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Maralal Cameron Derby returns after 3 years break

When you think of some of the prominent tourist sporting attractions in Kenya, what comes to mind is probably the Rhino Charge, where off-road vehicles are driven through rough bushy terrain, or the hot air balloon flights over the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

However, Samburu County is hosting a very unique sporting activity, the only one of its kind in Africa: the Maralal International Camel Derby.

Phillip Leitore Samburu, Chief Officer (CO) for Tourism, said that the camel derby is making a comeback after a three-year absence following the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, which restricted local and international travel and public gatherings.

Leitore said that all preparations are complete to receive both local and international visitors and participants in the various sporting events during the four-day extravaganza.

“Based on the hotel bookings in Maralal town and its environs, we are expecting many visitors this year despite the three-year break. We have tourists coming from the USA, Canada, Australia, Saudi Arabia, and Germany,” he said.

“We will use this year’s 31st edition of the camel derby under the theme ‘Promotion of Sport Tourism, Conservation, and Enhanced Peaceful Cultural Interaction’ to further market Samburu’s culture and tourist attractions and as a gateway to the camel counties of northern Kenya,” the CO added.

The CO further assured participants of their safety, saying that they are working closely with the office of the County Commissioner and the County Police Commander to ensure there is all-round security during the four days.

This year’s edition will kick off from October 5 to October 8, 2023, at the Yare Safari Club and camping site in Maralal town.

Maralal, which is the headquarters of the Samburu County government, is a fast-growing satellite town which is 350 kilometres from Nairobi City and is accessible by tarmac road through the Nyahururu-Rumuruti-Maralal road.

The drive from Rumuruti is comparable to a game drive since one can spot the Big Five while driving through the private wildlife sanctuaries of Laikipia County.

Samburu County’s Director for Tourism, Mathew Leakono, said that the major highlights of the event will be the 21-kilometre professional camel race, the 10-kilometre armature race, and the triathlon, where participants start with camel racing, cross-country, and then finish with a bicycle race.

He added that there will be an array of corporate exhibition tents and also cultural exhibitions from the communities living in Samburu County, and the highlight will be a real traditional wedding ceremony from both the Samburu and Turkana communities.

“The cultural interactions also aim at promoting peace efforts within communities living in Samburu County, and as a way of showcasing our cultural diversity, we encourage all communities to dress in their traditional attires during the four-day event,” Leakono said.

The director further thanked the local community, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Tourism Fund, Equity Bank, Save the Elephants, Northern Rangeland Trust, and Safaricom for partnering with the county government to make the event a success.

By Robert Githu

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