Marsabit National Park, Kenya
A bit of Mars ” Unexplored”
A remote montane paradise located in the burning waste’s of northern region.
The mount Marsabit rises sheer from the desert floor to a height of about 1707 m. Marsabit mountain is a national phenomenon. The mountain’s great mass has created its own ambient climate. Every evening, about 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.
Although the lower slopes are scorched and dry, above them is a richly forested wonderland of crater lakes and swamps, towering cliffs and giant trees, with a dazzling array of wildlife. Here bird and beast dart between the tall stands of juniper and podocarpus in a scene much as wildlife film-makers Osa and Martin Johnson recorded when they made their home at Lake Paradise, one of the crater lakes, in the 1930’s. Many species of raptors inhabit the shaggy cliffs and the treetops around Lake Paradise and Sokorte Guda, a cliff lined bowl which forms a natural amphitheatre in which Marsabit’s elephants parade to drink in the late afternoon. Large herds of buffalo join this display.
What to see
Land of Gofs
Born out of vulcanic fire and shaped by mist, it is peppered with extinct volcanic craters known locally as GOFS cloaked in a romantic moss-encrusted forests, craters are lined with stands on junuper. Gof Bongole on the western periphery of the park is the largest and most dramatic of the craters, having a 10 km rim, Gof sokirte diko lies adjacent to Marsabit Lodge.
Magical Lake Paradise
The natural amphitheatre of Gof Sokorte Guda, with it’s 150 m high caldera shelters the fresh water of lake paradise. Sublimely beautiful ringed by forests whose trees are laced with delicate filigrees of Spanish mossand the silken cloaked Columbus monkey.
Species found on the mountain include the shy greater kudu and other antelope as well as lion and leopard emerging from the forest surrounding lake paradise in the late afternoon to drink. This display is topped by the buffaloes and elephants.
Home for the huge Tusked Bull Elephants
Marsabit is one of the few places in Africa where elephants with tusks over 30 kg can still be seen through they tend to keep to the forests hence difficult to locate. For an estimated 63 years Marsabit was the home of Ahmed, patriach of the forest, guarded from hunters seeking his mighty tusks, by a presidential decree. A model of Ahmed now stands in the National Museum in Nairobi. Now his scions wander the forest under the watchful eyes of the reserve’s rangers.
The greater Kudu, King of antelopes
Marsabit is renowned as the habitat of one of the most regal of Kenyan’s antelopes, the greater kudu. Abundant until 1960 when they where decimated by an out break of rinderpest, the greater kudu has made a determinded comeback and today their numbers are strong enough to virtually gurantee the visitor a sighting.
A rare antelope distinguished by a pair of the most magnificent spiral horns in the antelope kingdom (averaging in a bout 130 cm length) the greater kudu is large slender and gry in colour. It is also distinguished by six to eight prominent vertical white stipes on either flank (unlice its cousin the slimmer lesser kudu, which has elven stripes on each flank). Despite its impressive weight (280-320 kg) the greater kudu is a greater phenomenal jumper, clearing two meters at a single bound, it also enjoys a cute hearing, accentuated by its ability to swiver (its large round ears in almost any direction)
The heart of the park is extensive forest and as such it supports animals that one would not normally find in arid northern Kenya. There are elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, buffalo, hyena and its smaller relative insectivorous aardwolf, Grevy’s Zebra (which is specific to northern Kenya), reticulated giraffe, hyena and antelope. The undergrowth shelters antelope such as bushbuck and suni and on the lover sides of the mountain hosts olive baboons and vervet monkeys.The rare Peter’s gazelle (a local species of Grant’s gazelle).
It has a wealth of rare birds. The semi arid plains surrounding the massif are home to such birds as : Somali Oustrich, Vulturine guinea fowl, masked and Wiliams lark (both endemic to Northern Kenya), Somali bee eater, heuglin’s bustard and cream colored courser.
Water birds include duck (southern Pochard, Garganey and teal) little grebe and rafts of red knobbed coot. Hammerkop, Ibis, purple heron and saddle-billed and yellow-billed stork feed in the sallow waters of the crater lakes, African darter and cormorant dry their wings on the overhanging branches.
Altitude: 420 – 1700 m
Area: Marsabit National Park is 360 sq km, Marsabit National Reserve is 1554 sq km
Location: Marsabit District, Eastern Province
Distance from Nairobi: 560 km north of Nairobi, 260 km north of Isiolo
Climate: January – March is hot and dry, April – June is hot and wet, July – October is very warm and dry, November – December are warm and wet.
Vegetation: Arid thorny bush dominates the lower zone merging into acacia grassland. Brown olive forest dominates the higher ground
Wildlife: Elephant, Buffalo, Greater Kudu, Hyena, Grevy’s Zebra, Kirk’s Dikdik, Reticulated Giraffe, Lion, Leopard and Baboon
Birds: 400 recorded species, including 52 species of bird of prey