Here is a list of the best places to visit in Marsabit County. Marsabit, affectionately referred to as the Cradle of Mankind by anthropologists because of its prehistoric sites, is an adventure lover’s paradise.

Marsabit County is located in the more arid northern part of Kenya. Regardless of the climate, it’s one of the richest counties in natural minerals. Its unique topography, which features volcanoes, crater lakes, and wildlife, makes it an attractive destination for adventure and nature enthusiasts throughout the year.

Best Places To Visit In Marsabit County

1. Loiyangalani Town

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 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.

The town grew from a freshwater spring and is known as an oasis in the desert. Because of the unique desert environment and the rich cultural lifestyle of the people of Lake Turkana, it is quickly becoming a tourist attraction. An airstrip, post office, fishing station, campsites, and lodges are among the town’s amenities.

The National Museums of Kenya, in collaboration with other partners, organise the Lake Turkana Festival, a cultural festival held annually in Loiyangalani to celebrate the culture of this region and to promote both local and international tourism. Loiyangalani was the setting for John le Carré’s novel, The Constant Gardener, and was also a location for the film of the same title.

Main activities: Boat rides in Lake Turkana, visit to El Molo shrines, visit rock arts in Marti (4km from town), visit to South Island and Central Island National Parks, the annual cultural festival in May, filming, and bird watching.

Accommodation: Desert Museum Villas, Oasis Lodge, Palm Shade Camp, Malabo Camp, Tilamari Camp. Island Campsite, among others

2. Desert Museum Loiyangalani

The Desert Museum, Loiyangalani, which is located on top of a hill with a view of the picturesque Lake Turkana, also known as the “Jade Sea,” opened in June 2008. It focuses on the lives of the residents of the eight communities in the area. Turkana, El-Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Gabra, Watta, Borana, and Dassanach are the eight communities. In recognition of the unique cultures in this region and its mandate to preserve and promote Kenya’s rich cultural and natural heritage, the National Museums of Kenya decided to establish a museum in the area.

3. Lake Turkana National Park

Lake Turkana National Park is made of Sibiloi National Park, the South Island, and the Central Island National Parks, covering a total area of 161,485 hectares located within the Lake Turkana basin, whose total surface area is 7 million hectares.

The Lake is the most saline lake in East Africa and the largest desert lake in the world. It is surrounded by an arid, seemingly extraterrestrial landscape that is often devoid of life. The long body of Lake Turkana drops down along the Rift Valley from the Ethiopian border, extending 249 kilometres from north to south and 44 kilometres at its widest point, with a depth of 30 metres. It is Africa’s fourth-largest lake, fondly called the Jade Sea because of its breathtaking colour. It represents unique geo-morphological features with fossil deposits on sedimentary formations, as well as one hundred identified archaeological and paleontological sites. There are numerous volcanic overflows with petrified forests. The existing ecological conditions provide habitats for maintaining diverse flora and fauna.

The three National Parks serve as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and are major breeding grounds for the Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus, and a variety of venomous snakes.  The Lake Turkana region is home to hundreds of species of birds endemic to Kenya. The East African Rift System also serves as a flyway for migrating birds, bringing in hundreds more. The birds are essentially supported by plankton masses in the lake, which also feed the fish. The lake formerly contained Africa’s largest population of Nile crocodiles: 14,000, as estimated in a 1968 study by Alistair Graham.

4. Sibiloi National Park

Located on the wild and rugged shores of Lake Turkana, Sibiloi is home to important archaeological sites, including Koobi Fora. The area is characterised by semi-desert habitat and open plains flanked by volcanic formations, including Mount Sibiloi, where the remains of a petrified forest can be seen.

Sibiloi serves as a stopover for migrant waterfowl and is a major breeding ground for the Nile crocodile. Terrestrial wildlife includes Zebras, Grant Gazelles, Lions, Leopards, Stripped Hyenas, Beisa Oryx, Greater Kudu, Cheetahs and Northern Topi, among others. A total of over 350 species of aquatic and terrestrial birds have been recorded in Lake Turkana.

Sibiloi is surrounded by the Turkana, the Gabra and the Dassanach, who are communities with very rich and unpolluted traditional cultures. Sibiloi was listed as one of the 15 locations in the world that would experience a total solar eclipse on November 3, 2013. The total solar eclipse would have lasted a maximum of 1 minute and 39 seconds. About 1,000 tourists flocked to Sibiloi National Park to get a glimpse of the rare occurrence.

Sibiloi National Park borders the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, the planet’s biggest permanent desert lake, offering untamed landscapes consisting of islands, shorelines, deserts, volcanoes, and forested mountains inhabited by a multitude of peoples of diverse traditions. Covering 1,570 square kilometres of scenic wilderness, the park, which is about 800 kilometres from Nairobi, offers much more than just wildlife. The semi-desert ecosystem was established to protect wildlife as well as the unique prehistoric and archaeological sites, some of which are linked to the origin of man.

5. South Island National Park

Covered end to end in volcanic ash, the nightly glow of its South Island’s luminous vents has inspired numerous tales of ghosts and evil spirits. The island is home to a profusion of birdlife, including 34 species of European migrants, most spectacularly viewed as they return home between March and May. At least 23 species breed here, including the Goliath Heron, and African Skimmer, while African Open-billed Stork, Ducks and Gulls feed on the shores, and the volcanic island lakes attract lesser flamingos. Birds of prey are also abundant, especially swallow-tailed kites. This park is ideal for game-watching and has one of the world’s largest concentrations of crocodiles.

6. Central Island National Park

Emerging starkly from the blue-green waters of the largest permanent desert lake in the world, Lake Turkana, the Central Island is made up of three active volcanoes that belch sulphurous smoke and steam. Three crater lakes—Crocodile Lake, Flamingo Lake, and Tilapia Lake—provide breeding grounds for the world’s largest concentration of Nile crocodiles. Central Island has a campsite where visitors can enjoy the beautifully haunting sight of the lake’s luminous waters wash up onto a black lava beach while the moon rises over the menacingly smoking craters.

7. Marsabit National Park

Marsabit National Reserve covers an area of 1,500 square kilometres and consists of a forested mountain that rises like an oasis in the middle of the desert wilderness. The reserve has three spectacular crater lakes that provide a habitat for a variety of birds.

Located 560 kilometres north of Nairobi, Marsabit National Reserve can be accessed both by road and air. It is served by an airstrip, located only one kilometre north of Marsabit town. Apart from Lake Paradise, the Reserve has some of the largest elephants in the country, such as Ahmed, who was provided with 24-hour protection by presidential order. Ahmed, who boasted some of the biggest tusks ever recorded, died at age 55, and his body was preserved and is now on display at the Nairobi National Museum.

Other wildlife species are the Buffalo, Greater/Lesser Kudu, Hyena, Grevy’s Zebra, Kirk’s Dik-Dik, Lion, Leopard, and Baboons, among others. The beautiful Marsabit National Park is a refuge for big-tusked bull elephants, diverse birdlife, and reptiles. It also provides opportunities for visits to the singing wells and hikes in the dense forest, wreathed in mist.

8. Koobi Fora Prehistoric Site

Northern Kenya holds an unsurpassed archive of human prehistory. It holds the world’s richest record of human pre-history, the longest and most complete record of human ancestry spanning over 27 million years and a rich fossil heritage stretching back over 100 million years into the dinosaur age. And it’s from this that the county of Marsabit got its name as the ‘’cradle of mankind’’.

This is the largest and most well-documented collection of human-related fossils that exists, is unmatched anywhere in the world, and can only be found at the Koobi Fora Museum and the National Museums of Kenya Headquarters. The museum hosts replicas of the fossils found in the park and also has a collection of photos of the people of Northern Kenya, as well as some of the wildlife that used to inhabit the park before the climate of the area changed.

The Koobi Fora Museum and Research Station is housed in Sibiloi National Park. The fossils include a giant tortoise, a 45-foot-long crocodile, and a giant elephant believed to have lived millions of years ago, with their remains still intact in the exact places they were discovered.

9. Chalbi Desert

The Chalbi Desert is the only terrain in the whole of East Africa that can be classified as a true desert. Located east of Lake Turkana, the Chalbi Desert is the largest permanent lake desert in the world and is believed to be the hottest and most arid region in Kenya.

Chalbi, which in the local language means bare and salty, is believed to have been a lake that dried up millions of years ago. It has bleached soil, coarse rocks, and sand, a destination that requires a 4WD to course through the desert. Despite the unfavourable conditions, you’ll see animals such as hyenas, endangered Grevy’s zebra, and oryx. Because of the salty ground, the animals use the desert as a salt lick. However, in the area the Chalbi Desert covers, there are several unique features. They include

  • Kalacha: An oasis that provides water for animals, pastoralists, and travellers to quench their thirst. It also has acacia and palm trees that offer some shade from the scorching sun.
  • Mount Forell and Huri Hills: These are much greener regions where the Gabra people live, and the climate is more lenient.

10. The Petrified Forest

The forest is approximately 5 km away from the Karsa Gate (the main entrance to Sibiloi National Park). There are signs inside the park so it shouldn’t be too difficult to drive there. The Petrified Forest is the only one of its kind in Kenya. Petrified wood (from the Greek root petro meaning “rock” or “stone”; literally, “wood turned into stone”) is the name given to a special type of fossilized remains of terrestrial vegetation. Petrified wood is formed when the organic matter in plant material is gradually replaced by minerals. This process is called permineralization. The plant material gets buried by sediment, and mineral-rich water flows through the sediment, replacing the original plant material with inorganic matter such as silica.

The Petrified Forest serves as an example that the effects of climate change are real.

11. Mt Kulal

Mount Kulal is located east of Lake Turkana, and it’s an eroded-down, extinct volcano. It’s been a biosphere reserve since 1978, and it is 2285 metres high. It’s the only place the Kulal white-eye (Zosterops kulalensis) was discovered. This is a unique bird that occurs on this mountain and nowhere else in the world.

Mount Kulal, an eroded volcano situated east of Lake Turkana and 50 km from Loiyangalani, stands at a height of 2,293 metres, commanding the eastern horizon of the lake. Its rugged slopes, cloaked in dense forest, present an exhilarating hiking trail for adventurers. Ascending to the summit rewards trekkers with a breathtaking panoramic vista, offering sweeping views of Lake Turkana below and, on clear days, even stretching as far as Lake Victoria. Mount Kulal’s majestic presence and scenic beauty make it a compelling destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in the raw wilderness of northern Kenya.

12. Sololo-Moyale Escarpment

This escarpment hosts the Sololo town and is located on the border of Kenya and Ethiopia. The area has semi-arid climatic conditions, and the locals there get their electricity connection from Ethiopia, which is 5 kilometres away.

13. Mt Marsabit

Mount Marsabit, a prominent landmark in northern Kenya, is 5.8 km away from Marsabit town and is an extinct shield volcano rising approximately 1,700 metres above sea level. Surrounded by Marsabit National Park, this ancient geological formation boasts a diverse ecosystem of lush forests, volcanic craters, and montane grasslands.

The mountain is a vital water catchment area, sustaining various wildlife species, including elephants, buffaloes, and unique birdlife. Mount Marsabit holds cultural significance for the local Borana and Rendille communities, who regard it as a sacred site. Visitors can embark on hiking expeditions to explore its scenic trails, encounter wildlife, and immerse themselves in the rich natural and cultural heritage of the region.

14. El Molo Villages and Shrines

The El Molo, an indigenous community residing along the shores of Lake Turkana in Marsabit County, maintain traditional villages and sacred shrines that reflect their distinctive way of life. El Molo villages are often composed of unique circular thatched huts, emphasising their nomadic fishing lifestyle.

These close-knit communities showcase traditional dances, rituals, and crafts, providing visitors with a glimpse into El Molo’s rich cultural heritage. Sacred shrines dotting the landscape, hold spiritual significance for the El Molo, serving as places of worship and cultural identity. These shrines are integral to their belief system, linking the community to their ancestral roots and spiritual practices.

15. Kaisut Desert

The Kaisut Desert is a hidden gem that is frequently overlooked by tourists and is one of Kenya’s lesser-known deserts. It is a vast expanse of sand dunes, rocky outcrops, and thorny bushes located in the northern part of the country. The Kaisut Desert is known for its rough terrain, which includes sand dunes, rocky outcrops, and dry riverbeds. Hiking through the desert allows visitors to discover the region’s unique flora and fauna, including Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk, and lesser kudu.

The presence of the Turkana people, who have lived in this region for thousands of years, is one of the most striking features of the Kaisut Desert. The Turkana are nomadic herders who have adapted to desert conditions while maintaining their traditional way of life. The desert can be explored on foot or by camel, with breathtaking views of the rugged terrain and the unique flora and fauna. Visitors can interact with Turkanas and learn about their distinctive culture and traditions.

16. Kalacha Camp

Nestled in the heart of Kenya’s Chalbi Desert, it offers a unique retreat amidst the vast expanse of arid landscapes. This eco-friendly camp provides travellers with comfortable accommodations in traditional Rendille and Gabbra huts, allowing them to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Beyond its cosy lodging, Kalacha Camp serves as a gateway to ancient rock art sites, where visitors can marvel at the intricate paintings and engravings left by early inhabitants thousands of years ago. Exploring these rock art sites offers a fascinating glimpse into the history and artistic expressions of past civilisations in the desert.

17. The ‘Singing Wells’ of Marsabit

The ‘Singing Wells’ of Marsabit is an age-old cultural experience mainly practised by herders as they draw water from wells to quench the thirst of the livestock, their main source of livelihood. It’s a melodic show that encourages and entertains them as they undertake the communal activity. The singing wells are found around Marsabit Mountain.

18. Lake Paradise

Lake Paradise is located on the cliff edges of Mt Marsabit, atop an extinct volcano that stands 1,340 metres above sea level. The park’s diverse scenery, flora, and fauna, as well as the prominently located crater lake in the heart of Marsabit Forest, astounds visitors.

Lake Paradise is known as one of Northern Kenya’s jewels, and it is home to legendary elephants Ahmed and Abdul, among others. These are the jumbos with the longest tusks in Kenya. The scenic forest surrounds it, and rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Service are constantly on guard.

Martin Elmer Johnson and his wife Osa Helen Johnson, filmmakers and authors, brought the lake to global attention through their films and books about adventure in exotic and faraway places. The Johnsons spent much of their second and longest trip, from 1924 to 1927, in Northern Kenya, specifically near Lake Paradise and Mt Marsabit. The films Martin’s Safari (1928), Osa’s Four Years in Paradise (1941), and Simba: King of the Beasts (1928) were made using footage from those trips.

Locals call the lake Gof Sokorte Gurda, which is a Borana word for a large sweet water crater.

Gof Sokorte Dika

Not far from Lake Paradise is another smaller but similar lake within the forest known as ‘Gof Sokorte Dika’ or ‘Small Sweet Water Crater’, which is a popular elephant retreat.

Goff Bongole

Another smaller crater lake, Goff Bongole, is just a few kilometres to the east. The three are some of the best places to see animals because the rest of the park is covered in dense forest. These three distinct lakes have always served as a haven for a variety of animal and bird species, including gravy zebras, buffaloes, black and white colobus, blue monkeys, bushbucks, sunis, and leopards that roam the park.

Guf Sokortye Gurda

Gof Sokortye Gurda, a cliff at the northern end of Lake Paradise, is home to several birds, including Ruppell’s griffon vultures, peregrine falcons, buzzards, black kites, and African fish eagles. The lake is home to ducks like garganeys, southern porchards, and teals, as well as red-knobbed coots, hamerkops, ibises, purple herons, and yellow-billed storks.