Ins and out

The main road through Northern Kenya is the A2 - or Trans-East African Highway - that passes through Isiolo, Marsabit and on to Moyale at the Ethiopian border. From Isiolo it is obligatory to travel in a convoy on this road, which is in a terrible condition and a 4WD is essential. In the extreme north, there are very few defined roads around Lake Turkana. The eastern and western shores of the lake are accessed completely separately, and are physically separated by the vast uncrossable Suguta Valley south of the lake. The eastern shore is reached via Maralal and Marsabit with the central point of access being the small oasis town of Loiyangalani. The western shore is accessed via Kitale and the central point of access is Lodwar. There are airstrips on both shores for chartered aircraft. Turkana and much of the north is best visited as part of a professionally organized safari. Most operators offer an eight- to nine-day tour heading up the Rift Valley to stop at Lake Baringo going on to Maralal and then to Lake Turkana via Baragoi and South Horr. The return journey goes via Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Some go via the Marsabit National Reserve crossing the Chalbi Desert. Most use open-sided 4WD trucks, not built for comfort but they are sturdy and reliable. If you have a bit more money to spend, some companies arrange flying safaris, and there is a scattering of upmarket lodges. Driving yourself is a possibility if you are experienced in wilderness driving (a 4WD is imperative), though this is not exactly trouble free. You will need to bring a number of tools in case of breakdown or getting stuck in the sand, such as a jack, sand ladders, a shovel and a rope, and a GPS is a good idea. You'll need plenty of petrol too, as it is in particularly short supply. Driving at night is not only foolish, but illegal.

This barren region is in sharp contrast to the green, fertile land of the Central Highlands. Much of Northern Kenya is desert scrub where only the hardiest of vegetation is able to survive and recent droughts in the last decade or so have exacerbated the already formidable conditions and the nomadic people and their herds continue to suffer. The plains routinely reach dangerously hot temperatures by midday of 50°C with no hint of wind.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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