First, apologies for the lateness of this, the fourth and final instalment in what has been one hell of a ride through the Northern reaches of Kenya. A trip came up in between the writing of this article and the previous one so I’ve been a bit turned around and trapped totally tripping over trips in tandem. If you’re late to the party there was Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 previously. But no fear here we are, and it’s fitting that this series ends with one the oldest and most well known of the country’s parks, and yet one of the least visited (because it’s far, quite far.)
This where I usually put a little bit about the park but it’s been repeated over and over again in numerous forums so I won’t regurgitate it. Suffice to say the parks history includes an elephant called Ahmed, longest tusks, something about Mzee Kenyatta, and so on and so forth. Awesome blogger Safari 254 does an awesome job writing about it here.
Since we’re continuing from where we left off in the last article my directions might be of little or no use (this article is starting off rather inauspiciously) but you’re here and you will listen.
So we set off from Lasamu Camp in Ngurunit aiming for for Laisamis (route is red line on the map) instead of heading up to Logo Logo which we came through (the yellow line). You might realize that the route is kind of ass-backwards but as you might remember in Part 3, we had been warned that the Milgis Lugga might be in flood hence the the yellow – lined route while going in to Ngurunit.
So why do we go back down to Laisamis? The road is much better and this Kori bustard doesn’t want us to leave.
Some great murram road here due to oil/wind farms or whatever development is going on up here.
After joining the tarmac road at Laisamis once again it’s time to make sure everything is strapped in for the straight shot North. Note to future self: never buy ratchet straps from Nakumatt, limp spaghetti would be stronger.
This road has so few cars that when you come across one you just have to take a photo. It’s an event.
All in all the trip from Ngurunit to Marsabit is 170km and takes us around 3hrs. Not that long is it? But when you’ve been on the road for over a week our destination can’t come soon enough.
The landscape gets greener, the air gets chillier as we leave the desert behind, the last few km’s into town are not tarmacked but are very close to completion. We have gone from a low of 423m to 1374m (at its highest Mount Marsabit is 1707m), the landscape in the background shows you what a difference that makes.
So after having a look around town we’re finally at the Ahmed gate to the park (10min from Marsabit town) but if you think we’ll soon be in the park soon I envy your innocence.
Let me set the stage, we are only 2 people going into the park, somehow this sets the following series of events:
KC: Hi, we are 2 adults, camping for 2 nights, and one vehicle.
Ranger: Hello. Okay so thats 1person, camping for 3 nights and 2 vehicles.
KC: No, no, just listen. In fact I’ll write it down for you here.
Ranger: Okay thats easier (taps away at calculator). We should be okay now.
KC: No you’ve still got it wrong, I think you’ve under charged us. Ama niende tu?
Ranger: (chuckles) Saa zingine huwa nina sahau hizi bei. Let me call my boss.
(ten minutes later)
Ranger: I’ve confirmed, everything is fine now. So, that was 2 children, a plane and a dog?
The Muse: (wails) What have we done to deserve this?
Forty minutes (you read that right) later we have paid our penance for any sins we might have committed in the last 5 years and are released into the wild. Don’t get me wrong the ranger is so nice and friendly, she really is, but forty minutes is forty minutes. If you ever visit my house the tickets from this encounter will have been carefully framed and mounted on the wall.
It’s shocking the change in altitude and landscape. We have gone from roasting on the plains to having to wear something warm, and to think we are still surrounded by desert on all sides!
Driving through the park, you can see just how forest-y it is.
Sorry to repeat this photo, but this is just to show you our campsite at the parks most famous feature, Lake Paradise. Our campsite is in the middle of the clearing top right. The park has 3 major extinct craters called ‘Gofs’ , a local Borana word for the craters.
Once down in the crater we look for the official special campsite. We find it impossible to drive to it due to very rocky and muddy terrain and when we do get there it is in a bushy area with no view of the lake? Terrible siting of a campsite. Hopefully something has been done about this since I was there.
So since we seem to have the park to ourselves we just look a nice spot to pitch our tent under a tree. The coordinates for where we set up are here in case anyone’s interested.
Up and About
Almost all of park is extremely forested so if you’re out to score wildlife sightings you would have to be extremely lucky. Your best chance would be to visit any of the 3 craters in the park which all have clearings. So we content ourselves with taking walks near our camping spot.
This park is a birders paradise, because of the lake you get to see more species than you can count in a day.
When night falls I’m up to my usual shenanigans, but it’s a pretty hazy night so results are questionable.
- There is a campsite near the park HQ but why would you travel 100’s of kilometres to camp there? Camp inside the park at Lake Paradise. (You can also try to set up camp at the viewpoint but don’t tell KWS I told you that.)
- Lake Paradise campsites have no facilities, you must be totally self sufficient but it’s worth it.
- The park is very forested so as such there are no game drives in the traditional sense. Visit the craters for the views and a chance to see some game.
- For non campers there is only one lodge in the park; Marsabit Lodge. Looks decent enough.
- For information on park fees and contacts visit the KWS website here.
Despite the ‘slight’ delay on entry I really enjoyed my time here. This is not a park known for it’s wildlife but the birding, the butterflies and the views more than make up for it. If you’re ever up this way, don’t make the mistake many make of day-tripping this park. Stay the night, see the light change, watch the fog roll over the crater, have a billion stars all to yourself; thats the secret to what parks like Marsabit National Park are all about.
(see my final words below).
And so ends my series on Northern Kenya, it has long been a dream of mine to take a big trip like this, six months of research, planning and the ‘S’ word (saving). I hope I’ve managed to show that Northern Kenya is not some mythical big bad wolf, it’s a beautiful part of Kenya with the friendliest people living in a vast and beautiful landscape. With a bit of planning, great company and a sense of adventure it’s an extremely rewarding adventure.
As always comments and questions are always welcome, let me know what you think! But for now it’s goodbye and see you in the next article. I hope it’s something a bit tamer!