29-12-2020 by redazione
For the resurgence of tourism and for today's tourism, made up of local travellers and foreigners inclined to adventure, to the search for space and distance, Kenya not only has savannah, sea, mountains and large lakes to offer but also the beauty of its desert, the most important in East Africa.
The Chalbi is a resource of vast proportions: it covers about 100,000 square kilometres, between the slopes of Mount Kulal and the Huri hills towards the Ethiopian side, not far from the semi-arid areas of Lake Turkana.
After decades of marginalisation and limited economic growth, due almost exclusively to pastoralism and marked indelibly by the scarcity of water resources and infrastructure, Marsabit County, in the north of the country, is relying on the unique charm of its "lunar" landscapes and biodiversity to relaunch the Chalbi desert as a tourist destination.
In this sense, the highway from Isiolo to Moyale and from there to Ethiopia has been a game changer, not only making the area viable but also opening it up to development.
Among the many types of investment, some entrepreneurs are also thinking of the hospitality industry, lodges, tour agencies and other tourism-related activities.
"Marsabit is offering an alternative tourist destination away from conventional tourism, especially during the Covid-19 crisis, where congested places are avoided by many," Sarah Elema, managing director of Chalbi Desert Travel and Tourism Agency, explained to the Nation.
Marsabit County is betting on this by showcasing its biodiversity by introducing people to the vegetation, animals, areas of historical interest and earth and weather phenomena that have created extraordinary landscapes.
"In a way, embarking on a trip to Marsabit County is equivalent to a return to the origins of humanity," reads an article proposing the Chalbi areas, "something akin to Arabia. You travel across vast plains, some dotted with lush shrubs and trees, mountains, deserts, people, legends and history stitched together by the shiny thread of one of Kenya's most beautiful and modern highways. At times one is mesmerised by the occasional swirls of sand that whirl over the highway like a rattlesnake on the prowl."
Marsabit County's Director of Tourism and Culture, Abdullahi Ibrahim, says the area is fast attracting a good share of local tourism, drawn by a different lifestyle and unfamiliar cultures, thanks in part to the one-stop-shop approach of several tourist attractions and biodiversity sites.
Marsabit National Park is home to 300 unique types of birds, making it a national attraction for ornithologists, in addition to the many species of wild animals. Especially oryx, antelopes, ostriches and even Gravy's zebras, an endangered species.
But it is the Chalbi, an immense scene of unspoilt nature, that is attracting the attention of ecotourism, and Marsabit County would like to preserve it from the outset by imposing only quality tourism with top-quality facilities and lodges.
With the Landscape, the aim is also to promote the history, traditions and customs of a people about whom very little is known, the proud Gabbra nomads. Their colourful clothes, the songs and dances of their women during their events and rituals, appear as a celebration of life in an otherwise hostile environment.
Chalbi is in fact a Gabbra word meaning 'salt lake'.
And its oases, its sudden 'salt lakes' are among the most amazing natural beauties to be admired, true natural landmarks for those who travel, especially on camelback.
All this, surrounded by dunes and extinct volcanoes, alternating rugged rocks with sandy bottoms, in an iridescent harmony that is not as devoid of life as it might appear. A great ocean of cracked land that has remained intact for thousands and thousands of years, after the draining of an enormous closed sea, of which Turkana today represents the only evidence, being the largest alkaline lake in the world. The magic is that of a real desert, with a temperature range that can go from 40 degrees during the day to 5 degrees at night.
One of the great attractions is the Kalacha spring, about 10 km from the heart of the desert. It is there that Gabbra shepherds bring their camels to water and refresh themselves. But the animals are also used to stopping there, both for water and for refreshment from the green vegetation growing all around.
A true oasis of beauty in the midst of aridity, and it is not the only one. As you get closer to the Hurri Hills, you will find more.
"It's like having the Dubai desert and the Maasai Mara in one location," explain local tourism experts. "Game drives can also be done on camels, or in a hot air balloon. But it is also a suitable place for explorers, geologists and naturalists and sports enthusiasts."
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