Region bets on islands to shore up tourism cash

Hotel resident take a dip in the pool at Rusinga Lodge in Mbita, Homa Bay County. (Philip Orwa)

Buoyed by efforts to open up the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) for tourism, southern Nyanza is gradually turning into a visitors’ haven. 

As the festivities set in, local and international tourists are trooping to Homa Bay County to sample its scenic islands that offer a destination only perhaps comparable to Lamu, Kilifi and Mombasa.

The most sampled are Mbita, Rusinga and Mfang’ano islands known for heritage, adventure, water sports and conference tourism. The islands are now more accessible via canoes and air.

The soothing breeze from the lake and the convenient landing at Kandege Airstrip paint a calm and scenic atmosphere for new visitors setting foot in Mbita.

“Amid plans by the bloc to leverage economies of scale in the lake region, the islands are the latest gem. Tourism is increasingly viewed as an important sector in enriching economy of counties,” says travel expert Paul Okinyi. 

There are affordable but classy hotels, lodges and resorts to boot. Rusinga Lodge in Mbita gives clients an atmosphere of a home away from home.

Others like Blue Ridge, Mbita Tourist Hotel and Rusinga View Hotel offer a bed capacity of more than 1,000.

Clients with chartered planes can land directly at Rusinga Lodge and walk straight into their cottages. Those without but are able to book a flight can as well board a plane from Nairobi or elsewhere and land at the Kisumu International Airport and drive to Homa Bay-Mbita, or to Luanda K’Otieno where they can board a Ferry to Mbita.

From Homa Bay Airstrip, the 45-minute drive to Mbita offers visitors a chance to enjoy sceneries such as Ruma, Huma and Asego hills.

Ruma National Park is also a few metres drive from Homa Bay Airstrip where visitors can view the near-extinct roan antelope, among other animals.

At Rusinga, visitors can visit former minister Tom Mboya’s home. 

Rusinga Lodge is popular for weddings and garden parties. Birds like egrets, Egyptian goose, Hamerkop, Hadada Ibis, Pied crows, Kingfishers, and Eagle Fish-eaters among others freely roam the lodge which has thatched cottages decorated with local artifacts.

“We offer visitors a rare opportunity to be home away from home. We will stop at nothing in giving clients real value,” says Rusinga Lodge proprietor Sammy Wakiaga. 

Behind the Lodge lies the second cradle of humankind, as just a short walk away is the site where Mary Leakey found Proconsul Africanus (now Heseloni) in the year 1948 - the last common ancestor of great apes and man.

There are also Saga Island and Rabondo Rock where more species of birds are found. Takawiri Island, just a few kilometers by boat from Mbita and Rusinga has white sandy shores.

As you drive towards Mfang’ano Island, there is Wayando Beach Eco Lodge, built by Linda Okatch Munganyaka, an American married locally.

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