Maralal, a small hillside market town in northern Kenya, is the capital of Samburu County and the administrative headquarters of the region. With an urban population of 16,281, this vibrant town has a rich history and a unique charm that draws adventurous travelers from around the world.
One of the main attractions of Maralal is the Maralal National Sanctuary, located approximately 2 km southwest of the town. Although the wildlife has been eradicated by poachers and the site has been closed since September 2014, the remains of the sanctuary still offer a glimpse into the natural beauty of the area. Visitors can explore the rolling hills, rocky outcrops, and stunning landscapes that once housed a variety of wildlife, including elephants, buffaloes, and antelopes.
Another significant landmark in Maralal is Kenyatta House, where Jomo Kenyatta was detained prior to his release. This modern house, once home to the first President of Kenya, is now a museum that offers an insight into the life and times of one of the country’s most iconic leaders.
Until 2016, Maralal was also home to the Maralal International Camel Derby, a popular annual event that attracted both locals and tourists. However, due to concerns over animal welfare, the derby was eventually discontinued. Today, the town is mostly a base for adventurous travelers heading to Lake Turkana, which is about 12 hours away by road to the north. Accommodation in Maralal is cheap but lacking in sophistication, and the roads leading to the town from the south are still under construction. However, with the completion of the Naibor-Kisima-Maralal road in 2019, tourism opportunities in the area are expected to improve.
Transportation to Maralal is available via the main road that starts from Gilgil and passes through Nyahururu and Rumuruti before ending in Baragoi. The road up to Maralal is tarmac, but becomes unpaved past that point. The closest airport to Maralal is Kisima Airport, located in the nearby village of Kisima.
In conclusion, Maralal is a hidden gem that offers a glimpse into the rich cultural and natural heritage of northern Kenya. While the town may not offer the same level of luxury and sophistication as some of its more famous neighbors, it is the perfect destination for adventurous travelers looking to experience the true spirit of Africa.