Having made the long journey to Marsabit, you’ll certainly want to get into Marsabit National Park. The forest is wild and dense and the two crater lakes idyllically beautiful, although between the nearly impenetrable forests of the peaks and the stony scrub desert at the base of the mountain, you’ll need a little luck for wildlife sightings. This is a rewarding park, but one where your animal count will very much depend on the season of your visit. Good rains can encourage the grazers off the mountain and out into the temporarily lush desert, and predators will follow.
Except during the long rains (March to June), you’re reasonably likely to see some of the long-tusked Marsabit elephants – head to Gof Sokorte Guda (Lake Paradise) at sunset for the best chance. The elephants are relatives of the park’s former inhabitant, the famous Ahmed – a particularly huge and well-endowed “big tusker” to whom Kenya’s founding president Jomo Kenyatta gave “presidential protection” after seeing him, with elephant guards tracking him day and night – ironically, since Kenyatta’s family were implicated in some of Kenya’s biggest ivory smuggling scandals. Ahmed is, nonetheless, impressively replicated in fibreglass in the National Museum in Nairobi. His replacement, Mohammed, whose tusks were estimated at a cool 45kg each, has also gone to the elephant’s graveyard. Elephants are tremendous wanderers, sometimes strolling into town, causing pandemonium. More problematically, the people of Marsabit have been encouraged to cultivate around the base of the mountain, thus creating a barrier to the elephants’ free movement and unintentionally providing them with free lunches.
As well as big tuskers, the park is renowned for its greater kudu, and there’s a wide range of other wildlife, plus an amazing array of birds: almost four hundred species have been recorded, including 52 different birds of prey. Very rare lammergeiers (bearded vultures) are thought to nest on the sheer cliffs of Gof Bongole, the largest crater, which has a driveable track around its 10km rim. Marsabit is also something of a snake sanctuary, with some very large cobras – this isn’t a place to go barefoot or in sandals.