This blog post will cover some of the areas to explore in Western Kenya and these include Kisumu, Kakamega and HomaBay. These areas are home to a wealth of attractions. Read on to find out some of the things you can do when you visit.
Kisumu and HomaBay are temperate towns on the shores of Lake Victoria. As you arrive Homabay, it appears as a sleepy town at first but on staying on for a few days, its character will win your heart.
Lake Victoria, that stretches out before Homabay and Kisumu towns is one of Africa’s Great Lakes and it holds the honour for being Africa’s largest lakes, the worlds’ largest tropical lake and the world’s second-largest freshwater lake.
Several islands lie within the lake. There are several things to do in Lake Victoria Islands. The Lake is also home to some Nile Crocodiles and several species of turtles including the African helmeted turtles, variable mud turtles, and William’s mud turtles.
Lake Victoria is also home to five hundred species of haplochromine cichlids- a fish species that is endemic to Lake Victoria. The lake is also home to catfish, crabs, eels, freshwater snails and the most popular fish – Tilapia and Nile Perch.
The locals here eat the Nile Perch and Tilapia in large quantities. Kisumu’s fish dishes are famed across Kenya.
Kiboko Bay and Dunga beach are other popular spots from which to enjoy the lake. The area offers boat trips, to visitors in the town, bird watching, hippo spotting and sunset views over the lake.
Not far from the lake is the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. This is one of Kenya’s smallest wildlife reserves that is less than a kilometre. It is home to the Impala and a number of reptiles and birds, hippos also leave the lake at night to graze here.
Kit Mikayi is about 30km from Kisumu city is known as the weeping rock. The pile of rocks appears to be a woman bowed beneath a heavy load. Legends assert that she has been weeping since her husband took a second wife. The religious group of Legio Maria – Legion of Mary – to which many of the Luo people who live around Kit Mikayi, adhere to come often to the rock to pray.
Kit Mikayi is a Luo term that means Rock of the first wife. This is a picturesque formation of 12 rocks on a 5-acre piece of land. My visit here was relaxing on the rocks with birds chirping around me. There were monkeys jumping from tree to tree with chirping sounds.
In fact, the day I visited Kit Mikayi, there was a group of members of the Legion of Mary who had come over to pray and the guides here say that they would be praying continuously throughout the day.
There is a picnic site called Rachilo Caves that is 5 minutes away from the rock site. There are beautiful views here. If you go in the late afternoon to the evening you see the beautiful sunset at the highest point of a rock called the Ngeso Rock. Kit Mikayi rock is a 27 km drive from Kisumu city.
To experience Kisumu like a local make a point of visiting Lwangni Beach where there are rows of beachfront stalls that grill fresh fish from the lake.
Ruma National Park
Another must-visit area is the Ruma National Park that lies in western Kenya and is close to the shores of Lake Victoria. It is characterized by a mosaic of landscapes, ranging from riverine woodland and rolling savannah to magnificent escarpments and towering cliffs. The park is Kenya’s last remaining sanctuary for the endangered Roan Antelope.
Initially, the park was known as Lambwe Valley Game Reserve created to protect its indigenous population of rare Roan Antelopes which do not exist anywhere else in Kenya but in the park.
Ruma lies on the watered Lambwe River Valley. The park is a long narrow corridor of land contained on a fist-shaped peninsula extending into Lake Victoria. The terrain is mainly rolling grassland, with tracts of open woodland thickets. Roans live in herds of up to 20 members that are led by a bull.
Ruma is also home to the Oribi Antelope which is a small and graceful antelope. It has a conspicuous bare black glandular patch below the ears, a short black-tipped tail and black knee tufts. They live in strongly bonded pairs or small groups, oribi inhabit grassland and dense undergrowth.
This is home to rare birdlife. It is the only area in Kenya where the globally threatened blue swallow, a scarce intra-African migrant. Blue Swallows depend on moist grassland for both feeding and roosting. They arrive in Kenya from their breeding grounds in Southern Tanzania around April and depart again in September.
At Ruma you will also find the leopard, monkey and Rothschild giraffe. There are also snake species which include the cobra, green mamba and puff adder.
Facts About Ruma National Park
- It covers an area of 120 sq km
- It is located in Suba District in Homabay County
- Ruma is 425 km from Nairobi and 10km from Lake Victoria
- It was first gazetted in 1966 as Lambwe Valley Game Reserve it later acquired National Park status in 1983
- The park has a humid climate with savannah grassland vegetation with extensive acacia thickets
- How To Get There
The main gate is 42 km from Homa Bay. From Homa Bay take the main road in the direction of Rongo. After 10km branch off to the right at Rodi Kopany and proceed 20km to Migori. At Migori follow the signs to the Park entering at Kamato Main Gate, a distance of 12km on a marram road from Migori
Ruma National Park is open from 6 am to 6 pm including public holidays
Fly from Nairobi to Kisumu. The flight is about 45 minutes. Once you arrive Kisumu then board a ferry and travel for 1-hour ferry ride to Luanda Kotieno in Homabay from here drive 42 km to Ruma National Park.
This is an extensive forest that covers the southern part and the northern part and you can read more about this vast forest on my Guide to Kakamega Forest
The Crying Stone Of Kakamega
I write more about the crying stone of Kakamega here.
Places To Stay
I wrote detailed reviews of:
Rondo Retreat Lodge
Rondo Retreat Lodge is located in Kakamega on the southern side of the forest. Read more about my stay at this lodge
Mbita Tourist Hotel
Mbita Tourist Hotel is located in Homabay town and it is right next on the shores of Lake Victoria. Read more on my stay at this hotel.
Vittoria Suites is located in the suburbs of Kisumu city. Read more on my experience staying at Vittoria Suites.
Other hotels which I have not stayed at but are in this region include the following:
Oribi Guest House
This is a one-unit guest house located in Ruma National Park, so if you happen to tour the park there is accommodation nearby. The guest house has three bedrooms that have two doubles and one triple room.
The guest house has a dining area, that has a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom and beddings, kerosene lamps, mosquito nets, soap and toilet paper. Electricity here is solar with a caretaker available.
Shop for food which you will prepare later, in Kisumu or Kakamega, which you will use during your stay at the park as this is a self-catering guest house.
Oribi Guest House is very affordable at Ksh. 5,000 for citizens and residents while non-residents cost the US $ 100
At Ruma National park, there are two campsites known as Kamato and Nyati. These campsites are close to Kamato Gate. At either campsite, there are no facilities but water firewood can be provided by the warden’s office on request.
The hotel has several levels of rooms, conference facilities, spa, gym, pool and four food and beverage options. Acacia Premier offers the full hotel experience and it is a place to come for meetings, events and holidays
Located in the middle of Kisumu city, it is one of the first hotels in Kisumu that offers luxury. It contains fully equipped suites, conference facilities, fine dining, pool, sauna and gym
Rusinga Island Lodge
On the lush island in Lake Victoria, the lodge has six thatched cottage, tropical gardens, wellness spa and floodlit pool.
Kiboko Bay Resort
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria, the resort has 9 tented suites and a deluxe self-catering cottage. A relaxing place for beach views, boat trips and delicious meals
Mfangano Island Camp
The camp has six rondavels on the lakefront with an open-sided lounge and dining room. A great place to do some bird watching, skiing and visiting the surrounding villages
The hotel has rooms and apartments with spacious gardens and beautiful architecture. It is best known for its range of cuisines, continental, Indian, African and Japanese
Have you toured Kisumu, Kakamega or Homabay? Share your experience with us on the comments below