Attractions in Turkana County
33. The Suguta Valley
Few adventures capture the imagination of a rugged and untamed Kenya better than a flying-safari over the parabolic Suguta Valley, sensationally dubbed the “Valley of Death”, bounded by Samburu Hills, Losiolo Escarpment and Mount Nyiro in the south and with Lake Logipi marking its northern end. The 30 kms-wide, 80 kms long, flat bottom valley is thought to have once been occupied by the mythical Lake Suguta. “The valley is a vast segment of the Rift Valley, set between Lake Baringo to the south and Lake Turkana to the north. Towards the northern end, bordering Turkana, the valley floor is only a few hundred metres above sea level, making it one of the lowest parts of the Rift Valley” – The Star. It is a landscape of unusual beauty, resembling an endless mud flat, with no or little sign of life, as dry as a bone, typified by scoria cones ring-shaped hills and stupefying boulder beds formed by outwash fans of the rivers draining into it. Despite its charm, the Suguta Valley, gravely set at 400 m asl, is one of the most brutal and inhospitable sun-scorched valleys in Kenya, rarely topping road trip objectives. A jaunt to the Suguta Valley by road is reserved only for the strong-minded death-or-glory intrepid with a pedestrian regard for safety and harsh climate. By road, the journey to view the treacherous Suguta is best achieved on C77 Maralal-Loiyangalani Road. Remarkably, the biggest danger is neither the sun nor the terrain but the gun-trotting bandits who sway the Suguta Valley. “In this part of Kenya, raids and counter-raids are part of the violent pastoralist economy” – Nation Media. There are however some safe viewpoint of Suguta Valley specially at Malaso Viewpoint 36 kms from Maralal, in Samburu County.
Although there are many river beds in Suguta Valley, which might suggest that rivers flow here, none of them is faintly permanent. They are all intermittent, that is, they flow immediately after a period of rain, but dry up completely. This obviously indicates a very dry climate. Similarly the marshes near Mount Nyiro and Lake Logipi – are seasonal.
34. Loriu Plateau
Two of the crucial livelihood zones in Turkana County are at the riverine belt in Lokori and Katilu Wards of Turkana East Sub-County and Kerio Delta Ward of Turkana Central Sub-County. The valuable asset in these zones is the presence of the Kerio River and the adjacent riverine forest – although the river’s water level and flow varies seasonally concomitant with the rain seasons. Still and all, this at no time dries up completely and occasionally it floods. South of the river rises the Loriu Plateau. The hill range offers better grazing but the area borders Pokot territory and is often abandoned due to conflict. To the southeast beyond the Suguta Valley is Samburu territory that provides safer grazing options when migration is inevitable. The Loriu Plateau is an elevated Precambrian bedrock exposure, west of the Barrier Volcano, extending 64 kms north to south and is almost 8 kms wide. It is capped by Tertiary volcanic lava flows, the west margin rising gradually while the eastern margin is defined by a fault scarp more than 366 meters high in some areas to drop into the Suguta Valley with a maximum elevation of 1,463 meters. Loriu has a heterogeneous floral profile with acacia trees, bush and scanty grassland. Part of the ‘plateau’ is too steep for vegetation.
35. Lokichar Plains
Leaving Lodwar, the next major town is Lokichar 80 kms south. The peripheral area between Lodwar and Lokichar is dominated by Lokichar Plains. Trending north-south, the 60 kms long and 30 kms wide Lokichar Plains, typified by bare soils, shrubland and a semi-deciduous forest for miles upon miles, is bound to the east by Lochreesokon Hills and to the west by Kamutile Hills. Lokichar Hills are found at the southern region of Turkana County. In 2012, these plains made global headlines when 600+ million barrels of recoverable oil were discovered. The principal reservoir unit was Lokone Sandstone, which belongs to a larger family of sandstones called Turkana Grits. Ngamia 1 plant at Lokichar marked the genesis of a huge program of drilling-activities in Turkana. This success has since been followed by further exploration at Amosing, Twiga, Etuko, Ekales, Agete, Ewoi, Ekunyuk, Etom, Erut and Emekuya. A total of 21 appraisal wells have at present been drilled at the Lokichar Plains by the Tullow Oil East Africa.
36. Katilu Irrigation Scheme
31 kms west of Lokichar Plain sits the not well known oddity of Katilu Irrigation Scheme. In 1964, the Government of Kenya in the company with UK’s Freedom From Hunger Campaign set up the first irrigation scheme in Turkana County, at Lorengipe, which was to be naturally irrigated by flood-water and provide a useful place to farm. The first crop was maize, but this was a failure. The next year, 1965, the scheme was taken over by Range Management who were more successful with grass seed. During 1969 they established three other schemes – two at Turkwel Valley (at Lokichar and Lokorikippe) and a third at Narongole. Eventually, the problems of unreliable rainfall, its remoteness and marketing outweighed their attempts and they eventually wound down their operations. Katilu Irrigation Scheme, west of Lokichar, was launched in 1966, along River Turkwel, one of two perennial rivers in Turkana County. Irrigation water was diverted by gravity through earth canal to the scheme. Today, it still stands as a relic of the ambitious projects aimed at enriching the lives of the Turkana. The scheme has been under rehabilitation since 2011, with the aim of reinstating its furrows. The main crops grown here include maize, green grams, and sorghum.
37. Lokichar Hills
The scattered scrubland covered with herbaceous flora seen along the Lokichar Plains only subsides nearby Lokichar Hills. The increasing density of the woody plants on the higher reaches of these hills breaks the monotony of the shrubby vegetation, subtly repeated again and again until it becomes exhausting. “The Lokichar Hills with their impressive rocks stretch, offer tempting opportunities for hiking and a wonderful view from the top. Lokichar Town doesn’t offer any touring attractions but you could decent accommodation, food and petrol here”.
38. South Turkana National Reserve
Leaving Lokichar en-route Kainuk 65 kms southerly one finally arrives at South Turkana National Reserve nearby Katilu. This little oasis, teeming with a variety of fauna and flora, defies the odds of this austere, seared, arid and inhospitable Turkana County. Some of the notable wildlife are gazelles, dik-diks, lions and cheetahs, zebras and hyenas. South Turkana National Park is also home to large basks of crocodiles, over 80 species of birds, sweeping landscapes, hiking trails and camps. There is a ring-road that runs across the park from near Lokoro in the east to Katilu in the west. It remains fairly underdeveloped and unexplored.
39. Lokori Pillar Site
In contrast to the four prominent pillar site around Lake Turkana Lokori Pillar Site (also known as Nariokotome II) lacks massive basalt pillars. In instead, the site is comprised of dozens of upright black slabs driven into ground to profile low-lying concentric circle formations – with the larger often surrounding the smaller. These circular rings of short, upright slabs enclose burial pits covered by several layers of stone slabs. Also of interest nearby this site are several huge rocks bearing ancient rock arts depicting mainly animals. Not easily spotted from the road as is with the Namoratunga Stones, Lokori Pillar Site is located 5 kms east of South Turkana National Reserve, and about 64 kms from Lokichar.
40. Turkwel Dam
Just over the border of Turkana County in West Pokot County sits the 150 ms Turkwel Dam. Built between 1986-1991, this is Kenya’s tallest. Its hydro plant supplies the grid with 106 MW. Despite its relatively large output, power from the Turkwel Dam only connects to Kainuk Centre south of Katilu and all other regions in Turkana rely on costly diesel powered generators. Callers to Turkwel Dam can enjoy boating on the expansive dam or walk along its walkway to view the Turkwel Escarpment. Also found nearby Turkwel Dam is Nasolot National Reserve and the abandoned State House. It is situated 42 kms west from Katilu.
41. Nakegere Falls
Rather exceptional in that it is fed by warm water from the Kapedo geysers, the phenomenal 50 ms Nakegere Falls, more properly Kapedo Falls, is also one of the most scenically-spectacular waterfalls in Kenya, overlooking the impressive Silale Hills. Occurring along River Kapedo, Nakegere, translating as crack in the local lingua, has also been a key meeting place for the juxtaposed communities living around it and where peace has been maintained for decades despite the differences between the fierce tribes – Turkana and Kalenjin – who rarely see eye-to-eye. A trip to Nakegere Falls is well worth all the trouble of getting there. It is located about 100 kms south of Lokori Town and 68 kms north of Baringo.
42. Marich Pass
The steep descent from 6,110 ft in Kitale to 1,500 ft at Lokichar Plains loops and bends on a rocky cleft carved where Muruny River emerges from Cheranganis’. 43 kms from Kapenguria, at Ortum, the excitement with many motorists eager for a memorable drive and superb scenery is almost palpable. Ortum marks the beginning of the wondrous joyride, of sometimes sheer drops, running through the Cheranganis, along wholesome hairpin bends and edgy, lusty escarpments. On the map, the road appears to go straight as an arrow through the hills, yet, nowhere is the loss in altitude from 6,110 ft in Kitale to 1,500 ft at Kainuk better demonstrated. At Ortum, the road begins to drop and wind along a rocky cleft carved where the Muruny River emerges from the Cheranganis, simply known as Marich Pass. The hair-raising drive down Marich Pass cuts the Cherangani Hills from the Sekerr Ranges, passing past the abrupt peaks of Morobus Hill, to its north, and the Samor Hills, to its south, which mark the unofficial gateposts of the superb Marich Pass. It’s a heart-stopping and memorable 41 kms joyride.
43. The Desert Mountains
Sizable volcanic activity in Turkana County has produced a chain of impressive mountains seen on any direction you take within the county. These mountains, owing to their high elevation, are normally green year round, covered with thick bushes and high wooded covered peaks. The salient mountain ranges include, but not limited to, Loima, Lorengippi, Mogila, Songit, Kalapata, Lokichar Loriu, Kailongol,Kamutile, Taiti, the Pelekech Range, Morua Rith, and the Silale Hills.