Backpacking Northern Kenya


Im on top of the world-ok on top of the lorry

Backpacking in itself is not for the faint hearted-Fact. Travelling to Northern Kenya is not the Norm-fact. Now, when you join those two to make -Backpacking Northern Kenya , you have officially treaded on a journey that is not for the faint hearted as well as placing you in the “out of normal” bracket.


Manyattas otherewise known as homesteads

Northern Kenya is one of those places you only always hear about the negative.The region is hot, very hot that people sometimes joke about it being home to the sun. Due to its heat, most of the land is bare,dry, stony, thorny and all round harsh terrain.


The area is also notorious for severe drought, banditry, cattle rustling, inter community clashes,the Baragoi massacre of 2013 among others. However, what we fail to hear is the good stories about the region (every coin has two sides-right?).


A moran


The newsmakers fail to tell us about the amazing people of the dominantly 14 tribes that reside there namely:  Turkana, Samburu , Pokot, Borana, Gabbra , Rendile , El Molo , Somali, Burji ,Konso, Sakuye ,Waata, Garee, and Dassanatch who are dominantly pastoral and have managed to uphold their rich and diverse cultures.


Tring to blend in- A true Turkana Lady

They fail to tell us that the area is referred to as the “Cradle of mankind” due to having the largest collection and record of human and animal fossils in the world and home of the “Turkana Boy “which is the only almost complete skeleton of a human fossil ever found in the world.


Mount Kulal in the yonder

They fail to tell us that this region is home to the Lake Tukana National Park which is a World Heritage site and the Lake is the worlds largest permanent desert lake and the worlds largest alkaline lake-interesting right? From a young age I had always wanted to visit the area, to see it for myself and to experience it for myself. One day I told myself-One day.


Fast forward to 2014 and I received a query from a fellow solo female traveller on a travel forum on whether it was safe for a female to travel solo in Kenya.” As I was about to immediately respond to her “Definitely Yes,” I realized that I couldn’t honestly say that from an experience point of view.


I realized for the first time that I had never actually traveled solo in Kenya even though I had done it internationally for several years. Being home, I would always travel with my friends, family or tours and had never actually backpacked in Kenya. I decided since my blog is all about honest personal experiences, I would only respond once I had actually traveled solo in Kenya.


The adventurous me came up with the idea that, “if I were to backpack solo to one of the supposed no-go-zones in Kenya, and succeeded, it would definitely be a bench mark for the rest of Kenya. It is at this point that I remembered Northern Kenya and the yearning I had always had to travel there-it would be the best option. I thus decided to travel from Nairobi to Northern Kenya and specifically  Nairobi to Lake Turkana in Loiyangalani-backpacking overland which eventually covered over 1300km.


I couldn’t afford a flight or the tour companies fees for those that traversed that route at the time and two, the lack of knowledge/information on how one could travel there on their own challenged me to want to discover and solve this mystery on my own.



The only information I had was how to get a matatu (minivan) from Nairobi to Nyahururu and another to Maralal town and then -Nothing, no more information. I like challenges and thus decided I would do it and gather the intel myself from the locals there , surely I thought to myself, there must be a way the locals there get to Lake Turkana, right?


My mode of transport…The blue lorry

Suffice to say, that trip was very scary, thrilling, exciting as I not only managed to interact and intensely learn the cultures of the Samburu community in Suguta Marmar and the Turkana community in Baragoi, I hitch-hiked for the first time in my life (something I had said I would never do) and hitch hiked a lorry for that matter for about 12hours to actually seeing and swimming in the Lake Turkana.


This officially falls under my most daring travel yet and I was able to afficially honestly respond to Lee and anyone else who may be wondering that “Yes, it is safe for a female to travel solo in Kenya” whilst also following the same precautions they would anywhere in the world.

You must read for an indepth story of Suguta Marmar area and the Samburu Culture,  for an indepth story of Baragoi area and the Turkana tribe,   for the indepth story of Loiyangalani home to Lake Turkana and for the challenges faced.



25 thoughts on “Backpacking Northern Kenya

  1. Your adventure sounds amazing! And your photos are wonderful! Thank you for writing all about your experiences. As a (soon-to-be) solo female traveler, it’s inspiring to see your successes. I hope to see Kenya for myself one day.

    • Hey, I am happy you enjoyed the adventure both text and pictures.Welcome to female travel,solo or not…..welcome to Kenya or as we would say,”Karibu Kenya”. Let me know if you need any help or push from (soon-to-be), to active female traveler.

  2. hi wangeci, finally i found someone who’s been up in turkana in recent months!!! my mates and i are planning a trip to turkana next week and we are wondering how to get in touch with you. we would like info on the roads to use and a few tips here and there on how go about the whole thing. are you on twitter?

  3. Pingback: Challenges of backpacking Northern Kenya | Wangechi Gitahi

  4. Wangechi watch a film called ‘Tracks’ amazing you will love it . We are still planning our Turkana trip wont be as adventurous as this but we wish we had the time to. Thanks for sharing

  5. Pingback: Challenges of backpacking Northern Kenya | Wangechi Gitahi

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