Kisumu County

Discover Kisumu County

Kenyatta Sports Ground with Lake Victoria in the background.  Photo Courtesy
Kenyatta Sports Ground with Lake Victoria in the background. Image Courtesy

Brief Overview of Kisumu County

On the map of Kenya, Kisumu, the heart of the west, occupies only a small area, but few counties belong so vibrantly to Kenya’s expanding tourism circuits. Its compactness and its impressive variety enable holiday-makers to pack in many exciting interests which, elsewhere in Kenya, would require much more travel and planning. It is in the nucleus of the Lake Victoria Basin, its entire southern boundary of about 40 kms straddling the innermost part of the funnel-shaped Kavirondo Gulf coastal indentation on the Lake. The road system and position is the best in Western Kenya, and a series of fashionable hotels are attractively sited throughout the County. Along the shores of Lake Victoria you will find no less than a dozen pleasant resorts from where you can wallow in its splendours.

2 kms south of Kisumu City it to be found a pleasant haunt of aquatic birds at Kisumu Bird Sanctuary.  Through the breeding season, multitudes of birds nest here to forge a birding haven. A birding trip easily combined with blissful walks round Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. As evening falls, the lake-shore facing resorts offer first-rate sunsets. Among the variety of attractions are its chain of islands. The Ndere Island National Park on the western border of Kisumu has a sizable concentration of wildlife like the semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope, waterbuck, impala and warthog. Ndere is one of least nine islands within Kisumu’s frontier in company with Maboko, Nyakagera, Imra, Awange, Aliech, Awiti, Samasa and Rambugu. A trip further inland, to the base of Kit Mikayi, one of its launches, is an unforgettable treat that offers superb facilities for viewing and photography.

For a better perspective of Kisumu County, the area can be split into five zones: Muhoroni, Kano Plain, Nyabondo Plateau, Nyakach and Maseno. Travelling northwest from Nairobi, along A104 Mombasa-Uganda Road onto the B1 Mau-Summit-Kisumu Road, the terrain drastically changes after Kericho. Suddenly, you begin to descent steeply, it becomes warmer, as the land levels into a plain with a loss in altitude from 2,438 ms (8,000 ft) at Kericho to 1,135 ms (3,726 ft) at Lake Victoria. Past the sugarcane fields at Muhoroni, one finds themselves at Kano Plains, which forms the floor of a smaller Rift Valley with the precipitous Nandi Escarpment in the background; which stretches away toward Kakamega.

Marching alongside the Nandi Escarpment is the Kendu Fault, that bound the Nyabondo Plataeu and Nyakach, across from Kano Plain – famous for its scenic rice paddies. A few minutes later, one arrives at Kisumu City, situated on a low hill that eventually rolls down to meet Lake Victoria.  All its building are mostly grouped on this hill; with exception of its harbour facility and oil storage tanks.  The excellent lake shore, which once helped Kisumu City become the major lake port of East Africa, now serves as an excellent touring attraction. As you leave Kisumu, either towards Kakamega or to Busia, the granite country commences, characterized by the presence of tors and locally by the widespread bouldery outcrops of granite. These dominate the landscapes to Maseno, and to Majengo.

Salient Features of Kisumu County

  • County Number 42
  • Area – 2086 km2
  • Altitude – 3711 ft
  • Major Towns – Ahero, Kisumu, Maseno
  • Borders – Siaya, Vihiga, Homabay, Nandi, Kericho, Nyamira

Brief History of Kisumu County

Kisumu’s early importance grew as a result of its becoming the railhead of the Mombasa Railway, in 1903.  Before the new railway from Nakuru to Uganda was completed, Kisumu Town was an important lake port, handling much of the trade of both Uganda and of north-western Tanzania. Once the Mombasa-Uganda Railway was built, much of Kisumu’s usefulness quickly disappeared, but she would later expand and regain her glory, becoming an essential hub. Kisumu is now third largest city and one of the most travelled touring hot-spot.

View at Ndere Island National Park.  Photo Courtesy
View at Ndere Island National Park. Image Courtesy

Places of Interest in Kisumu County

1. Londiani-Koru-Awasi Route

If the object of your journey aims for Kisumu, and beyond, the Londiani-Koru-Awasi route provides a great alternative away from the busy B1 Mau Summit-Kericho-Kisumu Road. At Londiani, 9 kms from Mau Summit turnoff, taking a right turn, a splendid tarred highway meandering up and down as it navigates from the highlands to the lower-lying lake region also cuts back the journey by 8 kms. Londiani stands astride the verge of the two rift valleys – Kavirondo Rift Valley (a fault trough extending westwards to the shores of Lake Victoria) with the Great Rift Valley. This 71 kms stretch of road that also passes the dome of Tinderet, Nandi Hills and the conical hills near Koru, offers stupefying views of a primitive undulating landscape. Then, there’s the beauty of old colonial towns marked by antiquated colonial houses, which tell the story of a bygone epoch as does the old colonial railway. There is also the scenic Bonjoge National Reserve.

2. Nyando Sugar Belt

Generally speaking, Western Kenya block has six major sugar factories – Nzoia, Mumias, Kabras, Chemelil, Muhoroni and SONY. In Kisumu County, Chemilil and Muhoroni Sugar Companies are located along the upper reaches of Nyando catchment – a 3600 km2 microcosm around Kavirondo Gulf directly influenced by Lake Victoria – where more than 5,000 outgrowers in Muhoroni Sub-county at Koru, Muhoroni, Chemilil and Fort Ternan collectively put sugarcane under cultivation over a 300 km2 patch of land between Nandi Escarpment and Kano Plains. Ergo, the Nyando Sugar Belt, stretching for miles on miles between Fort Ternan and Awasi, is indubitably composed of over 10,000 farms, to integrate a property in the horizon that is delightful for the traveller. “This is the best part of these men’s farms, yet to this their land-deeds give them no title”. The C35 Londiani-Koru-Awasi Road offers unprecedented views of these farms. Another exciting way to discern the beauty of Nyando Sugar Belt is to take a detour off the B1 at Awasi turning right towards Muhoroni, up the hills, past Muhoroni Sugar Factory, onward through the enormous roundabout near Chemilil Sugar Factory, before re-joining the B1 Mau Summit-Kericho-Kisumu Road at Ahero. Notable interests along this road include Luanda Magere Site and Songhor Site.

The first sugarcane factory was set up in Miwani in 1922, then Ramisi in 1927 and Muhoroni in 1966; followed by Chemelil in 1968, Mumias 1973, Nzoia 1978 and Sony 1979.

3. Luanda Magere Site

Luanda Magere Site – also spelt as Lwanda Magere – is thought to be the final resting place for the fearless and indestructible Luanda Magere: the lionhearted warrior who belonged to the Sidho Clan that dominated the area around Kano Plains and Nyando Escarpment. Luanda Magere is immortalized as a fearless leader who led his people to many war engagements against the Nandi. The site itself is marked by hulking stacked rocks, symbolic of his prodigious strength. Luanda in the native Luo means ‘rock’, while Magere loosely translates to ‘the one that builds’. Or again, ‘the one on which I shall build’. This is an important cultural shrine for the Luo Community and a hotspot for traditional rites. Call him myth, but this megastar still features in many tribal traditions, indigenous stories and fables. From December 2018 to July 2019, Luanda Magere was one of 28 legends (out of which 10 are women) featured in the Shujaa Stories – a travelling exhibition that engaged viewers through a journey of 400+ years of Kenya’s pre-colonial icons (shujaas) put up by the Kenya National Museums in partnership with Nature Kenya and Tatu Creatives Ltd. Luanda Magere Site is found about 18 kms from Awasi turnoff, and 2 kms before Chemilil roundabout.

Distance between Awasi (B1 Kericho-Kisumu Road) to Chemilil Roundabout
Distance between Awasi (B1 Kericho-Kisumu Road) to Chemilil Roundabout

4. Mberere Holy Springs

Although these springs are situated within Kimwani Agricultural Development Corporation, past Chemilil Sugar Factory, they require some asking around to pinpoint, through a maze of footpaths in the sugar farms. By the same token, the area is an odd place to find pretty and peaceful springs of sparkling water. “At a corner, by a tall tree, these springs bubble and flow through the grove and into the plantations”. Mberere Holy Springs have been for millennia a source of “holy water” for the regionally popular Legio Maria Sect, and members of the sect are often found praying around this shrine: “A young man comes in quietly clothed in a bright yellow robe. He prays kneeling at the altar, then moves to the fork in a tree where he continues in silence, oblivious of us. Stepping out of the grove into bright sunlight, the nearest hill is another place of worship with a few caves to choose from, but in this heat I am in no mood to tackle it. – Rupi Mangat. These springs offer an unusual trip, equal parts cultural passage and a nature affair. Of course, there are many fascinating and obscure values attached to the water at Mberere, like medicinal value to cure some cancers and ulcers. It is found near Chemilil-Makutano roundabout along C37 Chemilil-Kopere Road.

5. Kopere Rocks

Quite unmistakable, towering along the Chemilil-Kopere-Songhor Road about 12 kms northeast of Chemilil are the Kopere Rocks, popularly dubbed as Mawe ya Mungu – “a stack of rock columns piled up a hillock, as if someone chiselled them and then piled them up and forgot about them” – Rupi Mangat. When the Chemelil-Kopere-Songhor road was being cleared for construction in the 1950s, the surveyors found these rocks and left them unharmed. They are located a few minutes drive before Songhor Pre-historic Site. From Kopere Shopping Centre northerly heading along C37 Kopere-Chemilil-Kimwani-Nandi Hills Road, over Nyando Escarpment, the road finally terminates at Nandi Hills Town (in Nandi County) 21 kms away. The drive across the farmlands and over the escarpment is a wildly beautiful one, with out-and-out roadside views of a rugged landscape strewn with girthy boulders jutting out all-over, some reaching up to 2,500 ms.

6. Songhor Pre-historic Site

This is located about 14 kms northeast of the Chemilil / Makutano roundabout via C37 Chemilil-Kopere Road passing Chemilil Sugar Factory, and Kopere-Songhor Road, taking a right turnoff at Kopere Shopping Centre. The 78-acres Songhor Pre-historic Site is located at the foot of Nandi Escarpment, and it was gazetted in 1982 as a national monument owing to its importance in the study of the Miocene Era, 19 Mya. The hominids excavated here point to the existence of man and a variety of animals thriving in this area during the antiquated past. The evidence also indicates that the ape-like-man proconsul Africanus lived at Songhor. Although there is very little to separate this site from its surrounding grassy landscape, apart from a modest timber-built research base, and offers little for tourism, Songhor is still an active research base frequented by experts, especially anthropologists and paleontologists studying the Miocene Era. It is situated 50 kms east of Kisumu City via C34 Mamboleo-Miwani-Chemilil Road.

Spatial Location of Songhor Pre-historic Site.
Spatial Location of Songhor Pre-historic Site.

7. Kano Plains

The more popular route to Kisumu is to follow the B1 from Mau Summit for 46 kms to Kericho and then 84 kms to Kisumu. 31 kms from Kericho, the turnoff to Awasi – where the C35 Londiani-Koru-Awasi Road rejoins the B1 – is reached. Although it has no signage, this road section is manned by policing foot patrol, and roadblocks consisting of a sign in the middle of the road and two battons of spikes staggered across the lanes. Speed limit from here to Awasi is limited to 50 kph and a radar-speed-trap is in operation more often than not. Akin to else where in Kenya, motorists are advised to develop a good sense and judgement in their dealings with police here, and would be well advised to use courtesy and good humour as their general pitch. 10 kms beyond the turnoff, through Awasi, you pass the turnoff to Chemilil (right) and C19 Awasi-Kendu Bay-Homa Bay Road (left) before arriving at Kano Plains. In the background, the sugarcane farmlands and Nyando Escarpment dominate the scene, and in the foreground rice, a more petit member of the grass family, spreads out for miles in ‘paddies’.

Geologically the Kano Plain forms part of the Kavirondo Rift Valley, which is a down faulted area filled with sediments of Pleistocene to Recent age. This small rift branches from the principal north-south oriented Great Rift Valley system, swinging east-west and north-east to south-west towards Lake Victoria. In the south the Kavirondo Rift is bounded by the Kanyamwa and Kendu Faults which show maximum throw of 300 ms, and the northern boundary is terminated by Nyando Escarpment or Fault. The fairly flat Kano Plains, which is criss-crossed by Rivers Nyando, Kundos and Miriu, was established as Ahero Pilot Project in 1966. The first and, until now, the largest scheme is Mwea irrigation Scheme which is mirrored at Kano, the second largest in Kenya. Both occupy about 82 km2 which accounts for 90% of the total domestic production. Depending on the season, the Kano Plains ranges from dry irrigation canals, to a muddy flat, and at its apotheosis, when the rice paddies are in full bloom, a sweeping green terrace. Kavirondo Rift is one of the main geological feature in Kisumu County.

The Kavirondo Rift Valley is marked by the Nandi and Kendu Escarpments in the north and south, respectively. It measures 250km in length and 25 to 30km in width, forming a graben structure bounded by normal faults.

8. Nyando Escarpment

Stretched out for 25 kms, Nyando Escarpment which reaches 1800 ms at the highest point and which forms part of the hill where Kisumu City is set, marks the unofficial boundary between Kisumu and Nandi Counties. Its rugged facade offers a scenically-splendid roadside interest seen as you cross Kano Plains, and doubles as a well-liked hiking trail that culminates at ‘monkey rock’ – a superb vantage point with vistas of Kisumu, Lake Victoria and Nyando Sugar Belt. The Escarpment has gained unwelcome notoriety owing to the inter-tribal clashes between the Luo and Nandi. Still, it lacks very little in scenic beauty. The trail to hike up Nyando Escarpment commences at Miwani, 21 kms from Kisumu City.

The undertones from the Nandi community points to the fact that; the communal boundary has been moved up from Awasi to Chemelil, translating to occupation of the Luo in what ‘deservedly’ belongs to the Nandi Tribe. Secondly, de-gazette and revert back to Nandi naming of the localities within their areas. What is now gazzetted as the Nyando Escarpment should rightfully be called Nandi Escarpment.

9. Nandi Rock

Nandi Rock is arguably the most approved of all interests at Bonjoge National Reserve. With a birds-eye view of the Nyando Sugar Belt, Kano Plains and Lake Victoria it is almost guaranteed success, yet, in addition it really is full of great sights. Along its moderate gradient, which can be trekked by anyone of who is generally fit including children, the landscape is typified by a striking craggy topography with eye-catching rock formations, most notably of the Nandi Rock found at the summit. It is the most prominent rock formation along the whole length of the Nyando (Nandi) Escarpment. The very top of the Nandi Rock can be scaled via a short 30 metres chimney by the very experienced climber but, the lower monkey rock provides a most impressive and indelible viewing deck. It takes on average 6 hours (round-trip) to scout Nandi Rock. To get there from Kisumu City, take the A1 Kisumu-Kakamega Road onto Kibos Road to Makini School at Miwani (15 kms). This is the preferred jumping-off place and motorist can request temporary parking at the school. Bonjoge’s generally dry climate and rocky underfoot implies that the paths are passable practically year-round.

10. Nyabondo Plateau

The colluvial slopes ( or lava plateaus) of the Nyabondo Plateau overlooking the pressed-down Kavirondo Rift – that results from the minor East-West Nyanza Rift and Faults – also forms the western edge of Kano Plains and runs parallel to the Nyando Escarpment. In fact, the Kano Plains are enclosed between these two significant landmarks. It offers a pretty phenomenal viewpoint that is well worth a detour to this back-country. The main attraction here is the God Mesa Viewpoint with stunning vistas of the Kano Plains, Waradho Hills, Kisumu City, Lake Victoria, Nyando Sugar Belt and Nyando Escarpment. From Awasi, there are two options to reach God Mesa; either via Awasi-Katito Road heading south after Awach Center along the A1 or, along the A1 Kisumu-Ahero-Kisumu Road through Awach. Either way, both are about 47 kms from Awasi to Nyabondo. From Kisumu City, God Mesa Site is about 55 kms away, southeasterly heading.

Spatial Location of Nyabondo in Kisumu County
Spatial Location of Nyabondo in Kisumu County

11. Odino Falls

The leveled Kano Plains is crossed by Rivers Nyando, Kundos and Sondu Miriu River, which are three of the six cardinal rivers in the Lake Victoria basin. Miriu and Nyando Rivers have their headwaters at Mau Forest Reserve, while Kundos River rises in Nandi Hills to forms a major tributary of Nyando River along with Pararget and Ainamutua Rivers. From Kano Plains, Nyando trends just north of west to pours its waters into the Kavirondo Gulf at Nyando Wetlands. Seriatim, the Miriu flows just south of west through Sondu to the flood-plains of Sango and Nyakwere draining into Lake Victoria at Osodo Bay, in Homa Bay County. From Kano Plains, Miriu River flows through narrowed gorges in the southern escapements of the Nyabondo or Nyakach Plateaus; then meanders and swirls through a slender gorge and cascades as Odino Falls. It then runs-of-the-river at the Sondu Miriu Hydroelectric Power Station. The community attaches a lot of cultural values and beliefs to the photogenic Odino Falls. According to locals, the Odino Falls is the harbinger of good and bad omen, affluence, abundance, and even quietus. It is located around Miriu along the Kisumu-Homa Bay Road.

12. Nyando Wetland

The Nyando Wetland occurs on the Kano Plains at the mouth of Nyando River and along the shores of Lake Victoria. The Kano Plains occupy two thirds of the lower half of the Nyando River catchment. Over the plains, its vast micro-relief consists of broad swellings and troughs, with the winding channels of Nyando River crossing the lower areas. At the mouth of Nyando River, it is contiguous with many papyrus dominated lakeshore wetlands forming the second largest wetland (14,400ha) on the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria. During the dry season, base flows in the rivers and streams are considerably reduced, resulting in the drying up of large sections of the wetlands. Nyando Wetland is diverse and rich with flora and fauna including the Kisumu Bird Sanctuary, and Okana Wetland.

13. Kisumu Museum

From Awasi it is a 41 kms journey to Kisumu City, through Ahero Centre where the River Nyando Bridge is crossed and the dormitory outskirts settlements of Nyamasaria and Nyalenda before arriving at Kisumu. Of a more recent period is the bypass midway between Nyamasaria and Nyalenda that diverts traffic away from the main town onto A1 Kisumu-Vihiga Road and B1 Kisumu-Busia Road. Shortly after Nyalenda you pass Mega City Shopping Mall (left) and just 300 ms ahead, passing CITAM Kisumu Church (left), sits Kisumu Museum. Started in 1980, it stores and showcases information in didactic panels illustrating useful insights on both local cultures and scientific matters, with emphasis on the Luo Tribe. As it happens, the Kisumu Museum is a convenient first stop at Kisumu where travellers can fast-track their wits and knowledge on social histories and cultural calisthenics. Some of the key interests include a traditional Luo cultural village (with audio guides), gallery hall exhibition, an aquarium and a snake pit.

14. Kisumu Impala Sanctuary

This is located just 3.1 kms from Kisumu Museum via Busia Road onto Awour Otieno Road and Tom Mboya Road. It can also be easily reached using various options on the labyrinthine network of roads in Milimani including via Achieng Oneko-Harambee Roads and Ring Road-Harambee Roads. Gazetted in 1992 as a national sanctuary, the 1 km2 Kisumu Impala Sanctuary set along the eastern shores of Kavirondo Gulf hosts an impressive variety. It was primarily set up a holding area for animals that require special protection and care, in this fast-growing region. It also provides a safe and sound grazing area for hippos from Lake Victoria. It sits across from Kisumu International Airport, on the western side of the Gulf, and north of Dunga Beach. Hallmarked as “a lake shore walk with the impalas”, a term derived from the herds of impalas which roam freely in the sanctuary, it offers a pleasant afternoon’s trip. The sanctuary has plenty of other animals to include: hogs, ostriches, monkeys, jackals, hyenas, duickers, hippos, zebras, lions and cheetahs, and over 115 bird species recorded. It offers a surprisingly pleasant game viewing experience far more than its size suggests.

15. Impala Ecolodge

For visitors to Kisumu Impala Sanctuary who can’t tear themselves away from this miniature paradise, Impala Ecolodge has been built in the northern corner of the sanctuary. This offers comfortable accommodation in six locally-themed detached and tastefully furnished cottages, all fitted with balconies looking-out to Lake Victoria. Other amenities include a bar, gardens, outdoor pool, sun deck and shared lounge. Hugging the shores of Lake Victoria, this cozy and secluded lodge is a swanky base from where one can explore the Western Kenya Circuit. In addition to enjoying its repose, guests can take part in angling, nature walks, boating or explore nearby interests like Kisumu Yatch Club and the Kiboko Bay.

Spatial Location of Kisumu Impala Ecolodge in Kisumu County
Spatial Location of Kisumu Impala Ecolodge in Kisumu County

16. Kisumu Yatch Club

This is situated next-door to Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. Established in 1938 as the premier sailing club in Kisumu County, Kisumu Yatch Club which is open to the public is a debonair and popular hangout hallowed for its memorable views, merriment, great service, meals and sports. Trippers to Kisumu Yatch Club can enjoy various sailing events, fishing excursions, boat rides to the Ndere Island National Park, spotting hippos from the comfort of the leisurely gazebos and birding; or simply just lazing on the pretty lawns interspersed with gazebos or in their common sitting spaces. It is open daily between 9:00 am and 10:00 pm.

17. Tich Kouma

Tich Kouma, the community based organization founded to conserve the Dunga Wetland utilizing an integrated bio-diversity conservation model – aquaculture, forest-planting and eco-tourism development programs – is a noble initiative nearby Kisumu Impala Sanctuary that is well worth a drop-in. At present, Tich Kouma has rehabilitated 1 ½ acres of this vital wetland biosphere and planted diversified tree species in their appealing eco-campsite. Travellers who fancy volunteering for conservation projects will find the experience at Tich Kouma quite enriching, all done from the comfort of their 100% eco-friendly campsite.

18. Hippo Point

This is found midpoint between Kisumu Yatch Club and the Kiboko Bay Resort along the shores of Lake Victoria. This 600-acres open viewing point for Lake Victoria, which is revered for its great sunsets, is a notable stopover on any trip that takes to Kiboko Bay or to Dunga Beach. Hippo Point is especially popular for tailgating parties, where revelers get to the enjoy the magnificent sunsets. From Hippo Point, trippers can easily drop-in at the Dunga Hill Camp where there are abounding hop-on, hop-off traditional boat taxis offering quick tours along the shores of Lake Victoria. Other places of interest nearby Hippo Point include: Kisumu Yacht Club, Kiboko Bay, Dunga Beach, and Dunga Boardwalk.

19. Kiboko Bay Resort

The appeal of the suburbia area of Milimani is capped by the sprawl of up to par accommodation options in hotels and self-catering villas. One of its long-lived and well-liked establishments is Kiboko Bay Resort set at the heart of the avi-fauna rich shores of Lake Victoria. Best-known for its time-honored watering hole, masterful locally-themed design with thatched roofs, tropical landscaping, cozy lounges and great service, it has been a leading institution in Kisumu City’s hospitality industry for decades – both as a day-outing launch and as a weekend hideout. It is located north of Dunga Hill and Dunga Beach with top-rated views of Lake Victoria. Callers to Kiboko Bay Resort get to enjoy excursions to Dunga Fishing Village abode the luxurious Marion’s Lake Cruises boat taxis, birding, tours to Kisumu Impala Sanctuary or relishing the beyond-money sun-downers at their beautifully-appointed jetty. It is located about 5 kms from Kisumu City.

20. Marion’s Lake Cruises

These 15-seater-comfort-boats launched in November of 2015, and boarded at the Kiboko Bay Resort, are a much sought-after hop-on hop-off water taxi safari exploit which offer one hour cruises on Lake Victoria. Especially worth a trip at sunset, Marion’s Lake Cruises offers a new way to survey Lake Victoria’s beauty. Trips include sightseeing the chain of islands along the Kavirondo Gulf, sunset cruising, fishing trips and hippo spotting near Hippo Point, Dunga Hill, Dunga Beach and at Nanga. Marion’s lake cruises begin and end at Kiboko Bay Resort.

21. Kisumu Watersports Academy

Kisumu Watersports Academy, which was founded as a public and  community-use recreation centre, focuses on promoting both competitive and recreational watersports like rowing, canoeing and swimming. Their Kids Active Programs helps kids grow their skills in the water and built their confidence and positive self-image.  Kisumu Watersports is open to members and non-members, and the academy has half-day and full-day camps, with emphasize on having fun as you learn aquatic skills. It’s located along Dunga Beach Road near Dunga Point.

22. Kisumu Bird Sanctuary

Between April and May, the plenteous swamps around Lake Victoria become a central breeding ground for a throng of bird species. Among the most notable species are the breeding colonies of cranes, herons, storks, cormorants and egret, which are among the umpteen of swarms which flock the Kisumu Bird Sanctuary that is unofficially tagged as the areas around Dunga Hill and Beach.

23. Dunga Boardwalk

This is one of the newest additions to Kisumu circuit and is most accessible via Achieng Oneko and Harambee Roads, passing Kisumu Impala Sanctuary and Dunga Hill Camp. Prior to the construction of the 850ms Dunga Boardwalk, the papyrus-fringed Dunga Wetland was best-known for the flush biodiversity and cultural sway as a fishing haven. Completed in 2017, it ranks among the stellar boardwalks in Kenya in company with Saiwa Swamp National Park’s Boardwalk (in Trans Nzoia County), Wasini Island Coral Boardwalk (in Kwale County) and Mida Creek Boardwalk (in Kilifi County). Dunga Boardwalk takes adventure-makers appreciably close by to its delicate eco-system which collectively covers 110-hectares and stretching 5 kms along Kavirondo Gulf. The development of this eco-tourism attraction has shed light on the sleepy Dunga fishing village by harnessing the timeless impression of Dunga Beach and the valuable wetlands of Kisumu County. Dunga Boardwalk is located just 6 kms from Mega City Mall.

Spatial Location of Dunga Beach and Dunga Boardwalk in Kisumu County
Spatial Location of Dunga Beach and Dunga Boardwalk in Kisumu County

24. Lake Victoria

Many visitors to the 68,800 km2 Lake Victoria – the world’s second largest lake after Canada’s Lake Superior – stop over for a meal at one of two beaches in the northern end of the Kavirondo Gulf. The famous lake spanning 400 kms north-south and 240 kms east-west is reached at the end of Oginga-Odinga Road, the main road within Kisumu City. The sight of Lake Victoria, locally known as the “Nam Lolwe” in Luo and “Victoria Nyanza” in Bantu, is especially memorable for first-time visitors to this region. Although only 6% of it sits in Kenya – with Tanzania and Uganda splitting 51% and 43% respectively – it’s the most notable feature of Western Kenya in the five counties (Busia, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori and Kisumu) whose borders extend into the Kavirondo Gulf. A visit here offers the chance to marvel at Africa’s largest lake and assess how it has influenced the lives of communities living around it. Over 30 million people in five countries share and effect resources of Lake Victoria, as a source of food, energy, source of domestic and farming water, transport, recreation and as a waste respository.

25. Car Wash Beach

While Car Wash Beach, sometimes known as Lwang’ni Beach or Kisumu Beach, is little more than a series of iron clad kiosk bandas, its well-known fish dishes, which are the star here, are simply faultless. By the the same token, its spirited ambiance is very stimulating and it has been a melting-pot for ‘fish-lovers’ for decades. There is a more conventional and hushed resort at Tilapia Beach, just 1 km from Car Wash Beach, but very few trippers to Car Wash Beach easily forget the experience. This is pure unadulterated Kisumu in all its pomp and madness. As such, this bustling no-frills sea-side eatery, doubling as a car wash, has been an iconic locale of Kisumu where people from all walks of life cheerfully mingle.

26. Kisumu Port

Before the advent of the British East African Railway comically dubbed as the Lunatic Express, in 1903, trade within East Africa depended primarily on the Kisumu Port, which now connects Kisumu with Luanda K’Otieno, Kendu Bay, Homa Bay and Mbita. In a bid to recapture its former glory, plans are in place to put up a new sea-port at the time-honoured Kisumu Port and lengthen the standard gauge line being built from Mombasa to Kisumu, that is expected to grow the financial enterprise of Kisumu. A casual visit to Kisumu Port is akin to visiting a storehouse where time has stood still, and where the history buff can deciphers the anachronism of the pretty-as-an-old-picture olden port with an undying devotion for water travel. It is located 1 kms south of Car Wash Beach and is reached along Kendu Lane onto Marine Drive, off Oginga Odinga Road.

Originally established as a virtual gallery selling art online, the Little Art Gallery eventually opened its exhibition gallery in 2014, where art-work from leading artists in Kenya and upcoming stars is displayed. Little Art Gallery is focused on promoting the understanding of Kenyan art and broadening the support base of Kenyan art collectors. The Little Art Gallery Kisumu is found near Kisumu Port. “The official launch of The Little Art Gallery was last weekend. The venue itself was one lengthy spacious showcase filled with well-hung paintings by Nairobi-based artists, such as Michael Soi, Alex Mbevo, Dennis Muraguri, Yassir Ali and Adil Roufi as well as a number of Kisumu artists such as Eric Ayoti, Edward Orato and Willis Otieno” – Margaretta Gacheru (May, 2014) for Nation Media.

28. Kavirondo Gulf

“Lake Victoria’s shoreline of 3,500 kms is convoluted, enclosing innumerable small, shallow bays and inlets, majority of which include swamps and wetlands, which differ a great deal from each other and from the lake itself”. In Kenya, the 552 kms long funnel-shaped shoreline of Kavirondo Gulf extends 64 kms from Kisumu City, its northern most point, to the Rusinga Channel which connects it to the main lake. It has an average width of 25 kms, 3 kms at its narrowest and 100 kms at its broadest, with a maximum recorded depth of 64 ms. There are at least nine Islands lined along the Kavirondo Gulf – Ndere, Maboko, Nyakagera, Imra, Awange, Aliech, Awiti, Samasa and Rambugu. Most of these islands were discovered in the 1930’s, and now well-known by boat taxi operators. Some of the notable bays include Naya Bay, Nyakach Bay, Osodo Bay, Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Ruri Bay, Mirunda Bay, Asembo Bay and Olambwe Bay. The main rivers discharging at the Gulf are: Nzoia, Gucha-Migori, Sondu, Yala, Nyando and Sio.

29. St. Theresa’s Cathedral

This is found nearby Kibuye Market along the A1 Kisumu-Kakamega Road, 3.5 kms northeast from the Mega City Shopping Mall. Established as the Apostolic Prefecture of Kavirondo, from the Apostolic Vicariate of the Upper Nile set in Uganda, in 1925, the fine-looking roughcast-red-brick Cathedral is one of the oldest in Kisumu City. It is everything you could wish for in a Cathedral: bold and striking design with sharp angular walls, large grouped tracery windows with stained glass, spire and pinnacle and ornate interior. It originally served as a missionary base for the entire Kavirondo region as Christianity delved further into the hinterland. It was an offshoot of Victoria Nyanza Vicariate – present-day Archdioceses of Kampala – established in Uganda in 1883 and later re-established as the Upper Nile Vicariate in 1894. On July 13, 1894, the Holy See erected the Upper Nile Vicariate dividing it from Victoria Nyanza Vicariate and entrusted it to the Mill Hill Missionaries. St. Theresa’s Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu. As per 2014, it served 898,036 Catholics over an area of 4,616 km2, in 41 parishes, scattered throughout Western Kenya.

30. Nyanza Golf Club

There are two major roads radiating out of Kisumu City, the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road and the A1 Kisumu-Vihiga Road. The A1 travels north through Kakamega before heading west from Webuye Town as A104 through Bungoma to Malaba border point, 154 kms away. The B1 travels northwesterly through Maseno, Yala and Bumala to terminate at the Busia border point, 112 kms away. Shortly after leaving Kisumu along B1 Kisumu-Busia Road, one arrives at Nyanza Golf Club. It is set on the northwestern edge of Kavirondo Gulf across from Tilapia Beach, and is one of a handful of waterfront golf courses in Kenya. Founded in 1930 as a members-only club offering sporting facilities to its members and guests, its main attraction is the 9-hole golf course measuring 6,211 yards with a par of 70. One of the highlights is Kisat River which meanders through the course. Daily membership and temporary membership are offered to guests. It’s located 2.5 kms from the main town along Oginga Odinga and Mumias Roads onto the B1.

Spatial Location of Nyanza Golf Club in Kisumu County
Spatial Location of Nyanza Golf Club in Kisumu County

31. Kisumu War Cemetery

The Kisumu War Civil Cemetery situated within range of the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road holds the remains of 65 World War 1 and II war heroes – from 1915-1948. Among the remains contained here are those of 9 German soldiers brought in 1914. “This is a civil cemetery used for War burials (chiefly by the No.4 Base Hospital) from July 1915 up until September 1920. There are 9 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war, 4 were brought in after the Armistice, there are 9 German burials, all of the September 12th, 1914, which were brought from Kisii Boma. There are also 47 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-1945 war”. Kisumu War Cemetery is open Monday to Friday, from 06:00 am and 6:00 pm.  It is found 500 ms past the exit to Kisumu Airport nearby Ministry of Works Depot.

32. Riat-Kajulu Hills

As you head further from the City Centre, the fascinating rock strewn landscape offers amusing scenery, specially over the shoulder of the Riat-Kajulu Hills and the subsequent hillocks along the B1. Just a few decades ago, these hills were unpeopled with only a paucity of far-between houses. Fast-forward to date, with the completion and upgrading of most road networks in Western Kenya and the imminent real-estate rush, it has attracted more and more settlers with “estate” projects being especially popular. And located just 10 kms from Kisumu City, it is the fastest growing peri-urban area in the county. The area is now marked by mixed land use of undisturbed patches of land under shrubs and trees vegetal cover, high-end residential estates, resorts and some commercial and industrial land uses. For walkers and nature-lovers a day out on Riat-Kajulu Hills is still a pretty and inviting landscape. With not too much extra trouble – commuting or driving – one can reach the top of the contiguous hills and enjoy blissful walks around the area that offers appealing views of Kavirondo Gulf and Kisumu City.

33. Kajulu Falls

On a long day out in the Riat-Kajulu Hills you can explore the modest Kajulu Falls. As the lakeside region attracts plenty of rainfall it’s always wise to check the weather before setting off. Generally speaking, Kisumu County is for the most parts fine and sunny in the morning, which is the best time for exploring; showers and thunderstorms start from near the lake shores and the hills in the afternoon but usually finish by midnight. The Kajulu Falls, along Kibos River, is located near Kajulu Water Treatment Plant, which also offers plenty to explore. Lower down, in Migori County, Kibos River powers the Kajulu II Hydro Station.

34. Muguruk Archaeological Site

14 kms from Kisumu you arrive at Kisian and the turnoff to C27 Kisian-Bondo-Usenge which travels westerly along the north and west boundary of Kavirondo Gulf within sniffing distance of the lake. 9 kms west from the turnoff you reach the small settlement of Pau Akuche, where the Muguruk Archaeological Site in located. Gazetted on June 4, 1982, as a National Monument, it’s comprised of a fenced area of 2 acres on the eastern banks of Muguruk River. First excavated in 1926 by W. Owen and then later on in 1945 by L. Leakey, Muguruk revealed many light and heavy duty scrapper and choppers, or advanced tools. The site is mainly of interest for trippers with a knack of geology and paleontology; able to marvel and study the superimposed bedrocks eke-named the “Ojolla Industry” where plentiful late and middle stone-age industry artefacts indicative of a well organized and advanced society are embedded. Muguruk Site has no museum.

35. Maboko Island

The 1.8 kms long – 1 km wide Maboko Island in Kavirondo Gulf (also known as Winam Gulf), set 44 kms seawards from Kisumu City, has been transmuted to a popular getaway. In the 1980’s, Maboko Island was a cradle for archaeological expeditions with significant remains collected here, most notably those of the Kenyapithecus species. In recent years, the development of the pocket-friendly Camp Tom, also known as Maboko Island Resort, with 10 beautifully-appointed cottages set along its undisturbed shoreline has re-ignited interest in the island. One of the island’s biggest trump-card is its seclusion and tranquility, and the terrific views of the Lake, Homa Hills, Ndere Island, Kisumu and Sondu Miriu. Maboko Island is located 14 kms from Kisian. It is reached by taking a left turn before Holo Market along Kisian-Bondo-Usenge Road onto an all weather road through the Ochiko-ite Market; then via a short 500 ms boat ride to the Island. 

Maboko Island. Published by Kenyan Skys

36. Kit Mikayi

The much-acclaimed and stupefying rock formation of Kit-Mikayi is located 16 kms from Kisian, past Pau Akuche and Holo Market. Unmissable and towering over the surrounding landscape, the outlandish arrangement of its seven jumbo stacked rocks reaching 120 ms is breathtaking. It is also impressive for the old-wives-tales that answer to the epithet of its existence. As it goes, Kit Mikayi – a contraction of two Luo idioms “Kit” which means “rock” and “Mikayi” which means “first wife” – was a cherished lair for a Luo ancestor who settled and lived in proximity to this colossus. The elderly man, with many wives, loved to spend his time around the rocks, enjoying the morning sunshine, succumb to the afternoon siesta here and return again in the evenings to unwind. So much so, he decided to give them a name. After consulting his wives, they granted in accord to name the rocks (Kit) as his first wife (Mikayi). And thus, Kit-Mikayi, the rock of the first wife came to being. These holds huge cultural-sway on the communities living around them as a landmark and shrine, and members of the Legio-Maria meet here to pray. Kit Mikayi is located nearby Kit Mikayi Primary.

Aerial video of the impressive Kit Mikayi. Published by One Vibe TV

37. Ndere Island National Park

This is found 25 kms from Kisian, taking a left turn shortly after Holo Market at Got Kodero Nyabondo Nomiya Church, and there from through Nyaguda and Bodi Markets before arriving at Kamuga Bay for a short boat ride to the island. A good pair of binoculars will better the experience at Ndere Island National Park ten-fold. Besides its diverse wildlife, on a pleasant weather day, one can glimpse the skyline of Kampala, in Uganda, in the distant horizon. Among its other pleasant sights include views of Nyakagera, Rambugu, Osope, Maboko and Mageta Islands and Homa Hills. The 4 km2 Ndere Island National Park is mostly covered by grassland that supports a good variety of grazers like the semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelope, water bucks, impalas and warthogs which can all be seen happily roaming the park. The lake shore supports plenty of wildlife that are home in the water including hippos, Nile crocodiles, several fish species and snakes. “Over 100 different species of birds can be seen here including the African fish eagles, the black headed gonoleks and the grey headed kingfishers”.

Spatial Location of Ndere Island National Park in Kisumu County
Spatial Location of Ndere Island National Park in Kisumu County

38. Nyakagera Island

The proposed Nyakagera Island Resort on the 100-acres Nyakagera Island in Winam Gulf, situated about 700 metres seaward and easily sighted on walking tours at Ndere Island Park, targets to open up this sparsely-inhabited island for tourism. The proposed resort, on the little-known Nyakagera Island, endeavors to preserve and showcase the local cultures and cultural practices of the native Luo Community through the design, planning and standpoint.  The Nyakagera Island Resort will feature among its amenities a health spa, floating restaurant, floating cabins, a golf course and an outdoor recreational area.  All together, the much-anticipated island retreat will cover an approximated area of 7,295 ms2. Nyakagera Island is set about 2.5 kms northeast of Ndere Island National Park and it can be reached by taking a left turn at Bodi Market towards Ndere Island National Park Campsite on the mainland, and then on a short 700 ms boat ride.

39. Got Abindu Caves

18 kms from Kisian along the C27 Bondo-Usenge Road, close to Diemo Primary School, the turnoff to Maseno-Kombewa Road is reached, which in 21 kms gets you back on the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road at Maseno Township. Keeping to B1 at Kisian, Daraja Mbili is 5.5 kms away and to the turnoff to Sinyolo and the Got Abindu Caves – across from Rock Hotel Kisumu. A road signage is also placed at the turnoff to assist trippers get to these caves. Loosely translating to “many caves in one place” in the native Luo lingua-franca, these battery of caves are embedded in the hilly and rugged area that stretches from Kajulu to Ojola, and an extension of Nyando Escarpment. “The legendary Got Abindu Caves remain a darling to hundreds of local faithfuls, who believe they are a source of divine power” – Standard Media. Unique to these caves are the “encrypted” writings on the panels of one of the huge rocks, thought to have been written by ancient deities. Fairly odd, these inscriptions are thought to be of a Biblical origin and can neither be read nor interpreted unless by a divine person. Got Abindu Caves are located within Nyahera Village – about 7 kms from the Daraja Mbili turnoff.

40. Ciala Resort

Conveniently located just 11 kms from Kisumu Airport, and 3 kms from Daraja Mbili, in the hushed and charming backwoods of Shinyalu, the 56-rooms Ciala Resort is the most recent addition in Kisumu County’s elaborate list of top-rate resorts, that caters to a growing number of both business and casual travellers. It offers three classes of rooms – superior rooms, superior deluxe and executive suites – all with the option of single or double occupancy. In sum, Ciala is of a refined, stylish and up-to-date touch. One of the main features of the resort are the generous outdoor spaces and gardens, where visitors can hang out all day and soak-up its picture-postcard landscape. The frontage is a flat to undulating countryside that juts out in the distance to merge with the hills, framed on the backside and side-wards by rolling hillocks with widespread outcrops of granite in immediate proximity. It has a lovely pool too. Other amenities include a spa, a pool bar, coffee lounge, gazebos and garden decks. It is located near Shinyalu Girls High School, taking a right turn at Daraja Mbili towards Abindu Caves. It is also accessible from A1 Kisumu to Kakamega Road, about 10 kms from Tigoi.

View of Odino Falls.  Photo Courtesy of Trendsmap
View of Odino Falls. Image Courtesy of Trendsmap

Geography of Kisumu County

Kisumu County lies on a down-warped large lowland encircling the Kavirondo Gulf, at the base of which is Kisumu Town. East of Kisumu City is Kano Plains, sometimes broken up by low ridges and rivers. There are some notable physical features such as the scarps in the north, east and south. Others include its hills and piedmont plains spreading across the vast Kano Plains. Kisumu County can be divided into 3 topographical zones – the Kano Plains, the upland Nyabondo Plateau and mid-land of Maseno. Kano Plains lie on the floor of the Rift Valley.  

Land Use in Kisumu County

62% of households in Kisumu County depend on crop farming as a source of income.  The primary crops grown include beans, maize, tea, sorghum, finger millet, potatoes, sugarcane, ground-nuts, kales and cotton.  The main cash crop grown in Kisumu County is sugarcane, while some rice growing is practiced along Rivers Nyando, Awach, Chemelil, Miwani and Kibos. Rice paddies cover about 2,000-hectares. It is also grown on a smaller scale at Kabonyo Irrigation Scheme in Nyando. Sugarcane predominates Muhoroni and regions of Nyando.

Highlights in Kisumu County

The dominant physical features in Kisumu County are the overhanging granite rocks at Kisian and the legendary Kit Mikayi, in Kisumu West; Lake Victoria – which is the second largest fresh water lake in the world; the visually fleek rice growing Kano Plains; and the lake’s islands. Kisumu County has a 90 kms long shoreline and more than 17 beaches, all of which are mainly fish landing bays. Within Kisumu City, the shores around Dunga Beach have been used to put up beautiful tourist retreats like Kiboko Bay, Yatch Club, and Tilapia Beach Resort.

Population in Kisumu County

The population density around Kisumu County ranges from 218 people/km2 in Muhoroni, up to 5,165 people/km2 in Kisumu Central.  The average population density was 482 people/km2 in 2009.  The population of the county, based on the 2009 Population and Housing Census, was estimated at 968,909 people. Kisumu City, the largest town in Kisumu County, had a population of 259,258 in 2009, projected to increase by 8% to reach 491,893 by 2017.  Other major and thriving centre in Kisumu are Ahero, Maseno, Kombewa, Awasi, Holo, Chemilil, Muhoroni, Katito, Pap Onditi and Sondu, all with sizable populations.

Section of Nyando Sugar Belt as seen from Nyando Escarpment.  Photo Courtesy
Nyando Sugar Belt as seen from Nyando Escarpment. Image Courtesy

Airports in Kisumu County

Kisumu County is served by Kisumu Airport that was recently improved and upgraded to international standards, and is the third largest in Kenya.

Roads in Kisumu County

Kisumu County’s total length of bitumen surface (tarmac) road is 286 kms, with the rest of the link roads being either gravel surface (725 kms) or earth surface (956.6 kms). It’s traversed by a few main trunk roads: (B1) linking Mombasa to Kampala through Busia and (A1) which links Kisumu to Tanzania through Kisii.

Climate in Kisumu County

Although there is no entirely dry month in Kisumu County, the peak generally falls between March and May, and in September to November.  The average annual maximum temperature ranges 25 to 35 Degrees C.  The varied altitude in Kisumu County greatly influence temperatures and rainfall in its agro-zones.

Kisumu County Distance Chart
Kisumu County Distance Chart

Walkways in Kiboko Bay Resort.  Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor
Walkways in Kiboko Bay Resort. Image Courtesy of Trip Advisor

National Monuments in Kisumu County

  1. Chemogoch Site
  2. Songhor Pre-historic Site
  3. Muguruk Pre-historic Site
  4. District Commissioner’s Office
  5. Brandman’s House
  6. Provincial Commissioner’s House

Kisumu County Map

Kisumu County Map