Thursday, 18 June 2015

Lake Turkana Hidden Gem

The lunar landscape around Lake Turkana, a northern Rift Valley lake in Kenya, is a true spectacle. Lake Turkana is the largest permanent desert lake in the world and it is jam packed with large Nile crocodiles. The desert landscape is a paleontologists dream come true, as early hominid remains continue to be unearthed by the Leakey family around Koobi Fora. The Lake itself is a shimmering entity that changes color with the wind. The area is home to various unique tribes and one of the main attractions for visitors. Turkana is off the beaten track.

Sibiloi National Park
The track passes Loiyangalani and leads to the headquarters of Kenya's most remote national park, Sibiloi, at Alia Bay. Though extremely windblown and arid, the Park has a surprising variety of wildlife including Grevy's zebra, ostrich, gerenuk, oryx and a unique sub-race of topi called the Tiang.

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. Within the park is a petrified forest, surviving to tell the tale that 7 million years ago this area was lush and densely forested. A little further north is Koobi Fora, a sand spit and the headquarters, since 1969, of a small fossil hunting group started by Dr. Richard Leakey. There is a small museum here dedicated to the finds of this team and especially to Bernard Ngeneo whose discovery of a fragment of a fossilised skull led to '1470' (its laboratory catalogue number) being labeled as belonging to the genus Homo a member of our direct ancestors who lived and died close to the lake shore about two million years ago. Koobi Fora is, of course, more easily reached by light aircraft, which can land at a nearby strip.

The Lake has three Island, the central being the breeding zone for the Nile Crocodile. Big game fishing is a spectacular sport on the lake and nile perch have been landed exceeding 100 kilos. Sport fishing for the ferocious tiger fish is also available and a quieter time can be had fishing for tilapia, the best fish for eating in Kenya. Turkana is renowned for its impressive variety of birdlife. Ferguson's Gulf is a wonderful place, in March and April, to view the northward flight of European passage migrants. Resident water birds are plentiful and many nest on Central Island. Flamingo can be seen in many parts of the lake.