Marsabit County

Discover Marsabit County

Spatial Location of Marsabit County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Marsabit County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Marsabit County

If you write-off the Ilemi Triangle from Turkana County then Marsabit County which covers an area of 70,961 km2 is the largest County of Kenya. Larger than the outmoded Central, Eastern and Western Provinces combined. Although the natural conditions of Marsabit County – bound in the north by Ethiopia, Wajir in the east, Isiolo in the southeast, Samburu in the southwest and Turkana in the west – varies, the general terrain much the same as the abutting counties in the eye of the sun in Kenya, of mainly arid and semi-arid vast lowlands ranging from 400-700 ms interspersed with several mountain ranges reaching altitudes of more than 2,700 ms. That being so, the vegetation profile in Marsabit County ranges from barren land use, varied grass and bushlands to evergreen mountain tropical forest: Each with a unique silhouette, support-capacity and rare beauty.

Just a little over a century ago, Marsabit held a motley collection of wildlife that included giraffe, rhino, elephant, buffalo and lion.  In 1888, on his expedition to Lake Turkana, Count Sámuel Teleki described superb wildlife encounters along the shores of the lake.  In 1895, Arthur Neumann also cited elephants bathing in Lake Turkana. Sadly, poaching truncated the wildlife to a trifle. What Marsabit County now lacks in wildlife displays is made up for by its fine landscapes and a rich cultural disposition. Although few dare live here, with an average density of 4 people / km2 compared to 4,850 people / km2 in Nairobi, Marsabit has no less than 14 distinct tribes who share its vast expanses. Travelling here is akin to walking through an open museum of cultures which takes one across old-world traditional villages where the local communities still uphold their ancient ways.

In spite of the fact that the population of Marsabit is well under 400,000, its importance is far greater than its compact citizenry would suggest.  At the far-flung northeastern corner, nearby the Allia Bay at Lake Turkana, lies the Sibiloi National Park, which is part of the Lake Turkana National Parks inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 for its contribution to the conservation of wild animals and the understanding of paleo-environments. Administratively, Marsabit County is divided into six sub-counties: Laisamis, Loiyangalani, North Horr, South Horr, Moyale and Central Marsabit. About 80% of the residents of Marsabit County are pastoralist, obtaining their livelihood from livestock and livestock based industries, and 10% are agriculturalists living mainly around the higher area of Mount Marsabit. The rest are involved in trade and salaried jobs.

En-route Marsabit Town. Image Courtesy of Business Daily
En-route Marsabit Town. Image Courtesy of Business Daily

Salient Features of Marsabit County

  • County Number 10
  • Area – 70961 km2
  • Altitude – 400 to 700 ft
  • Major Towns – Marsabit, Moyale, Laisamis
  • Borders – Isiolo, Samburu, Wajir, Turkana
Marsabit County Map

Brief History of Marsabit County

Water has always been rated as the most limiting factor for livestock production in the semi-arid areas and is inevitably a main source of conflict and communal dissent. So, by 1900, when the British Empire first set foot in Marsabit, conflicts were already at fever pitch around the capacious but inhospitable outbacks of Marsabit.  The pastoralist groups, despite sharing deep intertwined histories of integration, were fierce in their competition and warfare.  The British tried to keep the tribes apart, with mixed success.  They themselves had little interest in these conflicts and had primarily occupied the Northern Frontier District as a buffer against Italy and Ethiopia to protect their railroad and thriving tea farms.

View of Lake Turkana.  Photo Courtesy of African Expert
Lake Turkana (at Loiyangalani). Image Courtesy of African Expert
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35 Attractions in Marsabit County, arranged as one would visit these - south, west then north - with the aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart: 

Losai National Reserve, Ndoto Mountains, Mount Nyiru, Desert Rose Lodge, Koros Camp, Lake Turkana Wind Project, Lake Turkana, Oasis Club, Desert Museum, Malti Rock Art, South Island National Park, Nabuyaton Cone, El Molo Village, Mount Kulal, Mount Marsabit, Marsabit National Reserve and Park, Lake Paradise, Bongore Crater, Jaldesa Community Conservancy, Shurr Community Conservancy, Songa Conservancy, Melako Conservancy, Marsabit Cemetery, Gof Choba, Chalbi Desert, Maikona Village, Hurri Hills, Sacred Mount Forore, Kalachi Rock Art, Sibiloi National Reserve, Jarigole Pillars, Koobi Fora Museum, Illeret Prehistoric Site, Turbi Forest, Sololo Escarpment

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate and National Monuments in Marsabit County