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Lake Victoria - Kenya

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Lake Victoria is the world's second largest freshwater lake covering an area of 67,850 sq km. This vast expanse, about the size of the Republic of Ireland, forms the headwaters of the River Nile. Its Kenya focus, Kisumu is 350 km from

Nairobi by road. Three nations share the waters of the lake - "Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Kenya's share is the smallest (3785 sq km) but there is a busy network of waterways between the trading towns and villages which lie alone the shores of the lake. Passenger boats and small cargo vessels ply daily from Kisumu as far as the Tanzanian border and north to Port Victoria near Uganda.

Kisumu, the largest town in western Kenya and the nation's third largest (population approximately 250,000), is the home of several small industries notably fish processing and cotton goods manufacture. The town came into existence with the completion, in 1901, of the first section of the Uganda Railway five years after plate laying began 1000 km away in Mombasa. It was briefly called Port Florence. Only forty years earlier, the English explorer Speke, having travelled along the western shore of the lake reached a place he named Ripon Falls, It was these cataracts, at what is now Jinja in Uganda, which he proclaimed the source of the Nile.

Fishing for tilapia and Nile perch provides a living for many of the Luo people who live along the lakeside. The fish are sold at local markets or to the processors for sale in Nairobi and for export. Most of the fishing is from small picturesque dugout canoes, equipped with lateen sails. The lake once had abundant hippo and crocodile but now these are much reduced. Halfway between Kisumu and Homa Bay, near Kendu Bay is a small inland crater lake, Sindi, offering a sight of flamingo foraging through a surface of emerald algae. There is also a famous heronry very near to Kisumu where as many as a thousand large water birds nest and breed between March and July.

Homa mountain, gaunt and grand dominates the peninsular behind which shelters the small town of Homa Bay. Near to Homa Bay are two islands, Rusinga and Mfangano. Rusinga is locally acclaimed as the burial place of Tom Mboya, a great son of Kenya who was assassinated in Nairobi in 1969. On each of the Islands, and also on nearby Takawiri island, there are fishing camps providing boats for hire and some simple accommodation in sublime settings. Much of the business of these camps comes from the Maasai Mara lodges where, every morning, planes pick up fishermen for the less than half hour's flight to the lake.

Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world and covers 67,483 sq km. The lake is not part of the rift valley system and, at only 100 meter deep, is very wide and shallow compared to other bodies of water. Lake Victoria acts as a boundary between Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya, yet international water travel between the countries is no longer possible. The only lake excursions available occur between Kisumu and ports farther south. Kenya actually owns only a tiny 3,785 sq km corner of the lake. The lake attracted great interest from Europeans after its discovery.

In 1858, John Manning Speke was the first European to cite the vast lake as the source of the White Nile. The assertion was ridiculed until H.M. Stanley eventually proved him right in 1875. The colonial powers had hoped to open a navigable route along the Nile to the Mediterranean. Their attempts to reach Uganda across the lake were also responsible for the creation of the East African Railway and the colonization of the Kenyan Highlands. Kisumu is the third largest town in Kenya with a population of approximately 160,000.

The town was originally founded as the inland railhead of the East African Railway in 1901. Kisumu had been a busy port town since its early days, but the break up of the East African Community in 1977 coupled with the cessation of international ferry services on the lake substantially slowed the town's once bustling pace.

Kisumu boasts some interesting sites in addition to Lake Victoria. Impala Park is a game sanctuary and animal orphanage and home to the rare Sitatunga antelope. Hippo Point is famed as an exceptional vantage point for viewing hippo, not to mention Lake Victoria's spectacular sunsets. Also of interest is the Kisumu Museum which features a display of local traditional customs and crafts.

Outside there is a Luo homestead consisting of the husband's mud and thatch home and separate houses for each wife. The Kisumu market, one of the busiest and largest in Kenya, provides a fascinating glimpse into the day to day existence of the peoples of Western Kenya. Kisumu is probably the best place to buy Kisii soapstone carvings and the Wanachi Craft Shop near town, a local cooperative, features crafts made by local women.

There are numerous small villages around Lake Victoria of interest to the traveller. Ndunga Beach, a fishing village near Kisumu, is a wonderful place to experience the traditional lifestyle of the lake fishermen. Local villagers can be hired to provide canoe tours through the papyrus reed beds to see hippos and birds. Mfangano Island has some obscure rock paintings and a small fishing village, but it is now most popular as an up-scale fishing camp.

Ndere National Park, a 4.2 km island game park features snakes, hippos, crocodiles, Sitatunga and numerous species of water bird. Near the small town of Homa Bay is the volcano shaped Mt. Homa and Ruma National Park. This 120 sq km park encloses the Lambwe Valley. Most of the animals found here have been imported, including Kenya's only herd of roan antelope.

Rusinga Island is home to an exclusive fishing camp and the tomb of Tom Mboya (1930- 1969), the nationalist leader assassinated in Nairobi during the political unrest of the late 60's. Mary Leakey first put this tiny island on the map with her discovery of a 3 million year old skull belonging to Proconsul Africanus. Additional fossils were also found dating back 17 million years.

Lake Victoria Accommodation

Rusinga Island Lodge | Mfangano Island Camp |


Feedback From Clients

Chuck Roosvelt & Job Harris Chuck Roosvelt & Job Harris

Davies, My husband and I want to thank Kivulini Safaris Staff and Wilderness Safaris for arranging our 'safari' in South Africa. We were very pleased with Thornybush Game Reserve and Chupungu Camp in general. The managers, Kerry and Nick, were very gracious hosts. Norman, our tracker, was so prompt at the 5AM-wakeup knock. All the staff was terrific. The meals were great as well as the South African wine!! Our tent was lovely!! The days we spent with Nick and Norman were great. Each time We were so surprised that we could get to see the animals so up close. Kerry, Nick, Norman and the rest of the staff made it so personal. Thornybush Game Reserve was so nice! All of the arrangements went smoothly - the meet-and-greet at the airport, h...

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