Lake Turkana, Ethiopia & Kenya

Also known as:  Lake Rudolf

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…
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All About Lake Turkana, Kenya

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

These are some activities in the Lake Turkana, Kenya area visitors can enjoy:

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

What Kind of Fish Are in Lake Turkana?

Lake Turkana has been known to have the following fish species:

  • Perch
  • Tilapia
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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.

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More Sites to Book a Lake Turkana Vacation

Our interactive Lake Turkana lodging map above is an easy tool for comparing VRBO rental homes and nearby hotels with Booking.com, but there could be times when you need to expand your search for different types of accommodations. Here are some other lake lodging partners we recommend:

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Lake Turkana Statistics & Helpful Links

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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

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