Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning





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  1. #1
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    Default Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning

    Hi forum! I've been lurking for a while and really appreciate the good advice shared here. I'm hoping to join in to share from my experiences and not just take form the group. I'm a Kenyan resident who's road tripped around quite a bit to date: to the Mara, from Nairobi to the coast twice, across Tsavo East and West, up to Samburu, Meru, Lakipia, etc. One of my goals is to visit all of the National Parks (not necessarily the Reserves, that would be a bit too much of a stretch!) and so far I've been to 13 of 23. I managed all of that in a 2wd Rav4, but have just upgraded to a sturdier Nissan Patrol given how much I've enjoyed road trips here.

    I'm planning on a 9-10 day trip with friends in early April. The general plan is this:

    • drive up to Marsabit National Park, camp there
    • drive to Loiyangalani to stay at Palm Shade Lodge
    • hire a boat to go to South Island National Park
    • boat or drive up to Sibiloi if feasible
    • visit Samburu and Shaba reserves, and possible hiking around Mt Poi, on the way back south to Nairobi


    I've been calling around to make plans and have the following questions so far:
    1. How long would you recommend staying in Marsabit NP? A friend who went said it's quite small and if we arrived in the evening, camped, and did a half-day game drive that would be plenty. If you've been, do you think Marsabit NP warrants more than that?
    2. The road from Marsabit to Loiyangalani doesn't sound all that bad; would you recommend only going if driving in a convoy? My impression for now is that it sounds fine for one car, assuming we're well-prepared with spares, etc.
    3. Talking to the gentleman at Palm Shade Lodge in Loiyangalani, he said it's possible to drive to Sibiloi in 5-6 hours these days. That sounds shorter than I'd read online. I also haven't been able to find a track on Google Maps at all so am not sure of the route. Has anyone driven to Sibiloi recently and have thoughts on timing and road conditions? As with above, how necessary is it to go in a convoy of 2+ cars? My impression is that this part would be very lightly traveled and thus going with multiple vehicles is a good idea.
    4. Separately I'm planning on a road trip through western Kenya and up to Lodwar, and would drive to the west side of the lake to take a boat to Central Island. From what I can find online, it doesn't seem possible to drive from Loiyangalani on the southeast side of Lake Turkana to Eliye Springs on the western side, despite the short distance as the crow flies. Is this correct?


    I'd also be happy to hear any tips for what not to miss on the itinerary above! Thanks for your help.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning

    Welcome to the forum, bdkeller. Karibuni! I am looking forward to reading about your safaris around Kenya.

    I am sorry to be a dampener on your plans to visit the wonderful Lake Turkana, but April is the long rains and it would be foolhardy to attempt such a trip at that time. Any trip to Lake Turkana has to be planned carefully - even nowadays with the Lake Turkana Wind Power project where one access route has been upgraded.

    The manager at Palm Shades in Loiyangalani was talking about the new improved route which comes from near Laisamis/Logologo to just north of South Horr, and then on to Loiyangalani. He was not talking about the route from Marsabit over the Chalbi Desert. The Chalbi Desert route is definitely to be avoided in April.

    Yes, we have been to Marsabit NP. This is a mountain park and there are no ďgame drivesĒ. It is a wonderful place, but hard driving up the mountain and Iím not sure April is ideal. Here is a trip report I did for the forum. https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...-from-Ethiopia.

    Mt Poi is a wonderful mountain too, but it is a dayís drive from Samburu or Shaba on very interesting tracks and you would also have to get across the Milgis Lugga. It could raging in April.

    A trip to Sibiloi NP north of Loiyangalani is quite an adventure. You will need Tracks4Africa on your GPS as Google Maps wonít be adequate for any of the Northern Frontier District. It is wild and remote and if things go wrong, you are far from help. However, we drove it solo, but we knew what we were letting ourselves in for having been to Turkana a number of times before, had a satellite phone, and have very good contacts in Kenya. Here is a link to an excerpt from our blog for when we drove down the East side of Lake Turkana from Ethiopia in 2014. I know that things havenít changed since then. https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...-December-2014

    It is not possible to get from the western side of Lake Turkana to the eastern side without going into Ethiopia. I have read that the tracks up the western side to Omorate in Ethiopia are difficult and intrepid. The crossing of the Omo river is only possible because of a new bridge at Omorate. The south side of Lake Turkana consists of volcanoes (Telekiís volcano), crater lakes, the Suguta Valley, and harsh, harsh desert country. There are no roads in (and no roads out)!

    I hope this helps and do let me know if I can help in anyway. Have you read the Kenyan Camperís blog? He is a great young Kenyan trying to encourage young Kenyans to get out and about to discover their own country without costing a lot. We know him and perhaps he can help you too.

    With very best wishes and safari njema.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning

    Thanks for the thorough response, Wazungu -- from reading the forums I guessed you'd be the first to respond!

    In previous years the long rains haven't always started the first week of April, so I was hoping that by the beginning of the trip we'd have a clear forecast for that week and be able to proceed. Now I see from the Kenya meteorology service that the long rains are likely to start very early this year (next week?) so I will look for other dates for this particular trip - especially the part heading up to Sibiloi.

    If the rains in the first week of April are like the 'short' (ha!) ones we had in Nov/Dec, then I might change the plan altogether. But if the rains are relatively light by then, do you think the route from Laisamis to South Hoor to Loiyangalani will be OK? And relatedly, if it is raining some (but not torrentially) is the boat trip from Loiyangalani to South Island even possible?

    The trip reports are quite helpful, especially the description of crossing all the luggas. I have another group of friends looking to go directly to Mt Poi (not going up to Turkana) around the same time, and we may all shift to doing something different and dryer. I have read the Kenya Camper blog and been to many of the sites he recommends -- it's a great resource.

    Regarding getting from the west side to the east side of lake Turkana, I wasn't considering passing into Ethiopia but instead was curious if there's a route that goes around the southern tip. From your answer, that doesn't sound possible - though it does make the area sound even more interesting! Too bad.

    Also, regarding Tracks4Africa, I saw the prohibition against discussing other apps in the forums here. Do you know why that is? I'll get T4A if I drive up north past Marsabit, but to be honest from reading the reviews about usability and the price, it seems a shame that this forum is tied to that app rather than to more open-source mapping projects that have the ability to adapt more, and would bring in a broader user base. I'm just trying to understand where the no-other-apps rule comes from. Thanks again!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning

    Itís all rather difficult to predict rain nowadays, so I would keep a trip to Turkana flexible. The main thing about that part of the world is all the luggas that one has to cross. And never, never camp in a lugga (even if you think there is no rain around at the time - you donít know what is happening up stream). Luggas fill quickly and, fortunately, dry quickly and one just has to wait for the water level to go down.

    I donít know about the new upgraded road/track from Laisamis to South Horr (which was upgraded for the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project) and perhaps you could try to contact someone working on that project to ask. But we have driven from Laisamis to Ngurunit before the LTWPP and there is one very large lugga to cross at Ngurunit. There are more luggas too.

    As for whether a boat trip to South Island would be possible, what about contacting KWS to ask whether they actually have a working boat at the moment and where to get it from? Do not go on any local boat from Loiyangalani - only an official boat. It would all depend on the wind on the actual day. Lake Turkana is a very dangerous lake with gale force winds coming off Mt Kulal and many a boat has foundered on the lake and the people/bodies never seen again.

    I have never heard of a ban on this forum on discussing other apps/GPS datasets. The important thing is to have a dataset which can work offline. Maps.me can be downloaded and work offline. The thing about Tracks4Africa is that it is a dataset gathered from travellers like us who send their tracks to Tracks4Africa. If a track is on T4A you can be confident that someone like us has driven it in recent memory. We have put on T4A many of their Kenyan tracks. Most other datasets/apps take their data from governments and, yes, there might have been a road there 40 years ago, but it might now be little more than a bodaboda track. Google Maps is to be avoided apart from main roads. They simply donít cut the mustard for remote places or routes.

    What we often do is look on Google Earth to check that a road does still exist (you can zoom right in on the satellite imagery - one day Iím going to find an elephant on a track from Google Earth). I know that the Kenyan Camper uses Maps.me downloaded. The other app that is quite good is iOverlander although I did look at Turkana/Sibiloi the other day and the places that overlanders have camped on that route are complete NO NOs. Most wild camps marked on the route are described as ďnice camping in a river bedĒ. Never, never camp in a dry river bed (lugga)!

    I have a friend who lives on the Milgis Lugga and she sent incredible photos the other day of the Milgis in full flow. They have had good rains up there.

    Do let me know what you decide and please post a trip report from whatever you decide to do.

    Safari njema!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning

    Mr Keller, you need have no qualms about discussing Tracks4Africa and other apps on this forum and any other apps as far as I know. Most of them are commercial members and regular and welcome contributors. Let's see what others have to say on that topic.

    Marsabit is a small, but beautiful park. If the steepish road through the forest is not too wet, see if you can camp at the very lovely special campsite at Lake Paradise. This park is not particularly game rich, some ellies and buffalo etc but is a island of green and forest in a scrubby semi-desert landscape. Definitely worth a look. If Marsabit NP is too wet consider camping at Henry's Camp in town. Perhaps visit the interesting "singing wells" in the vicinity, a good way to experience local Samburu culture. You would probably want to spend 2 nights here to give you one day to explore the surroundings. If staying at Henry's he can help with highlights in the area.

    In the long rains I would not risk any drive towards Lake Turkana or Loiyangalani solo, unless you are exceptionally lucky with the weather.

    Tracks4Africa will take you very reliably to Samburu, which you seem to know, whichever route the weather conditions dictate. If wet you may have to revert to the main surfaced road from Moyale and enter near Archer's Post.

    The only way I am aware of to reach the west shores of Lake Turkana is by taking the tough western Kenyan route via Kitale, Lodwar and eventually the Eliye Springs Resort. This route is regularly done and is apparently less interesting and less demanding or testing than the one in the east via Sibiloi etc. However any rains will mean trouble I am afraid. I know of no route around the southern tip of Turkana, Kenya to eventual Ethiopia. This a fairly recent blog with some detail on the Western Turkana route https://blog.tracks4africa.co.za/west-of-lake-turkana/ You might in fact want to read the posts on Eastern Turkana earlier as well. Under my signature are also my own blog contributions on Southern and East Africa, from 2015, so a bit dated but still applicable. Start with PDF 2 to begin with East Africa,

    I have met folk who boated out to South Island on Turkana and loved it and others that visited Central Island, apparently even better. Someone who should be able to give you up to date info is Chris Handschuh from iconic overlander Jungle Junction in Hardy/Langata Nairobi. I think it is best to visit South Island from Loiyangalani by boat and gather this can be organised by Palm Shade or other lodges there such as Oasis Lodge, possibly best to book such an outing beforehand.

    If you want to visit Central Island further north this can be arranged through the Sibiloi National Park HQ in the east or from Eliye Springs Resort in the west. Again enquire ahead. Again weather permitting. Beware of informal boating arrangements, not safe.

    I am sure W.W. will be able to give you a far more reliable indication how the rains might affect your plans, I think April is risky. We have not been to Mt Poi yet. I would personally replan such a trip, which will be wonderful, for well away from the rains to avoid unnecessary danger and disappointment.
    Last edited by Stan Weakley; 2020/03/06 at 02:51 PM.
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    ďGreat journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you campedĒ.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Marsabit > Loiyangalani > Sibiloi planning


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