Follow the ‘Countdown to 50″ Campaign: Each week, for 50 weeks starting today and leading to Kenya’s 50th Anniversary of Independence on 12th December 2013, we highlight one of the 50 Treasures with stunning pictures, practical travel information and hands on impressions. This week’s Treasure:-The Eastern shores of Lake Turkana, the Cradle of Mankind.
The Eastern shores of the planet’s biggest permanent desert lake offers untamed landscapes of islands, shorelines, deserts, volcanoes and forested mountains inhabited by a multitude of peoples of diverse traditions. But the lighthouse attraction of the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana is Koobi Fora the Cradle of Mankind.
The Lighthouse attraction
The lighthouse attraction of this Treasure, serving as a pointer for regional identification and marketing, are the million year old fossils. Commonly referred to by Anthropologists as the “Cradle of Mankind”. Koobi Fora holds an unsurpassed archive of human prehistory and is renowned for its fossils sites. Ancient Kenyan history dictates that early forms of man once roamed Kenya from approximately 4 million years ago. These ancient life forms were probably similar to those that roamed Tanzania and other areas of East Africa.
Homo habilis was the first hominid to leave the African continent and successfully settle most parts of the world. What empowered him to survive? Sure enough the skill to produce and use improved stone tools as well as fire had their share in this success story. Intelligence and language posed another plus. But possibly the most important of all was his nature as a social being.
The manifold challenges of those distant days could only be met as the closely knit group that the early society was and people’s strength were combined to pay up for the weaknesses. Early man had no fur to keep him warm, no venom, no razor sharp teeth and no horns for protection. This is something to be learned from our early ancestors: Together, we are stronger. If they were wrong, well, then we would not be in existence today.
It is a strange thought, isn’t it ? Had he and his kin of the Homo habilis breed not been fit enough to survive the many perils of his times without the help of any machines, well, we all would not be there. We are what we are and where we are because we are all standing on the shoulders of thousands of generations!
We at the 50 Treasures of Kenya Trust believe that still the same is true. In today’s jungle of modern Kenya, together we can get further, we can cushion multiple challenges and make each one of us get his fair share.
More than 70 hominid fossils had been recovered from this area which holds the world’s richest record of human ancestry spanning over 27 million years and a rich fossil heritage stretching back over 100 million years into the dinosaur age. The experience of visiting Koobi Fora surely gives you the sense of “coming back home”to the origin of every man. Here, one finds an answer to the question every human faces: Where do I come from?
The surrounding attractions
Fittingly known as the Jade Sea, the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana offer a truly unique array of attractions and activities. The landscape and other natural features of the lake are part of the unforgettable impressions visitors are left with. Lake Turkana even boasts Africa’s largest crocodile population! Mount Kulal, a UNESCO biosphere which bears thick rainforests surrounded by deserts is the backdrop of the regional center of Loiyangalani.
Some of the other outstanding features around the lighthouse attraction of Koobi Fora include Central & Southern Island National Parks and the rich cultural life of the pastoralist communities living in the region.
PRACTICAL TRAVEL INFORMATION
Koobi Fora lies (36° 13″N), (3° 55″E) on the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana about 170 km from Loiyangalani. It is located within the Sibiloi National park about 60 km from Alia Bay, the park headquarters.
How to get there
There are two main routes to the Eastern shores of Lake Turkana: from Isiolo town over Moyale highway through Archers Post and Laisamis (approx. 8 hours) or from Nairobi through Naivasha, Nyahururu and Maralal to Loiyangalani (approx. 2 days). Another way to get to Koobi Fora from Nairobi is by charter flight from Wilson Airport to Alia bay Airstrip at Sibiloi National Park (approx. 2.30 hours).
The nearest entry point to Koobi Fora is from Loiyangalani by four wheel drive following the unpaved road through a small outpost called Moite entering Sibiloi National Park where you have to pay park entry fees. Another route would be by driving from North Horr through the Chalbi Desert.
Explore Koobi Fora
Visit the Cradle of Mankind at Sibiloi National Park and you will see truly monstrous game: an elephant with the dimensions of a lorry, bearing tusks as big as young trees; a crocodile whose 2 meter jaws are peppered with hundreds of nail shaped teeth; and a tortoise whose shell you could easily mistake for a Volkswagen beetle … Better be happy this encounter takes place at the jurassic park of Koobi Fora’s excavation sites and not in real life.
But imagine our early ancestors sharing the world with these kind of beasts! It gives you a different feel when you finally look into the eyes of one of our 2 million year old uncles at the museum of Koobi Fora – or more precisely: into the eye-sockets of his skull.
Apart from Koobi Fora Museum, Elephant House, Crocodile House, Tortoise House there is an impressive petrified forest in Sibiloi National Park.
Opening Hours & Prices
The Koobi Fora Museum holds some of the paleontological exhibits from the area. It is open daily from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. Entry charges to the Museum are Ksh 100 for citizens and Ksh 500 for non residents.
Entry charges for Sibiloi National Park: Citizens: Ksh 200, residents Ksh 500, non residents US$ 20.
Best Travel Season
Climate wise, the best season to explore the full range of attractions of the region would be between the months of May and July when temperatures are comparably low. In May, there is also the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival held in Loiyangalani which is depicting the multitude of over 10 traditional cultures of the communities living in the region. Don’t forget to mark the date of the total solar eclipse occurring on the 3rd of November 2013 in Koobi Fora.
Where to stay
There are two self catering accommodations within Sibiloi National Park: The Alia Bay Guesthouse run by KWS which offers 3double bedrooms, solar generated electricity, furnished indoor sitting, dinning and a kitchen. At Koobi Fora, there is a guesthouse for researchers run by NMK which is also open to normal visitors. However, infrastructure is quite basic. Furthermore, there are three campsites in Sibiloi National Park.
For further information please contact National Museums of Kenya
Kenya Wildlife Service
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Until the next time its many thanks from the 50 Treasures of Kenya Trust for every contribution in this feature with special mention made to Mr.Harmut Fiebig for the wonderful photography and most of all to you our treasured audience for your company.
You are highly treasured.