Lake Turkana, Ethiopia & Kenya

Also known as:  Lake Rudolf

Welcome to the ultimate guide for history, statistics, local fun facts and the best things to do at Lake Turkana.

If you’re considering Lake Turkana vacation rentals, we’ve made it super easy to explore accommodations and nearby hotels using the interactive map below. Simply click on a listing to compare similar properties, best rates and availability for your dates. Or keep scrolling to read our Lake Turkana guide!

Lake Turkana visitor and community guide

Lake Locations: Ethiopia - Kenya - Eastern - Rift Valley -

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!

Custom Lake Turkana house decor

Read our full review of these personalized lake house signs.

Things to do at Lake Turkana

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

Fish species found at Lake Turkana

  • Perch
  • Tilapia

Best hotels and vacation rentals at Lake Turkana

The Lake Turkana map shown above is a simple and stress-free way to search for trip accommodations. But if you want to take a deeper dive to find the ideal waterfront home, cabin, condo, hotel or resort, visit our favorite lodging partners by clicking the buttons below.

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 photo gallery

New photos coming soon!

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.

Advertise your Lake Turkana vacation rental

LakeLubbers will soon offer homeowners and property managers the opportunity to to showcase their vacation rentals to the thousands of lake lovers searching our site daily for accommodations. If you’d like additional details, please contact our advertising team here.


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 and Instagram!

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