A popular travel guide once said travelling to Loyangalani, “is not only travelling through space but also time, where you gain a brief glimpse of Africa as it might have been hundreds of years ago.”
These words describe an older Loyangalani that existed long before the winds of change swept through it. Yet, for this beautiful frontier town in Kenya’s north with its harsh winds, and unbearable heat (and flies), they still ring true today.
Perhaps its unspoilt beauty and rugged nature inspired John le Carré’s novel, The Constant Gardener and later on the film by the same title.
On the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, Loyangalani, also called Loiyangalani, provides the best views from the east. The other spot is Eliye Springs or Kalokol on the western side through Lodwar.
The El Molo have found a home in this oasis fed by fresh spring water. For generations, the El Molo regarded as the smallest community on earth have lived, practised their ancient culture, and earned their livelihood in Loyangalani.
Tourist interactions have made them more commercialized and aware of their special place in the world. Be prepared to pay if you want a photo op. They know it is priceless!
Loyangalani, which in the native Samburu language means ‘the place of trees’, is perhaps more well known today for the annual Lake Turkana Cultural Festival that has been taking place here since 2008. The colourful festival brings together more than 12 communities in a week of moving music performances, sports events and art exhibitions.
Communities from the El Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanatch, Gabbra, Burji, Borana, Konso, Sakuye, Garee and Waata come together with one common aim: promoting peace and cultural understanding among the local communities.
Visit Mount Kulal for a unique volcanic landscape amidst rich cultural experiences. Ascending to the north peak leads you through evergreen forests and lush pastures on the higher levels.
Gatab, a small Samburu settlement nestled high up near the southern peak of Kulal offers panoramic views of the landscape below. Pay a visit to the Loyangalani Desert Museum a few kilometres from here and learn more about the local people, ancient rock art found here, and much more.
Loyangalani is no longer as remote as it was decades ago. Now, a tarmac road leads there from Marsabit or Isiolo. But that is as far as it goes. A rough road through uncharted terrain evokes an unpolluted past with a rich heritage that endures.