PARKS AND RESERVES
27-02-2021 by Leni Frau
Lake Turkana, also called the Jade Sea because of the remarkable, almost incandescent colour of its waters, which surprise with a variety of shades ranging from blue to green, stretches for more than 250 kilometres to the Ethiopian border.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, the park consists of Sibiloi National Park and Central Island and South Island National Parks.
This expanse of water in the Rift Valley, formerly known as 'Lake Rudolf' in the north-west of the country, is also considered one of the 'cradles of humanity', certified following the discovery of fossils at the Koobi Fora site, which lies at the heart of Sibiloi National Park, a place of enchanting beauty and petrified prehistoric forests.
The green waters of the park, constantly buffeted by capricious winds that are capable of raising terrible waves, are dotted with three major islands, other smaller islets and reefs.
The three main islands are North Island, which is infested with poisonous snakes, Central Island and South Island, which are, as mentioned above, both National Parks.
The main feature of Central Island are three active volcanoes emitting smoke and sulphurous steam and three spectacularly beautiful lakes: Crocodile lake, Flamingo lake and Tilapia lake. Their different colours - blue, green and brown - are probably due to the depth and chemical composition of the water.
Nicknamed the gem of Lake Turkana, it is home to the world's largest colony of crocodiles, which reach a monstrous size of over five metres in length. Central Island has a campground where visitors can enjoy the wonderfully eerie spectacle of the lake's luminous waters spilling onto a black lava beach as the moon rises above the ominous smoking craters.
South Island, also formed by a volcanic eruption, has the extraordinary shape of a mountain resting on the water, its striking conical outline protruding some 400 metres.
Known as the 'Island of Mystery', it is covered from end to end in volcanic ash and the nocturnal glow of its glowing mouths has inspired numerous tales of ghosts and evil spirits. Recognised by Bird Life International for its ornithological importance, the island is home to some 200,000 waterfowl. At least 23 species breed here, including the goliath heron and the African skimmer. Birds of prey are also abundant, especially swallow-tailed kites. This park is ideal for game watching and has one of the largest concentrations of crocodiles in the world.
Access to Lake Turkana is usually by air, there are two airstrips, one of which is at Loiyangalani.
By road: The lake is a three-day drive from Nairobi via Marsabit and North Horr, or Maralal and South Horr. Alternatively, one can travel by road from Nairobi to Kalokol, on the western shores of the lake, via Kitale and Lodwar. Boat rental services to the islands are available from Kalokol.
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