Lizzie is a reputed guidebook writer and author of the Footprint guides to South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
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An unlikely oasis in Kenya’s inhospitable Northern Frontier
The drive to rarely-visited Marsabit passes through an endlessly flat wasteland of volcanic rock. But on our approach, we were rewarded with the incredulous sight of mist-covered Mount Marsabit rising like a silhouette above the empty horizon, and once in the park, the air was much cooler and the hills thickly vegetated. We camped at the Kenya Wildlife Service’s campsite on the forested rim of Gof Sokorte Guda (Paradise Lake) with its beautifully still waters reflecting the steep mountain shores. Buffalo came to drink in the late afternoon, there were plenty of forest monkeys, we saw fleeting glimpses of greater kudu and reticulated giraffe, and elephant on the distant hillsides, but overall the animals were few and very shy. To visit you need to be either totally self-sufficient for camping and in a four-wheel-drive (the few tracks are steep and muddy), or bank on Marsabit Lodge being open (the only formal place to stay, it gets very few visitors so has routinely closed over the years). The park isn’t enough of a standalone destination to make the effort of getting there worthwhile, although access has improved considerably with the upgrading/tarring of the once torturous A2 road north from Isiolo which has recently been completed all the way to Marsabit (a distance of 258 km). But the park’s appeal is undoubtedly its relative isolation, forested beauty, and oasis-like character surrounded by stony desert.