Cradle of mankind, Garden of Eden
Shimmering like a mirage in the harshly beautiful desert landscape of northern Kenya lie the blue-green waters of Lake Turkana. On its shores is the Sibiloi National Park, harbouring one of the world's greatest treasures, the three-million-year-old, Koobi Fora palaeontological site. First discovered by Dr Richard Leakey and his team in 1972, Sibiloi is now universally recognized as the ‘Cradle of Mankind' and the most likely site of the biblical Garden of Eden.
Altitude: 355 meters above sea level.
Area: 1,575 sq km.
Location: Marsabit District, Eastern Province.
Distance from Nairobi: 960 km north of Nairobi.
Gazetted: Opened August 1973.
Climate: Scorching hot and arid (especially December to March). June and July are the coolest months. May to September very strong winds blow both morning and evening. Rainfall less than 250 mm pa, and in some places and it may not rain for several years at a time.
Vegetation: Grassy plains with yellow spear grass and ragged doum palms.
Fauna: Mammals include zebra (Burchell’s and Grevy’s), gazelle, Beisa oryx, hartebeest, topi, kudu, lion, cheetah, leopard, striped hyena and hippo.
The world’s largest crocodile population breeds on
Lake Turkana’s Central Island and there are 60 recorded species of fish.
Birds: More than 350 recorded species including large flocks of flamingo.
Roads: High-clearance 4WD is essential.
‘Skull 1470’ Homo Habilis
Known as the ‘Cradle of Mankind’, Sibiloi National Park was created to protect the sites of the many remarkable hominid fossil finds revealed by its searing winds. The Park yielded its most striking treasure in 1972 when a 2-million year old fossilized skull was discovered by eminent paleontologist, Dr Richard Leakey, and his team. The almost complete skull (labelled ‘1470’ by the National Museum of Kenya) confirmed the existence of a sophisticated evolutionary hominid named Homo habilis, the direct ancestor of Homo sapiens. Evidence of Homo erectus was also unearthed along with some 160 additional finds relating to the early hominids.
The Koobi Fora Museum, Allia Bay
Although all Koobi Fora’s human fossils are now housed in Nairobi’s National Museum, you can still view the fossil of a 3-million-year-old giant tortoise, an ancient species of crocodile and a 1.5 million-year-old behemoth on-site.
The large areas of petrified wood lying around Sibiloi are the remains of a once-great cedar forest, which covered the lakeshores some 7 million years ago.
The tempestuous ‘Jade Sea’
The largest permanent desert lake in the world, Lake Turkana is an isolated chloro-carbonate alkaline giant covering 6, 400 sq km. Its mercurial blue-green colour has earned it the title The Jade Sea.
Survivors of an epoch long before mankind, Lake Turkana’s estimated 12,000 crocodile have hardly changed in 130 million years. Despite their monstrous size and formidable appearance they are generally inoffensive beasts living in perfect harmony with their environment and feeding on the Lake’s prolific fish.
Sibiloi's avian highlights include: Somali ostrich, kori and Heuglin's bustard, northern carmine and Somali bee-eater, chestnut-bellied sandgrouse and fox kestrel. The Park is also famous for the European migrants that sweep across its skies between March and May.