Busia County

Attractions in Busia County

1. Lake Victoria

The turnoff to Funyula, Sio Port and Port Victoria is reached at Bumala along the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road, 90 kms from Kisumu. If you follow this road toward Funyula en-route Bunyala in the south, you cross a bucolic setting with the eye-catching backdrop of the Funyula and Samia Hills. This area is within the Lake Victoria Basin Catchment and in particular offers a chance to sight one of the unique attractions of East Africa. 24 kms from Bumala, near Sio Port, the hilly country gives way to Lake Victoria, and the setting here offers the best overall impressions of it in Western Kenya. The drive from Sio Port in Funyula to Port Victoria (or Port Bunyala) in Budalangi has plenty of viewpoints to glimpse this stretch of Lake Victoria and its chains of island and beaches including Marenga in Budalang’i, Bumbe and Bussijo in Funyula. The pleasant scenery includes the pretty Samia Hills. There are two main ports in Busia County – the Sio Port and the Port Victoria in Budalangi – which serve substantially as fish landing ports. The beaches and small islands in Busia County remain largely underdeveloped.

2. Samia Hills

The southern part of Busia is covered by a range of hills distinguished by Samia and Funyula Hills which run from the north-east to the south-west terminating at Port Victoria. These form a very conspicuous topographic scape. Samia Hills, those between Ports Sio and Victoria, are the most pronounced of Busia’s vast volcanic igneous rocks which underlay much of this county. These hummocky hills and their associated colluvial basin stand out prominently to the east and southwest areas of Funyula and Bunyala and are marked by deep valleys made by the major rivers (Nzoia, Yala and Sio) along their dendritic drainage to Lake Victoria. For tourism, the Samia Hills are designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and the unflagging Muungano Development Environmental Conservation Forum have put in place noble initiatives to conserve and protect this landscape by re-planting indigenous trees. Samia Resort at Funyula, with prepossessing views of these hills and the bucolic boonies, offers satisfactory accommodation.

Spatial Location of Funyula within Busia County
Spatial Location of Funyula within Busia County

3. Bakhulo Shrines at Samia

The mix of cultures in Busia County, big, small, widespread, little-known, wears its cultural diversity well. At the center of tribal dispersions and convergence for centuries, the small border county of Busia has been occupied by mainly by the Iteso and Luhya as well as a chapter of smaller communities like the Abakhayo, Marachi, Samia and Abanyala, but none has left as indelible a mark around the Samia Hills as the Abakhulo. Their ancient traditions, customs and shrines are centered around Samia Hills. This modest tribe, settled in all three East African Nations, in Busia living alongside the Luhya speaking nation around Odiado, Nangosia and Namboboto locations of Samia Sub County, makes up the most numerous tribe within Samia Sub County. The Bakhulo are often depicted as a Luhya speaking tribe with a Samian dialect. And justly so, as some of the traits, actions, behaviours observed among the Bakhulo are akin to those of the Luhya.

“The Bakhulo have quite a beautiful culture, which they wholesomely believe in, treasure and jealously protect. Like any other African community, they proudly and successfully practice (d) their cultures, dating back for centuries” – The S.O Foundation. Among the significant Bakhulo Shrines, around Samia Hills, where they carry out special tribal ceremonies, include: Rachiebo Deep Waters found about a kilometer down the Sio River from Muluanda ginnery, which a bulbous, spectacular rock; Ogingua Rock found close to the present day Sichehe Primary School, where ceremonial activities like sacrifices, praying and the dedication of weapons was/is done; Okuro Shrine, found along the eastern slope of the Agena Hill, commonly known as Lukere, revered as the place where Okuro first set up his settlement-home when he arrived in Samia; among many other shrines. At the moment however, cultural diversity and its advantages for tourism in Busia County is still largely untravelled, under-marketed, and remains under-tapped.

4. Port Victoria

The 22 kms journey along the western coast of Busia County from Sio Port to Bukoma in the extreme southern area, 3 kms past Port Victoria, travels astride Lake Victoria. The scenic strip from Sio Port to Port Victoria has a permanent development of small fishing villages that slope in out along the lakeshore with one or two progressive centres along the way. Almost 5,000 households living in proximate of the lake rely on fishing, majority trading in lake resource. With good communication links and development lagging behind that of the rest of Kenya, the area had suddenly looked old and dewely in comparison but newer stuff like a fish cooling plant at Marenga in Bunyala and the standard blacktop roads is set to reignite its growth. Once upon a time the strip had anchored the glamour of rural fishing. Sparting improvement and bringing in investment, Sio-Port in Samia Sub-county and Port Victoria in Bunyala Sub-county, serving as the major fish landing ports, are geering up to attract travellers too. A fairly populated town, Port Victoria offers an opportunity to see old fishing traditions, native fishing vessels enlivened with motor boats and an angling society hard at work. The tail end of Samia and Funyula Hills, culminating at the Port Victoria, form a conspicuous topographic landscape. It is found 18 kms south of Sio Port.

5. Che’s Bay Resort

For decades, the flow of traffic in the community of Port Victoria (sometimes known as Port Bunyala) along the little-travelled shores of Lake Victoria moved in one direction; away. Although Port Victoria is a sizeable, bustling town, with a population of 12,500 as at 2020, it served little commercial interest other than as a fishing landing port. But Che’s Bay Resort, whose buildings and amenities take inspiration from from the fishing villages and boats, traditional rondavels with grass-thatched roofs, completed with a modern touch, reversed that trend when it was completed in 2016. Travellers now come from around the country to see Che’s Bay and take in Isambo Beach, whose unspoiled landscape, tucked between the pleasant Singwe and Mwita Fubu Hills, is a sheltered haven with a stunning view of the lake and the beautiful islands that dot it, including Sigulu island on the Ugandan side and Sumba island in the Kenyan waters, making it a coveted spot for under-the-radar-travellers. “From Che’s Bay, you are within 20 minutes speedboat ride to these amazing islands as well as to the Sango Delta, where River Nzoia empties its waters into Lake Victoria. And in two hours, you would be in Jinja, Uganda, marveling at the source of the great River Nile as it leaves the lake to snake it’s way to Egypt through Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia.” It is situated 98 kms from Kisumu, off Marenga-Bukoma Road at Port Victoria.

Looking Out From Che's Bay Resort. Image Courtesy of Che's Bay
Looking Out From Che’s Bay Resort. Image Courtesy of Che’s Bay

6. Bunyala Rice Farm

This is located 14 kms east of Port Victoria and 2 kms outside the border with Siaya County. Alternatively, if approaching from Sio Port, it is 21 kms travelling southeast then just south of west to reach it. Bunyala Irrigation Scheme, under the patronage of the National Irrigation Board, was kick-started in 1959 with an initial property of 534 acres under paddy rice production, which has been under production since. Irrigation water is pumped from the Nzoia River, flowing by gravity through open earth channel to the rice farms. Increased demand for rice spurred on the installation of two new pumps, in 2007, to further increase and improve its output, with an increase in acreage from the initial 534 acres to its current property of 1,880 acres. Although not a common touring attraction in Busia County, the rice paddies at Bunyala Farm (as well as in the handful of rice farms in Western Kenya) offer great scenery, each stage of the farming season – from vegetative, reproductive to ripening – having a contrasting aspect, often with a impressive backdrop, at Bunyala rising a series of conical hill in the back, representing man’s ability to manipulate nature in a pleasurably agreeable way.

7. River Nzoia

On the account that River Nzoia has the largest basin in Kenya’s Lake Victoria system, with an approximate catchment area of 12,709 km2 and a length of 334 kms to its mouth at Lake Victoria, warrants a mention as one the salient natural heritages of Busia County. Rising in the forested uplands of Mount Elgon with tributaries from Cherangani Hills, Nandi Hills and Kakamega Forest, the Nzoia traverses five counties – Trans-Nzoia, Kakamega, Kisumu, Siaya and Busia – before debouching into Lake Victoria a short distance north of Yala Swamp in Bunyala, Budalangi. River Nzoia is a mixed blessing for the communities found along its littorals. On the one hand, its waters provide a vital life line as a source of water for subsistence and irrigation. On the other hand, in the lowland zone, especially at Budalangi, it continues to experience annual flood disasters due to failure of structural flood mitigation systems like earth dykes to control its high flows. Then, there is “the devastating effects of pollution, from industrial waste, with the smell of the water itself striking you from a distance.” – Nation Media.