Turkana Festival; incredible tribes of Northern Kenya

Turkana Tribe Kenya

I have finally made it back to Kenya and hope to catch up on some post before my safari season kicks off in a few weeks. This past May I took a small group of photographers with me  to the Turkana Festival and it was incredible this year! Whether you drop in by charter aircraft or take the adventurous drive across the Chalbi desert to this remote tribal region, your first view of Lake Turkana is magical. Known as the Northern Frontier, the Turkana Basin remains one of the most untouched tribal regions in Africa. Lake Turkana, also known as the Jade sea, straddles the Ethiopian border. The Omo River feeds Lake Turkana and the beautiful tribes along the Omo River continue down through this entire region.

Nowhere else in Africa, or in the world, do I know of an event where so many exotic, colorful tribes gather in one area. The Turkana festival was started as a way to unite the tribes as a community, and promote peace between them. As many as 14 different tribes/ethnic groups such as the Randille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanach Gabra, Borana, El Molo, Konso, Sakure, Garee, and Waata will gather in a kaleidoscope of color, dressed in their most elaborate traditional clothing, beading, head ornaments, and paint made from the red ochre. Simultaneously, during the festival, the tribes will gather in their individual groups playing traditional instruments, singing, and dancing for hours at a time. There simply is no way to describe the sensory overload of colors and sounds; one must simply experience it to believe it.

We spent several days at the festival where we could freely photograph all the tribes, but I was also able to arrange special private visits to various villages and incredible photographic opportunities along the shoreline of the lake. I have been spending a lot more time up in this Northern Frontier region, building relationships with the tribes, as I used to spend a lot of time in the Omo, before it opened up and mass tourism came into the area. This area is still under-explored and raw. However, as I wrote for years about the Omo, this amazing remote tribal region is changing at lightening speed. Now is the best time to visit, while it is still special and before mass tourism and photography groups flood into this area along with all the modern changes soon to come when one of the largest wind power projects is complete.

Besides the festival, a highlight of our trip, we also visited two of Kenya’s premier wildlife reserves; namely Amboseli and Samburu. Africa is an incredible tapestry of ancient cultures, exotic wildlife, and dramatic ecosystems, which are mesmerizing for the eyes, mind, and soul. Only in Kenya am I able to offer such an incredible mix of both tribes and wildlife on a single safari. You can download a free copy of my ebook on Kenya to view photographs from all the locations we visited or join us  for the Turkana Festival and Wildlife Safari in 2017 and capture your own incredible images.


Turkana Woman

Turkana Tribe Kenya

Turkana Man


Turkana Tribe on the shores of Lake Turkana


The Elmolo tribe fishing with ancient nets in Lake Turkana


Turkana Tribe


Daasanach Tribe and Rendille Tribe


Somali People


Borana Tribe


Rendille Tribe


Turkana Tribe and Rendille Tribe


Turkana Tribe walking across the barren Turkana Basin


Samburu Elder in the hills of Samburu


Celebrating with the Samburu Morans (Warriors)


Feasting with the Maasai Morrans (Warriors)

Turkana Tribe Maasai Tribe

Turkana elder and Maasai Jr Elder

11 Responses to “Turkana Festival; incredible tribes of Northern Kenya”

  1. Muriel McClellan

    What a beautiful collection of photos and story about the region. Thank you for sharing.

    • Piper

      Thank you Muriel. The tribes in the region are so beautiful the photos just come naturally.

  2. kohlene

    Breathtaking Pipe…I see a future book coming out of all of this. Blessings my dear friend

    • Piper

      Thank you Kohlene…. I am closer than ever to a book project

  3. Susan

    Each photo is a journey by itself. Absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Piper

      Thank you Susan, travel up to Northern Kenya is an incredible journey filled with beautiful people and amazing photographic opportunities!

    • Piper

      Thank you Stephen, the tribes in Northern Kenya are incredible!

  4. Deanna Slagle

    Such beautiful pictures, Piper. You are truly an artist.
    Hope you are well and your parents are okay. You have had a lot on your plate lately.
    Africa will help you heal a bit, but with so much going on you probably won’t be able to rest!
    Regards, Deanna