Chalbi Desert

This small desert, east of Lake Turkana and encompassing North Horr, offers an otherworldly landscape and a fascinating array of natural wonders. The name “Chalbi” originates from the language of the Gabbra people, meaning “bare, salty area,” which perfectly captures the essence of this extraordinary desert.

Welcome to Chalbi Desert, a captivating and unique destination located in northern Kenya near the Ethiopian border. This small desert, east of Lake Turkana and encompassing North Horr, offers an otherworldly landscape and a fascinating array of natural wonders. The name “Chalbi” originates from the language of the Gabbra people, meaning “bare, salty area,” which perfectly captures the essence of this extraordinary desert. Stretching over 1,000 square kilometers, the Chalbi Desert is characterized by its ancient lakebed, rocky terrains, and lava hills that provide a striking contrast to the surrounding plains. The ground consists of dried mud and salt, transforming into a soft, sticky surface during the rare rainfall that occurs in this rain-shadow desert.

As an important geosite of Kenya, the Chalbi Desert has yielded preserved fossils that contribute to our understanding of the region’s Quaternary climate, including fascinating aquatic creatures like the Nile perch. While the climate is arid, with an annual rainfall of approximately 150 mm, the desert occasionally experiences heavy downpours, forming temporary lakes that sustain diverse wildlife and lush vegetation. Prepare to be mesmerized by the Chalbi Desert’s enchanting beauty, its relentless winds, and occasional sandstorms, creating an unforgettable experience in this remote and awe-inspiring desert landscape.

Best time to visit

The ideal time to explore the captivating Chalbi Desert is during the dry seasons, which typically span from July to October, as well as January and February. During these months, the desert landscape is at its most enchanting, with the arid terrain providing an ideal setting for exhilarating game drives and invigorating safari walks. This is also a time when wildlife gathers around the limited water sources, offering incredible opportunities to witness the unique adaptations and behaviors of desert-dwelling animals. The absence of rainfall during these months ensures clearer skies and more predictable weather conditions, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the mesmerizing beauty and tranquility of the Chalbi Desert. Whether it’s witnessing the resiliency of life in this harsh environment or capturing stunning photographs of the desert’s dramatic landscapes, visiting during the dry seasons guarantees a truly unforgettable experience.

Chalbi Desert

Things to do when visiting Chalbi Desert

Desert Safari

Embark on a thrilling desert safari that takes you through picturesque sceneries and tranquil oases. Hop on a land cruiser and enjoy an exhilarating drive across the sandy terrain, with opportunities for sand dune racing and surfing. The adventure and adrenaline of exploring the vast desert landscape are sure to leave you in awe.

Chalbi Desert

Camel Ride

Experience the desert like the ancient civilizations and modern desert-dwelling communities by taking a camel ride. This traditional mode of transport allows you to immerse yourself in the serenity of the desert while enjoying the rhythmic sway of the camel’s gait. It’s a unique and unforgettable way to traverse the desert and connect with its history. A camel ride costs about Kshs.1000 per person.

Culture Tour

A desert safari in Chalbi Desert offers a remarkable opportunity to interact with local communities such as the Rendille, Turkana, Samburu, and others. Engage in a culture tour to explore their traditions, customs, and way of life. Learn about their rich cultural heritage, witness traditional dances, and gain insights into their sustainable lifestyle in harmony with the desert environment.


At night, the Chalbi Desert offers a breathtaking display of stars due to its remote location and minimal light pollution. Marvel at the vast expanse of the night sky and witness the constellations in all their glory. Stargazing in the desert is a captivating experience that allows for reflection and a deeper connection with the universe.


Capture the beauty of the Chalbi Desert through the lens of your camera. The unique landscapes, shifting sand dunes, and vibrant colors present countless opportunities for stunning photographs. Whether you are a professional photographer or an enthusiastic hobbyist, the desert’s dramatic features will inspire and captivate your creative vision.

Chalbi Desert Flora and Fauna

Flora in the Chalbi Desert is scarce due to the high salinity of the soil. Most parts of the desert are barren with no vegetation. However, there are a few areas where plants can be found, particularly near the outlets of tributary streams after seasonal rainfall. Species such as Salvadora persica, Acacia tortilis, and Cordia sinensis can grow in the vicinity of Chalbi’s drainage system. The desert is predominantly inhabited by annual plants, with Drakebrockmania somalensis being one of the notable species. During years of abundant rainfall, grasses like Aristida adscensionis and A. mutabilis can cover these areas. In the former lake bed, the plant Lagenantha nogalensis can be found, while on the desert’s edges, species like Dasysphaera prostrata and Hyphaene coriacea thrive.

As for fauna, the Chalbi Desert is home to a variety of herbivores, including oryx, African elephants, Somali ostriches, Grevy’s zebras, and reticulated giraffes. However, it is important to note that black rhinoceros, which used to inhabit the area, have been driven to extinction due to hunting. Despite the arid conditions, the region also supports a population of African lions, representing the large predator guild in the desert. The presence of these diverse animal species adds to the ecological significance and biodiversity of the Chalbi Desert, making it a unique and captivating destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Accommodation near Chalbi Desert

When visiting the Chalbi Desert in the Turkana region of Kenya, there are various accommodation options available to suit different budgets and preferences including basic camps and lodges that provide comfortable accommodation in this terrain. Some notable options include:

  1. Malabo Resort Loyangalani Lake Turkana Kenya: Nestled among doum palms, this oasis offers cabins with large beds, bush showers, and mosquito nets. The 10 bungalow-style rooms provide stunning sunset views, and the resort is known for its excellent food and welcoming staff.
  2. Allia Bay Guesthouse Turkana Kenya: Located on the shores of Lake Turkana in Marsabit District, this guesthouse offers a scenic setting. It is situated 800 kilometers north of Nairobi and provides a tranquil retreat in close proximity to the lake.
  3. El Molo Camp Site Lake Turkana Kenya: Situated in the remote northern region, this campsite is located on the shores of Lake Turkana. It offers an opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the area while enjoying a peaceful and secluded stay.
  4. Kristine Camp Lake Turkana Kenya: Located on the shore of Lake Turkana, just one kilometer south of Eliye Springs, this campsite provides tents for guests. The campsite offers clean facilities, such as WCs and showers, and visitors can enjoy the unique dining experience amidst the legendary evening winds off the lake.
  5. Lobolo Tented Camp Western Shores of Lake Turkana Kenya: Situated on the western shore of Lake Turkana, north of Kalokol, this tented camp offers luxury accommodations with six tents. Meals are provided on a full-board basis, and advanced booking is recommended due to its seasonal availability.

These accommodations provide a range of options for visitors to relax and rejuvenate while exploring the beauty and tranquility of the Chalbi Desert and Lake Turkana.

What to pack for your Chalbi Desert tour:

When embarking on a tour of the Chalbi Desert in Kenya, it’s important to pack wisely to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience in the desert terrain. Here are some essential items to consider packing for your Chalbi Desert tour:

  1. Lightweight and breathable clothing: Pack loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made from breathable materials such as cotton or linen. This will help keep you cool during the day and protect you from the sun. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are also recommended to shield you from the harsh desert sun.
  2. Sun protection: Don’t forget to pack sun protection essentials such as sunscreen with a high SPF, wide-brimmed hats or caps, and sunglasses. The desert sun can be intense, so it’s crucial to protect your skin and eyes from harmful UV rays.
  3. Sturdy footwear: Opt for comfortable and sturdy closed-toe shoes or boots suitable for walking on sandy and rocky terrains. It’s important to have proper foot support and protection to navigate the desert landscape.
  4. Water and hydration supplies: Stay hydrated by bringing an adequate supply of water. Consider carrying a reusable water bottle or hydration pack to ensure you have access to clean drinking water throughout your tour.
  5. Insect repellent: The desert environment can harbor insects and bugs, so pack a reliable insect repellent to ward off any potential pests.
  6. Personal medication and first aid kit: If you have any specific medication or require particular medical supplies, be sure to pack them. Additionally, carry a basic first aid kit containing essentials like bandages, antiseptic ointment, pain relievers, and any other necessary items.
  7. Extra layers and protective gear: Although the desert can be hot during the day, temperatures can drop significantly at night. Pack lightweight layers and a jacket or sweater to stay warm during chilly evenings. Additionally, consider bringing a scarf or shawl to protect your face and neck from dust and sand.
  8. Essential toiletries: Pack travel-sized toiletries such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and a travel towel. It’s also advisable to carry wet wipes or hand sanitizer for convenient hygiene maintenance.
  9. Camera and binoculars: Capture the stunning landscapes and unique wildlife encounters by bringing a camera or smartphone with a good camera. Binoculars are also handy for observing distant wildlife or enjoying the scenic vistas.
  10. Cash and identification: Ensure you have enough cash in local currency for any expenses or purchases during your tour. Carry your identification documents, including your passport, for verification purposes.

Remember to pack light and only bring essentials to avoid unnecessary burden during your Chalbi Desert tour. Be mindful of the limited availability of amenities and facilities in the desert, and always prioritize comfort, protection, and convenience.

Stepping into Chalbi Desert is an experience like no other. The vastness of the landscape, the endless expanse of sand and rock, evokes a sense of awe and wonder. The silence is palpable, broken only by the whisper of the wind and the occasional rustle of sand underfoot. The scorching sun beats down, casting mesmerizing patterns of light and shadow. It’s a place where time seems to stand still, and the world feels stripped down to its most raw and elemental form. As a tourist in Chalbi Desert, there’s a mix of excitement and tranquility, a deep connection to nature and a profound appreciation for its resilience.

The desert’s solitude and solitude can be both humbling and empowering, offering a chance for self-reflection and a renewed perspective on the grandeur and fragility of our planet. It’s a journey of exploration, where each step reveals a new marvel, a hidden oasis, or a glimpse of the ancient past. Being at Chalbi Desert is a captivating encounter that stirs the soul and leaves an indelible mark, forever igniting a love for the mystique and untamed beauty of these arid lands.

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