Expert Reviews – Lake Turkana

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The Jade Sea: an oasis in the desert
Overall rating

I love Lake Turkana. Unconditionally. I spent an unforgettable two weeks here some years ago and didn’t want to leave. I’m not sure I’ve ever been anywhere wilder, more untamed, more unforgiving and more strikingly beautiful. It’s not a prime wildlife destination for sure, though there are crocodiles and hippos aplenty, desert Oryx, interesting birdlife and great fishing. It can be a very tough place to get to and it’s not the most stable part of Kenya either, but a large part of the lake’s appeal is found precisely in its isolation. Even some Kenyans seem to think that Turkana is in fact in Sudan.

Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world and also the largest alkaline lake. Standing on the sandy shore and looking out across the water it’s hard to believe it’s not an ocean. The unfailingly welcoming local Turkana tribe, whose fascinating culture is similar to the iconic Maasai but less tainted by Western tourism, call the lake the Jade Sea, which is testament to both its size and the beautiful jade colour of the water.

Turkana is not for the faint of heart and certainly not on most Kenyan safari itineraries. But for those looking to see a completely different side of Kenya it’s a truly special destination.

The world’s largest desert lake
Overall rating

This is not, in my view, primarily a wildlife destination, though you are likely to see the like of gerenuk, Beisa oryx and various dry-country birds including Somali ostrich on the long dusty drive there, while crocodile are plentiful in the lake itself. The main attraction is the remote windswept setting of this beautiful lake, a deep jade apparition that contrasts with the surrounding desert scenery, and the opportunity to interact with some of Africa’s most staunchly traditionalist tribes, among them the pastoralist Turkana and Samburu, and the El Molo community of fisherfolk. As of 2012, exploration for oil threatens to bring this remote wilderness firmly into the 21st century. So best catch it soon!

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.7/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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