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Kisumu: In the eyes of a Backpacker


Kisumu City, found in Kisumu County is one of those towns you must have heard about. You may have heard that it is bordered by Lake Victoria which is the largest lake in Africa and the second largest fresh water (not salty ) lake in the world making the main industry fishing.

Kindly note being fresh water doesn’t mean it is clean and clear.

Or perhaps you have heard about the lavish lifestyle of their men-there is a common joke that Luo (the main tribe ) is not a tribe- it is a lifestyle. There is even a joke that says you will find one owning a Range Rover House ,yet he parks it outside his mud house .Perhaps you have heard of their famous/infamous football club – Gor Mahia that has an almost ok scrap that-they have a fanatical following. Their motto is “Giniwasekao” which means “we have taken this thing(the game).”

I really wanted to experience Lake Victoria and the Culture of Kisumu thus really excited to experience it. Things to do in Kisumu:

Offroad Challenge:

Most of the sites are actually on the same road-Road leading to Dunga beach. However, the current state of the road as of April 2016, is deplorable and in dire need of rehabilitation. The road does not exist but is a collection of potholes and pits and rocks. The ride is a never ending attempt to avoid the bigger pits by delving into the smaller pits. In addition, its dusty, the vehicle will rattle, you will rattle and when you disembark you will have a funny walk-you will be rattling. It is actually a turn off for travelers/ tourists/ locals/ backpackers and could greatly affect your tourism industry- we actually turned back at some point. Kindly consider rehabilitation with urgency as tourism is a great income earner and this may negatively affect you.

Tafadhali Serikali (County/National), Saidia. (Government both County and National, please help)

Impala Sanctuary

Meal Time for the Impalas

Regardless of the name, this place isn’t only home to Impalas ,but to so many others. This place even from the outside is green-trees and grass. The Entrance fee is Ksh.250 for Kenyan Citizens. As we walked in, we were impressed by the landscaping -the lawn is neatly cut and the park is split in two thus its like you are walking through beauty. Right ahead we saw impalas and zebras lazily chewing their grass meal and I couldn’t wait to get close. The impalas are shy but the zebras will allow you to get close enough to take pictures with them, however ,do not touch them-they are still wild.

Then move over to the cages where you will see several wildlife like Lions, Leopard, hyenas etc. You can go alone, with friends, family, your significant other (actual, potential or wishful thinking) and have a picnic .

Didnt know two grown males can relax together
Didn’t know two grown males can relax together
Leopard at its best..Check those intense eyes
Leopard at its best..Check those intense eyes

I only have two recommendations for KWS

  1. Do not keep any animal alone in a cage. Those that were alone seemed lonely and frustrated-actually dimmed my mood.
  2. Some of the cages have been put in very tough environment-it is pure hard rock, The animal hardly has anywhere it can really walk or shade from the scorching sun.

Hire transport for the day

Let's ride
Let’s ride

The hussle is real-for all those wondering how I make money for travel-Sometimes tuktuk driver.

Tuktuks and bodabodas are everywhere and the common means of transport. Since we were on a tight budget, we opted to hire a tuktuk for the day. Our friend for the day was Francis Tel. no. 0713688013 whom I highly recommend to anyone. When he found out we were visitors to the county, he went out of his way to expose Kisumu to us- their culture, sites, conversation and never once complained when we overstayed at a site. The county government should maximize on educating the locals on the beauty that is their county as those are your best advertisers/marketers. Oh and I got to seat on the driver’s seat.


Dunga Hill Camp


We ended up here by error, we were trying to get to Dunga Beach and when we got tired of the “road” we diverted here. It was actually a good diversion as this is the first place we got to see Lake Victoria in all its glory. It’s a relaxed place and you can enjoy a meal as you gaze at Lake Victoria.



Kiboko Bay


This hotel is beautiful and has a pier which I thought was really cool. It is quite private but you can take some amazing pictures here, enjoy a boat ride or sample a ride on a pontoon.

The hotel has a great view of the lake and you can chill by the pool side, have a meal and still enjoy the Lake Victoria view.

Loved the Bull Fight:

Bulls headbutting each other
Bulls headbutting each other

If you are as lucky as we were, you may get to see bulls fighting by the roadside. It was really interesting-one bull kept challenging another, head butts delivered, one chasing another, dust flaring, their friends trying to break them up-a true spectacle. Will upload video soon.




Hippo Point

Girls just want to have fun—Lake Victoria Boatride.

Take some time to rest and unwind. It is on the shores of lake Victoria and is frequented by locals during lunch time and it was great watching the ladies prepare lunch, different vendors setting up, fishermen with their rods at work and just the relaxed mood in the air. We took time to finally enjoy a boat ride on the Lake and it was an amazing time. I actually was very sad when the ride was over- make sure you confirm the duration of your ride before you board.



Fishing the old way–takes lots of patience

Fishing the old way–takes lots of patience

Kisumu Museum:

Kisumu Museum entrance
Kisumu Museum entrance

Ok at this rate I think I am a Museum Junkie and this was on my list.

The entrance fee for locals is Ksh.100 but the value you get is so much more. We walked through Mr. Oderos homestead and got to learn lots about the Luo culture. E.g. A mans house is called Abila.

Walk through the aquarium and get to enjoy some really cool aquatic especially at feeding time. I was amazed at the size of the worms some really small fish managed to eat.

I recommend a bit of renovation –some bowls had no light, others were broken and others empty.

At the snake park we got to see this huge snake actually shedding its skin to reflect a shimmering new skin.


Lwang'ni - Everyone should visit here
Lwang’ni – Everyone should visit here

You haven’t been to Kisumu if you haven’t been here. This area is popular for having the best fish ever and has many “local” restaurants by the Lake Victoria. We opted to sample the same and I can confirm-their fish is great. First it is fresh and you actually choose the one you want cooked. We opted for Tilapia just because its was big. We ordered for the stewed Tilapia –which came dressed appropriately with greens and some Ugali on the side. Really sweet, and didn’t have the fishy after taste that keeps me away as well as the fear of chocking on small fish bones. Tilapia beach also have great tasty fish

Dont eat me says the fish-I will eat you soon says me
Dont eat me says the fish-I will eat you soon says me



PartyThe music had me on my feet-and I love dancing

Kisumu city is a vibrant town with various entertainment spots.. We visited Signature which actually looks like the one in Eldoret and the dj played some really good music that had me on my feet. I got to meet Jalang’o who is a popular comedian and he had his friends in stitches with funny tales , I actually wished I understood Luo .

Met comedian Jalang’o.

We then walked over to Bacardi which was also cool and in the evening tables are arranged on the road. These two are located next to the buspark for long distance buses.


Interact with the locals:

Take time out to hang out with the locals. You will learn lots -from their culture, to their catch phrases as well as make friends. The phrase that I learnt and I loved was Nyasae Mor which means “God is Happy”. We got to see/hear/experience some arrogance/lifestyle that we had previously been warned about. One time,  a passenger got into an argument with a conductor. His responses bordered on arrogance from claiming he could easy walk into car bazaar and buy a brand new minivan for “ 5 million”. We had instances where when we told people we were backpacking they couldn’t comprehend why we would because buses are so 20th century (according to them), we should be flying.


Kisumu is 264km from Nairobi . You will be spoilt for choice on how to get to Kisumu everything from personal driving (road is good), buses and shuttles for the budget conscious to flights that will drop you at Kisumu International Airport to helicopter drop offs for the luxurious traveller.


Accommodation options vary from the cheapest lodgings best referred to as “ lodgos”, to hostels, guesthouses, budget hotels to luxurious hotels. We lay our heads at Palmers Hotel which I highly recommend and advise you opt for the rooms upstairs. It is located in close proximity to most amenities, it is clean, the rooms nice and smart and the staff are friendly.


Kisumu is a very interesting place to visit. The people are warm, vibrant, friendly and they love to have a good time. I plan to return when I have more time as this trip only allowed be to experience a snippet (kidogo tu). I want to go fishing with the fishermen to learn how to cast and tend to a fishing net , interact more with their culture and learn more words than Yawa Tho! and actually live among them for a while-thinking Kondele would be the best place to stay to even going deep in to the villages to learn more luo, learn their dances (these guys can dance) and music (Ohangla) and become a Luo lady-Kisumu I will be back.

Courtesy: Wangechi Gitahi

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