Samburu County

Attractions in Samburu County

22. Ndoto Mountains

Beyond Namunyak and Sera Conservancies then going through Losai National Reserve – between the centers of Merille and Laisamis 104 kms from Archer’s Post along the A2, the northern region of Samburu County is marked by grand alluvial inland peaks with summit points of 2,752 ms declining to crests of 400 ms as you near Lake Turkana. These are a chain of mountains consisting of old crystalline basement rocks, mainly of extremely durable gneisses and granites. The craggy Ndoto and Nyiru Ranges reaching up to 2,752 ms in northern area of Samburu County are the highest. Next to these, a series of volcanic peaks like Mount Kulal (2,285 ms), Mount Marsabit (1,707 m) and Huri Hills (1,479 m) in neighbouring Marsabit County tower over the inland plains. Set at the northern boundary, north of Namunyak Conservancy and west of Losai National Reserve, Ndoto Mountains overlook the broad Kaisut Desert; separating it from Mount Marsabit. A dense forest clads the upper reaches, although much of the deeply-gullied sides and rocky peaks of remain exposed. This contrast pieces together a rugged landscape. Its tallest peak, Mount Poi, clearly rises over 700 ms over the surrounding range. There are about a dozen more impressive cliffs rising over 500 ms, many of these peaking as high as 300 ms and 1000 ms in width. Ndoto Mountains are best seen at Ngurunit 70 kms west of Laisamis through Namarei.

Mount Poi, Ndoto Mountains. Image Courtesy of Kampur
Mount Poi, Ndoto Mountains. Image Courtesy of Kampur

23. Ngurunit Valley

Found near Laisamis, this desertlike, sandy valley peering up at the steep peaks and soaring craggy cliffs of the Ndoto Range, Mount Poi standing sentinel, is a wildly-beautiful arcadia, awe-inspiring not just for its wild, rugged and extreme natural beauty found in abundance in this arid block in Kenya but for its little known wonders like the plunge pool with a natural rock slide. Untravelled and unchanged till recently, exploring here feels mysterious, delving in a mesmeric unheard world. The Salato Camp and Lasamu Camp, both sited near Ngurunit River, offer exceptional accommodation options for trippers who are interested in exploring this little-known gem of Samburu County. Travellers can explore the Ndoto Mountains and Ngurunit River from the comfort of these two camps. 

North Kenya Expedition Part 1. Published by Routes Adventures

24. Mount Nyiru

The C77 Baragoi-Loiyangalani Road to the southern edge of Lake Turkana goes though Ngurunit, South Horr and then along the eastern flank of Mount Nyiru. From Ngurunit it is a 161 kms expedition north to Loiyangalani across an arid bushland and is approachable from both north and south with accommodation options on both ends. Rising to 2,752 ms, Mount Nyiru is one of the highest mountains in the North of Kenya. The western face of Mount Nyiru is topped with dark forests and some waterfalls oft-times veiled by an outpouring of the heavy clouds that cap its summit. The eastern side is much drier with more rock exposure. Owing to its importance as a water tower the 45 km2 forest around Mount Nyiru, of which about 8 km2 is covered with true forest, was gazetted, in 1956, as a forest reserve. A biodiversity of 448 plant species belonging to 104 families have been recorded on Mount Nyiru. The Samburu of Nyiru attribute a use to 249 species or 56% of the local flora. The adventure-lovers who hike up Mount Nyiru, in company of local Samburu guides, are rewarded with peerless cultural insights and mind-blowing vistas; Suguta Valley in the background, the Mowango Sowan Plains in the foreground, and in the middle distance sits the land which slopes towards the flat Rift Valley floor partly filled by Lake Logipi.  The rhapsodized over Desert Rose Lodge is set-up on the south-western slopes.

25. El Barta Plains

The El Barta Plains around Baragoi, much like the plains between Archer’s Post and Kom, is an extensive 4,435 km2 flat-to-gently undulating shrubland plain wedged between Ndoto Mountains (east), Mount Nyiru (north) and Samburu Hills (west) that range in altitude from 1,300 to 1,500 ms. While is it one of the harshest (near inhospitable) and uncharted regions in Samburu County, it lacks little in scenery. Set hard in the valley and enclosed by the steepest section of mountain ranges, great slopes and cliffs descend nearly 1,000 ms into the dusty shrubland. For those who brave the 271 kms via the C79 Wamba-Loiyangalani Road through Barsaloi, Baragoi and South Horr, there is always a reasonable chance of sighting elephants, greater kudu and oryx. The Nachola area (west of Baragoi) marks the western margin of the El Barta Plains. Largely uninhabited with an unusually reposeful landscape, these plains constitutes one of the four main ranges for Grevy’s zebra in Northern Kenya; alongside Laikipia, Wamba and Laisamis. However, the El Barta’s claim to fame was the Baragoi Massacre of 2012 where 42 police were killed in a botched cattle recovery mission. Cross cultural conflicts are a norm here and gun-trotting bandits sway this region. In this back-country of Samburu charges and counter-raids are not the exception.

26. Samburu Hills

Samburu Hills, rising 30 kms west of Baragoi and lying between the higher El Barta Plains to the east and the lower Suguta Valley to the west, are precipitous mountain lands declining in altitude westwards. These are comprised of classic volcanic flows. Seen to the distant left-hand when driving through Baragoi, the precipitous hills eventually roll down to meet the Suguta Valley; a 20 to 30 kms wide gap, which is part of the eastern branch of the Great Rift System popularly known as the Gregory Rift Valley. The flat bottom of the Suguta Valley has an altitude of about 400 metres. The large scale tectonic line forming the eastern limit of the Gregory Rift Valley separates the Suguta Valley from Samburu Hills.

Spatial Location of Samburu Hill in Samburu County
Spatial Location of Samburu Hill in Samburu County

27. The Nachola Site

At Nachola Village, situated down the escarpment in the gorge which eventually ends up at the bottom of Suguta Valley about west of Samburu Hills, is a site of archaeological importance that once produced numerous fossils relating to the ‘Kenyapithecus’ species. Nachola village occupies the western periphery area of the El Barta Plains. First excavated in 1963 by Baker and later in 1980 and 1982 by a Kenya-Japan expedition, the Nachola Prehistoric Site yielded several links in the chain of human evolution, with abundant fossils important to the study of ‘Nacholapithecus’ (initially classified as a Kenyapithecus sub species). While eight large‐sized hominoid species dating to Early to Middle Miocene (about 17‐14 Mya) are known to exist in Afro‐Arabia and western Eurasia, the facial and postcranial anatomy of these apes is poorly known. However, much has been learned of the craniodental and postcranial anatomy of ‘Nacholapithecus’ – an almost entire skeleton of a male individual exhibiting a shared derived subnasal morphology with living apes. Samburu hominoid, a late Miocene fossil was unearthed in the basal dormitory region of the Namurungule Formation about 15 kms from Nachola. The Nachola Site is situated 13 kms east of Baragoi Town.

28. Losiolo Escarpment

The view of Losiolo Escarpment from the top of Malaso Point is a breathtaking centerpiece. It is most accessible from Nyahururu and Maralal along the C77 Nyahururu-Baragoi Road. It is also accessible without too much difficulty via C78 Archer’s Post-Wamba-Maralal-Malaso Road on a matching distance of 198 kms that presents, in equal parts, great scenery and bumpy driving along an all-weather road that is to be avoided over the rain season. At the moment, the C77 tarmacked upto Maralal Town (about 36 kms outside of Malaso) is the quickest route to Losiolo Escarpment or Malaso Viewpoint encapsulated by a sensational collection of dandy peaks, craggy faces, sheer cliffs and striking jagged terraces that all roll down to Suguta Valley; marked by a constellation of mud cones. It is thought that Suguta Valley was once occupied by the mythological Lake Suguta which linked it to Lake Turkana. At the Malaso Viewpoint the scale of the bleak, relatively flat floor of the Suguta Valley, niftily fringed by uplands east and west rising to 1,000 ms, is a dramatic scenery. Here, for hundreds of feet below the valley’s floor, varying with each season, is more a moonscape than a landscape.

The Suguta Valley at the Malaso Viewpoint.  Image Courtesy of WikiMedia
The Suguta Valley at the Malaso Viewpoint.  Image Courtesy of WikiMedia