Chalbi Desert Kenya, A Real Gem For Expedition Lovers & Campers.
A perfect conclusion is that sleeping between four walls is an experience that ends in the towns. Out amid the sands or remote plains and places, evenings are spent around a bonfire and a soft bed of sand is the night-time mattress of choice. Most Chalbi excursions carry tents but many travellers prefer to sleep outdoors beneath the clearest show of stars on earth. For those fond of Mother Nature in her diversity, Chalbi desert, located in Marsabit County is a real gem.
A journey into the Chalbi desert can be as varied as the desert itself, but there are some quintessential Kenyan experiences. Most begin in the gateway towns where expeditions out into the desert are organised. Often oases, these towns are centres of native cultures, places where the architecture emerges naturally from the earth and the slow pace of life has changed little in centuries. You must be wondering what’s in my mind today. Yes I know but my last visit to Dubai reminded me of the Kenyan deserts that only a few know about.
Every expeditions starts at a point in your bathrooms and goes further beyond town or village limits, the climax of it all is when you reach a point beyond which there are two major means of getting around. A slow march across the sands astride a camel re-enacts the great camel caravans of Chalbi lore, on a camel safari, travellers slow down to a pace well suited to the deserts unforgiving climate, allowing you to appreciate details and pass through this spectacular terrain at one with your surroundings. In a 4WD expedition, travellers can range further, stirring up the sand as you tick off a list of iconic deserts landscapes.
Located East of the famous Lake Turkana and spreading to the Ethiopian border, the magical desert is one of the hottest and most arid places in Kenya and covers an area of about 100,000 kilometre square. With such a vast area you can’t go long without crossing some desert winds. While storms are the most conspicuous sightings, that’s the greeting you get on reaching its fringes, Chalbi desert, itself is a bleached stretch of coarse sand spiced up with pure rocks and immense clay. There are also ash-gray ridges and broken clusters of tiny huts.
The desert is believed to have been a lake that dried up a thousand years ago therefore the name Chalbi, which means ‘bare and salty’ in the Gabbra dialect. There are pans of salt in the desert which many pastoralists pick and use as a natural animals’ saltlick. The desert is also surrounded by volcanic hills, creating a magical panorama views that are unique, with only selected animal and vegetation that can withstand hostile climates in the entire Sub-Saharan regions.
Inside Chalbi desert, a huge salt pan east of Lake Turkana, there is no oasis. Amazingly, you might still come across oryx, ostrich or even endangered Grevy zebra galloping across the great, shimmering whiteness. After the rains, the bone dry land turns into a shallow lake. On its northern fringes, where the wind piles up sand dunes, a chain of oases nourishes vast palm grooves. The precious greenery attracts flocks of sand grouse and Gabbra pastoralists alike, who bring their camels in the hundreds to drink.
We cannot conclude a visit to the Chalbi without noting the colourful dresses, the singing and the dancing of the Nomadic women who appear as a celebration of life in an otherwise hostile environment. Even further north rise the Huri Hills which comfort the sweating traveler with moderate temperatures and instant views over a boiling country. Are you ready for another #tembeakenya trip to see the #MagicalKenya then come along for a desert safari expedition.