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Ndanu Falls: Breathtaking Nyanza waterfall loses sparkle over neglect, land tussle

By Olivia Odhiambo | September 27th 2021


Ndanu Waterfall at Yala in Gem Constituency, Siaya County. [Titus Munala, Standard]

Little-known Ndanu Falls in Gem, Siaya County, is one of the most breathtaking waterfalls in Nyanza.

With a beautiful and natural rocky backyard, it has for over the years attracted local and foreign tourists who visit the place to meditate or enjoy the beautiful scenery. Within Ndanu Falls, there is Sangu Island, where tourists used to go for nature walks and photography. However, Ndanu Falls is slowly losing its sparkle.

Situated along the River Yala, 500m from Yala town and 200m from the Kisumu-Busia road, Ndanu is faced with underdevelopment of neighbouring sites, lack of diversification of tourism products and improper management.

Another setback threatening the potential tourism site is inaccessibility. Siaya Director of Communications Auscar Wambiya says within the surroundings of the falls are historical stones with human footprints.

“It has a hippo pool and colobus monkey. It also has scenic views of the waters of River Yala beneath the lush hills of Gem. Anybody who goes there is also able to watch birds like palm vultures,” says Mr Wambiya.

He says in the past, residents of Gem ground grains in the island. “While in Sangu Island, one will be able to see the grinding stones used by the ancient people,” narrated Wambiya. There is a footbridge that connects the two sides of the River Yala and enables tourists to access both sides of the waterfall.

County officials, however, warn of snakes and lizards found within the waterfall. They advise tourists to be careful or have a local tour guide when visiting the site.

In the past the falls had a dark side. Suicide cases were reported at the site, with many taking advantage of the fast-flowing water. Authorities and residents say several people, some from far flung places, took their lives at Ndanu.

Jonathan Okite Oturo, Siaya resident at Ndanu Waterfall. [Titus Munala, Standard]

Yala Township MCA William Kenyanyi blames the slow development of the potential tourism site on residents. He says an American investor who sought to put up a hotel within the falls in partnership with the county government for 20 years before handing it over to the county had to back off due to a land tussle.

“A section of residents moved to court to stop the county from renovating the site, claiming that it was part of their land. This push and pull also slowed plans to put up a power plant project within the falls,” said Kenyanyi.

But despite the setbacks, the County Government has rolled out several plans and interventions to renovate the potential tourism site.

Kenyanyi said there is a need to create awareness within the community for them to embrace tourism activities within the falls, which is 40 minutes drive from Kisumu International Airport and 20 minutes drive from Siaya town. “This will bring about an understanding of the waterfalls in terms of protection of the area and embracing visitors at the site,” said the MCA.

Interventions lined up include capacity building of tourism service providers, resource mobilisation from stakeholders, construction of the cultural centre and Odera Akang’o cell.

Further, the county plans to encourage local and foreign investors to invest in the tourism industry while creating policies that will set standards in the tourism industry.

According to Wambiya, the waterfall brings about local and foreign exchange, as tourists buy the local produce from the residents.

He said having the locals work as cleaners and tour guides would also lead to job creation.

“Ndanu falls need major development plan that would put into place security measures. The area around the fall is bushy hence there is a need to clear the area for easy accessibility. The footbridge needs renovation, and if possible, a new one should be put up,” he said.

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