Coming to the Desert Museum late in the evening was a random decision. This decision proved ideal for capturing the spectacular golden hour moments. Nestled amidst the rugged beauty of Northern Kenya, the Desert Museum in Loiyangalani offers a captivating glimpse into the vibrant cultures and rich heritage of eight unique communities – the Samburu, Turkana, Pokot, Rendille, Gabra, Watta, Daasanach, and El Molo. This hidden gem, overlooking the breathtaking expanse of Lake Turkana, also known as the “Jade Sea,” is a must-visit for any traveller seeking an authentic and enriching cultural experience.
A Journey Through Time and Tradition
Established in 2008 and refurbished in 2014, the museum houses a diverse collection of artefacts, exhibits, and interactive displays that bring the stories of these communities to life. From traditional dress and ornaments to tools, weapons, and household objects, each item holds a special significance, offering insights into these fascinating people’s customs, practices, and daily lives.
A Feast for the Senses
Wander through the museum’s exhibits and be transported to a different world. Marvel at the intricate beadwork adorning garments, listen to the captivating melodies of traditional musical instruments and witness the ingenuity of tools crafted for life in the harsh desert environment. The museum also boasts a wealth of information about the region’s history and archaeology, providing a deeper understanding of the cultural tapestry woven over centuries.
Beyond the Exhibits
For an even more immersive experience, consider booking a guided tour. Led by knowledgeable local experts, these tours offer a personalized and insightful look into the museum’s collection and the cultures it represents. You’ll gain invaluable knowledge and leave with a profound appreciation for the resilience and traditions of these communities.
Planning your Trip
The museum is open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission fees vary between age and citizenry. Adult Kenyans pay KES 100, while residents and non-residents pay KES 400 and KES 500, respectively. Kenyan children between 6 and 18 pay KES 50. Resident and non-resident kids pay KES 200 and KES 250 respectively. Students gain entry for KES 200. Guided tours can be pre-booked online or upon arrival (subject to availability) and cost an additional KES 100 per person.
How to Get There
Loiyangalani Airport is a convenient option to reach the museum, as it receives scheduled flights from Nairobi and other major cities in Kenya. However, if you prefer to travel by road, you can reach the museum by car or bus, approximately 680 kilometres from Nairobi. I recommend using an SUV, preferably a Landcruiser. Before embarking on your journey, check the road conditions to ensure safe and smooth travel. You can visit the museum all year round. November would be ideal because you can combine the visit with the Marsabit-Lake Turkana Cultural Festival. If you choose the November option, book your accommodation in good time. The festival attracts huge traffic to Loiyangalani, and rooms become a nightmare to secure last minute.
Tips for an Enriching Experience
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking on uneven terrain.
- Carry sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses for protection from the sun.
- Bring a camera to capture the museum’s treasures and the surrounding scenery.
- Purchase a souvenir from the museum’s gift shop to support local artisans and take a piece of your experience home.
- Respect the local culture and dress modestly.
- Ask questions and engage with the museum staff and guides to understand the exhibits better.
Explore beyond typical tourist spots in Kenya and visit the Desert Museum in Loiyangalani for a unique adventure.