By | July 25th, 2017

Once a year – for the past 26 years, or so they say – Maralal “town” a Samburu county lying on the edge of the Laikipia plateau comes to life.

What’s the reason for this? Well, it’s the renowned Maralal Camel Derby, held annually in August and September. The Maralal Camel Derby is unlike any other, and ranges from professional to amateur competitors; who to the delight of the locals and camels offer enough entertainment to last till the following year.

The event takes place on the outskirts of Maralal, at the Yare Camel Club. In the early morning locals come together and look for a space where they can watch the comedic event unfold. After all, they are camels, and they come with a mind of their own. From go-slows conducted by the camel leader; to braying and spitting, not to mention steering off route with no sense of direction. In this part of the world, “hump day” takes on a whole new meaning. The Maralal Camel Derby will leave you in stitches from copious amounts of belly laughs.

Watch the riders hold on to the reigns for dear life, trying to steer their camels to the finishing line. It’s not uncommon that some of the camels manage to convince their riders to tumble off their backs so they can run off into the bushes or land nearby. Some of the camels will grow tired of the crowds’ cheers and run in in the opposite direction towards their rather dissatisfied handlers.

All in all, the Maralal Camel Derby is filled with unexpected fun, frustration and dust – with a few spits here and there. Children, adults to various nationalities from all over the world can participate, and “battle” it out over the 10km amateur and 21km semi-professional race. The 2km camel triathlon is a fantastic experience, and tests your wit, glamor stance, and consists of a 2km camel race, 5km bike ride and a 3km run.

Amid celebration and solely dependent on man, beast, handler and divine intervention there are those who will have the opportunity to finish the race. A joyful song and dance from the beautiful Samburu women heralds the arrival of the derby winner. At this point, I have to remind you that this is an international cultural exchange festival that brings the world to Maralal and Maralal to the world. Maralal is a small town and is quickly developing. Perhaps you will be one of the lucky few travelers that visit sooner rather than later.

Note: With the recent opening of the Isiolo International Airport, guests will have a shorter traveling distance and transport can be arranged through IKON, beforehand.

Written by Lucy Njeri, Senior Safari Specialist at IKON


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