Bungoma’s historical attractions

By Allan Olingo

Bungoma may not be your average tourist town. It might lack the glamour and luxury associated with most tourist spots, but it has it own uniqueness.

Established as a trading centre in the early 20th century, the land of Mulembe has a rich history. It is claimed that the name ‘Bungoma’ emanates from drums. The town was a meeting place by the Bukusu elders who used drums ‘engoma’ to summon people to meetings. It was, therefore, referred to as the place of drums by the Bukusu, hence the name Bungoma.

Scenic sites

In Bungoma, it is the historical sites, the scenic hills and rivers dotted with interesting waterfalls that make it a superb destination. Some of the attractions like the Sang’alo Hills, Nabuyole Falls, Mt Elgon National Park, Kabuchai Hills and Mackingeny caves at Mount Elgon National Park that has a fascinating falls, are some of the hidden attractions of this area that are rarely spoken about. There is also the historical Chetambe Fort Ruins.

For any tourist, a visit to the Chetambe Fort is a must because it is here that the Bukusu and Tachoni watched the advancing colonialists. It is claimed that Chetambe Ifile, a Tachoni warrior, built the fort on the hill from where he mobilised his troops to resist colonial rule, leading to the 1895 massacre, in which almost 500 people were killed by the British troops. The fort is built behind a protective 12-foot defensive ditch.

There is also the Nabuyole Falls on the River Nzoia, where tourists troop to watch the water cascade a full seven-metre height to the rocks below. It is an amazing site that is only comparable to the Thompson Falls in Nyahururu. The waterfall starts River Nzoia ,then breaks up into seven smaller rivers with water flowing at an unimaginable speed! All the seven river branches flow and join again to form this large waterfall called Nabuyole!

You are not allowed to go near the waterfall since it is claimed to have a powerful force that can pull one towards the basin of the waterfall!

Within Bungoma County are the Mwibale wa Mwanja and Sang’alo Hills. Most people will tell you that the Sang’alo twin peaks are like the gap in a person’s front teeth, with one peak appearing to clutch a huge rock that looks as if it is about to fall. Quite interesting!

You cannot visit Bungoma and fail to encounter the tales of the Rev Elijah Masinde, he of the famed Dini ya Msambwa church. In his hometown  Maeni, is a mausoleum in his remembrance. Masinde’s sect was opposed to white rule.  For three years hid from British soldiers in a secret bunker that is now a popular crowd puller.

Environmental gem

Bungoma also has the Buteyo Miti Park, an indigenous forest undertaking, which has attracted international recognition, and interest from environmentalists.

There is also the Kakapel Museum, situated at the Chelemuk hills, that has prehistoric rock art dating mre than 4,000 years.  The ancient rock art depicts wild animals, rainmaking and initiation symbols and the site is currently managed by Trust for African Rock Art and the National Museums of Kenya.

Bungoma has quite a few good hotels that provide good rooms and facilities at the most affordable rates. Some of the noteworthy hotels are Tourist Hotel Bungoma, Hotel Rosswood and Bungoma Countryside Hotel. You will part with averagely Sh500 to Sh2,000 for accommodation in this area.

Apart from great traditional recipes one can indulge in camping, sight seeing, excursions, bird watching, nature walks, and game viewing in Mount Elgon National Park.