I have visited Lake Turkana thrice, three times more than I ever thought I would. All the trips have been amazing
Far flung and lying in the vast remote arid lands of northern Kenya, the lake is not what you would call a typical tourist destination. It is however a pleasant change from the usual wildlife and beach attractions that the country is famous for.
It is unique in that it is the most saline of Africa’s lakes and also the world’s largest permanent desert lake – a miraculous anomaly of life-giving water in a parched and unforgiving land.
Lake Turkana region is home to hundreds of species of birds native to Kenya and is also an important flyway passage and stopover for Palearctic (denoting a zoogeographical region consisting of Europe, Africa north of the Sahara, and most of Asia north of the Himalayas ) migrant birds. The birds are essentially supported by plankton masses in the lake, which also feed the fish. A total of 84 water bird species, including 34 Palearctic migrants, have been recorded here.
I took most of these photos on the western shore of Lake Turkana next to a little fishing village near Kalokol.
The black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is characterized by its extremely long, red legs, white stomach and, true to its name, jet-black wings . Its distinctive legs make up around 60 percent of its overall height. Young birds can be distinguished by a dash of dark feathers on the usually white head
The greater flamingo is instantly recognizable by its long, thin neck and legs, colorful plumage and distinctive downward-bending beak. It is the largest of the flamingo species and also the palest, with white to pale pink plumage, contrasting red shoulders, and black tips to the wings.
The female is smaller than the male, and juveniles are grey-brown with some pink in the under parts, wings and tail. The legs and beak are mainly brown . The call is a goose-like, honking ka-haunk.
The cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), a large water bird, has a long neck, giving it something of a primitive, reptilian appearance. Adults are black with a bluish or green sheen. At the base of the bill is an area of bare, yellow skin surrounded by white. In the breeding season there is a white patch on the thigh, and throughout the year a variable amount of white occurs on the crown and back of the neck.
Juveniles are dark brown and have a white area on the under parts. A variety of deep vocalizations are produced in colonies The name cormorant is derived from the Latin ‘corvus marinus’, which means ‘sea crow’
The grey heron (Ardea cinerea) has a distinctive long neck, a strong, dagger-like bill and long yellow legs. In flight, the neck is folded back, and the wings are bowed. The sexes are similar in appearance
The yellow-billed stork (Mycteria ibis) is a large wading bird, which is most easily distinguished by its black tail and long neck. It also has a characteristic yellow bill, with red skin at its base that extends onto its face. The bill is long, blunt and slightly downward-curved, perfectly adapted for catching its prey.
The coloration of the yellow-billed stork becomes more vivid throughout the breeding season. Its bill becomes a deeper yellow and the face a brighter red while the feathers are saturated with pink and the skin of the head is retracted, the area of visible red skin hidden beneath becoming larger. The ordinarily dull legs become a brighter red
It has long, brownish legs, used to stabilize the body while searching in water for prey.
The Pink-backed Pelican is a relatively small pelican though by no means a small bird. The plumage is grey and white, with a pinkish hue on the back occasionally apparent (never the deep pink of a flamingo). The top of the bill is yellow and the pouch is usually greyish. Breeding adults have long feather plumes on the head.
It shares habitat with the great white pelican which is generally larger and has white instead of greyish plumage.
The Little Egeret is member of the heron family can be identified by its pure white feathers; elongated, sinuous neck; long, black legs and dark, stabbing bill.
During the breeding season, breeding adults develop two long, slender nape plumes and a beautiful gauzy plumage around the breast and back
The distinctive African sacred ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is characterised by its large size, primarily white plumage and conspicuous black head and neck, which lack feathers
Besides the birdlife, the lake boasts one of the world’s largest population of Nile crocodiles which survive on giant Nile perch, which in turn feeds on a profusion of blue-green algae. This prehistoric lake has also known as the cradle of humankind: its shores having revealed the oldest-known fossil. The area is also home to several tribes who have become masters of wresting sustenance from the harsh landscape.
Regrettably Lake Turkana and its inhabitants now face an environmental catastrophe. The lake could start drying up due to its main source, the Omo River being dammed.
In 2008 Ethiopia begun building the Gibe III dam along the Omo river. The Omo river contributes about 90% of Lake Turkana’s inflows. Despite several objections to the building of the dam due to environmental concerns construction has still continued.
During the first year of the filling of the dam’s reservoir, 60-70% of the Omo River’s flow will be held back. Levels in Lake Turkana are expected to fall 2 metres in the first 1-2 years of the dam being filled. Furthermore irrigation projects in the Lower Omo could contribute to further lowering of the lake’s levels. It is predicted the level of the lake might fall to 22 metres. Currently the average level is around 30 metres.
Studies have also shown a positive correlation between lake levels and annual fish catches. Around 100,000 people live on the lakeshore and it is estimated that around 300,000 people depend on the lake for their livelihood.
I would love to visit the lake again and would advise anybody looking for adventure off the beaten path to visit the Lake Turkana region.