Located in the middle of Kenya’s Lake Turkana, this active volcanic island boasts cones and deep craters, three of which have exquisite jade lakes. The island encompasses contrasting landscapes of black lava shores, rocky outcrops, spits, crater rims and dunes with fine sand.
Lake Turkana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest and most impressive alkaline desert lake in the world. The floor of the lake is so far down that it sits close to sea level. It’s quite possible to see pufferfish in the lakesùa saltwater fish species. This is a clear indication of an ancient connection to the Red Sea, where these fish are abundant. The luminescent waters provide a window into the world of the ancients.
Otherwise known as Crocodile Island because of its prolific Nile crocodile population, Central Island encompasses a mere five square kilometres of exquisite territory. The park is a major drawcard for birders, fishermen and those with a penchant for geographical marvels.
International visitors to Lake Turkana would need to fly into Nairobi and take a connecting flight to one of the smaller airstrips on the mainland shores of the lake. From there, a boat ride to Central Island can be taken.
There are desert and aquatic biomes in the park providing a perfect habitat for a wealth of species. Central Island National Park is renowned for its prolific concentration of Nile crocodile and houses the world’s largest population of these reptiles. In addition to crocodile, there are abundant hippo and mud turtles in the area.
There are over 350 birds in the area, such as flamingos, pelicans, sandpiper, African skimmer and Heuglin’s bustard. Small creatures are found throughout and include everything from scorpions to the deadly carpet viper. On the interior, it’s possible to spot Grevy's zebra, topis, oryx and Grant’s gazelle.
The waters of the crater lake provide the ideal environment for over 60 species of fish, including the pufferfish, catfish, Nile perch and tilapia. Pufferfish are only found in seawater, indicating an ancient connection to the ocean.
Central Island National Park suffers from searing temperatures during the summer months—it is particularly arid during this time. Summer is from December to March. Winter (June/July) is the best time of year to visit. Although still warm, the general temperatures are moderate. Between seasons there are strong winds, which can be unpleasant.
The national park attracts eager safari-goers looking for a unique and mysterious add-on to their big five safaris in Kenya. The island is relatively small, which means it’s possible to explore all of the scenic lakes in one single visit. The three main lakes are Crocodile lake, Tilapia lake and Flamingo lake.
There is a network of well-marked nature paths crisscrossing through the park, and all routes to the crater lakes are signposted. Most visitors choose to hire the services of a local guide, who will introduce safari-goers to the birdlife and wildlife of the area.
Boat rides are possible on the lakes and provide a unique way of seeing the landscape from a different angle. Eager fishermen take to the waters on guided fishing safaris to catch tilapia and other fish.
It’s quite possible to see the plumes of vapour rising from the volcanic landscape while navigating through the park on foot or in the comfort of a boat. The national park is the place of walking safaris, boating and fishing.
The only accommodation in the park is the government campsite on the banks of one of the lakes. There is abundant lodge accommodation located on the shores of Lake Turkana, offering a more luxurious stay.