Neil Shea


This story appeared in the August 2015 issue of National Geographic.

Last Rites for the Jade Sea

Kenya's Lake Turkana | in National Geographic

On a hot spring morning, Galte Nyemeto stood by the shore of Lake Turkana scanning for crocodiles. The water was shallow, the odds of reptiles low, but Nyemeto, a traditional healer of the Daasanach tribe, had come with a patient, and it would be very bad luck—spiritually and otherwise—for the ceremony to be interrupted.

Nearly all the larger and more dangerous hippos had been hunted out long ago, but plenty of crocs remained, especially here, below the delta where the Omo River pours from Ethiopia into Kenya. The river crocs, which sometimes follow the current south, are said to be more vicious and cunning than those hatched along the lake edge, though all are considered by the tribe to be evil incarnate, regardless of lineage. It meant Nyemeto was both watching for wildlife and gauging the spiritual trend of the day.

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