Western Kenya Tourism Circuit and Kisumu Tours - Africa Point Blog
The western region of Kenya lacks those tourist attractions that are thought to be quintessentially Kenyan.   Here, you will find no roaming lions; there will be no charming vistas of motor vehicles giving the right of way to tall giraffes or magnificent
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Western Kenya Tourism Circuit and Kisumu Tours

Published 31st July 2009
Modified 15th June 2015
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Travel Planning & Tips, Kenya, Lake Victoria

Aerial view of Kisumu in Kenya


The western region of Kenya lacks those tourist attractions that are thought to be quintessentially Kenyan.


Here, you will find no roaming lions; there will be no charming vistas of motor vehicles giving the right of way to tall giraffes or magnificent elephants. But despite this, the land beyond the rift is perhaps Kenya's best kept secret.


A number of ecosystems come together to create this magical region of Kenya. Gentle lolling hills blanketed by tea plantations; sedate lakes that support rare populations of birdlife and fish; grasslands that are only broken by pockets of densely forested woodlands and dank swamps; little agricultural towns, each unique and different from the last.


This is a portrait of Western Kenya, an image of rich culture and fertile lands, and best of all, it has not been trampled upon or been cheapened by millions of tourist vans and feet. The region is becoming a popular Kenya holiday destination, especially due to its association with US President Barack Obama whose father was born in Kogelo, Kisumu.


Kisumu is a city that has been described as languid, sultry, easy-going and friendly. Sitting on the edge of Lake Victoria, this city is the third largest in Kenya and is the hub of the west. Kisumu was a colonial port that connected Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It remained in relative isolation from the rest of the country until the railway line was finished in 1903. But this was not the first attempt to connect Kisumu with the outside world.


In 1895, a steamship chugged its way from Scotland to Mombasa. This steamship was destined for Lake Victoria with the hope that it would facilitate transport in the East African region. It was taken apart and transported piece by painstaking piece across the country, however, halfway through the journey, parts of the ship were stolen. The Nandi, angry at a European incursion, seized the precious cargo and for the next five years, pieces of a British steamship served as Nandi weaponry and ornamentation.


Culturally, the city is one that has taken a little bit from various cultures and created a unique society. Asian, African and European elements have melded in a grace that permeates the whole city; from the gated mansion communities to the poorer areas of town. Despite its location on the edge of a lake, Kisumu's layout turns its back to the waters of Lake Victoria.


In the city proper, it is not easy to get a direct view of the lake, and the only indication of the giant pool in the backyard is the occasional breeze that will brush through the city giving it a distinctly fresh scent.


Attractions in Kisumu include the Kisumu Museum and most obviously Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is the worlds second largest freshwater lake and is shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It remained unknown to most of the western world until the 19th century with the crusade to discover the source of the Nile.


Until the 1960s, Lake Victoria was home to about 320 species of fish including the brilliantly colored cichlids. The introduction of the carnivorous Nile Perch diminished the cichlid population and Lake Victoria now only has eight species of fish.


The Kisumu Museum is run by Kenya National Museums and will probably be about fifteen minutes walk from your hotel-it's very easy to get around on foot in Kisumu. To err on the safe side, you might opt to take a taxi. The Kisumu Museum has a surprisingly wide and well displayed collection of historical and ethnographic artifacts. It has one single main gallery that is surrounded by a garden full of labeled indigenous plants. It also has a good taxidermy collection, the centerpiece of which is a lion caught mid-pounce over a wildebeest.


Homa Bay is your go to place for tapes of traditional Luo music. It is also an excellent place to explore Thimlich Ohinga and the Ruma National Park. Thimilich Ohinga is probably one of the most important archaeological discoveries in Western Kenya. It is a large stone enclosure built in the same manner as the structures of Great Zimbambwe and dates back at least to the 15th century.


It is said to have been built by an earlier people who inhabited this lake region. Thimlich Ohinga, in Luo means 'thick bush with stone enclosures', and true to the name, the place is a bit remote. If you are really into ruins, then you might need to go to the trouble of finding private transportation for your trip to Thmlich Ohinga. Similar to later building styles of the Luo, Thimlich Ohinga is an important stop on the African history and heritage tour.


Near Homa Bay is the Ruma National Park. Established as the Lambwe Valley Nature Reserve, the park is made up of a delightful medley of woodland and savanna vegetation. Ruma is home to Jackson's hartebeest, the roan antelope that is found only here and the small statured oribi. Rothschild's giraffes are quite conspicuous above the grass, but the leopards may be a bit of a challenge to spot. There is a camp site at Ruma National Park but you will need your own gear. As the park is still not very accessible, be prepared to find your own transportation there or to walk for the last kilometer or two.


Beyond Homa Bay is Mbita. Mbita will be your gateway to the Islands of Mfangano, Rusinga and Takawiri. In 1984, a causeway was built between Mbita and Rusinga Island. The drive across the causeway to Rusinga Island will be unique chance to see some of Kenya's unique plant diversity. It will also be a chance to make a closer acquaintance with not only Kenyan history, but human history too.


On Rusinga, in the early twentieth century, Dr. Louis Leaky discovered fossil remains belonging to a distant relative of Homo sapiens. The discovery of these remains thought to be at least 17 million years old, have served as yet another piece in the complex puzzle that is our evolutionary line. Take a boat from Rusinga to Mfangano and enjoy the unique scenery.


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