This article lists the best places to visit in Garissa County. In the northern part of Kenya lies Garissa County, one of the least visited areas with so much to offer in nature and sightseeing places. The largest town in the county is Garissa town, which doubles up as the county’s capital.

Garissa County lies on the Tana River and is popular as the geographical ‘gateway’ to the northeastern part of Kenya. It is about a 5-hour and 30-minute drive from Nairobi through Thika Road onto Mwingi, Bangali and finally to Garissa town. Most of Garissa’s inhabitants are ethnic Somalis from the Ogaden clan, who practice their traditions to date, You get to experience the rich history and cultural heritage here. In no particular order, here is a list of the best places to visit in Garissa County.

Best Places To Visit In Garissa County

1. Garissa Community Giraffe Sanctuary

It is a community-based conservation initiative, situated about 3 kilometres from Garissa town, in the village of Bour-Algi. The Giraffe Sanctuary has a growing population of Rothschild giraffes. Other animal species in the sanctuary include the rare, long-necked Gerenuk (aka. “giraffe gazelle”), unique to this region.

The Sanctuary also encompasses smaller populations of 26 other species of game animals and more than 450 bird species. It is just 10 minutes south of Garissa town, along the green river belt, lush with acacia trees. Built and maintained by local visionaries, the park has suffered from a lack of maintenance.

The keepers will take you across the sanctuary, explain about the giraffes and even let you feed them. A nature trail is found within the sanctuary, where you can go for walks, sightseeing, and birdwatching. You will be required to pay a small fee at the entrance, which essentially goes towards improving the facility and caring for the animals. If you are feeling a little generous, don’t forget to tip the wardens and keepers for doing such a commendable job.

2. Lake Ishaqbini and Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy

The Conservancy is also an initiative of the local communities to protect the endangered Hirola. Currently, the Hirolas are home to about 120 other animals, including giraffes, warthogs, kudu, gerenuk, ostriches, and even a unique group of maneless plains zebras. The Conservancy has employed youth from the community, among them scouts, who patrol the conservancy 24 hours to ensure the safety of the wildlife.

The project has further brought developments in the area due to the tourists visiting the place, so don’t forget to be generous with your tips, as the proceeds go towards developing the community. Nature trails are found within the conservancy that will take you through beautiful vegetation and bird-watching adventures.

Aside from the wildlife attractions, Lake Ishaqbini is located within the conservancy, making it perfect for sightseeing and photo sessions.

3. Garissa University

This is one of the largest tertiary institutions in the region, with students from all over the country coming to further their education. It also has historical significance because four gunmen, allegedly from the Al-Shabab group, stormed the university on April 2, 2015, killing 148 students and injuring 79 others in a horrific bloodbath. A monument with the names of the deceased has been erected; please stop by and pay your respects.

4. Garissa Culture and Heritage Centre

If you enjoy culture, then Garissa is rich in the ancestry and heritage of the Somali culture. You can visit the Garissa Culture and Heritage Centre, which is within Garissa Town, and learn more about the way of life of the local people here. They host an annual cultural week in September for members of the community to exchange ideas, teach future generations their culture, share their traditional meals and drinks, and enjoy their songs and dances.

The centre has stored artefacts dating way back, starting with farm implements, cooking tools and even weaponry. The guides are well versed with what each artefact represents and will give you details on the same. Somalis are also basket weavers, and some of their wares and jewellery are sold to interested guests. The ornaments are stunning and so are the baskets, so be sure to take one home with you.

5. Tana River

The mighty River Tana, with its turbid water swirling its way to the sea, is ostensibly one of the tourist attractions that welcomes a visitor to Garissa after a backbreaking and thirsty drive across water-starved Mwingi, Nguni, Ukasi, and Bangale terrain.

Before crossing the Tana, attractions include herds of camels, which are the most prized livestock in northern Kenya, valued for their milk and resilience to harsh climatic conditions. Giraffes, zebras, and dik dik, which reputedly are the smallest animals in the antelope family, also decorate the arid landscape. The River Tana, crowded with snakes and crocodiles, has a great potential to attract adrenaline-seeking travellers.

6. Arawale National Reserve

The Arawale National Reserve is 77 km south of Garissa Town. It was gazetted by the government of Kenya in 1974 as the conservation site for the critically endangered Hirola, Hunter’s hartebeest population. Today, Dr Abdullahi Ali (the Green Oscar’s 2020 award winner) of the Hirola Conservation Program (HCP), together with the Herders of Hirola and the County Government of Garissa, are working together not only to save these Hirola antelopes but also to reinstate and restore Arawale National Reserve and, at the same time, improve the community’s livelihood.

The activities in this park include game viewing, where you will see animals like the Hunter’s Hartebeest, the Gravy Zebra, the African Wild Dog, elephants, Giraffes, Cheetahs, lesser kudus, buffaloes, Topi, hippos and crocodiles.

Bird Watching: There are several bird species, both migratory from Europe and North Africa and local birds. Cultural visits to the local communities and guided nature walks.

7. Boni National Reserve

The reserve was gazetted in 1976 as a dry-season sanctuary for elephants in the former Ijara and Lamu districts. It occupies an area of approximately 1,339 square kilometres.

Located towards the south of Garissa, almost bordering Lamu County, is this national reserve that is home to hundreds of animal species, including the rare ones like the Topi antelope, a haven for game viewing, and bird watching. You will also get to see animals like elephants, buffalo, giraffes, Topi, gerenuk, Harvey’s and Aders duikers, bush pigs, zebras, waterbucks, wild dogs and over 100 species of birds.

Visitors are taken on game drives to see the animals closely and even take photos of the stunning animals, so be sure to bring your camera with you. Apart from wildlife viewing, bird watching is also a top activity at the reserve, since hundreds of various birds constantly flock there in search of food and water.

Nature trails are found within the reserve, ideal for treks and walks to get inbound with nature, and marvel at the different plant species and insects seen along the way.

8. Nomad Palace Hotel

It is situated along the Garissa-Dadaab road. Nomad is said to be the first hotel in the town to be fitted with Internet and other digital world facilities. Once at the Nomad, the uninspiring surroundings where heat, wind and litter seem to conspire to make life uncomfortable slip to the background, replaced by verdant lawns and trees that provide a buffer against the scorching sun.

It offers exquisite accommodation in guest rooms categorised as deluxe twin rooms, deluxe double rooms, suites, and superior double rooms. It also prides itself on state-of-the-art conference facilities, a business centre, a minibar and a restaurant that serves sumptuous meals.

9. Palm Oasis

The former Almond Resort, located near Garissa town, is part of Garissa’s rapidly expanding hospitality industry, catering to middle-budget business and casual travellers. Palm Oasis has all of the amenities of a modern resort, including large, spacious rooms with air conditioning, cable TV, internet, comfortable queen beds, a swimming pool, gym, spa, outdoor garden, terrace, and a business centre.

Palm Oasis has 75 en-suite rooms (45 standard rooms and 30 deluxe rooms) spread across a two-story complex that overlooks the swimming pool and gardens. Overall, this resort, along with the Nomad Palace Hotel and the Lantern Resort, is now one of Garissa County’s most popular attractions. These are exceptional in Garissa because they provide luxurious accommodations for both business and leisure travellers to the region. Palm Oasis is located 5 kilometres from Garissa Airport.

10. Lantern Resort

This is another cutting-edge facility located on Lamu Road in Garissa town that provides luxurious accommodations to guests in deluxe rooms and suites designed to meet your preferences, not to mention the breathtaking views you can enjoy from whatever room you choose.

Enjoy swimming in their outdoor pool, where you can also relax while sipping your favourite drink. Nothing enhances a visit like good food, and the Lantern Resort understands this all too well. You have the option of sampling either local or international cuisines, and the chefs will not disappoint. Other benefits include ample parking, a strong internet connection, and tight security.

10. Kora View Hotel

Kora View Hotel, which borrows its name from the Kora game reserve across the river Tana, is much smaller but appealing for its cosy service.

11. Garissa Solar Power Plant

It is about 20 kilometres north of Garissa town and it is worth a visit while in Garissa.

How to Get to Garissa by Road

Going to Garissa by road will initially send you through Thika Road. Shortly after Thika, the scenery changes. From the green, crowded surroundings of Nairobi, you suddenly enter the hilly, semi-arid and sparsely populated Ukambani.

After Mwingi, the home town of former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, the scenery gradually gets flatter and more arid. Dry riverbeds bear witness to the seasonal droughts. Eventually, you reach what locals call the “last mountain before Hargeisa”. From there, the landscape turns flat and monotonous, with dense, low bushes. The last few kilometres are the only ones with some serious potholes. When you get there, you know you are close. The police checkpoint by the river is the “entrance portal” to Garissa. Once past it, there you are.