Adventure Safaris In Africa

3 Little-known Deserts in Kenya Full of Adventure

Deserts in Kenya
Written by See Africa Today

You can get the same rush from sand dunes as you would in Dubai, but nobody ever tells you that until you get to deserts in Kenya.

Desert safaris are becoming increasingly popular among domestic and international vacationers because of their exciting potential. However, only a handful of people know of the awe of visiting the likes of the Chalbi Desert in Northern Kenya.

Interestingly though, did you know that Kenya has two other popular deserts besides the famous Chalbi? The other two are:

  • Nyiri/Nyika Desert
  • Mambrui

Which is the Biggest Desert in Kenya?

Nyiri/Nyika is Kenya’s biggest desert in the country’s south-central region. It is located approximately 50 miles east of Lake Magadi and close to the Tanzanian border in the north.

Deserts in Kenya

Deserts in Kenya. Nyiri Desert. Photo/Here Goes Kenya

The Amboseli National Park and the northern portion of Lake Amboseli are within the desert’s boundaries. At its most northern tip is where you’ll find Nairobi National Park, and at its most southern tip is where you’ll find Tsavo West National Park.

There are areas of the desert in thickets of small trees, many of which are thorny and some of which contain poison. There are signs indicating game tracks among them.

The trees have green leaves and blossoms during the brief wet season. But during the dry season, they are naked and twisted by greyish green creepers and the hornlike fronds of thorny euphorbia. This is characteristic of deserts in Kenya.

There are only a few major springs and riverbeds spread far apart; therefore, water is in short supply. The plain peppers with rocky hills, some of which sit on even older rocks. The desert is home to various trees known as baobabs, some of which are over 2,000 years old.

They have grey trunks measuring up to 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter. Fauna is plenty, and you can always spot elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, lions, leopards, lesser kudu, and impala in the adjacent parks.

Which Desert is Found in Marsabit?

Feel Like You Are In Dubai While At Kenya’s Chalbi Desert

Chalbi Desert. [Photo: kenyan backpacker]

One of Kenya’s most well-known desert regions is the Chalbi Desert in Marsabit County. Marsabit is in the northern section of Kenya. Frankly speaking, it’s experiencing unprecedented levels of visitor interest right now.

It includes all of the North Horr sub-county and shares a border with Ethiopia to the south and Lake Turkana to the east. It is the most popular deserts in Kenya.

Although Marsabit and entire northern Kenya are very hot due to their arid nature, Chalbi Desert’s temperatures are way higher. It’s the hottest place in the country.

But this does not take away its beauty. It is coated in the marvellous scenery of volcanoes and the remains of ancient lava flows. The population is scarce, but people have learnt of its beauty over the years. The Rendille and Gabbra community are the main inhabitants of this desert.

The volcanic mountains towering over the desert from afar have thousands of kilometre-long sand dunes. They are so attractive to travellers in and out of Kenya. From the horizon of the desert, coarse sand covers pure rocks from the volcanic action that happened millions of years ago.

Just like Southern African Kalahari and the Namib Deserts, Chalbi Desert has several salt pans. They benefit the local community that is made up of pastoralists. They feed it to their cattle as a natural salt lick. History suggests that millions of years ago, there was a lake which dried up and formed what the present-day Chalbi Desert is.

The desert oasis called Kalacha quenches the thirst of thousands of animals. However, it is a few days trek to the oasis.

The best time to visit one of the popular deserts in Kenya is between July to October; January to February. You can explore it in a desert drive or on a camel’s back.

Is Mambrui a Desert?


Mambrui Sand dunes in the northern part of Malindi. [Photo: Twitter]

At the heart of Malindi, a populous coastal town known for its tourism exploits, is the little-known Mambrui sand dunes. It is Kenya’s holy grail regarding “exceptional tourism”. It is home to the amazing Kola Beach, known as the ‘golden beach,’ amplified by the rare occurrence of sand dunes.

Mambrui is in the northern part of Malindi in Kwale County. It holds a lot of historical significance in the country’s ancient times. It was a home for Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists for donkey years. The archaeologists explored a theory on Chinese presence in Kenya during the reign of Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty here.

Nature is quiet here; only its beauty speaks loud enough. Baobab trees dots Mambrui, which winds down to the Sabaki River, which is a lifeline for thousands of people in the area.

About the author

See Africa Today

Pharis Kinyua is the editor of See Africa Today. With over seven years of experience in digital media, he has a soft spot for African tours and travel. His drive is to tell the rest of the world what Africa offers, the best accommodation facilities, national parks, culture, shopping malls and best airline deals to travel to Africa

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