Maralal International Camel Derby
The annual event held around mid-year is an engaging, entertaining, fun-filled festival, that brings this small arid town to life. A market town now growing thanks to tourism; it harbors an array of activities welcoming all to these virgin untamed lands. Adorned by hilly landscapes, the people here are mainly pastoralist’s wandering from one location to the next. From whitewater rafting, wilderness walks, racing, cycling, camel safaris and the grand Camel Derby, there is something for everyone.
The Maralal Township
Maralal is located about 350km north of Nairobi, in Kenya’s northern frontier. It is normally a busy camel town. Since time immemorial , camel riding is a way of life, the sole mode of transport in this region. For about 26 years now, the township has hosted this event, acting as a pacifier among warring communities. This desert hub of adventures is filled with adrenaline thrashing experiences to keep you yearning for more.
A kaleidoscope of color and fashion, tourists and locals interact in the action-packed experience. Once a year, come have fun and test your stamina and survival prowess in the wild at the prestigious camel race. The event is held at the Yare Country Club, just outside Maralal town. It draws spectators and racers both local and international, who participate in a fierce competition. A great social event, the festivities are for all in town.
Local dignitaries flag off the event, and the most hilarious experience south of the Sahara comes to life. The melee of noise, adrenaline, and chaos plus loud over-excited spectators cheering both professional and amateur participants fill the atmosphere. A throng of camels raise dust in a chaotic strive to break across the starting line. Professionals riding at breakneck speeds along the course; with the ungainly, heavy camels jostling for their place in history. Amateurs, on the other hand, veer off to the direction the camel chooses, some trudging backward or falling off their jockeys as the camels disappear from the confusion and noise. After all, the beasts of the desert have a mind of their own .
Concurrent Cycling and Running Races
Of late, a cycling and a 10km running race have been recently included in the festivities alongside the derby. Whether one is a professional on their sturdy mountain bikes or the amateurs on bikes that may never see the finish line, the demanding course is open to all. Local and international participants all engage in these feisty races while taking in the scenic Samburu landscapes.
The Culture and Other Engagements
Brightly dressed warriors, traders, women, and children have held to the Samburu culture for ages. With their women welcoming the derby winners with songs and dance, the Samburu people still hold dearly to their indigenous life, almost similar to their relatives, the Maasai. And guess what? A night in the township and you are sure to engage in their lifestyle. Traditional regalia and souvenirs are on sale too during this experience plus an assortment of gift items, leaving one spoilt for choice.
Bursting bush cooking is the norm at the camps, with locally farmed foods easily available. They make for unique delicious tasting. Night stories are told over bonfires with great laughter filling the chilly night air. Enchanting sights and sounds of the night are sure to make an unforgettable experience. One can hear the roaring lions and leopards, see the grazing zebras and elands and still hear the monkeys hopping on the rooftops. The peace, quiet and tranquility will leave you falling in love with this majestic location, a place to come unwind, meditate, or write your book.
Spotting wildlife along the route is a must for all. With the graceful giraffes, magnificent elephants and the zebras out in the horizon as you drive along. Tour Wamba and Archers Post while still in Samburu, in addition to Kirisia indigenous forest, locally valued for its medicinal plants and trees. A world heritage site stands tall – Kenyatta House, where Kenya’s founding father was transferred to and held for about a year, from Kapenguria, in 1961. Samburu National Park, Maralal, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves are all in this northern tourism frontier.
How about continuing northward to Loyangalani in Turkana county? Or making poses at the Rift Valley View Point, with Mt. Longonot in the background and the valley itself? The Aberdares make for picturesque scenes along the route, and the breathtaking view of Mt. Kenya peaks kissing the clouds will keep you glued beyond the windows. Lakes Naivasha, Nakuru, Elementaita, Olobolosat and others on the Rift Valley floor make for a great experience if time allows. The cascading Thompson Falls enthralling the experience on your to or from, and you must touch the Equator. How about you experiment and understand the Coriolis Effect at latitude 0°?
The word ‘Safari’ was coined in Kenya and the myriad of activities testify to this.
You have not gone on a safari without traversing my motherland, Kenya.