The largest town in north-western Kenya‚ Lodwar is located near Lake Turkana. Formerly known as Lake Rudolf‚ Lake Turkana is both the world’s largest permanent desert lake and the world’s largest alkaline lake. A spectacular slash of turquoise across this harsh desert region‚ the lake has been nicknamed the Jade Sea and has been used in many films including‚ most recently‚ the Constant Gardener.
The region contains the most complete record of evolution in the world‚ giving rise to the name Cradle of Mankind. Discoveries of human prehistory date back over 27 million years‚ and flora and fauna fossils have been dated to over 100 million years ago. The fossils in the area have been astonishingly well preserved because of a series of volcanic eruptions that laid ash on the layers of fossils‚ giving us an unsurpassed sequence of fossils from the time of the dinosaurs through the development of humans. In 2007‚ Kenya’s famous archaeologist Richard Leakey established the Turkana Basin Institute just outside Lodwar. The research facility focuses on human prehistory and fossil excavation‚ and works with the National Museums of Kenya and Stony Brook University to protect the extraordinary number of fossil findings in the area.
Sibiloi National Park‚ on the east shores of the lake‚ was established in 1973 for the protection of wildlife and paleontological sites‚ and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Koobi Fora‚ in the park‚ has contributed more to the understanding of human evolution than any other site in Africa; among the most famous discoveries here was the almost complete skeleton of the Turkana Boy‚ dated to 1.6 million years ago. Koobi Fora museum has information about the huge numbers of fossils found in the area. Other sites of interest in the park are the Jarigole Pillor – a pre-Iron Age burial complex comprising pillars of basalt –‚ and a lunar-like landscape that has become known as the Mountains of the Moon after the 1990 film of the same name that was filmed here.
Central Island National Park – in the centre of the lake – has three attractive lakes and an active volcano whose slopes are breeding colonies for water birds such as African fish eagles‚ ospreys‚ marsh harriers and pelicans. Migratory birds rest here along their route‚ and Nile crocodiles breed here. Activities on the lake include boat trips and bird watching.
Safarilink operates scheduled flights to Kapese and Lodwar five times weekly. These flights give access to the oil and wind project sites in Lokichor‚ and to all the touristic sites around the great Lake Turkana.