285km, on a northerly perspective from Nairobi, Isiolo is a major town in the semi-arid areas of the Kenyan North, remarkably marking the start of the dry belt since it lies in coordinates 00”21N of the equator.
Among its honorary mentions is the attractive ecosystem that vaunts wildlife and desert climes in one. The Shaba and the Samburu National Reserves round up the prestige of the town as a major tourist depot.
Isiolo began as a town of ex-army officers, of Somali ethnicity, who featured in action during the First World War, and came to settle here. They intermarried with the local Samburu, and Cushitic pastoralists. The Meru community, to the south, brought up trade interests to town, making it a cosmopolitan urban center. Growth has happened mainly from tourism and cross-community trade. The resident number now stands at 80,000, though this represents the inflow from the greater rural area rather than the town itself.
Isiolo has an existing airport that has served tourist arrivals and also helped improve the status of the town. On February 6, 2013, the Kenya government announced that a multimillion-shilling undertaking is underway to expand the airport to international status. This will aid in the implementation of many of Vision 2030’s blueprints that center on the marginalized areas of the north, of which the town consummately represents. Chief among these is the spurring of the livestock products’ export dispensation.
The Vision 2030 Medium Term Plan that came out early February of 2013 with three major pillars and five specific investments for the northern regions of Kenya has placed much of the focus on Isiolo. The rapidly growing urban center will serve as a detour to neighboring towns and as an infrastructural connector to Moyale, Marsabit and cross-border towns in Ethiopia. The government already contemplates establishing accommodation venues, upshot retail chains, casino facilities and other high standard amenities.
Sights & Attractions
Isiolo is a text book example of wildlife attractions that exude the real meaning of the plains. In this respect, its national reserves rival the appeal of the Maasai Mara to the extreme south west of Kenya.
What to see first:
Samburu National Reserve
Astride the lengthy, cross-country Ewaso Nyiro River, on its penultimate march across the dry belt to the final estuary of Londian Swamp, lies the very unique Samburu National Reserve. The most famous visitors are George and Joy Adamson whose book on Elsa, a lioness the couple had reared domestically, has become a numero uno copy for readers in human-interest wildlife stories. A paranormal first also happened here when a lioness, in the 21st century, apparently adopted baby Oryx’s.
Bonus sight: the four major cats, hippopotamus, buff and elephant. Sadly, the rhinoceros went under from persistent poaching.
What to see next:
This elite park that has attracted royal visitors lies on the Tana and Ewaso Nyiro separate river basins. Apart from the lush vegetative belt, inclusive of evergreen forests, are the fauna representatives of the Grevy’s zebra, oryx, and the cats. 365 different bird types are also apparent here, including the Somali ostrich.
Shaba National Reserve
On an easterly perspective of the three Isiolo wildlife conservatories, nestles the heavily protected Shaba Wildlife reserve which has swamps and water spots that succor the thirst of the Grevy’s Zebra, the major fauna attraction of the area, amongst others. The movie, Out of Africa had its inspiration here.
Entertainment in Isiolo is much like that of the nearby Meru and Nanyuki towns, relying primarily on resort-style clubs, as well as, pub experience. Many entertainment facilities of world-class character including pubs will emerge upon the realization of the Vision 2030 blueprint.
Sarova Shaba Game Lodge
What to Know: The Sarova Shaba Game Lodge is in the Samburu National Reserve area and vaunts word-class standard facilities. It is the one place to view wildlife up-close-and-candid.
Amenities: Tourists receive safes for keeping their effects safely. There is also a restaurant for exotic and international cuisine, besides a bar. Breakfast is available each morning.
Room info: This is an 85-room facility, each a lodge.
Bonus: There is an exterior swimming pool.
Samburu Sopa Lodge
What to know: The Samburu Sopa Lodge is an extensive, designate accommodation resort with a huge edifice vaunting an African camp’s design. It has a children’s swimming pool, conference facilities and bureau de change.
Amenities: Customer care par excellence, with a 24-hour desk, a safe for secure locking of personal effects, a children’s club, Wi-Fi Internet and satellite television, in every lodge. The rooms have air-con installations.
Booking Info: Booking is available through an online platform with check-in and–out times being at 2 o’clock, in the afternoon, and 11 o’clock, in the morning, respectively, East African time.
Bonus: Enjoy a plain setting with acacia and shrubs.
Samburu Intrepeds Tented Camp
What to know: if eager to observe the happenings inside the meandering river on its way to Londiani Swamp in North Eastern, through rapids and slow tides, then this is the hotel to come to.
Amenities: A children’s club is available, besides an unforgettable customer reception. There is also a restaurant accessory to a bar, serving breakfast each morning.
Booking Info: Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp is available for checking in and out at 10A.M., each day. Booking happens online and through telephone reservation, with each room sufficient for two guests. Bureau de change is also available.
Bonus: Camel safaris, tour safaris to the nearby Samburu National Reserve and ready taxi service to Isiolo Airport.
Other worthy mentions: Larsens camp, Ikweta Country Inn Maua, Serena Lodge Samburo.
One of the socio-economic pandemics that have plagued Isiolo is insecurity, partly because of the pedantic ways of the pastoral communities of the area. The most infamous murder in the town was the 2005 killing of Luigi Locati a Father from a Catholic diocese in the town. In tandem with the Vision 2030 MTP for Northern Kenya, the government has culled security as one of the many barriers to progress that it will stem in the bud.
ViVa le Isiolo! Welcome to a lovely place with a unique ecosystem, wildlife that exhibit paranormal behavior, and a versatile population that make Isiolo a cosmopolitan town.