Discover Elgeyo Marakwet County
Brief Overview of Marakwet County
The lengthy and narrowed Elgeyo Marakwet County, wedged between the Uasin Gishu Plateau in the west and Kerio River in the east, is eccentrically split into three distinct topographic zones – highland, Kerio Valley and the escarpment – set apart by the spectacular Elgeyo Escarpment. Even without the possibility of seeing game, which it is has in plenty, a chance to experience these three unique zones and glimpse at the Elgeyo Escarpment and the Kerio Valley is a nice treat.
On top of that, there’s also the kindred spirit of long distance running in Elgeyo Marakwet County, and which is almost palpable in the air. This is the playland of long-distance running. It has consummate flair considering two out of every three titlist long-distance runners in Kenya have their roots in Elgeyo Marakwet County. Put differently, this region has engendered about 62% of all the long-distance world champions. A record breaking triumph from a community that accounts for 0.0004% of the world’s population. Kamariny Stadium is a typical case. In 2019 Iten was elevated by IAAF to the status of global heritage location.
From the exemplar Iten Viewpoint, also known as Kerio Viewpoint, which is the universal welcome to Elgeyo Marakwet County, the drive from here takes to the spectacular winding road down the escarpment, to Kerio Valley. Driving down this heart-stopping and meandering descent, one looses 1,000 ft of altitude in just 5 kms and the temperature rises from 23 C at the highland to about 32 C on the lowland of Kerio Valley. The world champions train in the highland region.
Salient Features of Elgeyo Marakwet County
- County Number 28
- Area – 3029 km2
- Altitude – 1000 to 3350 ms
- Major Towns – Iten, Kapsowar, Chepkorio
- Borders – West Pokot, Baringo, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu
Brief History of Elgeyo Marakwet County
The British arrived rather late in Elgeyo Marakwet County, only showing up in 1919. The local revolts against the newcomers were easily and quickly quelled, and a Native Council was established in 1922. Aside from the “Grazing Lands” there was little value in Elgeyo Marakwet County and the Colonial Government was more interested in collecting taxes and sourcing for labourers to work the thriving sisal, wattle and wheat farms in Uasin Gishu, where many of its natives opted to migrate to and become squatters. By the same token, the highland and more productive areas around Mosop were administered differently from 1939.
Places of Interest in Elgeyo Marakwet
1. High Altitude Training Camp
Established in 2000 by the masterly Kenyan/Dutch athlete Lornah Kiplagat (4 times winner of the IAAF Marathon), the High Altitude Training Camp (HATC) which is open for both elite athletes and recreational runners offers top-of-the-line facilities and training regimes for runners. For the more casual runners, the regime is turned-down and mingled with activities like mountain biking, tours to the villages, and trekking. Some of the facilities at the High Altitude Training Camp include a 400 ms all-weather tartan running track, a gym, two saunas, a 25 ms heated swimming pool, and its single or double rooms with hot showers. Sites found nearby HATC include Kerio Valley, Kerio View Hotel and Kamariny Stadium. It is situated about 900 ms before the turnoff to the Kerio Viewpoint.
2. Kamariny Stadium
If, instead of heading north from the High Altitude Training Camp to Iten, one heads south towards Kamariny, they quickly find themselves at the Kamariny Stadium, that is just 2 kms from HATC. Inaugurated by H.R.H Queen Elizabeth II in 1958 as a public cinder track, this tried and tested event stadium – open to athletes and the public – is the unadorned Cathedral of Kenya’s long-distance running. Kamariny Stadium is a training ground for many of Kenya’s pedigree champions who make easy work of some of the most brutal world athletic races. Among the athletes who upskill here include David Rudisha, Abel Kirui, Wilson Kipsang, Eliud Kipchoge and U.K.’s Mohamed “Mo” Farah. Like the comradely of soldiers, world champions, novice runners and guests all rub shoulders here. The world champions also welcome and train with many travellers to Kamariny Stadium. It’s found just 4 kms from Iten Town and 36 kms from Eldoret Town.
3. St. Patrick’s School, Iten
If your journey to Elgeyo Marakwet aims in part to appreciate the longstanding verve of long-distance running in Kenya, St. Patrick’s School near Iten is a great stopover. For the singular accolade that St. Patrick’s High School has nurtured dozens of long-distance titlists, far more than any other academic institution in Kenya, warrants a slot among the best places to visit in Elgeyo Marakwet. It all begun a few decades ago when the Irish Patrician Brother Colm O’Connel, then its principal, discovered that many of his students had a talent for athletics. He used the school holidays to coordinate athletics camps for his students and for the fervid talented athletes from the nearby community. The rest is history. No other high school in Kenya has nurtured as many long-distance athletes. In a noble gesture, St. Patrick’s High School has kept to an old tradition of planting a tree in honour of all its onetime students who break out onto the ‘world stage’.
Notable alumni of St. Patrick’s High School include Mike Boit, Ibrahim Hussein, Mathew Birir, Micheal Boit, David Rudisha, Kipkoech Cheruiyot, Cornelius Chirchir, Japheth Kimutai, Wilson Boit Kipketer, Wilson Kipketer, Peter Rono
4. Bugar Forest
Little more than 2 kms north of St. Patrick’s High School, extending northerly through Singore to near Chebiemit, is the Bugar Forest. Part of this forest is the largest planted forest of its kind in Elgeyo Marakwet, traditionally put to use to cultivate logs for the production of timber. The completion of Iten-Bugar Road in 2018 made access to this forest as well as to Bugar Town (one of eight main towns in Elgeyo Marakwet) much easier. The main urban centres in the County are: Iten, Tambach, Kapsowar, Chepkorio, Chebiemit, Cheptongei, Kapyego, Bugar, Flax, Chesoi and Kapcherop. Most of these are situated in the highlands, while at the Kerio Valley small markets and trading centers such as Arror, Tot, Rimoi and Kimwarer are less busy and far-between. Although rarely exploited as a touring destination, there are numerous public entrances to the forest for exploring the woodland, which is flanked by Elgeyo Escarpment on its eastern limits. The omens are that Bugar Forest will become for Elgeyo Marakwet what many forests in the fast-growing areas of have become: attractive scenically but perpetually under threat of anthropogenic activities to clear land for settlement.
5. Iten Viewpoint
About 32 kms from Eldoret Town along C51 Iten-Tambach-Kabarnet Road one finally arrives at the fault-scarp of the Elgeyo Escarpment and the magnificent Kerio Valley, which form one of the most spectacular landscape seen in Kenya. The short journey from Eldoret Town to Iten Viewpoint is also a beautiful one. The Iten or Kerio View offers a most memorable experience especially for first-timers to this region. The other viewpoints of Kerio Valley are Kolol Viewpoint, which is located about 21 kms from here past Tambach and just before Biretwo, and the Nyaru Viewpoint, that is found along B53 Eldoret-Nyaru-Ravine Road. The Elgeyo Escarpment forms part of the western wall of the Rift Valley and it overlooks the 80 kms long Kerio Valley over 1,800 ms below. From here, Lake Kamnarok, Cherangani Hills and Tugen Hills are easily sighted. On most days, west of the Iten Viewpoint, can be spotted a handful of colorful paragliders and lightweight glider crafts hovering above the valley. Elgeyo Marakwet is Kenya’s prime paragliding destination, and between December to March the conditions are perfect to enjoy a hair-raising glide across the imposing Elgeyo Escarpment to Kerio Valley. The usual start-point is next to Kerio View Hotel at Active Edge.
6. Lelin Campsite
Lelin Camp 1 km after taking the turnoff towards Kamariny and Tambach along C51 Iten-Kabarnet Road, is an exhilarating and inexpensive way to take in the beauty of the Kerio Valley and Elgeyo Escarpment for those who enjoy the wild outdoors. It is a beautiful and well-kept location, but campers must bring their own tents. Facilities include: Fresh water, toilet facilities, a restaurant that sells a simple and limited menu, bar, and day and night security. It is situated in a gated property with a walled-in enclosure conveniently close to the C51 Road. There are a few self-contained bandas. Lelin Campsite borders a long stretch of the River Kessup which is great for riverine walks and relaxation. Walking trips with the aid of a local guide down the Elgeyo Escarpment to Kerio Valley can be arranged. To book or further information get in touch with Lelin: 0718 545 124.
7. Kerio View Hotel
Perched dramatically on the fringe of Elgeyo Escarpment with picture-postcard views of the vast Kerio Valley, Kerio View Hotel is one of three specialty lodges found in Elgeyo Marakwet. As the name suggests, it wallows in a one-of-a-kind scenery which is the biggest ace-in-the-hole. Its all about the view. A specificity of this hotel is that its facade is almost completely made of glass, which entitles its patrons to enjoy the knockout views at all times. Whilst it is an eye-catching building, it is modest enough to let the view take center-stage. Inside, the layout is minimalist, rustic and earthy – exemplified by the well-finished rough-and-ready woodwork on its walls, panels and floors that decorously contrast to the wild landscape. The rooms are minimalist also but quite snug. It has a gym too. From the comfort of the hotel, trippers can enjoy the wondrous views of Kerio Valley in many ways. It has an elevated catwalk viewing ledge running across the front-facing garden that is meant to give its guests an experience of walking on air as they relish uninterrupted views of the valley and escarpment. For the more adventurous, Kerio View Hotel has two superb walking trails – one going down the escarpment to the valley and the other going across the escarpment. If all the above were not sufficient, Kerio Hotel is also a hot-spot for professional athletes who are more than happy to let you tag along on a wild run through the rural country. Then, there is the nearby Rimoi National Reserve where wildlife can be sighted in plenty. It is located 35 kms from Eldoret, and 3 kms from Iten.
8. Active Edge
Active Edge, next door to Kerio View Hotel, is the adventure outfit that operates paragliding and lightweight glider craft tours across the Elgeyo Escarpment and Kerio Valley. Take-off and top-landing takes place about 80 metres from Kerio Hotel, with the average flight lasting 20-30 minutes. This was started by Dean Crosby (a world paragliding champion) as a medium to popularize the sport in Kenya, and a unique way to experience the phenomenal landscapes of Elgeyo Marakwet. No prior experience is needed to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime thrill. After a short rundown and thorough safety checks you will be well on your way. Pricing ranges from USD 167 for Funday up to USD 1,000 for Club Pilot Course. To book a tour, please get in-touch with Active Edge at: email@example.com
9. Rimoi National Reserve
Begun in 1983 and reestablished in 2016, the 66 km2 Rimoi National Reserve became the 50th and most recent national reserve to be established in Kenya. It occupies the western half of Kerio Valley Conservation Area – directly below the Kerio View Hotel. The eastern area of the Conservation Area is occupied by the Lake Kamnarok National Reserve, which it is separated from by the Kerio River and Elgeyo Escarpment. Its dramatic scenery and the prolific wildlife are some of its fantastic highlights. However, the showstopper at Rimoi National Reserve are its groups of elephants which can sometimes be seen in herds of up to fifty. Although its parkways are motorable at most times of year, the cutbacks made by its resident herds of elephants make them somewhat uncomfortable for the regular saloon cars and are almost impassable during the rain season. Not to be omitted on a visit to Rimoi National Reserve is the famous Tabar Dam which is the epicenter of activities here. A favoured watering-hole, it is habitually visited by plenty of wildlife and avifauna. Other highlights at Rimoi include the viewing stances to Lake Kamnarok and Kerio Valley, and the close by Kerio View Hotel.
10. Kessup Falls
Kessup Falls is situated at the northern quarter of Kessup Forest (also known as Kaptagat Forest) on the step on the side of Elgeyo Escarpment forming a plain or platform between the highlands and the valley covered with forest, farms and settlements. Occurring along Kessup River, deep inside the forest, it makes for a superb walking adventure. The forest mosaic itself is good as great. A chunk of Kessup Forest much like Bugar, Kapchemutwo and Kipteber Forests, is planted with exotic trees such as East African Cypress, Pine, and Gumtree. It is possible to access Kessup Falls from either Iten or Kamariny. Kessup Falls, 5 kms south of Iten Viewpoint via C51 Road is one of two spectacular waterfalls over Elgeyo Escarpment. The other, Torok Falls, is situated 5 kms south of the Kessup Falls.
11. Kessup Forest
Shortly after leaving Rimoi National Park passing Kessup Village on the way to Tambach, the Kessup or Kaptagat Forest seen to the right forms lovely views. It is one of two forests located along the highland area of the Elgeyo Escarpment in company with Bugar Forest further north. Despite being the smaller of the two forests, Kaptagat Forest is more famous because it is by-passed by the Iten-Tambach-Kabarnet Road. In all, it occupies 26 km2, of which: 17 km2 are under indigenous cover; 7 km2 under planted forest; and 2 km2 are under grass and marshlands. Kessup Forest is an important water catchment for Rivers Kessup, Naiberi and Elgarini. It also feeds the stunning Kessup and Torok Falls. Owing to anthropogenic activities, some of its forest patch has been degraded, either to inch out more land or for its valuable timber, ergo defacing its rich biodiversity.
12. Kilima Resort
Set immediately north of Kessup Falls and Forest, Kilima Resort is a wonderful retreat to enjoy the sights of Elgeyo Marakwet so famously cited in travel books. It sits right at very edge of the step-side on Elgeyo Escarpment halfway between the highland and Kerio Valley into a regal promontory with magnificent views. The resorts has 4 modern rondavel-style bandas completed with authentic and traditional grass-thatched roofs; a 3-bedrooms self-catering villa with a private compound; and a camping ground kept in good condition with access to warm showers, toilet facilities and the restaurant. All accommodation enjoy pleasing uninterrupted views over Kerio Valley and Tugen Hills beyond the valley. From the convinience of Kilima Resort, guests can walk into the forest to tour Kessup Falls and its other interests. Other activities include excursions to Kerio Valley, Kamariny Track, paragliding at Active Edge, or touring Rimoi National Reserve.
13. Tambach Museum
Considered by itself, Tambach Museum is rather underwhelming. However, in the setting that formed the galvanic history of Tambach it is an interesting site. Tambach Museum is housed in the former D.C.’s residence, which is a 7-rooms bungalow designed in the same style seen in many of the pioneer buildings at Tambach. Along its walls is a photographic exhibition showcasing Kenya’s rich cultural diversity especially on the heritages of Elgeyo and Marakwet Tribes. In addition to its framed cultural history and cultural artefacts, it also exhibits the luring history of the region’s pre-colonial, colonial and post-independence eras. Conspicuously located on the Tambach Shelf, between Elgeyo Escarpment and Kerio Valley, Tambach first gained popularity as the “cliff dwellers of Kenya”, a term coined by the missioner J.A. Massam to depict its peculiar location at the cliff edge. Tambach Centre grew quickly as a result of the Colonial Government moving their administration station, in 1927, from Kamariny to Tambach, from where they administrated the Keiyo and Marakwet regions. By 1928, Tambach High School had been completed; pioneering education among the Keiyo. This was quickly followed by Tambach College, dispensaries, road infrastructure and general projects. The road from Kabarnet to Tambach was completed in 1930. Tambach as the administrative head was marred by multiple setbacks from the onset. Moving the station from Kamariny paved way for the enterprising Keiyo to challenge foreign traders in their region. In turn, Kamariny gradually lost its status as a prime trading centre, with most traders investing at Tambach. The development of Tambach Centre also exacerbated the differences between these two communities, who were never cordial to begin with. At the tailender of the quagmire, the district was declared “closed” and all its visitors had to be vetted. The District Commissioner, then housed at the present-day Tambach Museum, was at the centre of all the bedlum. It is located 10 kms south of Iten Viewpoint.
14. Kolol Viewpoint
Midpoint on the descent to Kerio Valley, one may be of interest to make a quick stop at Kolol Viewpoint. Like the Iten Viewpoint higher up, the views here are worth writing home about. The 150 ms Kolol Waterfall is the star here. Simply enjoying its view is the top-rated experience at Kolol Viewpoint, and an activity that could take an hour in good weather. Adventure-makers with some time to spare can make an expedition to explore Kolol Waterfalls, which spectacularly cascades over the grandiose Elgeyo Escarpment. It is located 20 kms from Iten.
15. Torok Falls
The 150 ms tall Torok Falls which is only accessible by foot on a 4 to 5 hour hike round-trip is yet another emblematic sight of Elgeyo Marakwet that is agreeably sighted from many areas, and dead-centre at Kolol Viewpoint. For an intimate up-close-and-personal interaction with Torok Falls, one may walk through the untravelled 7 kms walking trail which starts near from Kolol Viewpoint, off Iten to Kabarnet Road, and ends nearby Torok Primary. Part of the trail is accessible to 4X4 vehicles, even so it’s for the most part a backcountry walking expedition. Leaving the main road, the path snakes along a hushed countryside that is only broken-up by disassociate villages. The wander along the gently uphill country, framed by the dramatic landscape of Elgeyo Escarpment, and which get prettier as you near it, terminates at the Torok Primary School. From here, the scramble to the falls, heard bellowing a welcome in the distance, takes to a narrow path hardly used by humans or animals. Lo and behold, a stonecast away, a fine sight lies in wait. The adequate and restful Kolol Hill Cottages offer reasonable living nearby Kolol Viewpoint and Korol Waterfalls. It’s also a good jumping-off place.
16. Biretwo Museum
The proposed Biretwo Museum, not far away south from the Kolol Viewpoint, is yet to be completed. However, Elgeyo Marakwet Government has earmarked it for completion. Construction of the Biretwo Museum and its cultural centre is expected to explicate interest of the region. It aims primarily to showpiece the rich history of long-distance running that is synonymous with the region. The Biretwo Museum sits 11 kms south of Kolol Viewpoint nearby Kapsomin Centre.
17. Kerio River Lodge
A new lodge, of a modern design, the Kerio River Lodge is situated on the Kerio Valley 31 kms south of Iten Viewpoint is perfectly placed to witness the singular beauty of the region. The lodge has standard and family rooms with bathrooms and round the clock room service. There is a swimming pool, conference center and restaurant facilities. The masterful feature of the area is, of course, its flora juxtaposed by the outstanding features of Elgeyo Escarpment and Tugen Hills. Seasanonal streams and rivers all add to the fascinating variety of scenery. The lodge is a wonderful retreat for exploration with two great natural walk-trails: one horizontal to the Escarpment and the other into the Valley. Most visitors spend the day exploring the nearby interests, either in their own vehicles of in hired vehicles. It is within easy reach Chebloch Gorge, Lake Kamnarok Reserve, Kabarnet, Mektei Ridge, Rimoi National Reserve, Torok Falls, and Kessup Falls.
18. Chebloch Gorge
The 71 ms high and 3 ms wide Chebloch Gorge set along the boundary of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo Counties is a deep taper gulch hewing the Kerio Valley floodplain. Chebloch Gorge is distinguishable by its bizarrely eroded and spiky rocks caused by the attrition of the rapidly streaming Kerio River. The obvious highlight at Chebloch is, of course, the team of daring local divers who plunge 70 ms through the narrowed gorge, into the Kerio River. While the thought of following suit would make most trippers literally jump-out-of-their-own-skins, considering how thin the gorge is, the divers make light work of this extremely dangerous leap, again and again. It doesn’t help either that the rocks at the top of Chebloch Gorge are quite slippery. It is located 15 kms from Kabarnet Town.
19. Samich Resort
Of the two routes of getting to Kabarnet from Iten C51 Iten-Tambach-Kabarnet Road is more popular and shorter, at 54 kms. The other route B54 Iten-Nyaru-Kabarnet Road is much longer, at 85 kms. It travels further south into Elgeyo Marakwet, to Nyaru, before making a wide turn that rounds up at Kabarnet. At the same time, this stretch is less congested and more scenically-splendid. The drive down the escarpment, at Nyaru, is utterly breathtaking, with endless turns and bends that culminate in a joyride that’s equal part heart-warming and heart-stopping. Shortly before Nyaru, motorists can drop-in at Samich Resort. This refurbished modish house which opened its doors in 2013 enjoys some of the finest vistas of Kerio flouspar mines, Mektei Ridge, Kerio Valley and Elgeyo Escarpment. Its modish design and landscaping complement the scenery, with most of its 15 cozy and elegant suites overlooking Kerio Valley. Samich Resort which offers the choice of 7-room-layouts all with balconies looking over Kerio Valley is great value for money. There is an outdoor pool to cool-off, a play area, gardens, and nature trails – with one leading horizontal to the escarpment and the other going down the escarpment. It is located just 5 kms from Nyaru Town.
20. Kenya Fluorspar Company
First discovered in 1967, the fluorspar deposits found in large quantities on the Kerio Valley, at Kimwarer, are now exploited by the Kenya Fluorspar Company. Mining began in 1970, exploiting the boundless amount of fluorspar found here – which is Kenya’s second most abundant mineral after the soda ash trone at Magadi. Despite a good run, exporting about 14,000 tonnes of fluorspar each year, “Kenya Fluorspar Company suspended its operations in February of 2016, citing higher costs of operation and loss of key markets in Asia and Europe. The closure rendered about 500 people jobless”. Anyone with a liking for industrial gizmos and mine operations might want to swing by the plant to see the scale of their vast operations. It is located about 24 kms from Nyaru Town at Kimwarer.
21. Sego Safari Resort
Located at the base of Kerio Valley and Mektei Ridge deep within the pastoral and farming countryside, the descent Sego Safari Resort enjoys all-round nice views of the rugged landscape. It has 32-self-contained rooms, a modest pool, plenty of outdoor sitting areas, variegated orchids and a fully-stocked watering-hole. One of its most endearing charm is its seclusion and location deep in the hushed and tranquil rural country. For those who love to explore new villages, there are plenty of trails around Sego Safari Resort and the villagers are quite friendly. It is budget-friendly too. It is located 80 kms from Eldoret Town and 35 kms from Nyaru Town via the Kenya Fluospar Company Road, at Kimwarer.
22. Melwa Gorge
Melwa Gorge, a very attractive and deep cleft cut through a basalt sprout by the Kerio River, rivals the popular Chebloch Gorge, albeit being only little-known. River excavations are in progress almost continuously, and it’s possible to make a guess at the lapse of time taken to evolve the gorge standing where the jagged rocks have been so impressively chiseled into a wondrous formation. Although the step out to Melwa Gorge is demanding and oftentimes treacherous, this is a wholesome walking adventure. It’s found in an undebased and enthralling back county with a plethora of memorable views 22 kms north of Chebloch Gorge via Sego and Muskit Centres and then along Wilson Kispang Road for about 4 kms.
23. Kerio Valley
Kerio Valley, an extension of the Great Rift Valley in north-western Kenya, is perhaps the most distinguishable sight in Elgeyo Marakwet County. It sprawls northwards from Kimwarer, near the head of Kerio River, to Chesegon, on the border between Marakwet and West Pokot Counties, extending some 100 kms. The valley is a bushed grassland set hard on a fairly flat, resplendent, lowland between Elgeyo Escarpment and the Tugen Hills, on an elevation of 1000 ms. Kerio Valley is typified by grasslands. Its superb sights can be enjoyed either along the C51 Eldoret-Iten Road on the hairpin descent along the curving road, which levels out close to Kabarnet; or via B53 Iten-Kimwarer-Kabarnet Road which passes through Chepkorio and Nyaru. This scenic valley is also where the paragliders land. A word of caution is necessary here: Retrieving services need to be arranged prior to embarking on a jump. The journey back to base can be forbidding considering the Valley is torrid, with limited lines of communication.
24. Elgeyo Escarpment
The grand Elgeyo Escarpment, sometimes known as the Kerio Fault, is a most magnificent landmark both for its sheer scale and beauty. The stack wall-like escarpment, forming part of the western wall of the Rift Valley, rises abruptly above the Kerio Valley up to 1830 ms and sprints the entire 110 kms western boundary of Elgeyo Marakwet County from close to Biretwo, in the south, to near Chegilet, in the north. Scenically, the Elgeyo Escarpment is typified by a craggy rock face with bush and shrubs excepting small sections higher up and strips along rivers and streams where fields with cassava and millet are seen. Only the part of the Elgeyo Escarpment between the highlands and the plateau is covered with forest, around Kapchemutwo and Kessup. Rather impressively, the area halfway down the Escarpment is dotted with homesteads, surrounded by corn fields. It a terrifying long drop from here. Fewer examples could better demonstrate ‘life on the edge’, and overcoming fear of heights is only one of the challenges of living here. All along its marches, the Elgeyo Escarpment is a jaw-droppingly beautiful natural marvel. From a vantage point, like Kolol View, it’s easy to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of this escarpment. One of the best ways yet to appreciate it is on a “paragliding jump” that takes you over it to the floor of Kerio Valley. Then there’s the Kerio View Resort set up right at its edge.
25. Lake Kamnarok National Reserve
From Kabarnet Town on the way to Iten, the first views of the Kerio Valley are stupefying. In parched contrast to the verdant wooded and precipitous Tugen Hills, it unfolds as a flat, sun-scorched and inhospitable valley, where even the birds plying its skies seem aware of its hardship. On the Kerio Valley, the 1 km2 Lake Kamnarok stands out, much like a mirror would in the meadow. This tiny fresh water oxbow lake was formed in 1961 as a consequence of the Kerio River remodeling and altering its course. Lake Kamnarok is part of the 66 km2 Kerio Valley National Reserve, also known as Kerio Valley Conservation Area, which was gazetted in 1984 to preserve the beauty of this scenic and ecological gamut. The tiny Lake Kamnarok is best-known for its history of tragedy and loss, and for its historic comeback and wake from the blink of extinction. During the late 1980’s Lake Kamnarok is said to been a momentous waterhole for an estimated population of 500 elephants that routinely watered here. As with varied lakes around the fast-growing Rift Valley region, its actuality had been jeopardized by impeding farming pursuits. Following its near disintegration in 2008, Baringo and Elgeyo Marakwet Counties re-doubled their efforts to avert the calamity, successfully reviving Lake Kamnarok at a cost of Kshs. 11 million. Although not where it used, in diversity of flora and fauna, life is slowly returning to the Lake.
26. Kureswo Hot Springs
The undeveloped Kureswo Hot Springs which are situated in the southern area of Elgeyo Marakwet, in Kaptuk, have some treasured warm waters to enjoy a bath. A favoured retreat for the locals, who literally strip down, it lacks nothing in adventure. Kurewso Hot Springs are located within a scenic and adventurous location, with many hill climbing adventures. There’s also the beautiful forest through which flows the Mkorwa River before it confluences with Kerio River.
27. Mektei Ridge
Both ends of Elgeyo Marakwet County, north and south, are marked by steep upland ridges. To the north, the Cherangani Hills terminate its frontier along the boundary with West Pokot. To the south, the rutted Mektei Ridge marks its southern boundary with Baringo. Best seen along the Nyaru-Kabarnet Road or along the Eldama Ravine-Nyaru-Eldoret Road, the heavily wooded and deeply gullied Mektei Ridge, rising to 3,500 ms, clasps Metkei Forest – a dense forest with indigenous trees on top of a very steep escarpment – where the River Kerio has its source. From the Mektei Ridge, the land then falls in a sequence of steep slopes and level plateaus which dovetail with the Elgeyo Escarpment, thereafter culminating in the splendorous Kerio Valley which averages about 1,000 ms asl.
28. Cherangani Hills Forest Reserve
Cherangani Hills Reserve, gracefully marking the northern boundary of Elgeyo Marakwet County, gathers-up the western wall of the Rift Valley from where the Elgeyo Escarpment terminates, and extends it northbound into Uganda. All in all, the Cherangani Hills Forest Reserve covers about 1140 km2 traversing four counties in the north and western region of Kenya – West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Elgeyo Marakwet and Uasin Gichu. It is comprised of twelve extensive forests – Kapollet, Chemurkkoi, Cheboyit, Embobut, Kaisungor, Kipkunur, Kiptaberr, Kapkanyar, Sogotio, Toropket, Kerer and Lelan. This expansive reserve and its associated sub-tropical forests is one of the magnolious natural heritage of the North-Rift Touring Circuit. Much like the Mektei Ridge, at the opposite end of Elgeyo Marakwet, the Cheranganis are marked by heavily gullied forested tops, which in some sections become sheer cliff walls. Atop these very steep ridges is where the River Nzoia partly has its source. The magnificence of the illustrous Cheranganis’ can be appreciated near Arrow and Chebara, 32 kms north of Iten.
29. Teren River Bridge
The areas around Tot, Kapsowar, and Arrow in the northern frontier of Elgeyo Marakwet on the verge of the footslopes of the Cheranganis have very beautiful scenery. One way to appreciate this beauty is along the steel Teren River Bridge that passes across a section where the Kerio River cuts a path round an outcrop of basalt, which has resulted in a gorge dotted with multiple swirl holes and odd formations. Its name is thought to be derived from the shape of its ‘swirl pools’ which resemble the native cooking pots known as “teren” in the local language. During the dry season, the Kerio River dries up, leaving in its wake an art-like river bed. This area has plenty of avifauna too observable from the vantage of the bridge. Teren River Bridge is located 28.1 kms north of Iten Town, at Arrow.
30. Arrow Dam
In 2017, work began on the construction of Arrow Dam, part of the two hydro-electric dam projects in Elgeyo Marakwet – alongside the Kimwarer Dam. The Arrow Dam, which is expected to be about 2.8 km2, will add to the beauty of the scene around Arror. River Arrow where the proposed Arrow Dam will be built flows into Kerio River. The River Kerio partly rises on the northern slopes of the Amasya Hills, to the west of Lake Bogoria. It flows northward through the Kerio Valley, between the Tugen Hills and Elgeyo Escarpment, from where it presses on northward, often through deep and narrow valleys, to enter Lake Turkana in a delta just south of the river plain profiled by the Turkwel and Lokichar Rivers.
31. Chebara Dam
Commissioned in 1999, Chebara Dam located 12 kms northeast of Sergoit Hill along the C50 Eldoret-Cherangani Road, is fed by Moiben River that rises in the Embobut Forest within the Cherangani Hills Forest Reserve. This 12 km2 dam is the main source of water for residents of Eldoret Town and its environs. The picture-postcard Chebara Dam set in the middle of a forest patch, part of which was cleared to set it up, is still a hidden gem of adventure which can be explored on a long afternoon outing. There are boats available for hire, either for fishing or for simply exploring the dam. There are walking trails that loop around the dam. It’s located 30 kms from Eldoret Town and 27 kms north from Iten Town.
32. Embobut Forest
Gazetted in 1962 as a Reserve, the 220 km2 Embobut Forest is the most distinct feature in the northwest corner of Elgeyo Marakwet County. This forest forms part of Cherangani Hills Forest Reserve. Although rarely travelled, the drive to Embobut Forest on the narrow road with some romantic stretches could round up a perfect trip to the County. In some sections, the rippling hummocks form scenic crests that are the stuff of postcards. In the past two decades, Embobut Forest gained unwelcome notoriety as its indigenous forests came under threat, owing to the dodgy settlers who have destroyed its ecosystem. Since the 1960’s, the Sengwe Community, who are a native tribe residing in Embobut Forest, has been evicted many times, as a course to bring to a halt its wanton destruction and deterioration; with little success. It’s located about 60 kms from Iten Town.
33. St. Micheals Church in Embobut
The northwest area of Embobut is howling and varied, its terrain ranging from wooded hillocks, the dramatic escarpment and the ever-green montane forests. Almost reminiscent of Tambach Town, on a miniature scale, Embobut Centre is an enchanting little settlement build right at the edge of the escarpment. One of the best-kept-secret hidey-hole to visit at Embobout is the St. Micheal’s Church, whose sobriquet as the Church in the Clouds answers to its sensational location at the extreme northern edge of the Elgeyo Escarpment, overlooking the Kerio Valley in almost all directions. The Church, which sits on a transfixing viewing ledge, is marked by bright monumental sharp angular walls, making this appear timeless. The view from St. Micheal’s Church includes the rippling Cherangani Hills, the impressive Elgeyo Escarpment, Kerio Valley, and the Embobut Forest.
34. The Foothills
Elgeyo Marakwet County has three noteworthy hills, all in the northern region: Kipkunurr (3063 ms), Koisungur (3167 ms) and Kipteberr Hill (2774 ms). The triad of outlying hills, which are much lower than the great peaks of the main Cherangani Forest Reserve, are still enjoyable to hike or drive by. It is possible to drive up the Kosungur Hill via the winding steep road from Makutano. The other two hills require further hiking. All offer splendid views of the charming villages of Elgeyo Marakwet’s back country. Conscious of the need to preserve its natural and cultural heritage assets. Elgeyo Marakwet is in the process of creating a working model to manage these hills, in its bid to attract travellers, and to find a sustainable balance. Up on the top of either of these hills, there are fine sheer drops down the sides of the narrow roads, in a wilder woody country.
35. Kipteberr Meteorite Site
On appearances alone, there is something unprecedented about the oddity of the Kipteberr Hill, which is located only 5 kms south from the main Cherangani Forest. “According to folklore, this is where a meteorite fell on villagers, killing scores who did not heed the warning of a crow that there would be a disaster” NMG. Either way, this steep hillock, which resembles a cow’s hump, is striking. It is also around the Kipteberr Hill that the Marakwet Community claim their genesis. As it goes, they originated with five territorial groups who associated with each based on their collaborated heritage along the Kerio Valley and the Cherangani’s. These five groups are: Endo, Markweta and Almo in the Valley and the Borokot and Cheranganis in the Hills. It is situated in Kacherop Village.
36. Kiplagoch Caves
Having offered the famous forests and hills, northern Elgeyo Marakwet is by no means done with the intrepid. Kiplagoch Caves are a series of seven interlinked caves, discovered two hundred years ago, comprised of an extensive mosaic of tunnels and chambers extending for about 50 ms meters into the precipitously rugged country. The entrance of these caves is found at the occiput of a small gully, which is resided by a plenteous colony of bats as well as some variegates bird species. The Kiplagoch Caves are set about 5 kms from the Kapyego Centre.
37. Marakwet Furrow Scheme
Last but not least in the catalog of best places to visit in Elgeyo Marakwet is the momentous and epoch-making up-in-years Marakwet Furrow Scheme. These ancient furrows are, undoubtedly, the most intricate traditional farming scheme in Kenya. Thought to be over 500 years old and spanning over 40 kms with over 91 central canals totaling 350 kms, the Marakwet Furrow Scheme channels the waters from Embobut, Embolot, Ennoui Rivers and several other runlets rising in Cherangani Hills through the furrow scheme – built using trunks, wood and bricks lain on top of each other and with the support of mortar and leaves – down into the droughty Kerio Valley, which is more than 1,500 metres below. Irrigation occurs along more than 40 kilometres of Elgeyo Escarpment from south of Arror north to Tot, and it has been managed essentially in the same way for 500 years. Remarkably, these ancient and elaborate system of canals continues to prosper and grow and since the 1980’s no less than 30 new canals have been constructed. Into the bargain, this extraordinary local achievement of guiding water down the steep Elgeyo Escarpment has been achieved without a centralized political body or even a dominant class overseeing its planning or elaborate perpetuation organization. It operates on non bureaucratic principals.
It is a tricky operation to take water out of the rivers down the escarpment, through headworks, dams and sluices into kilometre upon kilometre of canals, carefully levelled and embanked along the escarpment face and utilising, where necessary, only basic materials made of hollow treetrunks and shelves supported by wooden scaffolding along almost vertical cliffs, to reach the valley and to irrigate the fields.
Geography of Elgeyo Marakwet County
Elgeyo Marakwet County as a whole falls into three topographical zones. At the Northern boundary (where the Marakwets live), there is a high altitude region of forest and moorland, the Cherangani mountains; a potential area for forest, pyrethrum, tea, woolsheep, potatoes, dairy cattle, etc. On the Eastern fringe is the Kerio Escarpment and Valley. The Highland plateau rises from an altitude of 2700 meters ASL on the Metkei Ridges, in the south, to 3350 metres ASL on the Cherangani Hills Reserve, in the north. It borders Baringo County on the East, Uasin Gishu on the South, and Trans Nzoia and West Pokot on the North.
Land Use in Elgeyo Marakwet County
Elgeyo Marakwet’s economy and livelihood is centered on agriculture, which is depended upon by over 76% of the County’s rural population in crop farming, livestock production and fisheries. The County has two salient agro-ecological zones at the highlands and lowlands (Escarpment and Kerio Valley) each with a disparate agricultural potential. The area under arable agricultural enterprise accounts for 2171 km2, which constitute 71% area of the county. Agriculture sector employs almost 90% of the County’s work force. The main cash crops cultured in Elgeyo Marakwet County include tea, pyrethrum, maize, and coffee.
Highlights in Elgeyo Marakwet County
The scenic Escarpments and the beautiful Kerio Valley best seen at the highest points over Elgeyo Marakwet are the main attractions. Rimoi National Reserve, located at the centre of Kerio Valley, is another huge tourism potential within the county. The ideal climatic condition and the altitude of the highlands offers exceptional opportunities for sports tourism especially given the fact that local and international athletes train around Iten. There is potential for developing tourism because of the beauty and wildlife around Lake Kamnorok. If there are better communications into the valley it is possible to consider linking up into Western tourist circuit of Kericho, South Nyanza, Kisumu, Kakamega and to the routes of Trans Nzoia, Baringo and Samburu. Hotels and camps are on the rise.
Population in Elgeyo Marakwet County
Keiyo North has the highest population density of 148 persons per km2 while Marakwet East has the lowest with 109 persons per km2. Keiyo South and Marakwet West have 132/km2 and 146/km2. Total population was 370,712 in 2009. The 2012 population projection was 401,989. Population growth rate for the county is 2.7% per annum. The highlands, constituting 49% of the Elgeyo Marakwet County’s area, are densely populated due to its endowment with fertile soils and reliable rainfall. The Escarpment and the Kerio Valley make up 11 percent and 40 percent respectively. Human development indicators show that Elgeyo Marakwet County has 51% of residents living below the poverty line.
Airports in Elgeyo Marakwet County
Elgeyo Marakwet County has 2 non-functioning Airstrips at Tot and Chepsirei.
Roads in Elgeyo Marakwet County
The County currently has a total road network of 1,579.4 kms of which 152 kms (9 %) is bitumen, 996 kms is gravel surface (63%), and 431 kms is earth (27 %).
Climate in Elgeyo Marakwet County
The altitude in Elgeyo Marakwet County varies from 3350 metres above sea level on the Cherangani Hills to around 1000 metres in the Kerio Valley. The temperature varies with altitude, between 18 C and 26 C mean maximum. The Cherangani Hills receive between 1200 mm of rainfall while the plateau records are 1000-1200 mm per annum. The Kerio Valley receives between 800-1000 mm per annum. The rainy season is March to September with maximum in May and August, and minimum in January. Seasonal variation increases in the more arid areas of the valley and reliability decreases. Temperatures in the low-lying valley are relatively high (over 33 C). Evapotranspiration is high in these zones which have long dry periods. January to March are the warmest months.
National Monuments in Elgeyo Marakwet
There are no designated national monuments in Elgeyo Marakwet County.