Lake Turkana, Ethiopia & Kenya

Also known as:  Lake Rudolf

Welcome to the ultimate guide to Lake Turkana — things to do, where to stay, fun facts, history, stats and more. Let’s dive in!

Topics we cover in this article:

Looking for Lake Turkana cabins or other accommodations? Save time and use this interactive map to find, compare and book at the best rates. Or explore our comprehensive list of favorite travel partners.

All About Lake Turkana

Lake Turkana, located in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya and stretching into Northern Ethiopia, is said to be the world’s largest permanent desert lake. With a hot and arid climate and location in the middle of the desert, this lake is usually only visited as a stopover during a safari.

Originally the lake was named Lake Rudolf in honor of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in 1888 by the first known group of Europeans to have recorded visiting the lake during an African safari. In 1975 after Kenya gained independence, the Kenyan president renamed it Lake Turkana after the predominant tribe that lives in the area. Some call the lake, the Jade Sea, because of the turquoise color of the water from a distance which is caused by algae that rise to the water surface during calm weather. The local Turkana people simply call it anam Ka’alakol which means the sea of many fish.

Lake Turkana has been heavily fished all through the years. Several species of native fish thrive in the salty water including African tetras, Chichlids, tilapia, elephant fish, African arowana, African knifefish as well as Nile perch. When fishing, anglers must be wary of the thousands of crocodiles that also live and swim in the waters of Lake Turkana.

Bird watchers have documented many sightings as the East African Rift system serves as a flyway for migratory birds. Hundreds of bird species native to Kenya as well as the migrating birds feed off the plankton masses on the water.

Three rivers flow into Lake Turkana which has no outlet so the only water loss is through evaporation. Surrounded by barren volcanic lava beds with little or no vegetation, scorpion and venomous vipers slither across the rocky shores. Islands in the lake are home to many animal species but the Central Island and South Island have been designated as National Parks for protection of the migrating waterfowl, as well as the breeding grounds for hippos, crocodiles, venomous snakes, zebras, giraffes, and camels.

Lake Turkana National Park is listed as a world heritage site as the area is steeped in prehistoric history. Human skulls, bones, and fossils found in the area have been dated back three million years. The whole area is also used to study arid lands.

Though the lake is considered uninhabitable by most, several tribes have adapted to the harsh climate and conditions. The lake’s namesake, the Turkana, live in a semi-nomadic existence here. El Molo, the country’s smallest tribe, live a hunter-gatherer existence in their villages made of rounded reed huts.

Kenya’s most remote destination, Lake Turkana, is an adventure just getting there. Just imagine how much adventure you will have once you arrive!

Things to Do at Lake Turkana

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Hunting
  • Birding
  • National Park

Fish Species Found at Lake Turkana

  • Perch
  • Tilapia

Find Places to Stay at Lake Turkana

If you’re considering a Lake Turkana lake house rental or hotel, we’ve made it super easy to find the best rates and compare vacation accommodations at a glance. Save time using this interactive map below.

Recommended Sites to Book a Lake Turkana Vacation

If you want to take a deeper dive to find waterfront lake cabins, cottages, condos, hotels or resorts, check out our favorite Lake Turkana lodging partners.

  • VRBO – Use VRBO to find the perfect lake rental home, condo, cabin, cottage or other vacation property.
  • – One of the world’s leading digital travel companies, connects travelers to everything from cozy B&Bs to luxury resorts.
  • Expedia – Expedia is a popular online travel agency with more than 140,000 lodging properties worldwide.
  • – With more than 325,000 hotels in 19,000-plus locations, is an industry leader in online accommodations.
  • TripAdvisor – Read traveler reviews and compare prices on hotels, vacation rentals and more at TripAdvisor.
  • Trivago – Trivago helps travelers compare deals for hotels and other accommodations from a variety of booking sites.
  • KAYAK – KAYAK scours hundreds of other travel websites at once to find the best deals on hotels and other travel-related services.
  • RVshare –RVshare connects travelers interested in renting a motorhome with owners who have RVs to rent.
  • CampSpot – Campspot offers premier RV resorts, family campgrounds, cabins and glamping options across North America.

Note: These are affiliate links so we may earn a small commission if you book through them. While there is no extra cost to you, it helps provide resources to keep our site running (thank you)! You can read our full disclosure policy here.

Lake Turkana Statistics & Helpful Links


Lake Type: Natural Saltwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,667,961 acres

Average Depth: 99 feet

Maximum Depth: 358 feet

Water Volume: 165,061,206 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 12.5 years

We strive to keep the information on LakeLubbers as accurate as possible. However, if you’ve found something in this article that needs updating, we’d certainly love to hear from you! Please fill out our Content Correction form.

Shop Lake Turkana Gifts

Custom Lake Tumblers

Captain / First Mate Custom 20 oz Tumbler

Custom Lake T Shirt

Personalized My Boat My Rules Unisex T-Shirt

Custom Lake Coffee Mug - On Lake Time

On Lake Time Custom Coffee Mug – 11oz or 15oz


Advertise Your Lake Turkana Business or Vacation Rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer businesses the opportunity to advertise and homeowners and property managers the ability to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily. If you would like additional details, please contact our advertising team.


Looking for the Lake Turkana Forum?

LakeLubbers previously offered visitors the ability to create accounts and participate in lake forums. When we overhauled the site’s content management system in 2021 we had to disable those features. We’re evaluating options and welcome your comments and feedback here. We also encourage you to join our lake-lovin’ community on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Lake Turkana Photo Gallery

New photos coming soon!

Spread the word! Share our Lake Turkana article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!