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Northern Frontier

The Northern Frontier of Kenya covers the most rugged and wild region, and is definitely for the more adventurous safari traveler in Africa.

Deserted nature reserves, empty roads and inaccessible mountains, the Northern Frontier area is naturally undisturbed and boasts two World Heritage Sites (Sibiloi and Central Island). This region is also integral to research into man’s origins – Koobi Fora is the site of several key archaeological discoveries.

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Lodwar is probably the most important town in terms of human activity, located in the north-west and one of the largest settlements in the area. Noticeably “frontier-like”, it’s an administrative centre for the Turkana area and an important stop along the main road to central Kenya, making it a haunt of the trucking community. Situated in plain and empty landscape, it’s not a particularly attractive destination, but provides valuable supplies and ‘relatively’ modern facilities.

Lokichogio is another important town in the North; a site of foreign aid and refugee camps, it’s the base of the United Nations, the Red Cross and other NGOs (it’s informally entitled “Aid City”). A civil war in neighbouring Sudan and illegal immigration from Somalia and Ethiopia make it one of the darker corners of Africa and not a typical tourist destination. Of far more interest to the paying guest are the areas of Lake Turkana, which certainly have something of a positive nature to give…

Lake Turkana is locally known as “The Jade Sea”, named after the colourful and fresh reflections in its mirror surface. Sandy, wind-swept shores, dry shrubland, extinct volcanoes, lava flows, forests and swamps all make up this wilderness. Two national parks are situated on two of the three volcanic islands found in the Lake, Central Island National Park being one of the earlier mentioned World Heritage Sites.

The lake itself is also of international significance, and attracts anglers who send lines out to catch any of 60 species of fish – of notable interest, tigerfish, catfish, puffer fish, tilapia and the huge Nile Perch. Some parts of Lake Turkana are so saline that the water is undrinkable.

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Places to stay vary from fishing camps to small campsites and lodges, and activities focus on either the angling or good birdlife. Central Island National Park has up to 20,000 lesser flamingos at certain times of the year, whilst the huge crocodile population gives some unique sightings of the reptile (one particular fossil found at Koobi Fora put a crocodile at at estimated 13.5 metres!). South Island is also of good destination value – volcanic sand banks provide hundreds of crocodile with convenient sunbathing – again, very large specimens, and reputedly several man-eaters.

Sibiloi National Park is the second site of World Heritage acclaim, given the title for its human prehistorical significance. A new species of hominid (Kenyanthropus platyops) took our insight into human evolution back to 3.6 million years ago, and other good fossil finds of more recent hominid origin also make Koobi Fora an important worldwide location – it is sometimes known as the “Cradle of Mankind”.

Amongt the various human-related finds (Homo erectus and Homo habilus skeletons are two of the more important finds, as well as Stone Age artefacts), there are also fossils of the behemoth (predecessor to the modern elephant) and a giant tortoise shell dating back over 3 million years. The park is not only prehistorically important, it is currently wildlife-rich (despite the arid landscape), and the rare cheetah and striped hyena can be found here, as well as Grant’s gazelle, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk and lesser kudu.

 

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