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5 Kenyan Holiday Destinations in Turkana and Rift Valley

Much local holiday travel in Kenya involves going to the Coast. If not the Coast, most holidayers end up in Nanyuki or Naivasha. But what if you wanted to go somewhere else, what are the alternatives? 

An interesting itinerary would be Lake Turkana, through the Kerio Valley and Kerio Escarpment. This is a trip doable both by public transport or as a self-drive. Given the distance, it takes at least 2 days by road - though it's manageable in one day if you have 2 drivers. 

However, it would be more fun if you explored different destinations on your way up and back, which I'll highlight below. 

1. Iten - Kerio Valley and Kerio Escarpment

The Kerio Valley is a breathtaking valley within the Rift Valley, with the Elgeyo/ Kerio Escarpment forming one boundary of the Rift Valley and the Tugen Hills forming the other. The Tugen Hills are within the Rift Valley and one of the oldest features on the planet. The Kerio River flows in between falling over the escarpment at the Torok Falls. 

The best way to take in the scenery is to drive to Nakuru, then on to Marigat. The drive from Marigat to Kabarnet offers a very scenic approach to the Tugen Hills followed by an ascent up the hills. 

The road then descends to the Kerio Valley through 2 viewpoints. You can always stop by the roadside, but it's best to stop where you are visible by drivers going both ways due to the sharp bends hence minimising risk of an accident. 

This route offers the shortest but most scenic ascent into Iten as compared to the alternative through Eldama Ravine. 

It's advisable to leave Nakuru by 1 PM to make the best of the scenery in daylight. 

If taking public transport, it's best to be in Nakuru by 10 AM, then take a matatu to Kabarnet, and another to Iten. While the matatus don't stop at the view points, a window seat will work well for the trip. 
The road is tarmacked all through, but has a series of potholes to Marigat. If you have time, you may consider touring Lakes Baringo and Bogoria which are on the way too, and separated by a swamp. 

In Iten, the Kerio View Resort is parched just over the escarpment offering views into the Kerio Valley below. Double rooms go at about KSh.12,000 on half-board. The hotel and bar are well stocked with good meal options. It also features an athletes' village as Iten is a high altitude athlete training camp. 

More affordable accommodation options are available within Iten town. 

Samich Resort offers an alternative, scenic peek into the Kerio Valley, but at this time remains shut after closing down for renovation during Covid. The route to Samich through Eldama Ravine is however the less scenic road though the views here may be better. You could also take a circle through Iten then back to Samich which is way longer but offers the scenic views.

The valley has a smoky haze most of the year due to land and charcoal burning both in the valley and all the way in South Sudan. 

Stock on shopping such as ice in Nakuru as Iten offers few options with variety. 

While in Iten, you could visit the Torok Waterfalls.

2. Turkana - Lokichar/ Lodwar
Iten to Eliye Springs is currently 8 hours by road - avoid the road through Kapedo unless you really know what you are doing as it is a bandit prone area. 

You may therefore find it easier to have an overnight stop at Lokichar which is 6 hours away. The Black Gold Resort is recommended at about KSh. 5,000 for bed and breakfast. Alternatively you may proceed to Lodwar which has a livelier nightlife and more options.

If driving, you can almost totally avoid the Eldoret- Kitale highway by going through Moiben and the Cherangani Hills, then rejoining the Kitale Highway just before Kapenguria at Maili Saba. You'll have to take a short untarmacked section between Moiben and Cherangani.  

If taking public transport, you may consider taking a matatu from Iten to Eldoret, then to Lodwar which is easier.

The road is scenic as it winds down the escarpment from Kapenguria and again as it makes its way through the small gap in between the hills at Marich Pass. Caution is advised when driving due to the steep descent, sharp bends, potholes and trucks which crash often.
Between Lokichar and Lodwar, the road remains largely under construction. Some sections of the old roads have corrugations, and these can be avoided by following the sections motorists have carved out beside the main road - where you see the matatus and trucks driving along. 

In Lodwar, Ceamo Prestige Lodge is a recommended place to stay, though lots of other options exist. 

Previously, the road was bandit prone between Kainuk and Lokichar, but is now safe with increased security and ongoing road reconstruction. There are also potholes along this stretch. 

There are lots of police road blocks on the road from Kapenguria, though these shouldn't be a bother until after Kainuk. Here, you may be hassled and it's generally advised to leave "something small" should that happen to you. 

3. Lake Turkana - Eliye Springs
About three quarter of the road to the Elite Springs is untarmacked. It is however motorable including by non-4 wheel vehicles. The shoreline stretch to Eliye is sandy and you may get stuck in some sections if in a non 4WD/AWD/AWC. You can call the resort or call on other motorists to tow you out. 

If on public transport, take a Probox taxi from Lodwar to Eliye Springs. There's no proper public transport on this stretch. 

Lodwar has well stocked shops and supermarkets and you can shop at supermarkets such as Kilimanjaro before heading to the Lake.

You will need to have your tyre pressure at two thirds the recommended pressure - for 35 PSI, your pressure should be 25 PSI to 29 PSI. This is due to the corrugation and sandy stretches which will shake the car too much if at normal pressure. You can manually deflate the tyres should you find the car skidding or shaking too much. However ensure the sidewall doesn't bulge as this brings a risk of the tyre coming off the rim. The aim is to have enough leeway to avoid the tyre bouncing off the corrugations but wrapping around them. Remember to reinflate your tyre once back to Lodwar as deflated tyres last shorter on tarmac. 

The Eliye Springs are one of a few springs that feed Lake Turkana. The Lake shore is sandy and dotted by Duom Palms which resemble Coconut palms. 

The water is warm and enjoyable to swim in, though the lake is crocodile infested and lots of people have fallen victim to the reptiles. Swimming is at your own risk and totally not recommended from dusk and at night. 

You can take sunset boat rides at about KSh. 3,500 per boatload or rides to Central Island at about KSh. 20,000 per boat load. 

Accomodation is available at several camp sites which range at between KSh. 600 to KSh. 800 per person. 

Non-camping options are largely the Eliye Springs Resort, which is not much of a resort. Rooms on half-board start at KSh. 13,000 for a twin bed and KSh. 28,000 for a double hut. Traditional huts go at KSh. 2,000 a night but have shared toilets and bathrooms. 

It's however recommended to do a tent and mattress at the campsite as it's cooler, or take the KSh. 13,000 twin rooms which go at KSh. 8,000 for one person. 

Note that the power at Eliye goes out at 8 PM as it's solar generated off-grid, while Eliye Springs Resort runs it's generator till 10 PM. It's still quite hot indoors until past midnight where temperatures may drop below 30 degrees when the lake gets windy. You will therefore need to plan to have your devices charged and a light to move around after lights out. 

Besides chilling by the lake shore, you can take walks around the lake. Due to the hot weather, the walks are best early in the morning or at sunset. Avoid walking at night due to scorpions and snakes. 

The lake itself sits in a low basin flanked by a 10 to 20 metre steep hillside marking previous high water levels. The Ethiopian Highlands are said to have erupted later cutting off Lake Turkana from the Nile where it got its fish and crocodile from. Decreased rainfall from the Congo weather system led to a fall in water level and it's disconnection from Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria which were once all connected. 

4. Kapenguria - Barnley's Resort 
While heading back from Turkana, you can take advantage to stop over in Kapenguria for a night or so. The Barnley Resort is a homestay and campsite just outside Kapenguria town run by The Barnley family for decades. 

It's currently run by Richard Barnley who's in his sixties and quite the gifted and hilarious orator. His hilarious stories will have you wiping tears. 

Accommodation can include dinner and breakfast, or you could opt for dinner at the nearby Kesogon shopping centre. 

By public transport, take a matatu to Kapenguria and then another alighting just before Kesogon, or a matatu to Kitale and alight at Barnley's before Kesogon.

5. Kembu Cottage
Kembu Cottage offers a number of cottages in Njoro, set in an expansive farm with hundreds of horses and a few cattle. 

The units are nested amidst grass and tree expanses setting the mood for a relaxing stay or for those seeking some inspiration from mother nature. 

Cottages start at KSh. 7,200 per night and half-board at an additional KSh. 3,000 per person. The good here was the best so far in all places visited. 

A self-cook option may be available, but be sure to bring all your ingredients. Equally, stock up all your supplies in advance as the nearest proper shopping option is in Nakuru about 20 kilometres away. 

Some of the cottages come with an all-glass sitting area with a fireplace for cooler nights. 

Besides the cottage, there are dozens of tracks around the farm where you can walk along amidst horses and cattle grazing in their paddocks. 

By public transport, take a matatu to Nakuru, another to Njoro town and then a taxi to Kembu Cottage.

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