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Marsabit National Park and Reserve, a forested mountain park in the desert.


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Marsabit National Park and Reserve.

Marsabit is a forested mountain which rises spectacularly from the middle of a desert wilderness and provides the only source of permanent surface water in the region. It has three beautiful crater lakes within a myriad of resident birdlife. The most scenic is Lake Paradise, made famous in the early films and writings of Martin Johnson and Vivien de Watt Ville.

Marsabit reserve is also well known because of large elephants like the famous Ahmed, an elephant that was provided with a 24 hour protection by a presidential order. Ahmed, who boasted some of the biggest tusks ever recorded, died at age 55, and his body was preserved and is now on display in Nairobi National Museum.

Marsabit town and its sanctuaries lie atop a mountain rising sheer from the desert floor to a height of about 1707 meters. Marsabit Mountain is a natural phenomenon, born out of volcanic fire and shaped by mist.

The mountain's great mass has created its own ambient climate. Every evening, about midnight, the hot air rising from the desert floor cools and forms clinging fingers of mist, which grasp the mountain slopes, rarely releasing their grip until the late part of the morning.

Although the lower slopes are scorched and dry, above them is a richly forested wonderland of crater lakes and swamps, towering cliffs and giant trees, with a dazzling array of wildlife.

Many species of raptors inhabit the shaggy cliffs and the treetops around Lake Paradise and Sokorte Guda, a cliff lined bowl, which forms a natural amphitheater in which Marsabit's elephant’s parade to drink in the late afternoon. Large herds of buffalo join this display. For an estimated 63 years, Marsabit National Park and Reserve was the home of an elephant named Ahmed, patriarch of the forest, guarded from hunters seeking his mighty tusks, by a presidential decree. A model .of Ahmed now stands in the National Museum in Nairobi. Now his scions wander the forest under the watchful eyes of the Marsabit Reserve's rangers.

Other species found on the mountain include the shy greater kudu and other antelope as well as lion and leopard. Lower down the mountain, below the forest line, groups of Borana people drive their camels to water at the singing wells.

Three or four men form a human ladder down these deep shafts and with camel-hide buckets work in swift relay to bring water to the troughs above. The songs they sing while undertaking this work have earned the wells their name.

Marsabit Town is a staging post for the journey to Moyale and onwards to Ethiopia and also the beginning of an adventure, which intrepid travelers make when they cross the inhospitable Chalbi Desert to reach Lake Turkana. This shimmering and seemingly endless expanse of sand stretches for 300 kilometers to the shore of the lake of which it were once part. Even today, perhaps once in every decade, in one of the torrential downpours, which occur during a rare rainy season, it will again come into flood to form a vast but shallow lake..

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