Kenya’s Untamed North

Kenya is renowned for its wealth of wildlife, the sweeping plains of the Masai Mara, and its white sand beaches. But look beyond these stereotypes, glorious though they are, and one can find a diverse kaleidoscope of ethnicities and tribal groups, far removed from the tourist trail and virtually unchanged for generations.

On this expedition we head north from the capital into the tribal heartlands that stretch towards the borders with South Sudan and Ethiopia, taking challenging routes and driving through remote areas to meet some of Africa’s most traditional groups. In the harsh lands of the Kaisut Desert we meet the Samburu and Rendille people, pastoralists who compensate for their austere surroundings with stunning body decorations and enormous beaded necklaces.

Pushing further north we drive to Mount Nyiru – one of East Africa’s most remote regions. Here we meet the Turkana people, a proud warrior people who held out against colonial domination until the 1950s, and who still retain a fierce independence from central government.

Pushing on into the Chalbi Desert we head for the oasis of Kalacha, a centre for the Gabbra people, camel herding nomads who eke an existence from this unforgiving land.

Returning south we stop at Samburu Game Reserve – no visit to Kenya would be complete without at least a little wildlife, after all. We have the opportunity to spend time here looking for lion, elephant and some of the species which are seldom found elsewhere, such as gerenuk and beisa oryx.

This is a trip through some of East Africa’s most isolated regions – you can expect some full days of driving on rough and non-existent roads to reach these communities, and at times it may be challenging. The rewards however are great – to meet proud warriors and nomadic communities following in the steps of their ancestors, with little influence from the modern world, masters of their own lands yet welcoming to visitors. This is Kenya with a twist, and unlike you have seen it before.

Expedition to Lake Turkana

Highlights

  • Remote desert journeys
  • Meet the Turkana people
  • Look for wildlife in Samburu
  • Traditional tribal cultures

Day 1 - Nairobi

Arrive in Nairobi. The rest of the day is at leisure. Overnight Boulevard Hotel or similar.


Day 2 - Kaisut Desert

A full days drive north towards Nanyuki and Mount Kenya, crossing the equator and heading to the lands of the Samburu and Rendille people at the base of the Ndoto Mountains and the vast Kaisut Desert. Overnight camping. (BLD)


Days 3-4 - Kaisut Desert

We spend these days exploring the lands of the Samburu and Rendille people, two of Kenya’s most striking ethnic groups, visiting their settlements and learning about their way of life in this harsh corner of the country. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Samburu People

The Samburu people are closely related to the better known Masai and share many of the same characteristics; both are pastoralists with a lifestyle centred around finding grazing for their cattle, and both have a distinct social structure based on age groups. They are the most northerly of the Maa speaking groups, and often refer to themselves as Loikop – ‘those who have territory’, a fierce and proud statement of their success in defending themselves against the equally fierce and proud tribes to the north.

Rendille People

The Rendille are a Cushitic speaking ethnic group who are often referred to as ‘the holders of the stick of god’. They are nomadic pastoralists who roam with their camels, goats and more recently cattle across a vast swathe of northern Kenya. The Rendille live in semi-permanent villages that are moved only a few times each year, and rarely more than a few kilometres.

Days 5-6 - Kaisut Desert – Mount Nyiru

Drive across some of East Africa’s most dramatic scenery, through the South Horr Valley. In the late afternoon of Day 5 we arrive at our camp. This region is a melting pot of ethnic groups, with the dominant group being the Turkana. Day 6 is spent exploring this fascinating landscape and meeting the people who live here. Overnight Koros Camp or similar. (BLD)

Turkana People

The Turkana people are renowned for their fighting prowess and are recently thought to be the oldest tribal society in the world. The Turkana can trace their origins to the Dodoth escarpment in north-east Uganda, and their related tribal allies the Karamojong. Legend has it that two to three hundred years ago the tribe started to move east. This powerful and influential people, who number over a quarter of a million, mostly live on the western flank of Lake Turkana.

Days 7- 8 - Mount Nyiru – Chalbi Desert

A full days drive to Kenya’s remote northern frontier, eventually arriving at Kalacha, a desert oasis that sustains the Gabbra people and their cattle during the dry season. On Day 8 we spend time meeting the Gabbra in the Chalbi Desert. Overnight camping. (BLD)

Gabbra People

The Gabbra follow a traditional age-set system, common amongst the northern nomads, of passing through distinct age groups every seven years. Each age group elects two leaders or ‘hayu’ to act as their representatives at meetings known as ‘dabela’ and convened by the tribal elders. The Gabbra calendar consists of a remarkably accurate 365 days but no leap year. Their religious worship is intended to create ‘nagaya’ (peace) through appeal to Waqa, the god of rain and peace.

Days 9-10 - Namunyak

Drive south to Namunyak, close to Samburu Game Reserve. On Day 10 we have a choice of either hiking up Sabache mountain or heading into Samburu game reserve for a game drive. Samburu is home to a number of species rarely seen elsewhere such as the reticulated giraffe and gerenuk. The afternoon is spent meeting the Samburu people. Overnight tented camp. (BLD)

Samburu Game Reserve

Samburu Reserve is located on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro River, and is famous as the location where Joy Adamson raised her lioness, Elsa. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife – of the big cats, lion, leopard and cheetah are found here, as well as buffalo and elephant. The last of the ‘big five’, rhino, has been poached out of existence in the reserve. Samburu is well known for providing a habitat for species that are difficult to find in other parks, namely beisa oryx, Somali ostrich, gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra and Guenther’s dik-dik, and is also home to over 350 bird species.

Day 11 - Nairobi

Return to Nairobi and transfer to the airport for departure. (B)


Please note: You will not arrive back into Nairobi until late afternoon and so should not book any flights until the evening.

Kenya tribal tour - Samburu woman in northern Kenya
Tribal groups in northern Kenya - tribal tours
Tribal groups in northern Kenya - tribal tours
Gabbra man with camels in northern Kenya - Kenya tribal tour

What's included?

  • Airport transfers

    We include arrival and departure transfers regardless of whether you book flights yourself, or we book them for you. If you’re booking them yourself, then please let us know the details so that we can arrange the transfers. Please note that if you book accommodation with us and are arriving earlier than day 1 of the tour / leaving after the final day, airport transfers will be included. If you have booked your own accommodation you will need to make your own way to the hotel / airport.

  • Accommodation

    Accommodation as listed in the dossier. The nature of the destinations that we operate may sometimes mean that we need to change hotels, but we’ll always endeavour to keep the same standards. Please be aware that as we operate in many countries where tourism is in its infancy, hotel standards may not be the same as you’re used to elsewhere.

  • Guides

    You will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide.

  • Meals

    As listed within the itinerary / dossier (B-Breakfast, L-Lunch, D-Dinner). These will vary from trip to trip – in some areas it makes sense to include all meals while in others there is a good choice of restaurants and we feel people might like to ‘do their own thing’ now and again.

  • Entrance fees

    Entrance fees are listed for those sites that we mention within the itinerary. If there are any other sites that you’d like to see, these would be at your own expense.

What's not included?

  • Visas

    We don’t arrange visas for our travellers, but if an invitation letter is necessary then we will arrange this for you. If you need any advice with visas then just give us a call, or alternatively, a visa agency such as Travcour can assist.

  • International flights

    Many of our travellers arrive from different destinations and so we don’t include international flights in the cost of our tours. If, however, you would like us to book flights for you, then just give us a call and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.

  • Travel Insurance

    If you need any assistance with this, then let us know – although we can’t arrange it ourselves we can point you in the direction of a reputable provider that can assist.

Visas

Most travellers will require a visa to enter Kenya, which can be obtained on arrival for $50. You will need to have six months validity left on your passport and have two blank pages.

Visa regulations can change though, so we recommend that you check the situation again two months before travel.

Health and vaccinations

We are not medically qualified and so we recommend that you speak to your doctor or nearest health professional for advice concerning recommended vaccinations. For more advice on vaccinations, you can also visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Insurance

It is a condition of joining our tours that you have suitable travel insurance in place, and we cannot accept travellers without insurance. All policies differ in terms of what they will cover, but as a minimum you need medical and health cover, which will cover you for the whole time that you are away. Most policies will also include cancellation cover, which will cover you if an unforeseen circumstance obliges you to cancel your trip. We recommend that you obtain your insurance as soon as you book your trip.

Please note that government travel warnings often affect the validity of your travel insurance, and you should check this with your insurance company.

Money

The local currency in Kenya is the Kenyan shilling. The only real place to change money on this trip is Nairobi, and your guide can assist with this.

Travel advice

We keep a very close eye on the travel advice issued by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office so that we can keep you up to date with any warnings. At the time of writing the FCO does not advise against travel to the parts of Kenya that we visit on this trip.

This relates to advice from the British government – other nationalities need to check the stance of their own governments.

Please note that the information contained above is highly susceptible to change, and while we endeavour to keep up to date we recommend that you use this as a guide only. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Updated May 2019

Kenya tribal tour - Samburu woman in northern Kenya
Tribal groups in northern Kenya - tribal tours
Tribal groups in northern Kenya - tribal tours
Gabbra man with camels in northern Kenya - Kenya tribal tour
Date(s)
Price (PP) Exc. Flights
Single Supplement
Trip Status
Date -
02 February 2021
Price (PP) -
£5,199
Single Supplement -
£260
Trip Status -
Available
Date -
01 February 2022
Price (PP) -
£5,399
Single Supplement -
£275
Trip Status -
Available