MARALAL – THE GATEWAY TO KENYA’S NORTHERN WILDERNESS
|To the east of the Loroghi plateau in Kenya’s Northern Rift Valley is Maralal town. This small, cultural rich town serves as a good base for many great adventures and a last frontier town for visitors looking to explore Kenya’s great Northern wilderness.|
The road to Maralal
Maralal, located about 348 kms North of Nairobi, is considered the gateway to Kenya’s wild and arid North, and is a mecca for adventurers, nomads and camels. A 7 hour drive from Nairobi, the route to Maralal via Rimuruti offers spectacular view of Kenya’s magical landscapes.
The descent into the Great Rift Valley, shortly after leaving Nairobi, offers breathtaking views of this vast prehistoric fissure and one of its many fresh water lakes, Lake Naivasha.
Further on, the journey takes you through the foothills of the Aberdares, one of Kenya’s lush fertile highlands. The Aberdare forest acts as a precious water catchment area and a perfect cover for numerous flora and fauna.
At the northern foot of the Aberdare range, the Ewaso Narok River drops over a ledge to create one of Kenya’s magnificent falls. Thompson’s Falls, just outside of Nyahururu town is popular with travelers and is the perfect place to stop for a break before embarking on the off road section to Maralal.
Driving away from the Aberdares, the landscape slowly changes from the leafy green highlands to wide open savannahs to screaming patches of arid land as you approach the hills around Maralal.
During the rainy season, seasonal rivers cut across the main road draining into natural dams that act as watering holes shared by both wildlife and cattle owned by the nomadic communities. En route, one can spot herds of elephants, giraffe, zebra and gazelle. Black back jackals are also common in this region.
Maralal International Camel Derby
Maralal is well known for one annual event that draws international visitors and locals alike in great numbers, the annual Maralal International Camel Derby. The three day event is a great social event, and a chance to experience culture, colour, action and adventure first hand.
Maralal International Camel Derby brings action to the streets of Maralal as the finest Camels in the North gather for the big races.
Professional and amateur camel jockeys alike take part in the races dubbed ‘racing for water and education’ with the organizers of the event using it to raise funds towards alleviating some of the problems surrounding water and education faced by the pre dominantly nomadic communities living around Maralal.
A cycling contest is also held concurrently with the derby, with mountain bikes and the local ‘black mamba’ bikes racing over a demanding course. The cycle race attracts its share of dedicated professionals on world class bikes, as well as local amateurs.
A triathlon is also held with participants taking part in three back-to-back races. This demanding challenge sees the competitors run, cycle and ride a camel over a 10KM course and is open to individuals and team participations.
Maralal is a thriving centre for the local Samburu people, and the streets always come alive with women selling their jewellery, baskets, garments and traditional medicine.
During the derby, visitors have the chance to interact with the various communities, participate in song and dance, learn how to make spears as illustrated by the skilled Samburu warriors or simply sit back and enjoy the carnival atmosphere.
Accommodation in Maralal
Affordable accommodation is available within Maralal. At Yare Camel Club, one has the option of modest cabins or pitching a tent within the clubs confines. Quality budget accommodation is also available within Maralal town as well as at the Maralal Safari Lodge.
Beyond Maralal lies some of Kenya’s most beautiful country waiting to be explored. The wild country between Maralal and Turkana is ideal for the adventure seeker.
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