A Northern Kenya Adventure: Part 3- North Horr to Ngurunit
In the last post, we travelled from Marsabit town to North Horr. This is part three of the series covering the longest stretch of the trip, from North Horr through Loiyangalani to Ngurunit.
Photography by Elvis and yours truly
North Horr- El Molo Bay
Day three started off early as it was going to be a long day, traveling from North Horr through Loiyangalani to Ngurunit. After a quick breakfast, we bid North Horr goodbye and kicked off the journey.
Just like the journey to North Horr, it is hot and there’s not much to see. As you drive further you notice a change in vegetation and scenery, you transition from sandy landscapes to very rocky terrain. Fortunately, there’s a proper road.
Hills appear on the horizon, and you begin to see Lake Turkana from a distance. The green waters glimmer, giving new meaning to the Lake’s other moniker, “the Jade Sea“. It’s absolutely gorgeous.
El Molo Bay
We stopped at our first destination, El Molo Bay to visit the smallest ethnic group in Kenya. There is a primary school and a Catholic Church at the shore, which serve the community. There are boats on site that ferry people to and from the Island.
Onto the boats and to the island. There we met with Julius who gave us a brief history of the community and the Island. The El Molo are the smallest tribe in the country, they are about 3500, as at the last census. This is a result of intermarriage with neighbouring communities like the Samburu, Turkana, Rendille, and Borana.
The main economic activity of the El Molo is fishing and the women make and sell beaded jewelry and woven baskets. We were also introduced to the area Chief who officially welcomed us.
When you visit the community, be sure to bring donations. Dry foods, cooking oil, sanitary towels for the ladies, sweets, and snacks for the children go a long way in helping the community. Accessing shops is a hassle and items are quite expensive and remember that they are a marginalized community. The El Molo are not herders, though some do have animals that they received as dowry from intermarriage with the neighbouring communities.
We trekked up a small hill to get a bird’s eye view of the place, and the scenic view of Lake Turkana was a treat. We interacted with the community and got to talk to the children, who gave us some insight into what daily life looks like for the community. We headed back to the village to buy some jewelry and crafts sold by the women.
If you find something you like you can bargain, but remember that this is the women’s main economic activity. At this point it was very hot, make sure you carry some water and a hat when you go on this visit else you will end up tired and dehydrated like I was.
We made our way back to the shore, and on to our next stop for lunch, Loiyangalani town. On our way, we saw the Loiyangalani Desert Museum which is a few minutes away from El Molo Bay. We didn’t get to visit the museum, but if you are interested and not pressed for time, you can go have a look and get a history of the eight communities living in the area, that is, the El Molo, Turkana, Daasanach, Gabra, Rendille, Pokot, Watta and the Samburu.
We stopped at Palm Shade Resort for lunch. We had the most delicious watermelons and a very filling meal lunch comprising of ugali, fried fish, fish fingers, chapati, and kachumbari. We got to meet the lovely owner of the Resort, Benedict who was so kind as to give us a tour of the rooms that they have.
If you’re going to Loiyangalani, I would highly recommend stopping at Palm Shade for a meal or staying there. The rooms are spacious, clean, and affordable, not to mention the kind host. They also sell water and other soft drinks.
We got back to the car continued with our journey. We stopped at the shopping centre to stock up on drinks. If you need to buy anything, I would suggest buying them at any of the centers where you stop, because you don’t know how far the next stop is and whether the next stop will have the things that you want in stock.
Our next stop was the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is a wind farm, comprised of 365 wind turbines that generate electricity. We stopped to marvel at the size and scale of the project, and of course, for some photos.
As you continue with the journey, the road becomes bumpy, the scenery transitions from being very rocky to a greener environment, dotted with very many hills and luggas. It feels as though you’re passing through a valley surrounded by hills and it is absolutely beautiful.
You pass by Laisamis, Baragoi, both in Samburu County, but you are making your way to Ngurunit, which interestingly, is in Marsabit County, in South Horr. The intersections of these counties is very interesting. The journey is long and for the sake of your sanity, do not ask how much farther you have to go, just enjoy the ride. We stopped by a shopping centre to stock up on water and proceeded to Ngurunit village.
“The earth has music for those who listen.”-George Santayana
We finally made it to Ngurunit and it was my first time seeing desert roses, which are native to Africa and the Middle East. They looked so pretty, I could not help but take a photo.
We changed into our swimming gear and headed to the famous Ngurunit Natural Rock Pools and Water Slides. I was so excited, I had been looking forward to this activity the most. The rock pools and slides are naturally formed and the water comes from the forests in the Ndoto Mountains in the form of River Ndelewai.
We made our way to the pools, which are a short trek from where we parked the vehicle, just a few minutes, I’d say a five-minute walk to the pools. When we got to the pools there were kids playing, I imagine because it’s quite hot (not as hot as North Horr), but it’s still hot so a dip is very refreshing, and much needed plus it was a Sunday afternoon.
The place is absolutely lovely. Definitely, everything I imagined and more. There is a series of three pools, you get on the first one, slide into a smaller pool, and then slide into the big pool, alternatively, you can slide from the first pool straight into the biggest pool. It’s completely safe.
Sliding was very fun, you get to relive your childhood.
I highly recommend visiting the pools when in Ngurunit. They are not just for kids, adults would also enjoy sliding into the pools. There are other natural pools in the area but, these are the most accessible and nearest ones to get to. The next time I visit Ngurunit, I will hike to the rock pools just to see what they are like. The trail is very rocky, that’s something to bear in mind if you’re looking to hike but many people do it and camp in the mountains. Mt. Poi specifically, is known for rock climbing.
I would also suggest visiting the rock pools during weekdays to beat the crowds. You pay shs.100 to access the pools and it is important to go with a local guide because there are wild animals in the area. I reckon hiking up the mountains would be a good experience, we were actually told that many expert mountaineers visit the Ndoto Mountains to prepare for challenging hikes. Around sunset, we headed back to the parking area after being warned that elephants visit the pools around that time. Apparently, elephants also enjoy sliding down to the pools.
I would not recommend visiting the pools during the rains for safety reasons. You might get a completely different experience, some people have found the place dirty and unsanitary as herds of cattle had been grazing around the pools. When we visited the pools were clean, we had no doubts as to the cleanliness of the pools.
We rushed back to the car back and headed straight to Lasamu Campsite where we would spend the night, which was less than ten minutes away. The owner, Stephen Labaraku, is a lovely host, very knowledgeable about Ngurunit, as his family was among the first settlers in Ngurunit, which he described as paradise, in the 70s before the Shifta War. He is passionate about empowering the local community, made up of the Rendille and the Samburu. We had some Chai ya jioni which was a good surprise because it was getting chilly. A bonfire was lit and we dispersed to refresh ourselves before supper.
The interesting thing about this campsite is that there are three choices of accommodation. You can either sleep in the rooms, manyattas/bandas or sleep in tents. They provide tents and beddings but the campsite is open for overlanders as well.
The campsite is well shaded and there are clean shared long-drop toilets and showers. It is not a luxury camp by any means but that is what makes the experience so special. There is electricity and Safaricom network/cell reception so you do not have to worry about charging and using your devices. I personally chose to sleep in a tent because we were told that at night, or very early in the morning you can hear elephants passing in the lugga (the campsite is built next to a lugga) and that we’d be woken up when the elephants were passing by.
We had dinner and drinks. I truly believe that bonfires and stories go together. It’s impossible to sit around a bonfire and not tell stories, you just can’t. Tales about people with divine connections to animals were told, dynamics in the domestic tourism in Kenya was discussed, and a lot more.
That is the beauty of group travel, the interactions made with amazing humans. All these under a beautiful starry sky. I couldn’t help but think about how you can barely see a sky full of stars in Nairobi, where all you can hear is crickets, cicadas, and the occasional howling, with a golden honeymoon lighting your path as you head to sleep. All you can hear is the sounds of nature.
I had heard good things about Ngurunit and it’s so easy to see why. I fell in love with the place, it is a cool and lush wonderland in the otherwise hot Marsabit, surrounded by tall, rocky mountains and home to elephants. It feels like a mythical jungle, its treasures only enjoyed by those who brave the journey. I recommend spending at least two days in Ngurunit to get a feel of the place and interact more with the community. Can you tell that it was my favourite part of the trip? I am continually mind-blown by the diversity and scale of Marsabit County.
For enquiries contact Stephen Labarakwe (+254) 0706-385 905 or at lasamucamp@gmailcom
Stay tuned for the last post of my Marsabit County Adventure, Part Four. If you’re hungry for more, enjoy the sneak peeks and behind the scenes of the journey on my Instagram.
Until next time,