We were off by 5 am and Ali our driver (who must have been a rally driver in a different life) managed to get us to the lake’s shore before sunrise. We were also able to take photos of fishermen in their makeshift rafts.

Unexpected Kenya_AliSunrise at the lake. That is Ali, our driver

Shortly afterwords we headed across to Ferguson Bay.

Unexpected Kenya_Turkana woman


Unexpected Kenya_Flamingoes


We got to our destination, set up our stuff and started shooting.

Unexpected Kenya_Senior
A boy called Senior ( a corruption of his Turkana name). His hair is blonde due to bleaching by the water in the Lake.


Everything seemed fine as we walked around the village looking for more things to shoot when suddenly a man came up behind me, grabbed the reflector I was holding and marched off towards Jeri (photographer). He then tried to grab her camera, but her grip was firm. This whole time he was shouting at us.

After calming down he told us that he was the area chief and instructed us to follow him to his office. I immediately phoned Chela our producer (we had left her across the gulf) and explained what was going on.

We walked to the chief’s office as the whole village escorted us. The venue was under a shed constructed out of duom palms, we were offered plastic chairs that were falling apart. Meanwhile a crowd had gathered around and outside the shed trying to see and hear what was going on.

The speech began. I might be exaggerating but it felt like the assistant chief spoke for a good half hour before he got to his point. His superior, the area chief had called him from Lodwar and instructed him to arrest the strangers taking photos in his village.

By this time I was just pissed and was ready to get on a boat and leave. I did understad where he was coming from but violently grabbing equipment and shouting at us  had certainly not been the best approach. Thank goodness, we had a diplomat in or midst, Jeri was calmly able to explain our mission. I in turn simply stated that we had no idea that we were meant to seek his permission and that if we had known, we would definitely had done so.

He then brought up a lot of irrelevant issues and accused us of trying to make him lose his job. I could honestly go on and on about how self-important people have a problem grasping simple logic but I will cut the story short.

Meanwhile Chela, was on her way to the village to come assist us. After arriving she had to explain all over again why we were taking photographs, including showing him the licence thus validating the legality of our mission. The youth chairman was then called to speak (no idea why).

After wasting a considerable chunk of our time the chief eventually agreed to let us continue with our work. By this time it was already midday so we hurriedly shot a few photos and left.

Unexpected Kenya_House in middle of lake
Spotted this hut in the middle of the gulf on our way back. It is inhabited by one of the fishermen.


We then proceeded to Kalokol. This time we stayed well out of trouble

Unexpected Kenya_Ushanga
In remote areas, 8 strings of beads are traded for a goat.

The midday sun is unbearable. Most schools in the area close at 12pm and resume at 3pm.

Unexpected Kenya_Tam Jeri
Team Jeri taking a break in the shade

Our last stop of the day was in the Eliye Springs area. We were able to grab some lunch and take a few more photos before calling it a day.

Unexpected Kenya_Eliye Springs Resort1


Partially submerged banda at the Eliye Springs Resort. The water levels this side of the lake are high due to rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands. The rain from the highlands feeds the River Omo which is Lake Turkana’s only inlet.

Unexpected Kenya_Lake Turkana beach


Unexpected Kenya_Eliye Springs Resort.

Tomorrow is the end of my journey. I hope you have enjoyed the Unexpected Kenya series as much as I have enjoyed sharing my adventures.

Previous post
Unexpected Kenya Day 8: Fishermen, weavers & Gold in Turkana
Next post
Hiking up Mt Kenya - Conquering the Summit


  1. October 5, 2014 at 7:27 am — Reply

    OH lordy 5 a.m….I am not a morning person, Rachael. But, you gotta “give” to “get” right re: that picture. I also loved the picture of the pelicans 🙂

    • James
      October 6, 2014 at 9:51 am — Reply


  2. Manesha
    October 6, 2014 at 11:57 am — Reply

    I hope you brought back some souvenirs…..

    • October 8, 2014 at 4:51 pm — Reply

      Only option was to carry back fish and you know how stinky it gets.

      • January 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm — Reply

        The hair is not bleached; it is genetic and common in North Kenya. Bleaching is common in Lodwar town itself.

        Make it a habit to say hi to chiefs and police stations when visiting rural
        and remote areas. That way you avoid been misunderstood. These places are not as advanced as urban areas and thee only form of law and order that exists is the chief.

  3. October 6, 2014 at 10:03 pm — Reply

    Can’t believe they tried to arrest you! And for pretty much nothing! Glad they let you go eventually though 🙂 Great photos by the way, love the birds!

  4. October 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm — Reply

    Hi Rachael can I please have your permission to use the photo of the boy with the bleached hair on my blog with full credits to you and a link back to your blog?

  5. October 7, 2014 at 10:00 pm — Reply

    Oh wow! My hubby and l had a similar experience when he went home with me, only this guy had a gun(army). We did not even take any pictures as we knew we needed permission first, and once it was denied, we were leaving. He made us go all the way back to the chief of the market. We were screaming and yelling at each other i. Yoruba , mine sucks btw..lol! Luckily, the chief knew someone who was related to me somehow and diffused the whole situation. That frigging officer had an itchy trigger finger!!! Glad everything went okay with you guys. The pictures look amazing!!!!

    • October 8, 2014 at 4:48 pm — Reply

      That sounds like a terrible situation. I hate how taking a simple photo (with permission of course) can turn out into such a big deal. I’m sure you were happy to find out that you were related to the chief.

      We had actually wanted to leave despite being given permission by the chief but our producer suggested we stay and I am glad we did.

  6. October 8, 2014 at 2:37 am — Reply

    Hi Rachael just wondering if it would be okay to use your photo of the boy with bleached hair on my blog with full credits to you and a link back to your blog? Do let me know…

    • October 8, 2014 at 4:42 pm — Reply

      Sure you can. No problem.

      • October 8, 2014 at 9:34 pm — Reply

        Thank you!

  7. October 9, 2014 at 7:41 pm — Reply

    Your pictures are amazing!! They seriously belong in NatGeo! Note to self: When in Kenya (and Africa in general based on KemKem’s comment), always get permission before taking folks’ photos. Got it! 😉 Glad you guys averted any serious trouble.

  8. October 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm — Reply

    Oh my goodness, how stressful it must have been when they started shouting at you! You have taken absolutely stunning photographs – that sunrise at the lake is so beautiful as is the close up of Senior 🙂

  9. January 11, 2015 at 1:19 pm — Reply

    […] happened to visit Eliye Springs on the same day we were almost arrested (You can read about that here), so going to Eliye Springs was the best thing that happened all […]

  10. November 9, 2016 at 9:21 pm — Reply

    Stunning photographs, funny and memorable story. Love it.

  11. January 8, 2020 at 2:56 pm — Reply

    Oh. And carry gift items like exercise books, textbooks, pencils, erasers etc. Giving them such items makes them change their mind about privacy. After all they have a right to their own images.

    Alternatively pay them cash or buy what they are selling but that can be pretty expensive.

    Sometimes it pays to forget your own rights and place their rights first, especially when you are much wealthier than they are.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *