Marsabit Nat. Park – Frontier Oasis
This is my second post in my Marsabit County series, the previous post was about my trip to Marsabit town and a bit about the town.
Marsabit National Park is a remote montane paradise located in Kenya’s desert northern frontier, the park skirts the massive extinct volcano known as Mount Marsabit. Its name loosely translated means ‘Place of Cold‘. Marsabit Mountain is a natural phenomenon, born out of volcanic fire and shaped by mist. The mountain’s great mass has created its own ambient ecosystem. Rising like a mirage above the surrounding burning desert, Marsabit is a cool, green, forested realm often swathed in mist. Every evening at around midnight, the hot air rising from the desert floor cools and forms clinging fingers of mist which grasp the mountain rarely releasing their grip until the late part of the morning.
Arid scrub land a few kilometers outside the park. (Image courtesy of KWS)
Montane Mist (Image courtesy of KWS)
The park is heavily forested. (Image courtesy of KWS)
Back to my post; so I was up pretty early, 4.30 am to be precise. Under normal circumstances I find it incredibly difficult to wake up that early, must have been the excitement. After breakfast our first stop was Marsabit National Park. BTW the food at JeyJey is palatable and the portions are very generous, just don’t order their chicken. It was actually pretty cold in the morning and foggy too. Carry a warm sweater if you plan on having early morning excursions in Marsabit Town.
I had no idea it was going to be that cold, that’s me covered in a blue shuka.
We drove into the park using Ahmed Gate. I might be wrong but the gate is named after the famous elephant Ahmed. I first met Ahmed (or rather his skeleton) back when I was 6 years old during a school trip to the National Museum. I haven’t been there in in a while but I think his skeleton is still there. Ahmed lived in the national park and was known as ‘The King of Marsabit’. In 1970, in order to protect him from poachers, Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, placed Ahmed under his protection by presidential decree, an unparalleled occurrence in the history of the country making him the only elephant to be declared a living monument. The giant was watched over day and night by two hunters against poachers.
Ahmed the Elephant (image credit C. Francombe.)
Ahmed, boasted some of the biggest tusks ever recorded, died at age 55, and his body was preserved and is now on display in Nairobi National Museum. Image source http://artandartifact.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/brooking-disappointment-learning-to-museum-with-an-open-mind/
An elephant roaming outside the Park. The park is famous for it’s large task elephants. Image courtesy of KWS
Sign with a quote by Jomo Kenyatta at Ahmed gate
Our first stop was at the lodge. By now the shuka was gone, it was already getting hot. The view there…. it literally took my breath away. We’d been driving on a very rough dirt road with nothing but thick forests on each side of the road then suddenly we come across a clearing. I am sure the view at dusk is amazing.I would love to go back and spend some time at the lodge. After a bit of research I have discovered that the clearing used to be a lake. Sadly all you can see now is Nile cabbage on its surface.
View of the Lake without the weed. (Image courtesy of KWS)
The Lake covered with the invasive Nile Cabbage weed
View of the ‘lake’ right before the lodge entrance
We stretched our legs for a bit and took a walk inside the lodge. I forgot to take pictures of the rooms … but I did get a couple of the inside of the lodge
The county minister for tourism having a look around in the lounge area.
Our next stop was Paradise Lake. The lake was the main reason that we actually decided to go into the park, it had not been part of the plan. Lake Paradise is a crater lake that is sadly being strangled by Nile cabbage, an invasive species. The view of the lake from above makes it look like a map of the world with the patches of Nile cabbage making up the continents
After taking pictures from the viewing point Tuko, our driver drove my friend and I down to the lake’s shore where I spotted two Grevy’s Zebras (which are endemic to northern Kenya). That said we were not in the park for a game drive and I am sure we would have spotted more animals had we gone for one. Other Game in the reserve include; elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, buffalo’s, wart hogs, reticulated giraffes, hyenas, antelopes to mention but a few.
Baboons are abundant in the park. (Image courtesy of KWS)
After viewing the lake we were taken to a dam inside the park that provides water to the town.
The Nile cabbage has invaded some sections of the dam.
Nile cabbage is quite an issue inside the park. Hopefully KWS will be able to deal with the problem before the plant takes over all the water bodies inside the park.
Below is a summary of the park charges. You do need a vehicle to get into the park and you can find the charges on the KWS website (http://www.kws.org/). If you are interested in staying inside the park you can either camp or stay at MarsabitLodge(not run by KWS). KWS has very fair rates for camping (carry your own gear) and you can even camp by the shores of Lake Paradise.
I would definitely go back again, there is so much more to see inside the park.
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My next stop is a desert location known as North Horr.
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Great photos 🙂
The Ahmed tasks are massive,Are their possibly other elephants in the park with such massive tasks? Didn’t Ahmed leave some siblings?
Excellent pictures, the place is surprisingly green. What are the rates for the cottages?
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Lovely photos! My writing group partner grew up in Kenya and one of the chapters of her work in progress takes place in Marsabit. It just came to life a bit more for me with these pictures.
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Nice… But I never been in this park ever in my life but the best thing of this post is images. I really liked image. These are most Beautiful picture in of this park 🙂
I’ve enjoyed reading this post. I feel like i was seeing everything over your shoulder. Thanks for the ‘tour!’
Kenya was on my list for this year but an injury changed my plans. Now you’re making me think of it again for next year.
I’d never heard of Nile cabbage before. What’s that exactly? And do you only find it in Kenya or east Africa?
@ Marcia, you are welcome to Kenya anytime.
The Nile cabbage was first discovered in the River Nile close to Lake Victoria, but has now spread to many tropical waterways.
Oh, forgot to mention. I saw the flag and all I saw was the green, gold and black. My first thought was, that’s a Jamaican flag! I looked again and saw the blue and white.
It is actually the South African flag.
I love this.It really is beautiful.
Something needs to be done,let’s save Lake Paradise.the only Lake in A DESERT
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Wait the Nile cabbage is not the same as that annoying weed in lake Victoria,…needless to say it almost impossible to “weed” a lake so I guess keeping its memory in photos is the only option..
[…] the most famous elephant in Kenya, Ahmed the Elephant died in 1974 at the retirement age of 55. The male elephant was born at the Marsabit National […]