Homa Bay County

Attractions in Homa Bay County

32. Lambwe Valley

The Lambwe Valley unfolds, congenially, as an extensive flat valley that is quite unexpectedly typified by woodland and an open grassland. It is a south-westerly extension of the Kavirondo Fault, lying between the Kanyamwa Escarpment to the east and the Gwasi Hills to the west. Its dip slope declines moderately in a southeasterly direction towards Kuja River system, from an altitude of 1,280 ms to 1,190 ms at the shore of the Kavirondo Gulf. Lying close to the equator, the Valley tends to be hot and humid, but extreme temperatures and humidity are seldom experienced. Its tropical woodlands and savannas harbour an enormous concentration of wildlife at the 120 km2 Ruma National Park deep in the valley.

Lambwe Valley, Gwasi Hills and Kanyamwa Range.  Image Courtesy of Mapio
Lambwe Valley, Gwasi Hills and Kanyamwa Range. Image Courtesy of Mapio

33. Ruma National Park

Originally dubbed the Lambwe Valley Game Park, the 120 km2 Ruma National Park lying within the Lambwe Valley was set up in 1966 as a protection area for the endangered roan antelope. “This species has never been abundant in Kenya and the game laws of 1909 gave it special protection on account of its scarcity”. Located close at hand with Lake Victoria, and bordered by Gwasi Hills and the Kanyamwa Escarpment (in the east and west) and by the volcanic plugs of the Ruri Hills (in the north), the drive to Ruma National Park is a wildly beautiful one. Moreover, its relatively flat terrain which makes it easy to drive across the park offers unbroken scenery. This does, however, make it harder to spot game, because one can hardly see more than the length of the glades. It is found 42 kms from Homa Bay via C19 Homa Bay-Ruma Road and 28 kms from Ndhiwa.

Ruma offers visitors an opportunity to see various wildlife species including the Rothschild’s giraffe, serval cat, hyena, impala, buffalo, vervet monkey, roan antelope, oribi, bohor reedbuck, leopard, buffalo, and the Jackson’s hartebeest. Recently re-introduced species are Black rhino,White rhino, Burchell′s zebra whose populations have adapted quite well. Roan antelope, Oribi and Jackson’s hartebeest are easily spotted in Ruma than anywhere else in Kenya. KWS

34. Oribi Guest House

From Homa Bay Town the main gate into Ruma National Park is 42 kms away via C19 Road, passing the turnoff to Mbita Point, through Ndhiwa Centre. With a scenic view of Ruma National Park, Oribi Guest House is located at a vantage point, giving opportunities for wildlife spotting. The game viewing highlights is spotting the rare roan antelope in its natural and, rather more importantly, one of its last refuge in Kenya. From Kamato Main Gate, Oribi House is 1 km away, and the warden’s house and forest office 0.5 km away. The 3-bedrooms house is rentable on a self-catering basis, on a comparatively budget-friendly rate, and is eco-friendly, powered by solar. From here, suitably fortified with a sturdy car, preferably 4X4 to navigate over the oft-times mud caked roads, guests can tour the park via its three circuit roads. In a park that still retains its natural status due to low tourism activities, spotting of its main grazing animal populations, consisted of roan antelope and Jackson’s hartebeest, a larger and redder species than Coke’s which is found in several National Parks in Kenya, Oribi, arguably one of the smallest in the antelope family and Rotschild giraffes is, especially for those who have visited the more popular parks and reserves, an interesting new adventure to a park that rarely gets under local and international limelight.

Oribi Guest House at Ruma National Park. Image Courtesy of Virginia Nyauma
Oribi Guest House at Ruma National Park. Image Courtesy of Virginia Nyauma

34. Kanyamwa Escarpment

The Kanyamwa Escarpment, sheltering the Ruma National Park to the east, is a north-facing fault-line range extending in a west-southwesterly direction from Kanyada to Uganju and marking the unofficial border between Homa Bay and Migori Counties. This is low-lying and less impressive compared to the Gwasi Hills, on the opposite side of the park, only reaching an average height of 1,500 ms with its highest point of Kiambo Hill rising about 1,722 ms above sea-level. The range is extremely steep but negotiable over most parts. On the dip-slope, south-east of the range, the country falls gently to the Kuja river, following the gentle dip of the Gwasi Hills outwards from the noted eminence of the Kisingiri.

35. Nyamugondho Site

About 28 kms west of the Ruma National Park lies a cultural space of intriguing cultural anecdotes. It is located at the narrowed Nyandiwa peninsula, the most westerly point in Homa Bay County. The site, more proper ‘the lady of the lake’, has an inscrutable myth that baffles travellers. The legend relates that Mbare, poor and without two pennies to rub together, was out fishing in the lake using a fishing net (mugondho). Eager for bountiful fish he pulled in his net, only to find a beautiful woman inside. Once on land, the two agreed that he would take her in and keep it a secret. In time, Nyamugondho, or lady of the lake, brought good tidings and fortune to Mbara. “But as only heaven is impregnable to vice”, he became capricious, often brutal and an increasingly fickle companion. Angry and distraught, Nyamugondho returned to whence she had come from. “Local mythology says that rock formations resembling Nyamugondho’s footsteps and those of her animals can be seen at the point where she entered Lake Victoria!”

Spatial Location of Nyandiwa in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Nyandiwa in Homa Bay County

36. Gor Mahia Shrine

Shortly before taking the Ndhiwa-Rodi-Homa Bay Road one may, however, be interested in visiting the Gor Mahia Shrine, the humble abode of one of Kenya’s quintessential real life superheroes – tough as steel, strong as an ox, with other-worldly abilities. Gor Mahia, or Gor Makogalo, who died on May 9, 1920, aged 126, was a legendary warrior who wielded magical power, and the son of a well seasoned medicine wizard named Ogalo. In traditional Luo, his full name was Gor Wuod Ogada nyakwar Ogalo, which literally means Gor son of Ogada and the grandson of Ogalo. It is not at all uncommon in Luo-land to be awarded the epithet of one’s village or lineage. Hence, he was also known as Gor Makogalo or Gor K’Ogalo, a short form of Gor who hails from Ogalo’s homestead (family). Quite the unlikely paragon, Gor Mahia had been banished from the Kanyamwa Chiefdom in his earlier years for disorderly conduct and for high handedness. This was pre-colonial Kenya. It would be his contribution, around 1903, at the onset of British occupation of East Africa and his surpassing prowess – both as a leader and a warrior – that would metamorphose his legacy from hero to god-like. At the shrine, there is a giant ancient tree, locally known as the Nyagidha Towers, and a pile of stones that mark the final resting place of Gor Mahia. It is customary for visitors to Gor Mahia Shrine to pay reverence to this sacred tree in order to invoke the blessing of Gor Mahia – a popular ritual among football fanatics.  The shrine is found 2 kms from Ndhiwa Centre, in Kanyamwa Village.

When Gor died on May 9, 1920, the Luo people mourned heavily, wondering whether there would again be such a hero. The colonialist were likewise grief-stricken and frustrated for no one could satisfactorily fill the vacuum left by Gor; consequently a line of complaints and insults run through their reports on all of Gor’s successors. – The Epic of Gor Mahia: The Luo Epic – a book by Adrian Onyando.