Marsa Bet is Amharic for Marsa’s residence or abode. Marsa was a man that the then Consul in Ethiopia sent to the outpost for agricultural propagation. This is the etymological derivation that has given the town, in the far reaches of northern Kenya, its name.
Marsabit lies in coordinates 37”58E and 2”19N, thus being relatively far from the equator and almost equidistant from the Ethiopian border via Moyale. This relatively lonely location gives the urban center an interesting mixture of paranormal adaptation. Indeed, Marsabit has managed well to eschew the dry influences of the Chalbi Desert to its north-west, by being within an almost artificial insulated forest that forms the heart of the Marsabit National Park.
Other geographically essential borderlines include Lake Paradise, a crater water body, within the forest belt. There is also the internal volcanic rock that is the 1000-meter Marsabit Mountain that projects in sheer relief from the semi-desert floor.
Marsabit is a perfect example of a settlement by natural selection for it has aggregated several pedantic communities, Cushitic and Nilotic, from the neighboring dry lands. The Samburu, Turkana and Borana have trekked the plains around and assembled in this oasis that has become a trading venue vaunting its own form of cosmopolitanism.
Marsabit prides in its wildlife resources, with the easiest animal to see, mainly for its heavy presence, being the elephant. Other than tourism, there are also commercial activities through the agency of a single banking outlet, post office, service stations (a trio) and accommodation venues. Though only a handful per sector, these commercial centers have spurred the growth and development for a town otherwise infamous as ‘place of guns.’ The major satellite urban centers include the two Moyales on Kenya-Ethiopia borderline, as well as, the strategic Isiolo transit to the south.
How to get to Marsabit
Marsabit is approachable from Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is a distance of 550km to the south. Two bus services are currently operating between the capital and Marsabit, en-route to the northern town of Moyale. Alternatively, upon arrival in Isiolo, a traveler can pick the single transporter, Liban Bus, that makes the relatively short march to Marsabit from 8 o’clock, at night, making a landfall at 3 to 5 o’clock, in the morning, on the other side.
Important: You can either say, it is 550 km to Marsabit or it is a two-day journey, depending on whether you will pitch camp in Isiolo, in the interim.
Sights & Attractions
Arrival in Marsabit, either by road or via the Marsabit airstrip to see wildlife is a boon in disguise. As becomes of all paranormal climes, exhibiting wildlife in an area trying to shed off the shackles of an impending desert strike, it takes a bit of patience for visitors to sight animals. However, here are some amazing stats.
What to see first: Marsabit National Park
Through the agency of a wildlife safari, locals and tourists alike can go gaming in the park, and, perchance, come face to face with a jumbo. This reminds of the elephant that bore the longest ivory dimensions in the continent, with its nickname, Ahmed, which habited the Marsabit National Park. The prize catch is now in preservation at the Nairobi National Museum. Reminds of the Kilimanjaro Elephant, whose ivory, now in a London museum , once vaunted the longest ivory in record, doesn’t’ it?
What to see next: Marsabit National Park’s other Fauna
While still within the boundaries of the park, one can see the big game including the Reticulated Giraffe, and smaller fauna like the northern latitude Grevy’s Zebra, as well as, the Oryx. The latter became notoriously famous in Samburu National Reserve, to the south, after a famous adoption case of a calf by a lioness.
What to do next: Climb Ol Olokwe Massif
The rolling ranges that form the Ol Olokwe massif, on the southern extremities of the Marsabit ridges are worthy of a geological assessment. Luckily enough, professionals have already left behind a route map, replete with gear and other accessories necessary for the challenging ascension.
Finish with: Lake Paradise
A crater lake, Lake Paradise is reminiscent of the singing wells that abound in, and apparently insulate, the Marsabit ecosystem from the desert beyond its natural demarcations.
The entertainment dispensation of Marsabit is pretty much that of northern Kenya’s urban experience, subsisting mainly on the standalone pub and hotel wing of the same besides cultural/religious festivities..
There are not many hotels in Marsabit but the most prominent in the satellite towns like Archer’s Post deserve a mention.
Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp
Place demographics: Overlooking the imposing, meandering river that is Ewaso Nyiro, Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp is in Archer’s Post, 200 kilometers from the heart of Marsabit. Though more identifiable with Isiolo, the camp is also savvy for tourists when en-route to Marsabit.
Amenities: Besides the imposing African-style domes of the thatch tents that offer insulation, Samburu Intrepids Tented Camp has many world-class facilities to offer the tourist. These include an exterior swimming pool, daily breakfast at its restaurant and well furnished lodges.
Bonus: Game drives to the surrounding park are available on a daily basis for those who want to take in the elephants, Kudu and Grevy’s Zebra roaming around. The facility offers guides for these tours.
Place Demographics: On Buffalo Springs Game Reserve nestles the Ashnil Samburu, which is more on a plateau, in location aspect, than the hilly surrounding on the Isiolo side of Ewaso Nyiro River.
Amenities: For a taste of the uniquely African organic supplies, Asian gourmet or European cuisine, the place has it all. Bush dinner safaris are also a plus.
Bonus: sunsets are stunning, just like the Buffalo Springs are a sight in such a dry vicinity.
Other nearby hotels: Sentrim Samburu, a place where all ‘Special Five’ animals including the Reticulated Giraffe, Grevy’s Zebra and Oryx are discernible.
Marsabit has been infamous as the place of guns where forlorn murram and earth roads pit one against nature and hostile man, in the greater area of the town. However, despite ethnic tension from the Borana, government vehicles offer secure passage and so do the buses that ply the route, to and fro, or via to Moyale. Government and police camps also help to stabilize the security dispensation. Marsabit is also climbing a notch higher when the government starts implementing the Vision 2020 Medium Term Plan for the northern regions.
Welcome to Marsabit, the place of–um-wildlife and so wonderful climate for an ecosystem so close to the Chalbi Desert!