Lake Turkana is located in a remote corner of Kenya, distinct and distant from any other part of the country. The saline body of water is one of the largest in all of Africa, and the biggest desert lake in the world. Its waters are a magnet for migrant birds and rare hippos. It’s a crocodile kingdom too; thousands of the toothy creatures lounge on Central Island. Flamingos bright as cotton candy wade in the blue-green waters, vivid pink dots seen from high above the crater lake. The unique character of Lake Turkana is what led to it being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyond the Lake Turkana’s shores, three national parks make up the panorama of acacia savannahs, bushlands, grassy plains, rocky outcrops, and little date palm oases. Wild dogs, lions, and cheetahs add to the allure of this mysterious place. The black and white stripes of Grevy’s zebras stand out against the barren backdrop. The lake follows along the Rift Valley, its jade color a stark contrast to the arid landscape that could easily be mistaken for Mars.
It’s not hard to imagine that the other-wordly landscape of Lake Turkana was once lush, home to a fascinating variety of ancient life that have left their fossils here. There’s a petrified cedar forest covered in volcanic overflow, a 1.7 million-year-old mammoth skeleton, extinct tortoises, and ancient tools. The most fascinating discovery was the skeletal remains of human-like boy. Found in 1984, his discovery earned the area the moniker “The Cradle of Mankind.” Feel like a modern-day Indiana Jones in Sibiloi National Park, where many of these fossils were uncovered by the swirling winds.
Despite the feeling that Lake Turkana is an arid and sometimes hostile place, there are bursts of life and color to be found. Desert roses sprout from seemingly lifeless ground. The local communities dress up in vivid garb, the women in bright necklaces, and perform traditional dances. The people follow a pastoral way of life, much like that of their ancestors, surviving in the inhospitable terrain. Lake Turkana provides a supply of fish to the local fishermen.
If you thirst for a remote spot on the globe that still feels mostly untouched by human activity, Lake Turkana will cast you under its spell like the fisherman’s nets cast into its jade waters.