Northern Kenya is a sparsely populate desolate desert region. Getting here typically requires flying in as the area is very remote.
Lake Turkana is the main draw here for safari travellers, but nearby Samburu, Shaba & Buffalo Springs Reserves and Marsabit Reserve further north are also worthy contenders. Whilst the heat of this area and its barrenness can feel inhospitable the flora and fauna that call this area home are magnificent. Many have adapted from their more common counterparts to survive in the desert climate and offer unique sights to the visitor.
A visit to northern Kenya is a spectacular experience.
Meru National Park
Straddling the equator, the Meru National Park is characterised by diverse habitat, including woodlands on the slopes of the Nyambeni Mountain range and open plains with wandering riverbanks. This park is famous as the setting for ‘Born Free’ – the film version of Joy Adamson’s book about her life. Her most famous lion, Elsa, has her grave here.
Wildlife includes lion, cheetah, leopard, elephant, antelope species, hippo, crocodile and well as over 300 bird species including Pel’s fishing owl, rollers and bee-eaters.
Bisanadi National Reserve, Kora National Park, Rahole National Reserve & Mwingi National Reserve
On the border of Meru National Park, the Bisanadi National Reserve occupies an area of 606km2. This wilderness area is only accessible by 4x4 vehicles.
Famous as being the setting for George Adamson’s camp until he died, Kora National Park has verdant lush green areas around the bank of the Tana River. Leopard, elephants, wild dog, hyena and cheetah are all found here.
Nearby Rahole National Reserve offers visitors the opportunity to seek out hippo and crocodile as well as excellent bird viewing. Species found in Mwingi National Reserve include hippo, crocodile, buffalo and warthog.
Samburu National Reserve, Buffalo Springs National Reserve & Shaba National Reserve
These three reserves offer visitors the opportunity to see a large number of species, including the gerenuk, zebra, giraffe, lion, elephant and crocodile. Over 365 bird species have been sighted here. Shaba National Reserve has hot springs that are worth a visit.
Marsabit National Reserve
Marsabit National Reserve houses three crater lakes that form the only permanent water in the region. Wildlife found here include greater kudu, elephant, grevy’s zebra, lion and a number of antelope species. A variety of birdlife is also found within the reserve.
Losai National Reserve
Tourism within this reserve is tightly controlled and numbers are restricted. The semi desert landscape of the reserve is inhospitable and makes the reserve quite difficult to visit. That said, for those that do make the journey, the breathtaking scenery and flora and fauna make it a worthwhile task.
South Turkana National Reserve
A relatively unknown and little visited reserve, South Turkana has prolific birdlife and a number of different mammals including elephant, impala, lion, leopard and cheetah.
Sibiloi National Park
Characterised by a semi desert ecosystem, the Sibiloi National Park was established to protect both wildlife and the prehistoric and archaeological sites which are thought to be linked to the origin of man.
A wide variety of wildlife and birdlife can be found within the park. A number of preserved wildlife fossils, including a giant tortoise and crocodile can also be found here.
Central Island National Park
At only 5km², this small national park is home to three beautiful scenic crater lakes which are a photographers delight.
South Island National Park
South Island National Park is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a priority site for biodiversity conservation. Over 220,000 waterbirds were recorded in this area in the 1990’s.
Malka Mari National Park
As yet undeveloped, the Malka Mari National Park was established in 1989 due to its high concentration of wildlife. The park is also considered an important site for plant endemism.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011
Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy is a not for profit organisation, which has been a leader in community based conservation principles for a number of years. Lewa is home to over 10% of Kenya's black rhino population, over 14% of Kenya's white rhino population and the world’s largest single population of Grevy’s zebra. The conservancy also boasts more than 350 birds species and over 70 species of mammal, including the ‘big 5’.
The Lewa model goes to show how combining wildlife protection, community development, and sustainable conservation can have a positive outcome for both humans and wildlife. Environmental education is seen to be of great importance here and is going some way to help minimise the impact of human wildlife conflict. The conservancy also works closely with the local community on a variety of projects including, helping them to appreciate the benefits of retaining the natural resources of the area as well as empowering them with alternative income generating choices.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy
A not for profit conservancy, Ol Pejeta is the largest sanctuary for black rhino in Eastern Africa. Generating revenue from tourism, donor investment and livestock production, all the funds received by the conservancy go into the day to day running of the operation as well as to support local community initiatives. Visitors here may be familiar with the conservancy as it was here that the BBC’s Simon King released the cheetahs, Toki and Sambu that he reared from small cubs. The conservancy is also home to the ‘big 5’ and the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.