Kisumu had been among the top 3 destinations on my bucket-list for local places to visit in Kenya since 2015, so you can imagine my excitement and mental satisfaction when I went there over the just-concluded December holidays.
My first time of course had to be by road because I was very curious to see the beautiful scenery that awaited us. Alternatively, there are daily flights from Nairobi to Kisumu which will only take you 45 minutes.
Nairobi-Naivasha-Nakuru-Londiani-Muhoroni-Ahero-Kisumu was the route we took. What was initially meant to be a 6-hour drive (excluding stops), ended up being an 8 hour drive and 345 kms later, due to the heavy traffic we encountered in Nakuru. (PS, if you want don’t want to live on the road, make sure you travel AFTER the holiday season.)
Some of the perceptions I had always heard and had of Kisumu were that the heat there was unbearable and, the town was still very backward and underdeveloped. Quite the contrary, Kisumu yes was hot, but honestly, I felt no difference with the scorching Nairobi sun. Completely bearable! As for the developments, Kisumu is giving Nairobi a run for her money. From shopping malls to fancy hotels to tourist attraction sites. Even the dress-code there has clearly had plenty of western influence.
Kisumu is home to predominantly the Luo and Asian (Indian) communities.
Most of the public here move around using motorcycles and tuktuks. So if you are used to Ubering your way through life, I suggest you be a bit more open-minded when you visit this port city. Besides, apart from being pocket-friendly, motorcycles are simply the best mode of transportation, especially if you are keen on exploring the villages and the beaches, as some of the roads there are not easily accessible.
Speaking of the beaches (and no I do not mean the white sandy kind you will find in Mombasa, Malindi or Watamu), I found myself spending most of my mornings there watching fishermen bringing in the catch of the day from the previous night’s fishing expeditions. There are those fishermen who set out to fish as early as 4.30 a.m and do not return until sunset, whereas there are those who prefer to fish overnight, from sunset, only to return at sunrise.
Something that I noted was that some of the fishermen were actually boys as young as 13 years old. They were the ones rowing the boats while their fathers directed them on where to place the boats, since the waters were heavily blanketed with water hyacinth. Fishing in these parts of the country, is considered a very important tradition that is passed down from generation to generation.
Traders, men and women alike, would then rush into the waters as the boats came to the shores, so as to get the big fish. They would normally make the purchases from the boats so it was a matter of first come, first serve. Nile Perch, Tilapia, Catfish, Lungfish and Helicopter fish (yes, that is the actual name of the fish because of the two sharp bones that stick out from the sides of its head) are the most common fish caught here.
Whenever I make a trip to a foreign place, my trip is never complete until I have tried their most famous dish. In this case, kuon gi rech (translation, ugali and fish). Let me just start by saying that in all my 26 years on this earth, I had never eaten such good fish as that in Kisumu. My goodness!! My mouth still waters to this day just thinking about it. Mhhhh! Due to its high demand, a meal of this kind ranges from kshs. 700 to kshs. 2,000. But trust me, it is worth every shilling.
As is with every new place, it is important to learn the language that is most spoken there. Knowing the basics like the greetings, please, thank you and how to inquire about the price of anything will work to your advantage. For starters, the people will be caught completely off-guard by your knowledge of their language and as a result that will be a nice ice breaker to getting what you want. In addition, you will get to learn more about a place and the people because you have shown some interest in their language. So please,master a few words and phrases in Luo. Here are a few to get get you going:
Amosi – Hi/Hello Adhi maber – I am good / I am fine
Erokamano – Thank you
Oriti – Goodbye
Lastly, I would not be doing Kisumu justice if I didn’t mention some places to visit while there.
Kit Mikayi, located 30 kms West of Kisumu town, is a must-go. For kshs. 150, you will get to learn a bit of history about the origin of the rocks from one of the guides there, do a bit of hiking and get free entertainment by the Kangeso Women Group.
Initially I was put off by the name Impala Sanctuary, simply because I did not understand why I was parting with a few shillings to see some impalas. On the contrary though, there are other wild animals such as giraffes, hippos, cheetahs to name a few. It is an ideal place for the little ones. Moreover, if you happen to be there late in the afternoon you can catch the sunset at a designated view point.
If you would like to go on a boat ride or get to see the fishermen conducting business early in the morning at the shores of the lake, then Dunga Beach is the place to be.
I love ending my day right with a beautiful sunset. So if you are like me, Kiboko Bay Resort is perfect for catching the sun go down as you enjoy a sun downer. Literally!