Familiarize yourself with the local weather and terrain to help you pack for Koobi Fora. Before you leave, learn more about the meals, lodging and phone service available on site.
About the Site Location
The Koobi Fora base camp is set on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, which is one of the world’s largest saline lakes. It is situated about 800 kilometers northeast of Nairobi, an approximate two-day drive. Nairobi is located in the Sibiloi National Park, a World Heritage Site famous for its natural and cultural history. The area’s continuing tectonic activity makes the region an epicenter of research in environments, climate, human evolution and wildlife ecology.
The Koobi Fora region is located about 3° south of the Equator (N 3°56’ and E 36°11’) with an altitude of 398 meters. The temperatures can range from 65°F to 115°F. Therefore, days are usually very hot and dry but nights and mornings can be cool. Students are advised to bring light cotton shorts and shirts or blouses, brimmed hats and sunglasses for the days and long, light pants and fleece jackets for the evenings and mornings. It is also encouraged to wear long pants and long sleeves during the night to protect you from mosquitoes.
The terrain varies from flat scrublands to steep, rocky outcrops. Field instructions will include hiking up and down the slippery outcrops, and we recommend rugged boots with deep treads for a good grip and to protect against the acacia tree thorns. Occasional long-distance walks (approximately 30 minutes) will be involved, depending on the accessibility of particular study sites. Dust is prevalent, so precautions should be taken such as using bandanas. Students who usually use contact lenses should use their glasses during the field school.
Meals are prepared by experienced cooks. Breakfast consists of freshly brewed coffee, tea, eggs, fresh bread (made daily by the cooks in a firewood stove), oatmeal, cereal and porridge made from corn, millet and sorghum flour. Other meals consist of bread, sandwiches, pasta, rice, potatoes, chapati (naan), ugali (cornmeal), githeri (mix of corn, red beans and vegetables, served hot), cooked vegetables and goat meat. Fresh vegetables include peas, carrots, onions and cabbage. Fresh vegetables, goat and chicken are purchased occasionally from the town of Ileret. However, since the area is remote, fresh food is not always available.
Water is collected from freshly dug wells in the Ileret region, so water is used carefully and sometimes sparingly. Drinking water is treated and filtered by the kitchen and field school staff.
Lodging and Hygiene
Accommodation is in tents pitched in a well-planned arrangement inside the camp boundaries. Each student should bring a small wind- and moisture-resistant tent, sleeping bag or bedding supplies. All students should bring their own towels.
Temperature-controlled showers are not available, but showers are available at base camp and students will be transported to bathe at the lake during their time at Ileret camp. Bathing in Lake Turkana is completely safe; the activity of local people has cleared the waters of hippos and crocodiles. It is advisable to bring sandals for bathing. The toilets are pit latrines fitted with toilet seat covers, which we maintain regularly. Due to water scarcity, laundry can be hand-washed by the students at the lake at both Ileret camp and Koobi Fora base camp. Students should bring their own string to set up a laundry line for themselves.
Power and Phone Service
Solar and kerosene lamps and candles are commonly used in the dining hall and in the field labs for light. Power is limited, so students should bring multiple flashlights or headlamps (with batteries). There is solar-powered electricity on site (110V and 220V outlets available), but its use is restricted to our research lab. We also use a small generator (220V only) to charge batteries, computers, etc. (turned on for a couple of hours per day).
There is a cell phone network at the Ileret camp, although not always available, provided by Safaricom PLC. Contact information will be provided for receiving calls, and students will have (limited) access to call home via satellite phone. A satellite phone is available for emergency use at all times.