Lake Victoria: Kenya’s Wild West

Posted on April 10, 2012


There’s nothing like the post-Easter weekend blues, when a four-day break ends and another week of work begins (albeit a shorter one). Solution: blog about it.

After a mad scramble we finally managed to book bus tickets for the Thursday night, obtaining probably the last two seats available. It seemed everyone wanted to go to Kisumu, the biggest town on Lake Victoria. The trip there was slightly marred by the bus breaking down en route, but as that meant we arrived at the more reasonable 7.30am rather than the ungodly 4.30am, nobody seemed to mind too much.

From Kisumu bus station, after a quick breakfast, we headed straight to the Kisumu Museum, which had been billed as being very informative about the history of Lake Victoria and its people. In the event, it wasn’t at all, and the most interesting/concerning site was some ill-looking crocodiles and tortoises in small, dirty enclosures. We didn’t stay long. Next stop was Mbita, a two-hour matatu and forty-five minute ferry journey from Kisumu. A ramshackle little town, unfrequented by tourists, its people were amongst the friendliest I have encountered in Kenya. This was to be a theme for the whole weekend. As was, unfortunately, the fact that there was little to do. After a brilliant tilapia lunch we were taken by motorbike to the mausoleum of Kenyan liberation hero Tom Mboya, and show around a small “museum” by a man claiming to be his half-brother. It was also the site of some fairly inept “research” into which of Mboya’s descendants had the “brain of the hero”. This was largely based on who most resembled him. We made the trip back onto town and spent the night at our simple hotel.

Next morning we made the two hour boat trip to Mfangano Island. This is a route not often travelled by tourists, and the island is pretty much as far as you can get from the sweat and toil of Nairobi. After a motorbike trip through several small villages, our incredibly friendly guide led us on a hike up a hill to the site of some ancient tribal paintings. Great views of the lake could be had from here, and it was refreshing to be somewhere so rural and quiet. The option was there to stay with the locals on the island for the night, but for heath reasons we headed back to Mbita. The next morning we made an early start and were off to Homa Bay.

Homa Bay, three hours away from Mbita, was largely similar. Few tourists roamed the streets and the place had done very little to take advantage of its lakeside location. Indeed, though apparently a bay, there was only one point in town where you could see the lake. Distinguished again by the friendliness of the locals (we were able to watch an Easter Sunday choir) and the lack of activities, Homa Bay was notable to us for the Mega Pub, where we passed some hours, and the excellent and comfortable rooms and bar at the Ruma Tourist Lodge, where we spent the night. Again it was nice to simply be out of the city and be able to say that we had been on Lake Victoria, in spite of there being little to do but observe local life.

We departed Homa Bay the next day, having been forced to sit on a bus for two hours waiting for it to fill up, and were back in Kisumu within another three. We chose to carry on as we had started and relax for the afternoon, heading to the more luxurious confines of the Kiboko Bay Resort to sit by the pool with great views of the lake. One final fish dinner was had before we boarded our night bus back to the hustle and bustle.


Posted in: Experience, Travel