Kakamega County

Discover Kakamega County

Aerial view of Kakamega Forest Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
Aerial view of Kakamega Forest Reserve. Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Brief Overview of Kakamega County

Kakamega Forest and its outlying forest fragments (Malava, Kisere, Buyangu, Isecheno I and II, Ikuywa, Yala and Kaimosi) has ascendancy over any touring colloquies of Kakamega County. Still relatively intact, yet far-removed from its chimera depiction as a virgin tropical rainforest, Kakamega Forest is for all its high-praise a most unique destination in Kenya whose biodiversity bears much more resemblance to the rainforests found in Central and West Africa perhaps more than any other montane forest found in East Africa.  It offers an exciting prospect for nature-lovers to traverse this splendorous closed canopy forest which exhibits a high level of endemism in both flora and fauna. 10-20% of its species are considered to be endemic and holds innumerable varieties of flora.

Excepting Kakamega Forest the whole of Kakamega County – one of the most elevated plateaus in Kenya – is thickly populated and heavily cultivated. The land itself unfolds north and west of Kakamega Forest as a slightly undulating peneplain with yielding soils and year-round rainfall that supports a thriving farming industry. Her otherwise moderate hillocks are originated by the river action of Nzoia, Yala, Kisos, Lusumu and Lairi which have successfully eroded the formerly flat plateau. Even with 80% (2,512 km2) of her land being under cultivation, 61% of this is largely under subsistence crop and livestock farming owing to unbridled sub-division of land into small acreages. In the western area of Kakamega County, around Wanga, Mumias, Butere and Matungu, farmers have continually devoted large parts of their farms for cultivation of sugarcane.

Kakemega County is strategically wedged between Vihiga County, in the south, Busia and Siaya Counties, in the west, Bungoma and Trans Nzoia Counties, in the north, Uasin Gishu County, in the north-east and Nandi County, in the east, which are agricultural big-wheels. The principal line of communication is the A1 Kisumu-Kakamega-Webuye Road which travels across the eastern half through Mukumu, Kakamega (the principal town) and Malava. At Webuye there is an alternative of two route, one heading east to Eldoret and one heading west to Malaba through Bungoma. Granted that Kakamega is one of the most densely populated Counties of Kenya, it is also one of the most culturally diverse, and no remarks about it would be complete with an omission of its vibrant cultures.

Salient Features of Kakamega County

  • County Number 37
  • Area – 3034 km2
  • Altitude – 5036 ft
  • Major Towns – Kakamega, Mumias
  • Borders – Vihiga, Siaya, Bungoma, Nandi

Brief History of Kakamega County

Before 1899, much of what we now call Kakamega County was known as North Kavirondo. “Kakamega town is first seen as ‘Kakamwega’s’ on the Geographical Journal map of 1899. The construction of Uganda Railway (1895-1902) spurred on the growth of Western Kenya, the small settlement of Kakamega itself being gazetted as a governmental post on July 1st, 1909. The Government station was officially moved from Mumias to Kakamega and it was gazetted as a township in October 1920 becoming Kakamega District headquarters in February 1927 – (Annual Report 1927). Later, Soy and Lumakanda areas of Kakamega County became part of the so called ‘White-Highlands’ areas, where white settlers had their estates. After Kenya became independent in 1963, these ‘White-Highlands’ were split up and sold to African farmers. The results of the partitioning of this land can still be seen to date in the so-called “settlement schemes”.  During the British Era, some of the settlements also had different names than they do now.

View of a road into Kakamega National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy
View of a road into Kakamega National Reserve. Image Courtesy

Places of Interest in Kakamega County

1. Kakamega Forest Ecosystem

First mentioned as ‘Muliru Itaho’ (Itaho Forest) in the 1913 map, this treasured 240 km2 forest patch was originally managed by the local people and the village elders, who were responsible to the Local Native Council. Its first physical forest border, with the Government recognizing the need to protect it, was established around 1908-10, again in 1913 and later in 1929-1932, placing it under colonial protection and run by the Native Council. In 1931, the Forest Department took over its management and thereafter, in 1933, it was gazetted as the Kakamega Forest, classified as a Trust Land Forest – owned by the locals and managed by the Government. Between 1936 – 38, its boundary was planted with Eucalyptus trees prior to its conversion into a Central Government Forest, in 1964. In 1967, the Nature Reserves of Isecheno, Yala and Kisere were created. Finally, in 1986, two chunks in the north area were hived-off Kisere Forest (471 ha) and the northwest quarter of Kakamega Forest called Buyangu (3,984 ha) to create the 4,455 ha Kakamega National Reserve now tightly run by Kenya Wildlife Service.

To protect and conserve the essence of Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, “in 1984 a presidential directive banned the conversion of indigenous forest to plantation and another in 1988 banned the cutting of indigenous forest trees, grazing and cultivation in the forest although the natives are still allowed to fetch dead wood as fire wood outside of the Nature Reserves”. Although we now know Kakamega Forest is a remnant of Guinea-Congo equatorial forest mosaic, thought to have been depleted greatly just 10,000 years ago in an arid-epoch that abated many tropical forests in Africa, it has retained species common to all these relic forest, including those found in nearby Uganda. What Kakamega Forest lacks in high-minded large game seen in other Reserves in Kenya is made up for by an untold range of birds, butterflies, monkeys and, of course, its variegated vegetal gamut. Elephants were extirpated around 1912 with the buffalo disappearing few years later. Lion survived to as late as 1950’s on the eastern edges of the forest where leopards are still suspected to live, with the last spotted in 1980’s near Buyangu.

Map of Kakamega-Forest and Associated Forests with Official Gazetted Boundary
Map of Kakamega-Forest and Associated Forests with Gazetted Boundaries

2. Kisere Forest Reserve

Although it’s presupposed that the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem has shrunk by a reasonable extent, it’s also unlikely that the main forest block was ever linked to the outlying forests of Kisere, Bunyala, Malava, and North Nandi. Surprisingly, the detached 471-hectares Kisere Forest Reserve, situated about 21 kms north-east of Kakamega Town and just 5 kms east of Kakamega National Reserve, has been growing and expanding its limits since the early part of the 20th century. It was gazetted at the same time as Kakamega Forest Reserve, and it falls under the management of Kenya Wildlife Service. It is comprised of mixed hardwood forest with a wide range of animal species. The De Brazza’s monkey is limited to this forest. Other attractions include its birds and its pristine high canopy trees.

3. Malava Forest

For all that has been documented about Malava Forest becoming isolated from Kakamega Forest Ecosystem between 1895 and 1917, “it has almost certainly been an island for a considerably longer period if indeed it was ever connected to other forest blocks at all”. As far back as the records extend, to 1910, Malava Forest has been as isolated from other forests as it is today. Its name, Malava, is thought to be derived from the Luhya idiom ‘clean’ after its attribute of having a clear or clean forest floor in spite of the thick forest canopy. The faunal diversity of buffalo, bush-buck, wild hog, hyena, leopard and python all became locally extinct through hunting and disturbance from logging and charcoal burning in the early 1930’s. Duiker, waterbuck, porcupine and aardvark are said to have a rare presence. It has maintained a high diversity of primates, with monkeys and baboons being the most conspicuous group of mammals in the forest. Also, its strategic location along the Kakamega-Webuye Road and Malava-Lugusi Road makes it an ideal stopover for exploration. It covers 7.2 km2 of which 3 km2 is under plantation and the rest under natural forest. Malava Forest Lodge offers accommodation within the Forest. It is found 25 kms north of Kakamega Town.

Spatial Location of Malava Forest in Kakamega County
Spatial Location of Malava Forest in Kakamega County

4. Mawe Tatu Hills

Mawe Tatu Hills, vividly resembling the trite outmoded three-stone fire cooking formation, are a triad of whooping granite outcrops in Likuyani Sub-county that also forms part of the rocky landscape near Lugulu Hills. Still little-known as a touring site, Mawe Tatu Hills have the potential to be scaled-up to an adventure destination. At the moment, these serve only as an off-the-beaten-track hiking destination, with rewarding views of the rural landscape from the summit. They are located 99 kms northeast of Kakamega Town, 56 kms northeast of Malava Forest and 21 kms north of Turbo nearby St Benedict Lugulu Secondary School.

5. Kakamega National Reserve

The most popular route to Kakamega National Reserve is via Isecheno Gate, 18 kms east of Kakamega Town through Kambiri Market. This is well signposted. From Eldoret, the easiest route is via the Kapsabet-Chepsonoi-Mukumu Road. Either way, both routes arrive at the mid-western edge of the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem which is open year-round, daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm (charges: citizen-300, Resident-600, Non-resident USD 22). The biologically-flush 44.5 km2 Kakamega National Reserve harbors more than 400 bird species, rare and endemic tree species like the Elgon teak, Red stinkwood and African satinwood, and plenty of monkeys. As a destination, the Forest has pieced itself together as a sanctum for nature-lovers, where amazing beauty unfolds around every bend. On top of that, there is genuine serenity and tranquil solitude about the Forest. Nature takes center stage. It is about the wide-band tropical bird songs of the rain forest? or the sunlight piercing through the forest canopy? or the majesty of an untravelled waterfall? or even perhaps, its viewing deck at Bunyangu Hill that overlooks the roof of the forest? There is plenty to enjoy here. Kakamega National Reserve is both a scenic and exploratory park, where trippers can opt to scout by walking, riding or driving. There are three accommodation options within the Kakamega Forest Ecosystem – at Isikuti and Udo Guest Houses, and Rondo Retreat. It’s found 18 kms from Kakamega via Kakamega-Webuye Road.

Its West African affinities are unique in Kenya, and the forest contains many species found nowhere else in the country. Kakamega’s avifauna is unique not locally, but continentally. Several species have been isolated. Relict populations here, including Ansorge’s (Greenbul, Blue-headed Bee-eater, Chapin’s Flycatcher and the Turner’s Eremomela, are absent from all or nearly all similar mid-elevation forests in Africa. UNESCO – Tentative List

6. Isikuti Guest House

The reasonably-priced, self-catering, Isikutu Guest House which is operated by the Kenya Wildlife Service in company with Udo Guest House, Udo and Biota Campsites within Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, is a great jumping-off place for nature-lovers exploring this variegated Forest. Isikuti Guest House is the idyllic base from where to explore Kakamega Forest’s 300 trees species, 400 species of birds and 300 species of butterfly. Quite like a perfect cabin, Isikuti is a modest, detached, secluded and relaxing destination. The house, which sleeps four, has a working kitchen, bathroom and vast outdoor space next to the Uda Campsite – offering a wide-cut open yard. It’s found at the north tip of Kakamega Forest. Not too far from here and the North Gate to Kakamega National Reserve (near the Kwa Thomas Village) sits the specialty eco-friendly Busambuli Eco Lodge.

7. Isecheno Nature Reserve

Isecheno Nature Reserve lies within Kakamega Forest Ecosystem in the middle locus. It occupies about 138 hectares in the mid-west part of Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, while Yala River Nature Reserve in the southern area occupies 538 hectares. Isecheno Reserve is characterized by natural forest with low historical disturbance and access difficulty. The area not only forms a good representation of local forest types, but is very ideal for research work as well as a safe refuge for species undisturbed by anthropogenic activity. It contains both forest glades (Kalunya Glade is marked by numerous shallow pits) and riverine forests. It has a canopy lookout tower to enable visitors appreciate the upper forest canopy. It is also a useful birding hideout, and with some luck to spot its two endemic bird species – the African Grey Parrot and the Black-billed Turaco. “Visitors can stay either at Isecheno Blue Shouldered Guest – nearby Isecheno Gate to Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, or at the Isecheno KEEP Bandas. Isecheno-Ikuywa Road that runs through the forest provides an ideal access and a surpassing roadside view.

8. Savona Isle Resort

The African-design-inspired Savona Isle Resort, set on a 3-acres property that’s encircled by the Isikhu River, in the outskirts of Kakamega Town, is a middle-budget hotel with great value for money, and lovely views. The U-shape of the meandering Isikhu River with its headwaters in Kakemega Forest, gives it the pleasant superficial appearance of an island. Savona Isle Resort is accessed via a permanent bridge opening up to well manicured lawns that are scattered with manure trees and hedges. It is ideal for both day trips and overnight stays, and it is conveniently set 6 kms from Kakamega Town along Isecheno-Ikuywa Road.

9. Rondo Retreat

This is also found along Isecheno-Ikuywa Road that cuts through the southern part of Kakamega Forest. Rondo Retreat, a homely and restful Christian-based retreat, offers just as much of the forest’s heritage and glamour as it does with providing a relaxing weekend hidey-hole. Originally built in 1948, as a romantic getaway cabin lodge at the base of a huge Elgon Olive Tree – thought to be the tallest tree in Kakamega Forest Reserve – it was later taken over in 1961 by the Christian Council of Kenya, when the couple left Kenya. Rondo Retreat, which sleeps up to 35 in 6 cottages – Turton’s, Turaco, Founders, Colobus, Isukha and Nandi – is a time-honoured destination, especially liked for the fulsome forest experience which can be overwhelming to soak-up in one day. Rondo Retreat is also a peaceful and spiritual place to pray, meditate and re-energize. Among the popular experiences here include walking trips to either of two higher points in Kakamega Forest Ecosystem – Lirhanda Hill (south), or Bunyangu Hill (north).

Spatial Location of Rondo Retreat Lodge within Kakamega Forest Ecosystem
Spatial Location of Rondo Retreat Lodge within Kakamega Forest Ecosystem

10. Yala Nature Reserve

Up until 1992, the entire Kakamega Forest Ecosystem was all within Kakamega District, prior to the formation of Vihiga County which now contains the forest section south of Yala River (traversing the southern area of the forest). Thanks to early preventative measures, the 538 hectares Yala Nature Reserve – located south of River Yala – appears to have escaped wanton large-scale commercial exploitation, although it is now virtually separated from the forest to the north and only connected to it by a narrow strip of forest. “It has been suggested that Isecheno Forest has become an island and was separated by deforestation from Yala Forest in the 1980’s.” For the nature-lovers, Yala Nature Reserve is a fine example of a natural riparian forest with an impressive variety of tree species, and hippopotami sometimes travel up the Yala River to enjoy its “forest glades”.

11. Lirhanda Cave

Lirhanda Cave, unofficially known as the Bat Cave of Kakamega, is situated on Lirhanda Hill in the southern area of Kakamega Forest Ecosystem. As its name suggests, this cave is home to one of the largest bat colonies in Kenya. Over 111 bat species take residence in this eerie dark chamber. The spectacular staging, at dusk, as the one million strong cloud of bats heads-out from their isolated cave to feed, is mind-blowing. Bats have historically suffered from persecution because of misconceptions about them.  Quite the contrary, bats are a critical cornerstone of pollination and a big check on insects, in their service to nature. The summit of the Lirhanda Hill, which at 1,700 ms is the most elevated area in Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, offers superb views over the forest canopy, Nandi Escarpment and beyond. The path to and from the Lirhanda Cave also goes past memorable and lovely views of River Yala and Isukhu Falls, where trippers can enjoy the hushed serenity of the forest and its diversity of birds and butterflies. 

12. Rosterman Mines

Gold mining has a long-established history in Kakamega County, with mines in Bukura, Sigalagala and Rosterman which collectively cover an area of 64 km2. The Kakamega Gold Rush of the 1930’s, which was partly ‘ignited’ by a report from reputed geologist Albert Ernest, is among the great historical episodes in Kenya, and which bank rolled gold mining in Kakamega. Rosterman Mining, a colonial company that operated here in the 1930’s was among the large global names to join in the Kakamega Gold Rush. Little exploration was done, despite the expectations, and these residual open-cast mines are now operated by locals using only the simple and outmoded ‘sieving and ball-mill’ method. During the ‘gold-rush’, large concessions were given to Rosternman Mines at the southern region of Kakamega Forest – on either side of the main Isecheno-Ikuywa Road, including some at Isecheno. It is worth mentioning that logging in Kakamega Forest began (in 1933) in response to the market created by the emerging gold mining industry. The Kakamega gold rush peaked in the mid-1930’s and was subdued by the Second World War; and it never fully recovered after the WWII.

The district has been the most important producer of gold in the Colony. Since 1931, when production of alluvial gold began, to be followed soon after by the exploitation of vein deposits, some three and a half million pounds worth of gold has been recovered, representing more than half the total production from the Colony. Again, more than half of that value of gold was produced from the Rosterman Mine, near Kakamega township. – A. Huddlestone, 1959 Report.

13. Nandi Escarpment

Nandi Escarpment, or Nandi Scarp, forms the most striking feature along the eastern boundary of Kakamega County. The mains scarps of this long, narrow and infaulted wedge escarpment rise from 1700 ms to 2000 ms and stretch for 40 kms north, towards Webuye. It runs a little west of north from its point of emergence from the thick Kapwaren Forest (South Nandi Forest), just south of Kakamega-Kapsabet Road crossing the northern boundary. Geologically, it is a display of extremely rugged grounds, composed of granite and volcanic rock. It is easily sighted from vantage points around Kakamega Forest like at Lirhanda and Bunyangu Hills, as a striking upland. The escarpment marks the boundary between the Luhya and Nandi tribes, placed at the top of the escarpment, and holds compelling tales of cultural antagonism between these two tribal nations.

The Nandi were infallibly keen to exploit the area beyond their territory, which had been abandoned by the Luhya till the 1950’s yet still bent on claiming it for themselves. Although the Nandi settled briefly in the area between Kakamega Forest and North Nandi Forest, in 1912 and then again in the 1950’s, Maragoli and Abanyole sub-tribes of the Luhya nation eventually claimed the territory as their own. Old wives tales here still state that this area had been Nandi territory before the advance of the Abaluhya who drove them up the Nandi Escarpment. The Tiriki, another Luhya sub-tribe, arrived much later, settling mainly around Kaimosi Forest. Best-known for exploiting the forest for their unique rituals of circumcision and rites of passage ceremonies, “they are said to have tricked the Nandi, or persuaded them with alcohol, to move east”. Howbeit, it’s the Nandi who better illustrate the ability to live alongside the forest without destroying it.

14. Lamanis Haven

This sits along the Kakamega-Malava-Webuye Road separated from Kakamega Forest Ecosystem by the Nyayo tea zone (which occupies the land cleared along the forest boundary between 1986-1989). “This was done following a directive from President Moi that was designed to provide economic opportunity for the forest adjacent villages, but also to prevent the encroachment of agriculture into the forest”. The self-catering 3-bedrooms Lamanis Haven, in the pretty hushed neighborhood of Ichina, just 6.3 kms northeast of Kakamega Town, represents the booming hospitality in Kakamega County. It offers exclusivity and freedom, which comes complete with lovely views of the countryside, tea plantations and a glimpse of the wondrous Kakamega Forest. Lamanis hosts up to eight visitors.

Spatial Location of Lamanis Haven in Kakamega County
Spatial Location of Lamanis Haven in Kakamega County

15. Golf Hotel

The sixty-rooms hotel complex of the Golf Hotel that is located just a stone’s-throw away from Kakamega’s business district, is an excellent base for both business and leisure travellers. The 3-star-rated Golf Hotel has been an iconic establishment of Kakamega County for many decades, and remains one of its liked hotels. Callers to Golf Hotels can easily reach Kakamega National Reserve, which is found just 12 kms away, or enjoy a round of golf at the 9-hole course at Kakamega Sports Club. It is located close to the Kakamega Provincial Hospital.

16. Kakamega Sports Club

Refurbished and redeveloped from its humble beginning in the time of colonial rule, the private members-only Kakamega Sports Club with a 9-hole course set in the thick woody at the dormitory region of Kakamega Town (near Golf Hotel and Kakamega Hospital) hosts the only golf course in Kakamega County. The 9-hole course sits on about 50-acres of prime land along the Kakamega-Shinyalu Road, between the thriving Kakamega Town and Kakamega Forest Ecosystems. The current active membership of the club stands at about 1000 members with potential to accommodate almost 2,000 members. The members enjoy a wide range of facilities including: tennis court, large pool, restaurant and a bar. It is a reciprocating partner with Chemelil Club, Eldoret Club, Kampala Golf Club, the Karen County Club, Railways Golf Club, Kiambu Club, Kisii Sports Club, Kitale Golf Club, Limuru County Club, Machakos Club, Meru Sports Club, Mombasa Sports Club, Nakuru Athletic Club, Nakuru Golf Club, Nandi Bears Club, Njoro County Club, Nyahururu Sports Club and Nyanza Club. It sits 500m from town.

Spatial Location of Kakamega Sports Club in Kakamega County
Spatial Location of Kakamega Sports Club in Kakamega County

17. Muliro Gardens

The well-liked Muliro Gardens, which is the largest outdoor park in Kakamega County, not only provides pleasure and entertainment but also offers a central public area where people can connect, unbend and unwind. Declared a National Monument in March 2001, Muliro Gardens, named after Masinde Muliro – the eminent freedom fighter who hailed from this region – are also impressive for their history, as the host of some monumental political gatherings. Despite the recent scandals, Muliro Gardens provide a beautiful and peaceful urban public space to enjoy the outdoors. It’s located nearby Makaburini in Kakamega Town.

18. Ikhongo Murue

Just 5 kms south of Kakamega Town lies the stunning 40 ms rock formation of the Ikhongo Murue. Quite unmistakable, and towering along the Kakamega to Kisumu Road, it is impressive both as a sight and for its legendary status. As it goes, the Ikhongo Murue, which is consisted of a large boulder resting on top of a massive rock column, is the harbinger that heralds good or bad omen for the people living around it. Resembling a human figure – the head resting on weary shoulders, with tears streaming down its length – its weeping is surmised to be a prediction that pleasant events are about to happen, and the converse is true. In a rare twist of events, the Ikhongo Murue has not wept for a few years, which has raised the alarm, almost at a national level. Although subject to seasonality, the best time to glimpse the Crying Stone of Ilesi at its best (weeping) is during the first week of September. The site’s found along A1 Kakamega-Kisumu Road.

Video of Ikhongo Murue. Published by Extreme Photography

19. Ilesi Pottery Project

The Isukha and Idakho sub-tribes of the Luhya Community, who are fairly good potters, have rekindled their age-old pursuit into a thriving industry, producing an assembly of ornately crafted earthenware. The community-run Ilesi Pottery Project, which is a localized initiative to create a sustainable income generating project, utilizes the existing communal strengths. Aside from the practical uses of the earthenware made at Ilesi Project, these also collect well as unique decor pieces. Callers to the site also get to see the always cheerful craftsmen produce these wares. From here, and literally just across the road, is the Ikhongo Murue (Crying Stone of Ilesi). Ilesi Pottery is found off the Kakamega to Kisumu Road.

20. Malinya Stadium

Comparable with Kakamega Forest Ecosystem, the richness and divergence of cultures in Kakamega County is quite impressive. Perhaps more than any other County of Kenya, Kakamega epitomizes the rich tapestry of “cultural diversity”. What is really impressive, for its relatively small size, is that Kakamega has at least 5 unique sub-tribes – Tiriki, Isukha, Kabras, Idakho and Maragoli – each with its unique language, rituals, ceremonies, folklore and cuisine. By the same token, Kakamega has many top-rate cultural festivals. It’s against this backdrop that the riveting Kakamega Bull-fighting Festival, held annually at the Malinya Stadium, continues to draw large numbers. The underlying theme of this fierce bullfight is bringing together the sub-cultures of Kakamega, and visitors to the county, to celebrate cultural diversity. In recent times, the Malinya Stadium in Ikolomani, alongside Bukhungu Stadium, in Lurambi, and Mumboha Stadium, in Luanda, have undergone substantial revamping to interest more trippers to the festivals and events in Kakamega County. This is located 15 kms south of Kakamega Town via A1 Kakamega-Kisumu Road and Sigalagala-Malinya Road.

21. Nabongo Cultural Centre

The Nabongo Cultural Centre in Matungu whoops-up the Wanga Community, more proper the Abawanga, who are a “Nation of the Luhya Community” and the last remaining historical kingdom within modern-day Kenya. Today, the “Abawangas” number around 732,000 and survive the Nabongo King as their cultural monarch. The current Nabongo is Peter Mumia II. Historically, the Wanga Kingdom was the most highly developed and centralized kingdom in Kenya’s, until the advent of the British Era in the 1900’s. Started in 2008, the Nabongo Cultural Centre depicts the past, present, and future ways of the long-standing Nabongo Kingdom. It’s found about 35 kms west of Kakamega Town at Eshiembekho, in Matungu, along the Eshitinge-Esumeiya Road that passes through Eshibuli Market, Shianda Center, Mumias Town, and Matungu Center.

The Wanga Kingdom is a confederation of 22 co-equal clandoms called Tsihanga which traditionally were in turn divided into tsimbia (singular oluhyia). Tsimbia were divided into tsingongo (singular olukongo). The common denominator of administration at all levels except the family, was the clan Council of Elders (Abakofu bakali or Abakali be Lizokho) headed by a chief or Liguru.

22. Hamptons City

The Shs. 200 Billion Hamptons City project in Butere Sub-County is arguably the largest leisure and living project in Kakamega County.  Started in 2015, the multi-billion Hamptons City project (effectuated in four phases) has put Butere on the limelight. Its phase 1, of shopping and residential complexes, is already operational. Its phase 2, of the 5000-beds capacity referral hospital, with over 70 kms of bitumen roads, and more than 300 solar street lights, is ongoing. Its phase 3, which includes a 36-hole golf course, an up-market residential area, an airport, a shopping mall, and a convention centre kicked-off in January 2018.

View of Ikhongo Murue (Ctrying Stone of Ilesi).  Photo Courtesy of Nation MG
View of Ikhongo Murue (Crying Stone of Ilesi). Image Courtesy of NMG

Geography of Kakamega County

The altitudes of Kakamega County stretches from 1,240 ms to 2,000 ms. The southern part of the County is hilly and is made up of rugged granites, rising in places to 1,950 ms.  There are also several noteworthy hills in Kakamega County such as Misango, Imanga, Eregi, Butieri, Sikhokhochole, Mawe Tatu, Bunyangi, Lirhanda and Kiming’ini Hills, among others. There are seven main rivers in Kakamega County: the Nzoia, Yala, Lusumu, Isikhu, Sasala, Viratsi and Sivilie.

Land Use in Kakamega County

Kakamega County has two main ecological zones – Upper Medium and Lower Medium. The Upper Medium covers the central and northern parts, comprised of the areas around Lurambi, Malava, Shinyalu and Ikolomani, where intensive maize, beans and horticultural farming are the main stay trade, and on a lesser scale in Lugari and Likuyani where large scale farming is practiced. The second ecological zone of Lower Medium, covers a major portion of the southern part of the county, which includes, Mumias, Matungu and Butere and Khwisero. In this zone, the main activity is sugarcane production, with some farmers growing maize, sweet potatoes, tea, ground nuts and cassava production on a large scale.

Highlights in Kakamega County

Kakamega County has one National Park, no Game Reserves and two camping sites. The Kakamega National Reserve is its biggest tourist attraction, because of the large species of birds, butterflies and other animals species. Kakamega has a total area of 244.25 km2 of gazetted forest. Other touring attractions include bull fighting in Khayega and Ikolomani, cock fighting in Shinyalu, the dog market in Lubao, the crying stone in Ilesi, Lukova in Matete and Mawe Tatu in Likuyani. Kakamega County is also hosts the Nabongo Cultural Centre.

Population in Kakamega County

Kakamega County had an average population density of 587 people/km2 in 2012, projected to increase to 633 and 665 people/km2 in 2015 and 2017 respectively.  According to the 2009 Population and Housing Census, the county had a population of 1,660,651 projected at 1,929,401 and 2,028,325 by 2015 and 2017 respectively.  Kakamega Town is its most populous urban centre, with its core-urban having a population of 69,502; while the least populous of its urban centre is Lumakanda, with a total population of 2,510.  Other fairly large towns include Mumias, Malava, Butere, Lumakanda, and Moi‘s Bridge.

View of Rondo Retreat in Kakamega Forest Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
Rondo Retreat in Kakamega Forest. Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

Airports in Kakamega County

Kakamega County has two unused airstrips at Kakamega and Mumias Towns.

Roads in Kakamega County

Kakamega County has a total of 3500 kms road network of which, 260 kms is of bitumen standard, while gravel surface covers 1,701 kms and the earth surface covers 1389 kms. Most of these roads in are impassable in the rainy season.

Climate in Kakamega County

Although altitudes varies from 1,240 ms, in the western areas, to 2,000 ms in the eastern area, on top of Nandi Scarp, the climate is more or less equable over the county. Rainfall is adequate and well distributed, annual averages varying between sixty and seventy-five inches, with the highest averages tending to be found in the central portion of the area. Rainfall in Kakamega County is evenly distributed all year round, with March and July receiving heavy rains, while, December and February receive light rains. The temperatures range from 18 to 29 C. January to March are the hottest while June to August are its cold spells.

Kakamega County Distance Chart
Kakamega County Distance Chart

View of the Mawe Tatu Hill.  Photo Courtesy of Joe Karanja
View of the Mawe Tatu Hill. Image Courtesy of Joe Karanja

National Monuments in Kakamega County

  1. Muliro Gardens

Kakamega County Map

Kakamega County Map