Lake Turkana also know as Jade sea is both the world's largest permanent desert lake and largest alkaline lake, and is found in the north of Kenya's Rift Valley lakes and it is known to be packed with large Nile crocodiles, thousands of them. It is also a paleontologists dream come true, as early hominid remains continue to be unearthed around Koobi Fora. It has a deeply-rooted history stretching back thousands of years, and many parts of the Lake and surrounding area have been the location for excavation expeditions to uncover fossils.
Located 400 miles north of Nairobi with the Lake’s northern side stretching into Ethiopia , Lake Turkana isn't exactly in the midst of everything. Though located in the desert, Lake Turkana can have surprisingly strong wind bursts and storms that come up quickly. On-shore and off-shore winds can be extremely strong as the lake warms and cools more slowly than the land. Sudden, violent storms are frequent. These conditions make it a popular spot for outdoor enthusiasts who want a change of pace. And It's no smooth ride even to get to the Lake, as the road reaching the eastern shore is very bumpy and hardly a road at times.
With its location deep in the African desert, Kenya’s Lake Turkana typically attracts adventure travellers who want to trek the rugged terrain in the Great Rift Valley, although many curious minds come out to the edge of Lake Turkana to see what it's all about. The shores of the Lake are rugged and rocky, requiring the same type of shoes visitors would wear for hiking.
The Lake is about 200 miles long and 40 miles across at its widest point, and with its salt and alkaline makeup, the water of Lake Turkana is certainly not for drinking. It's often referred to as the Jade Sea because of its unique tint resulting from surface
Three rivers Omo, Turkwel and Kerio flow into the lake, but lacking outflow its only water loss is by evaporationisitors aren't typically going to come across it unless they are on a long safari. The park boundaries extend a kilometer into the lake so encompassing many of Turkana's huge population of Nile crocodile. Turkana's crocodile population, which numbers around 12,000 is the largest single surviving community
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Lake Turkana was first 'discovered' by Austrian explorers Teleki and Von Hohnel, who reached its shores in 1888, driven on by local legends about a mighty sea that lay beyond the desert Frontier. But for sure this magnifient land was no new discovery to the many tribes who lived in the area, and for whom this seemingly inhospitable land was a source of life. For tribes such as the Turkana, whose name was eventually given to the lake- this was home.
Many legends still abound about this area, and throughout Kenya the people of this area, especially the Turkana, are regarded as the toughest, most aggressive people on earth.; As usual, there is a lot of truth in the legend- and most of the tribes that live around the lake have had to develop a strong survival instinct to prosper on these shores- and the cultures here are some of the most pure and isolated on earth.
Fossil evidence found in the earth around Turkana suggests that humans have survived these conditions for a very long time- and that Turkana may be the true “Cradle Of Mankind”.
With its inaccessibility, harsh conditions, spectacular scenery, wildlife, remarkable cultures and archaeological treasures, Turkana has become a favourite destination with adventure travellers.
Getting to and Exploring Lake Turkana overland is a challenge. While it is possible to fly to the Lake in a Chartered aircraft (and indeed flying is recommended for the furthest Northern reaches) it must be said that flying to Turkana somewhat distills the adventure. This is place where the journey is very much part of the destination- and it is only by taking the long difficult road that a real sense of remoteness is gained.
However, the flight itself is quite an experience, taking in wonderful vistas across the Suguta Valley and providing a birds eye view of the Lake itself.
Most visitors make the long trip from Nairobi over a 2 or 3-day period, stopping en route at Maralal, Samburu, or Marsabit. The trip winds through some beautiful country, and travelers invariably encounter Rendille camel trains, and pass by tiny villages and nomadic encampments along the way.
The history and cultures of the North- the Samburu, Pokot, Gabbra, Borana and many more are written upon the soil of this trackless land- and travelling through this area is a great education in itself. For the more adventurous, the long road North leads to Sibiloi, a 1600 square km National Park recently accorded World Heritage Status. This park is a real a paradox surprise after a long desert journey- there is plenty of open green, grassland- and plenty of game. Zebra, Topi, Giraffe, Ostrich, Hippo and the occasional Lion and Cheetah have all been sighted in the park. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sibiloi National Park lies on the lake's eastern shore, while Central Island National Park and South Island National Park lie in the lake. Both are known for their crocodiles. Sibiloi also incorporates Koobi Fora a very important site for Hominid Fossils, famous internationally since the discovery of ‘1470’ a 2 million year old skull of Homo Habilis. Since then the Lake Turkana area is regarded by many anthropologists as the cradle of humankind due to the abundance of hominid fossils. This has led to increase of visits to this area.
Facilities and safari options in this area have increased too. Western Turkana is more accessible, via the road North from Kitale to Lodwar and onward to Ferguson’s Gulf and the village of Kalokol. There is a basic lodge here- originally a fishing lodge for those looking to catch prized Nile Perch. About 60 kms further North is beautiful Eliye Springs, home to spring fed oases, large crocodile populations, and many small Turkana villages. There are a few simple lodgings available here.
Just a little further North, the all new Lobolo Camp treads the fine line between roughing it and the more comfortable “easy” tented camps in Kenya’s more accessible Parks and Reserves.
Both the East and West shores of the Lake each offer unique areas of interest
Kenya is Magical Indeed!