MAGICAL KENYA

The Breathtaking Nyanza tourism destinations that you’ve never heard about!

Photo courtesy: Kisumu city during one of the recent car free days

Kenya is indeed a country that enjoys a rich and beautiful nature. While the government and private tourism and travel agencies have done arguably great in marketing the magical scenery within the 582,650 sq km of Kenya however it is worth to note that they have done unimpressively poor at presenting the bounty of nature and beauty found in the Nyanza region (former Nyanza Province) of Western Kenya. Being that the holiday season is here with us, I felt it right to introduce to you the different sceneries in Nyanza that I believe are worth your visit. At the end of this read you will realize that Kenya is not only about Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru or the coastal sandy beaches, but also the magical scenes  towards the west in the shores of Lake Victoria there are with much more that you can consider in your destination list this holidaying season. Let’s go!

KISUMU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT  is the heaven gates of this region. Being an international airport, you can book a flight to this airport from anywhere in the world. This third busiest airport in Kenya was elevated to international status in 2012 with the IATA code of KIS and ICAO code HKKI with expansion works still ongoing. It has a parallel taxiway, cargo apron and passenger terminals that facilitate immigration, lounges, cafeteria and offices. This Kenya Airports Authority owned facility sits at 3,796 ft above the sea level. The airport has a runway spanning 3.5 km and this places it at a position to handle the beasts of the skies like Airbus 300, Airbus 310 and Boeing 767. The airport can hold 700 people per hour and that translates to a traffic of about 300,000 annually. The airport is located just a short distance from the largest lake in Africa, Lake Victoria adjacent to the Winam Gulf. From the airport, you can catch a clear scenery of Kisumu city towards the east and Riat Hills in the North. Apart from using this facility for your travels, you can turn it into your favourite tourism destination. From the airport, you can drive eastwards to Kisumu city on the now revamped Kisumu – Busia Highway.

KISUMU CITY celebrated centenary jubilee in 2001, one hundred years since the Kenya-Uganda railway sneaked its way to this place. During this centennial celebrations, it was upgraded to city status. The city was originally known as Port Florence when it was set up by the then Colonial Masters. Kisumu got its name from the Luo word Kisuma which means exchange of goods, because in the pre-colonial period, the place was a barter trade market. Kisumu grew to become the commercial hub of the western Kenya region. Kisumu boasts a huge cultural heritage having been among the few towns that the colonial chiefs set up as a branch of the Kenya-Uganda Railway. It has a population of about one million people and is the third largest town in Kenya after Nairobi and Mombasa. The city enjoys modified equatorial climate due to the presence of Lake Victoria. It experiences thunderstorms in many months all year round.The mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees centigrade. The city enjoys good humidity, fair prices and ample security in the streets. It houses modern shopping malls and open markets and many other tourism destinations that I will subsequently highlight.

KISUMU NATIONAL MUSEUM is located in Kisumu city along Kisumu Kericho Highway. It was opened in the 1980s and it stores cultural artifacts of the western Kenya region depicting the rich heritage and history. It has an illustration of the traditional Luo community homestead. It also has a snake park and a reptiles park. It contains items from the pre historic period that show the early development of man.

IMPALA SANCTUARY AND PARK is located in Kisumu city on the shores of Lake Victoria, at its most Eastern tip of Winam Gulf. Impala Park is a serene and a relaxing place abundant with natural beauty. This sanctuary hosts hundreds of impalas which graze along the lake,  the rare and endangered Sitatunga antelopes, leopards, cheetahs, lions, buffalos, giraffes and other protected primates. This facility owned by Kenya Wildlife Services has a picnic site and five camping sites all overlooking Lake Victoria. As you walk around, there is non-stop chirping of birds, nature walks and also boat rides. The Kenya Uganda meter gauge railway constructed by the colonialists in the early 20th century also slithers its way in the park.

KENYAUGANDA RAILWAY KISUMU STATION is part of 1060 kilometre long ox cart track that was turned into a metre gauge railway that was constructed to link up colonial Kenya and Uganda. It was originally carrying steam powered trains used by British soldiers to assert their dominance in their East African colonies. The construction began at the port city of Mombasa in 1896 and reached this location in 1901 leading to the birth of Kisumu (then Port Florence). The station houses several locomotives many which are currently not in use. A visit can help you understand the advancement that has been made in rail transport from simple steam powered trains. The rail is still operational to date as Kenya Railway Corporation just relaunched services on this rail from Nairobi to Kisumu section on Friday, 17, December.

DUNGA BEACH is located at Dunga Bay, at the shores Of Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria. Dunga Beach is known for its fish with several outlets selling different dishes of fish like Ngege, mbuta, mumi, obambla and many more. There is also the heart stopping lifetime experience of catching the sunset at Lake Victoria (watching us the sun goes into twilight down Lake Victoria.You can also watch the boats dock, the fishermen cruise on the lake and planes land at Kisumu Airport. And wait, there is also a boat ride to Ndere Island.

Photo courtesy. Dunga Beach overlooking Winam Gulf

After this experiences, you can now leave Kisumu City and travel eastwards to Kano which has unending attractions. To start with the West Kano Irrigation Scheme. Here, you can catch a view of hundreds of acres of rice under irrigation. You can drive further southwards to SONDU MIRIU HYDRO ELECTRIC POWER PLANT in Nyakach. This facility seats on Nyakach Hills, and is vital at electricity generation in Kenya as it embraces clean energy. The site is manned by KENGEN and you will require their permission to access the site and see for yourself the very engaging mechanical and electrical processes that generate electricity. The site also has as a water collection point at the top of the hill. From this view, one can see Kisumu City at a distance and catch the view of the expansive Winam Gulf. From this site, you can drive farther eastwards to FORT TERNAN MUSEUM. This is a pre historic site where fossils of the Kenyapithecus man was first discovered by pre history expeditionist Louis Leaky in 1962. Kenyapithecus fossil ape dates back to 14 million years ago. Apart from the museum, the area boasts of a unique nature with spectacular view of the Great Rift Valley and escarpments. There are tunnels that the Kenya Uganda Railway pass through. From here, you can drive northwards to Muhoroni and catch the Nandi Escarpments. These escarpments are part of the Great Rift Valley and Nandi Hills. The region is surrounded with sugarcane plantations and industries such as Muhoroni Sugar, Chemelil Sugar and Miwani Sugar Industries.  From here, you can catch a drive westwards to RIAT HILLS. Riat Hills is located North of Kisumu City and is an extension of Nandi Hills. A hike to its top can give one a view of the entire Kisumu City, Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria and Maragoli Hills. The terrain is extremely hilly. A drive westwards leads you to MASENO EQUATOR TOWN. This is a town full of geographical, cultural and historical heritage. Equator crosses here, separating the Earth to Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Maseno is a town you can easily enjoy the happiness of staying in both the hemispheres. It is greatest when the sun is overhead the equator on March 20 or September 22 (the Equinox).  Maseno is also among the earliest missionary stations with the missionaries setting up a school in Maseno in the early 1900s. The early educational foundation led to Maseno School and Maseno University. You will not pass the town without hearing about this strict mzungu teacher called Edward Carey Francis. From Maseno, you can drive southwards to KIT MIKAYI in Seme. Kit Mikayi is a rock tor 120 m high. The story behind Kit Mikayi is interesting. There once lived a man called Ngeso, who loved this rock so much and would spend his entire day inside it. Whenever he would be asked about his whereabouts, he would say he is inside his first wife’s house (the rock). The rock signify the highly polygamous Luo culture.

SIAYA

From Kisumu, we head westwards to Siaya. Siaya has several attractions as well. Let us see what we can find. Let us start off with NY’ANG’OMA KOGELO VILLAGE. As Barack Obama was being elected as the President of the United States, this sleepy village rose to fame and life because the 44th POTUS has his roots here. Barack Obama Senior, the father of Barack Obama was born and bred and buried here. It is through him that the world got to have Barack Obama. Mama Sarah Obama, the paternal grandmother of Barack Obama who also enjoyed a huge share of limelight during Obama’s presidency stayed here until her death this year. In his autobiography, Dreams From my Father, Barack Obama fondly talks about his visits to this village when he traveled to Kenya for the first time in 1988 to find his roots. He visited the village later with Michelle just before their marriage. He visited it again as a Senator in 2006, leading to naming of a school after him, The Senator Obama Secondary School stands tall to date. He however snubbed it during his eight year presidency only to low key visit it again in 2018 to launch The Sauti Kuu Project founded by his most favourite sister Auma Obama.

From here, we head directly to KANG’O KA JARAMOGI MAUSOLEUM in Bondo. This site has rich history of political liberation and freedom Kenya due to its link with the first Vice President of Kenya Jaramogi Oginga Odinga and his son, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. This mausoleum is the home for Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The homestead has houses arranged according to Luo traditional and polygamous structure. The home has the history of the life and times of Jaramogi which includes his struggle to fight for independence of Kenya from the British, his involvement in the first government as a Vice President and his later disagreement with President Jomo Kenyatta after which he was pushed to political oblivion for almost thirty years. There are also details about his involvement in the fight for multi party democracy during the presidency of Daniel Moi, and his contribution as the official opposition leader in the multi party Kenya, his association with Moi and his death in 1994. From Bondo we head straight to RAMOGI HILLS. Got Ramogi as it is known by the locals is the focal point of the history of the Luo people. When the Luo were migrating from Pubungu Pakwach, they first settled at Ramogi Hills. Ramogi was the leader of the Luo during the migrations. The Luo people later dispersed to occupy the entire Luo Nyanza and some went as far as Northern Tanzania. From Ramogi hills, we lead westwards to Usenge Beach. Here again, we are met with an expansive view of Lake Victoria as it towers towards Uganda. The environment is serene and one can enjoy the lake region cuisine.

From Usenge, we lead southwards to LWANDA KOTIENO and here we catch a ferry across Lake Victoria to South Nyanza in Homabay County. Across the lake, the stunning view of the largest fresh water Lake is vivid, from its eastern tip of Winam Gulf to the center where it enlarges southwards to Tanzania and Westwards to Uganda.

HOMA BAY

The ferry from Luanda Kotieno docks at MBITA POINT Pier. Mbita point is a high rising town in South Nyanza at the shores of Lake Victoria. Fom Mbita, one can catch a view of the most exquisite islands of Lake Victoria which are Rusinga, Mfangano and Takawiri. The town is surrounded by tall hills which can be useful for hiking. From Mbita, one can access Rusinga Island through the Sh 1.5 Billion Mbita Rusinga Bridge which connects Rusinga Island to the mainland. RUSINGA ISLAND is by all means one of the most beautiful destinations in Kenya. The elongated shaped island is about 10 miles in length and 3 miles in width. The best view of Lake Victoria is found here. The island also houses the TOM MBOYA MAUSOLEUM. This site where Tom Mboya was buried offers the rich profile of Tom Mboya. Let us get it, Tom Mboya was a trade unionist and an independence freedom fighter. When Kenya got independence in 1963, he was made a powerful Minister, but was assassinated in cold blood in the murder most foul six years later at only 39 years of age. Thomas Joseph Mboya (his full name) was also among the most connected Kenyans as he had close links with the then American President JF Kennedy. Mboya, in 1959, then only 28 yeas of age started the Kennedy Airlifts, an initiative to admit promising Kenyan students to universities in United States and Canada. The products of the program include the only Kenyan Nobel Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, the first female university president in the entire Africa Leah Marangu, former Kenyan Vice President George Saitoti, Dr Ng’endo Mwangi, who was the first black student at Smith College, Barack Obama Senior, the father to Barack Obama among many others. Next to Rusinga sits MFANGANO ISLAND and TAKAWIRI ISLAND. The two are historically significant as they provided the rescue zones for Suba community which was running away from persecution in Buganda Kingdom. The Suba were later assimilated completely into the Luo community.

Photo courtesy. A view of Lake Victoria from Rusinga Island

Back to the mainland, we head straight to HOMA HILL. Homa Mountain is gigantic hill next to Lake Victoria. It forms a broad peninsula at the shore of Winam Gulf. The hill is a product of volcanic eruption, and together with Ol Doinyo Lengai, they form the very few remaining carbonate volcanoes in the whole world. The mountain has a hot spring similar to that at Lake Bogoria. Next to the hill, there is a village called KANJERA in Kanam where Louis Leaky during his archaelogical expeditions discovered the remains of oldowan tools used by the early man, most likely the homo sapien man. Not far from the place is SIMBI NYAIMA. Lake Simbi Nyaima is geographically a volcanic lake, though the locals have an oral traditional legend on how it was formed (visit it to get the story). The water of this lake is very saline and sulphurous. It has a unique smell that can be felt forty kilometres away. It is a seasonal landing place for flamingos from Lake Nakuru, Bogoria and other Rift Valley Lakes.

MIGORI

From Homa Bay we head straight to Migori to discover what nature has for the eyes. In this quest, we head straight north west of Migori town to THIMLICH OHINGA. To start with, this is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is among the only four of such sites in Kenya which also include Fort Jesus, Lamu Old Town and Mijikenda Kaya Forest. At this site, there is a dry stoned wall settlement built in the 16th century. Thimlich is the largest preserved traditional exposure.

Photo courtesy. Thimlich Ohinga

From Thimlich, we head southwards to GOT KWER at the headquarters of LEGIO MARIA . Legio Maria can be translated to mean Legion of Mary,which is a church with full name of Legio Maria of African Church Mission. This sect was among the very first to Africanize Christianity. To get the exact context, this church is an Africanized Roman Catholic Church that was established at Got Kwer and has since maintained its global headquarters in this village. The founder of this Africanized Catholic Church was Pope Baba Simeo Lodvikus Melkio Ondetto. This church has maintained all the Catholic traditions and has an estimated of five million members globally. Every September, members of this sect throng Got Kwer to pay pilgrimage.

We have come to the end of this discovery. You obviously enjoyed reading and finding out about the side of Magical Kenya that is never advertised, and I hope you will take an initiative and fix them in your future adventure plans.

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By Lincoln Oyugi

Just as Isaac Newton died a virgin, I'll die a writer!

2 comments

  1. While in Mbita, Rusinga island, get time to sample the the serene environment of Rusinga lodge, Wayando Beach, White Stone and other beach resorts along the lake.

    Also get a 5-10 minutes drive from Mbita along the Mbita sindo road and sample Mbita safari village as well as a feel of the Victoria Sands Beach resort.

    Like

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