Sibiloi National Park is located on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana in Kenya in the Marsabit district near Ethiopia.
This national park is known for its fossils which were discovered by scientists and researchers such as Dr. Richard Leaky and is part of the East African rift valley system with gently sloping hills and volcanic cones. Sibiloi national park was gazetted to protect the sites of many remarkable fossils.
Sibiloi national park is characterized by the semi-desert environment, open plains, volcanic formations, grassy plains supporting a distinctive number of birds, small mammals, and reptiles which are adapted to the environment.
This national park is considered the most remote national park in Kenya and there are no residents in the park but Gabbra, Rendille, and Turkana pastoralists are allowed in the park during the dry seasons with their animals from December to March. This practice, however, displaces some of the wildlife but does not affect the part of the park where the fossil deposits were discovered.
Sibiloi national park is one of the protected areas in the Somali biogeographical province and it includes Lake Turkana which is one of the breeding places for the Nile crocodile.
The climatic conditions are hot and arid during the months of December to March and June and July are the coolest months while there are strong winds from May to September especially in the mornings and evenings. Some of the areas in this national park may not receive rainfall during the year.
Entry into Sibiloi national park is through different locations which include; Karsa gate, Alia bay and Koobi fora.
Access to Sibiloi national park can be through the following means;
- By road; from Nairobi to Kalokol via Kitale and Lodwar.
- By air; Airstrips include Lodwar, Marsabit, Loiyangalani.
Attractions in Sibiloi National Park
Attractions found in Sibiloi national park include the following;
- Lake Turkana is a closed basin lake in the middle of which is a volcanic island. The lake shore is mostly rocky and sandy with little aquatic vegetation. The volcanic island found in the middle of Lake Turkana is called a central island which is a breeding place and a staging post for a variety of migrant birds. The bird species are shared with a number of rift valley lakes and other national parks in the region. The greenish/turquoise color of the water in Lake Turkana earned it a name the “jade sea” a way of describing its alluring beauty. Lake Turkana was formerly known as Lake Rudolf with three volcanic islands of which south and central islands are national parks.
- Koobi Fora is a part of Sibiloi national park where many of the fossil deposits were found. This site is located north of Alia bay where evidence of humanity was found dating up to about two million years ago as well as remains of modern animal species. There is a paleontological museum at Koobi fora where these remains can be seen with tracks leading to and from the archaeological sites. Remains of the ancestral fossils include the Australopithecus robustus, homo habilis, homo eretus and homo sapiens. The deposits in Koobi Fora has supported intensive research allowing a reconstruction of the Lake basin to make way for studies about geology and also human and animal evolution.
- Wildlife species within Sibiloi national park are adapted to its environment and they include burchell’s and grevy’s zebras, grants gazelle, beisa oryx, topi, lesser kudu, cheetahs, lions and a good number of crocodiles can be seen along the central island and in Lake Turkana. Central island is one of the major concentration areas for flamingos. Bird species that can be sighted include Somali ostrich, Kori and Heuglin’s bustard, northern carmine, Somali bee eater, chestnut bellied sandgrouse, fox kestrel, ducks, pelicans, taita falcon, black tailed godwit and many other bird species.
- Petrified forest is one of the unique attractions for tourists to view during a trip in Sibiloi national park. This attraction consists of numerous tree fossils dating back to prehistoric times. The petrified forest was formed as a result of the scrub land which was once covered by lakes, rivers and rain forest was submerged into a torrential river which carried the fallen trees into a swampland. The trees absorbed large amounts of minerals in the water and overtime became fossils and turned into stone. Currently, some of the petrified tree trunks are strewn across a hilly terrain which can be accessed by trekking up the hill.
- Jarigole pillars are an excavation site that contains the highest artefact density exhibiting upright columns of basalt thought to be stone pillars. This site is also known as a pre iron age burial ground containing archaeological artifacts like broken ceramics such as figurines, lithic artifacts, beads and small quantities on animal tooth fragments and bone and many other remains. Jarigole is located near Alia bay and it lies at the foot of the Jarigole hills not far from the waterhole. Some of the artefacts discovered include Nderit ware which dates back to between 4000 to 4500 years ago.
- Karari escarpment is a low ridge that extends south consisting of fluvial deposits and flood plain silts. This site is extremely rich and has a diverse archaeological record of earlier hominid activity and large samples of stone artifacts. The escarpment is also known for excavations of ancient sites.
Activities in Sibiloi National Park
Activities for tourists to engage in during a visit to Sibiloi national park include;
- Game viewing: Game viewing in Sibiloi national park rewards tourists with a range of wildlife which are adapted to the arid conditions such as grevy’s zebra, beisa oryx, gerenuk, greater kudu, lion, leopard, cheetahs, striped and spotted hyenas, jackals, caracals, and many other wildlife species. These wildlife species provide an additional experience for the tourists who wish to see the fossils within the national park.
- Cultural tours involve interaction with the local communities within Sibiloi national park which include tribes such as the Gabbra, Turkana and Dassanach who are all communities with rich culture. The Turkana practice pastoralism and they graze their animals during the dry season when they are allowed in the national park. The Samburu and Rendille nomads stay within the surrounding areas of the national park.
- Nature walks engage tourists in trekking through the petrified forest and along the Koobi Fora spit. The nature walks offer an up-close experience for the tourists by allowing them to closely observe the attractions in the national park. The guides accompany tourists during these walks to explain aspects about the different fossils and archaeological findings.
Accommodation facilities in Sibiloi national park are classified into luxury accommodation, midrange accommodation and budget accommodation and the choice of accommodation depends on the preference of the tourists. Some of the accommodation facilities include;
- Luxury accommodation; Oasis lodge, Lobolo tented camp, Desert Rose lodge.
- Midrange accommodation; Jirime resort and Resort.
- Budget accommodation; Imperial dale hotel Marsabit, Nomads trail hotel
Camping facilities are also available for tourists who wish to experience the African night in locations such as at the museum and at Rocodoni facing Mount Sibiloi, Turkana campsite, and many other campsites. Self-catering facilities are also available in Sibiloi national park.
Encounter the prehistoric ages and discover many remains of fossils during a safari in Sibiloi national park and experience this cradle of mankind all year round.