Few visitors know the delights Kisumu offers.
This week was my local tourism week. I will therefore depart from the usual discourse on politics and the economy to sell one destination that is heavily undersold and grossly underrated. This is the city of Kisumu.
Those who know me are aware that Kisumu and the Nyanza environs generally have been my favourite destinations. Other than its scenic beauty, Nyanza draws me for several reasons. As a columnist, one of the most fulfilling experiences is to interact with people who read and analyse the stuff I write, even if they don’t agree with it.
Whether in Kisumu town or in Professor Wanyande’s village in rural Ugenya I will always find someone to discuss one or other of my articles when I am in Nyanza. I regret that the same cannot be said of my beloved home county of Murang’a. I also enjoy Nyanza because it has some of the most hospitable people in Kenya.
Have you ever noted that in Nyanza, people will generally use a language you can relate to in social gatherings? Dholuo will usually be interspersed with translations of English to ensure that the outsider feels at home, a tradition that we are yet to learn in my local.
Lately Kisumu has also transformed into a worthy tourist destination. The first notable change, other than the gleaming new airport, is the hospitality sector. Until about three years ago, Kisumu was without any high quality accommodation. If you made the mistake of just turning up in Kisumu without pre-reserving accommodation, you stood the risk of sleeping in some backstreet lodging. That season is no more.
Kisumu now boasts sparkling new hotels, including the lakeside Eco Lodge, the serene Sovereign and the Vic Hotel. In the last month, the Kempinski Group has opened an ultra-modern establishment; the Acacia Premier, one of only two hotels in Kenya with its own shopping arcade complete with restaurants, high end boutiques and supermarkets.
For fish lovers, Kisumu offers some of the best fish cuisine in the continent. It may not have French names, but nothing beats the “Ngege” offerings at Tilapia Beach and other seaside pop-ins on the busy Lwang’ni Beach. You will appreciate the fish more once you realise that it has been obtained from as far as the Tanzanian side of the lake. Of course if you want to choose your fish straight from the lake, visit Dunga Beach and intermingle with the local fishermen as you enjoy your choice offering.
With its large Asian community, you will also find many establishments that offer great Asian cuisine. Kisumu also boasts of numerous “things to do”. It has always been said that Nairobi is the only city in the world with a game park in its environs. Kisumu may not boast of similar offerings but the Impala sanctuary, five minutes from the city centre, is a worthy competitor. Along with the beautiful impala and several other herbivores, you will be guaranteed a leopard siting.
Another must-do when in Kisumu is a cruise around the lake. If you are lucky to get a good guide, you will be fascinated by the stories of the flora and fauna that adorns the lake and Nyanza’s general history.
For those that love golf, Nyanza Club is within the city and is better maintained than it has been in a long while. If you are energetic, Kisumu’s nightlife remains as vibrant as ever with several lounge bars and dancing places that cater to a wide range of clientele; whether their interest be Ohangla, Rhumba or Soul.
The adventurous who want to go out of the City can take a boat ride to Ndere Island National park, visit the enchanting Rusinga Island, the home of one of Kenya’s greatest sons, the late Tom Mboya, or even venture to K’ogelo, the home of another of Kenya’s great sons. Whatever you do, take a moment to engage the locals on the culture and traditions of the Luo. You will find it fascinating.
If you dare engage them in local and international politics, you will find a most informed, engaging and passionate people who also eat life with a big spoon.
This post was written by Kamotho Waiganjo and was first published at: standardmedia.co.ke