Lake Turkana

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Loiyangalani means “a place of many trees” in the Native Samburu tongue. It is a popular tourist destination in Northern Kenya, as the surrounding El Molo and Turkana villages offer unique (although somewhat commercialized) experiences. The Town is home to an Airstrip and lies near Mount Kulal (50 km), known for its Forest and Stones. The only Lodge in the area is “Oasis Lodge” which is located only a few hundred meters from the Airstrip. The town is sometimes spelled as Loyangalani. Loiyangalani was the setting for John le Carré’s novel, The Constant Gardener, and was also a location for the film of the same title.

One of the biggest villages on the Eastern Lake Shore, Loyangalani is a collection of huts, with thatched grass and galvanized-iron roofs. There is a life-giving spring here but the surrounds are flat stony plains scattered with the bleached bones of livestock carcasses. This is home to the dwindling numbers of El Molo people, a group of hardy fishermen. Believed to be of Cushitic origin from the Northeast, this is Kenya’s smallest ethnic group (according to ethnologists the ‘pure’ El Molo only number about 40-50, whereas others have traces of Samburu or Turkana ancestry). They are believed to have lived to the north of Lake Turkana, but were driven south by other warring Tribesmen, seriously depleting their numbers in the process. They took refuge from their enemies by living on the small offshore islands. However, some of the small communities now live along the shoreline.

An El Molo village overlooks the bay, perched above it on a hillside. The water level of Lake Turkana is declining at a rate of 30 cm per annum, in a region where the annual Rainfall is estimated to be only 50-60 mm. The lake is estimated to be 150 m lower than in the last century. This dramatic change in the lake’s water level is attributed in part to the increased volume of water withdrawn for Irrigation purposes from the River Omo by the Ethiopians.

The barren lava beds at the Southern end of Lake Turkana peter out into the waters of the lake itself. The high salinity and soda mean nothing much grows around the shores.