The New Western Kenya Tourist circuit Kenya tourism is associated with the wildlife in the Maasai Mara, Tsavo, Amboseli, Samburu, Mount Kenya region and Malindi and Mombasa. The former are known for their superb game parks and reserves, the latter for their fine beaches and hotels. It is a wonder that there some tourist destinations in the country which are considered virgin tourist treasures which are unexplored which can offer a lot to the keen tourist;
The western Kenya tourist circuit which covers the Lake Victoria basin which includes the entire tourism activities inside and around Lake Victoria gulf in Kenya. Kenya boasts 10% of the great Lake Victoria in East Africa, but within the 10% portion of Lake Victoria, many tourists activities are unexplored within this region. As most travelers dream of finding a new and unknown destination, somewhere far from the beaten tourist path, where the thrill of real discovery and exploration reward them with new and unexpected experiences, sights and sounds, western Kenya, Lake Victoria region is the place for them. Western Kenya is an area of great geographical, agricultural, cultural and natural diversity, offering the tourists just as much, if not more, than many of Kenya’s better known tourist destinations. The Kenya Tourism Board is in the event of promoting this region both locally and internationally. It is not a wonder that most Kenyan populace have never seen Lake Victoria. This beautiful region is virgin, an undiscovered world of wonders, with huge contrasts. Endlessly diverse, Western Kenya has lush green highlands, the tropical rain forest of Kakamega, the great water expanse of Lake Victoria, which is the source of the Nile, and much more for it is a vast area.
The first stop from Nairobi is Kericho. This town is at the heart of the tea-growing zone of the Rift Valley. Here you find the lush green carpet of tea bushes which is literally a gold nugget as tea remains one of Kenya’s biggest foreign exchange earners. This region produces one of the world’s finest quality teas. Agritourism and agro tourism is becoming popular, and Kericho has grown into a reasonably big rural town. Kericho is the perfect base to launch a tour of the tea plantations. There are also horticultural farms producing cut flowers. A tour of the Finlay company flower farm will make even the ordinarily dull person appreciate the smell and beauty - and even value - of flowers. The company exports more than 90 per cent of the flowers it grows.
There are many spectacular rock formations which abound with myths and mythologies in western tourist circuit. The massive columns of Kit Mikaye in Seme are towers of boulders piled together into gravity defying columns. According to legend, this was once the homestead of a powerful man who used to abuse and mistreated his first wife. The woman returned to haunt him after her death, eventually turning him and his property into stones. The stones have been a source of solace for the Luo people for a long time. They believe that if any man with a problem visits the stones, his problems will be solved and his wishes answered, so long as elders sacrifice a goat at the site. In the past, only men were allowed near the rocks, but visitors are these days welcome. The site is managed by the Kit Mikaye Rock Development group which plans to construct a Banda where visitors can get refreshments and accommodation. Religious groups visit the rocks hoping that their prayers will be answered.
The Luo believe their people were born in a sacred forest hill known as Got Ramogi in Yimbo. This area of Bondo has beaches and unique plants. At Kang'o ka Jaramogi, there is a museum built in honor of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. His mausoleum is at this site. The tomb of his first wife is part of the museum in which various traditional items are displayed.
Based in Luo Nyanza in Bondo and Siaya districts at the delta of River Yala at Yala swamp, it is an upcoming agri /agro tourism center. It is a modern Farm built by the Americans using American Agricultural Technology. Famous for Aquaculture Tourism in Kenya and the Bob Greene Weir on river Yala and Pro poor- poverty eradication tourism in Western Kenya.
Lake Victoria and its Islands Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, is a sight to behold. It has sandy beaches and is dotted with about many small islands. The lake is an endless expanse of blue, stretching as far as the eye can see and beyond into Tanzania and Uganda. The islands are also tourist sites, each with unique features;
Ndere Island Game Park is a gazetted National Park inside Lake Victoria. Antelopes and crocodiles are in plenty. This Island is 10 minutes on boat from Kaloka beach.
Rusinga Island, which is accessible by road, is the burial site of political genius Tom Mboya. At the site is the politician’s mausoleum. There is also the Mary Leakey archeological site. Although the site is not developed, plans are under way to return the excavated fossil and construct a proper archeological site. The Rusinga Island Club is built right on the beach and can accommodate 18 visitors. It offers lots of activities including, fishing, sport fishing, sight seeing and water skiing.
The Mfangano camp is situated on the un-spoilt island of that name in Lake Victoria and occupies an entire secluded bay on the island’s western shores. A boat ride across the lake brings one to Mfangano Island. This is basically a fishing village, on it is where the Governor’s Camp, an exclusive club with six cottages and a capacity of 12 guests, is built. The 6 rooms all have stunning views of the lake and offer complete privacy, en suite bathrooms with bath and shower, basin and flush toilet, as well as hot and cold running water. Decorated in ethnic style, all rooms have four-poster beds and private verandas, which give them a special charm. Each room is open to the lake and offers uninterrupted views and spectacular sunsets. Visits to Mfangano Island on Lake Victoria provide a unique opportunity to see the colorful life on the lake, where enchanting Luo fishing villages have not changed in centuries, the bird life is unsurpassed and seeing the families of otters is an added bonus. Mfangano Island Camp is a perfect place for nature lovers, and is particularly recommended as a relaxing retreat for honeymooners.
Takawiri Island is a sandy beach, likes of Mombasa beaches inside Lake Victoria. It can be reached by road from Kisumu via Homabay to Mbita and by ferry from Luanda K’otieno beach-45 minutes ride on the lake ferry. It has cottages which can accommodate 16 people sharing a double room. It is famous in fishing activities and the amazing sunset on Lake Victoria. You can also enjoy walks through lush vegetation on top of the hills or along the lakeshore. For those interested in culture, there is the possibility to visit a Luo family and experience their day-to-day life or the school in the next village.
The Mbasa and Mholo islands are a few meters apart. Both are famous for abundance of bird life. Uninhabited by man, the islands have many bird species including egrets and the fish eagle. There are also many monitor lizards, which feed on eggs and birds. One of the islands is inhabited by wild goats and sheep. Visiting these islands at the end of the day is an incredible experience. Thousands of birds fill the air, literally carpeting both islands in life as they descend to roost among the rocks and trees. With the last rays of the sun turning the waters of the Lake to gold, this is one of Kenya’s greatest natural spectacles.
Ruma National Park, home to the rare Roan antelope, Jackson hartebeest and the tiny Oribi antelope is located near Mbita at Lambwe valley. This little visited park comprises 120 square kms of savannah and gently rolling hills. This is the last refuge of the very Roan antelope, with the world’s last remaining wild population found within the boundaries of the park. The Roan is easy to see on the wide open grasslands, grazing freely among stands of whistling thorn acacia. Ruma is also home to several other rare species, chiefly the Rothschild Giraffe, Jackson’s Hartebeest and the tiny Oribi antelope.
From the heat of Ruma, you move on to a relatively cool area of the beautiful Western Highlands; Kisii land. First stop is at Tabaka near Kisii, home to Kenya’s finest stone carvers. The Kisii / Gusii community are renowned for their artistic skill with the local soapstone. They have a long tradition of carving ornate decorative art and jewelry, together with functional items such as plates and bowls. The stone is found in a series of large open quarries throughout the Gucha area, which have also proved equally rich in uncovered fossil evidence and prehistoric artifacts. Cooperative workshops have been formed to produce work for the international market. Kisii stone is sold worldwide, and several works by Tabaka artists have found a place in major international art collections. Tabaka soapstone graces the UN HQ in New York, and the UNESCO HQ in Paris, in the form of a massive 7- ton “bird of peace” or Enyamuchera. The success of this industry shows in the town of Tabaka, where every household seems to be busily engaged in carving, polishing, washing and packaging stoneware. This very success has meant the preservation of a very important cultural tradition. A visit here is an excellent opportunity to experience this rich culture and to purchase some beautiful handcrafted works of art.
The main road from Kisumu leads to Kakamega Town, the heart of the land of the Luhya community. The Luhya have a diverse culture. There are many clans and sub-clans, each with varying customs and traditions. The Luhya community is known for the vibrant traditional dance known as the Isikuti. The dance is performed by groups of paired men and women to the accompaniment of bells and whistles.
Among the Luhya, the most important traditional sporting event is bull fighting. Two large bulls are brought into a large open field to fight. The bulls are spurred on by an excited throng of onlookers, blowing traditional horns. Bull fights are held throughout the year and are fast becoming a commercial venture, with the champion bull’s owner winning money. Recently we visited the small village of Sigalagala, near Kakamega, where we attended a spectacular traditional bullfight. Such events are an important event for the local Luhya community, these are pitched battles between two bulls each one representing an individual village. Thronged by excited supporters, the bulls lock horns and fight until one bull turns and runs. The winning bull is led around the field in a victory lap, accompanied by a chanting, jubilant crowd. This impressive spectacle represents a significant cultural link between traditional African cattle culture and the art of bullfighting as practiced throughout Southern Europe.
Not far from Kakamega Town is the "weeping" Stone of Maragoli. This huge rock produces a constant stream of spring water, which flows on the sides, giving rise to many and varied local legends.
The only rain forest in Kenya - is a "feast for the senses", a vibrant living spectacle of animal and plant life. The forest, which covers 240 square kilometers, has more than 380 different plants and is home to 400 species of butterflies, some unique and only found in the forest. The forest teems with bird life. There are gray parrots, blue turacos, hornbills and plenty of forest raptors. Reptiles also abound in this forest with 27 different species of snakes identified so far. Seven species of primates, including colobus and Sykes monkeys live in this forest. The forest is also home to Mama Mutere a tree scientifically known as Mysopsis Eminee. It is claimed to be the oldest tree in the forest and its seedlings have been exported to many countries. The tree has medicinal value - its bark is said to cure stomach pains and prostrate cancer. This tree type produces highly valued timber and is, sadly, an endangered species. Local guides explain the great ecological significance of the reserve. Kakamega is a remnant forest, once linked to the great Equatorial forests of the Congo, and is home to a number of unique and endangered species.
You will meet with representatives of KEEP (Kakamega Environmental Education Programme) a community group working with local children to ensure that the forest and its resources are protected and preserved for the future. They also provide guiding services to local guesthouses and have constructed accommodation facilities for backpackers within the grounds of the forest station.
The Western Highlands Sports tourism is becoming increasingly popular around the world, and Kenya’s Western Highlands are the home to some of the world’s finest sportsmen. In the days preceding the Western Kenya launch, Kenyan runners had dominated the international athletic scene, taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th place for men and 1st and 2nd for women in the Boston Marathon.
The secret of this success lies in these hills. The average altitude in this area is well over 2000m, and these rarified conditions are ideal training conditions for runners. Two local schools, St. Patrick’s at Iten and Sing’ore Girls near Eldoret have produced most of Kenya’s Olympic Superstars. Altitude training can assist with development of both endurance levels and technique.
Five separate highly specialized training camps for athletes have been established in the Iten and Kabarnet area, for both local and International athletes. These are ideal for athletes looking to gain a high altitude advantage.
Kerio Valley is a natural tourist attraction of its own kind. Viewing of the valley is amazing as to how nature has its own making. At the edge of the vast Kerio Valley, you take in some of Kenya’s most incredible views, descending the valley wall to the floor of the rift valley; you pass beautiful Torok Falls, the deep chasm at Chebloch Gorge, and the plains of little explored Rimoi reserve, an important area for elephant migration. The tour ends high in the Tugen Hills at Kipsaraman, where one of Kenya’s first community museums has been opened. The museum houses exhibits on biodiversity and conservation, as well as important local human fossil finds and a fascinating exhibit on the possible prehistoric origins of a local mythological creature, the Chemosit, or Nandi Bear.
Even more impressive than the museum is its location. Perched on a the edge of a precipitous drop, the view from Kipsaraman is an incredible panoramic vista of the Rift valley and distant Lake Baringo that quite literally takes the breath away. With this view as a backdrop, visitors to this area were welcomed with an impressive display of traditional dance and song by the local communities.