An equivalent of $200. This is quite pricey and you should consider travelling as a group to the island to reduce your transport costs. You can find a comprehensive budget to the Northern Frontier here.
- Road trips have advantages as you travel longer, you will stop over to take photos, interact with locals and see ancient places as Turkana is considered the cradle of mankind. However, travel by road is also pricey and therefore consider travelling as a group to reduce transport costs.
- Travelling via air is more convenient however also consider on the ground transport from one place to another. Locally, there are motorbikes available which I would not recommend if travelling solo, instead hire a vehicle and the most popular mode of transport are Probox taxis available in Lodwar town.
- Have an extra amount of money for drinks if you plan on staying at Eliye Springs Resort. Drinks are charged separately from room and board, even if you are staying on full board.
Download Your Budget To Turkana County
Turkana has so much to offer in terms of Tourism. Are you still sceptical? Do you still have questions about visiting the Northern Frontier? Leave a comment below or contact me. You can also watch my VLOG to the Northern Frontier here.
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