A guide to the interior of the Kenyan cities of Nairobi and Kisumu



2. Kisumu: the lakeside town of Kenya

Once a simple trading post and fishing village on the northeastern shore of Lake Victoria, Kisumu is now Kenya’s third largest city. Despite its stupendous population growth, however, it is much smaller and airier than Nairobi and Mombasa, with a calm, inland atmosphere.

This does not mean that Kisumu is sleepy; thanks to the recent waves of investment, boosted by the preparation of the ninth UCLG Africa Africities Summit, which it will host, there is a spring in the city’s approach. Billions of Kenyan shillings have been spent on renewing its ferry dock, fishing port, airport and Nakuru-Kisumu railway line, and new shaded sidewalks with solar lighting have made the mall greener and friendlier to pedestrians.

To discover the local heritage, head for the city center Kisumu Museum, which celebrates Luo customs through a collection of tribal artifacts, a life-size model village, percussion and dance. For a slice of contemporary life, stroll through the daily Jubilee Market, the best in the area, with vendors selling everything from dried Lake Victoria tilapia, neatly stacked tomatoes and giant watermelons to kettles, textiles and wigs . Kisumu also has a Maasai market similar to that in Nairobi, but generally cheaper, with souvenirs such as clothes, beads, and soapstone carvings.

When you’re ready to refuel, grab some appetizers at the Backyard Patio on Ogada Street, or order something from the grill at Lolwe Lounge, a sleek new garden bar that captures the lake breeze – a godsend on the hottest days in town.

The renovated port of Kisumu serves commercial shipping rather than travelers, but there are great views of the Gulf of Winam – the extension of Lake Victoria on which the town sits – from Hippo Point, southwest of the city. The nearby restaurant Le Pearl offers fried fish, ugali (a starchy porridge) and chilled Tusker beers, with golden sunsets.

To learn more about Africa’s largest freshwater lake and its edges, search for the community-run Dunga Beach Ecotourism Project, which offers bird watching, boat trips, and stays. homestay in a Luo fishing village. You can also book a stay in an eco-lodge or an island campsite. Ndere Island attracts bird watchers, while Mfangano has fig trees, rocks, and Batwa rock art.

As you head inland, you will soon find yourself immersed in western Kenya, home of Barack Obama Sr., father of the former US president. It is an attractive rural area, dotted with ultra-lush small farms and valuable pockets of equatorial trees such as Kakamega Forest.

Move
Residents who do not have their own means of transport get around town by boda boda (bicycle or motorbike taxi), tuk-tuk (rickshaw) or matatu. You can hire a motor boat to Ndere Island from Hippo Point in Kisumu. Mfangano Island is accessible by matatu and motor boat via the lakeside hamlet of Mbita. Kenya has been added to the rest of the world list, meaning UK travelers can now travel without needing to self-quarantine on arrival or return.

For more information and to book your trip, visit magickenya.com

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