Forget the other image Marsabit was forced to bear long before the County Government came to be in 2013. That was then, when no one was interested in the wellbeing of this rich, expansive county.
With devolved governments, the once sleeping giant is up and ready to tell her own story. Marsabit County is rich and beautiful, and there is so much to share with the rest of the world.
Thinking Marsabit? Think culture, rock art, a national park filled with a variety of wild animals, friendly hotels, air and road travels, fishing and swimming in Lake Turkana, therapeutic temperatures, cites to shoot movies and songs on, the Desert Museum, the Elmolo Village and Shrine, just to name a few. But don’t you forget the evolution story, as this is also where the history of man was traced, at Koobi Fora.
Sibiloi National park lies on the north eastern shore of Lake Turkana in Marsabit County, about 800km from Nairobi. The semi desert ecosystem was established to protect wildlife and the unique prehistoric and archaeological sites some of which are linked to the origin of man.
The park is waterless except for the alkaline waters of the lake; it however harbors a variety of wildlife including common zebra, giraffe, hippos, crocodile and numerous bird species such as flamingos, pelicans and ducks. Other attractions are the preserved wildlife fossils which include the Giant Tortoise and the 18-20 ft. long Crocodile as well as the petrified forest which archeologists suggest was caused by extreme climate change that fossilized the trees.
And now, cognizant of this sector’s potential, and considering what it has already achieved since 2013, the county government is developing a Sh70 million grand tourist resort at the edge of a crater in Marsabit Forest to help market the county as an ideal tourist destination, and tap revenue from local tourists as well.
Bongole tourist resort in Karare, under construction.
Since 2013, the county’s population has grown, with several institutions, businesses and non-governmental organizations setting up camp in local towns. The completion of the Merile-Marsabit-Moyale highway led to an influx of people, as it connects the County with Ethiopia and beyond.
The county’s Department of Tourism, Trade and Enterprise CEC Mr. Golich Sora says the resort has been meticulously designed to give a unique opportunity for people to unwind and enjoy the picturesque Bongole Crater, a water point for wild animals like elephants, giraffes and buffaloes. It will have 10 deluxe villas (five doubles and five singles), each equipped with a kitchenette. The resort will also have conference facilities, a swimming pool and a gym.
Tourism is the third contributor to Kenya’s GDP after Agriculture and Manufacturing. It is a key economic driver, as envisaged in the Kenya Vision 2030.
But since past political regimes did not provide opportunities and resources for the Tourism sector to thrive in Marsabit and the rest of the North Eastern region, which is a melting pot of 14 diverse ethnic cultures, the county is now changing this.
The indigenous communities have continued to uphold their culture through festivals, games, beauty pageants, food, dressing and handicraft. The County Government has also helped preserve and enhance culture by establishing the Loiyangalani Cultural Museum, which serves as an archive for tourist attraction.
The department also ensured the county’s participation in the themed annual Miss Tourism Kenya pageants. Where at the National levels, the County’s Miss Tourism have twice been crowned as “Miss Peace Kenya 2013 &2014” and the “best of the Northern Frontier Counties, 2014”
The diversity of cultures, coupled with magnificent historical and geographical sites, are some of the exquisite attractions.
Mt Marsabit, a gradual steep and mist-capped beauty covered by the forested realms of Marsabit National Park, is another beautiful scenery. From the peak of the mountain is a glorious view of the upcoming Marsabit town. At the bottom of the mountain lies a paradise of scenic crater lakes and swamps, gigantic trees and dazzling array of wildlife, including large herds of elephant, buffalos, leopards, different bird species and many other wild animals.
Lake paradise, at the heart of Marsabit National Park
The county is also home to the UNESCO World Heritage site Koobi Fora, the cradle of mankind. It is here that the remains of the early man were found, marked by the paleontological and anthropological footprints and wonder at the greatness of the whole human evolution theory.
This County also has a share of the expansive Lake Turkana, the world’s leading desert lake that is a significant breeding ground for the Nile crocodile and a variety of more than 30 species of fish.
The department did several other things to promote tourism in the County. It participated in the 39th World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany. A World Tourist Day was also hosted as a family and friends’ fun day, built a curio Market at Merrile to empower local communities to develop handicraft industries. It intends to train and link the beneficiaries to local and international markets.
By Ms Gedhia A mamo
County Chief Officer for Tourism