Kisumu: On the Trail Of Lake Victoria’s Adventures

Kisumu: On the Trail Of Lake Victoria’s Adventures

Lake Victoria wears many hats—it is the source of the River Nile, it is Africa's largest lake by area, the second-largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world, and the world's largest tropical lake. It is shared by three East African countries: Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Kisumu is the only city located on the shores of Lake Victoria on the Kenyan side. The warm weather of Kisumu City pits it against its coastal counterparts, but it is no ordinary travel destination. Pristine beaches, islands, unmatched city tours, national parks, and heritage sites are among the many attractions the city offers. Whether you are visiting Kisumu City or the surrounding outskirts, the region is filled with hidden gems waiting to be discovered.


Kisumu Museum

As part of the National Museums of Kenya, the Kisumu Museum showcases different aspects of the region and culture of the Luo people (natives of Kisumu). A traditional Luo homestead is set up to transport you back a century ago. The polygamous lifestyle is well elaborated by the set-up of the homestead. The sister wives would stay in different huts, with the first wife’s (Mikayi) hut facing the gate. The other wives would be housed to the left of the Mikayi (second wife – Nyachira) and the right (third wife – Dero). Each would have a separate granary close to their respective houses. The sons would build starting from the eldest son from the left side of the gate. The man of the house stayed in a separate hut, where he would host other elders and also resolve disputes in the family. The cattle sheds were placed close to the gate for ease of herding.

Traditional dancers fill the air with traditional songs, dancing vigorously as is typical with African dances.

Besides the Luo lifestyle, the Museum displays an array of fauna and flora found in the area with the snake park taking centre stage.

Hippo Viewing Point

Away from the song and dance, the Hippo viewing point is a good place to slow the pace. The name is deceptive though – there aren’t as many hippos as possible to watch, but it offers a relaxed platform to view the sunset over Lake Victoria. There are a couple of boats available for a sunset cruise.

Impala Sanctuary

Wildlife lovers get a dose of their wild side at the Impala Sanctuary. It hosts the rare Sitatunga antelope and wildlife including lions, hyenas, giraffes, and zebras among others. This is a birdwatcher’s paradise – the birdlife is prolific. Exploration here is done on foot, but boat rides provide an equally exciting experience to watch birds.

Monkey at Impala Sanctuary Kisumu


There are plenty of wetlands on the shores of the lake. Jetties in these wetlands provide walkways suitable for afternoon strolls. This is a perfect opportunity for nature photographers to snap the beautiful vistas of the lake enhanced by the lush vegetation.

Gastronomy Experience at Kisumu Fish Market

Head to the fish market to try out different types of fish – Nile tilapia is popular and very tasty but so are mudfish and Nile perch. It is usually served with ugali, a staple food made of cornstarch.


Kit Mikayi

This is a must for those in love with nature and adventure. Kit Mikayi is an incredible outcrop of rocks with a great view of Lake Victoria and a lush canopy. According to Luo folklore, centuries ago, a single man climbed the rock and fell in love with it.

He is said to have settled not far from the rocks and spent all his days at the rock. The village elders named the rock “Kit Mikayi” (kit means rock while Mikayi means the first wife) after the strange phenomenon of a man adopting the rock as his first wife.

The climb is challenging, and rumour has it that no rock climber has reached the top. Proper gear is required, and the stewardship of a local guide is prudent. Traditional dancers entertain guests at the foot of the rock, which is a great way to warm up if you decide to join in.

It is also the chosen Prayer retreat of “Legio Maria”, a local religious break away from the Catholic Church, which has erected shrines in the small caves.

Kit Mikayi in Kisumu

Island Hoping

It is typical for a holiday (vacation) to a tropical destination to culminate with a beach destination. Kisumu does not disappoint. Each of the 19 islands of Lake Victoria offers a unique experience.

Rusinga Island is the most famous and popular – for a reason. It hosts two cultural festivals in the month of December – RICRAF and the Rusinga Island Festival. Both showcase the culture of the Abasuba (a tribe that migrated from Uganda and settled in Rusinga). The modern-day Abasuba tribe has been assimilated by the native Luo tribe. The festivals are characterised by songs and dance, food, boat races and other types of competitive sports. It also hosts the Tom Mboya Mausoleum in memory of the prominent politician who was assassinated in 1969.

History buffs will frolic during a stay at Mfangano Island. The mountainous island is home to some of the most prominent rock painting sites in the country, featuring abstract patterned paintings thought to have been created between 1,000 and 4,000 years ago by hunter-gatherers. 

Spiral and sunburst at Kwitone. 2013,2034.14250 © David Coulson/TARA.Spiral and sunburst at Kwitone. 2013,2034.14250 © David Coulson/TARA.

Ndere Island alias Birds Island is a birder’s paradise. It is home to over 100 bird species such as African fish eagles, black-headed gonoleks and grey-headed kingfishers. The lake shore supports a wide variety of animals including hippos, monitor lizards, Nile crocodiles, several fish species, snakes, baboons, impalas, the rare sitatunga antelopes, waterbucks, zebras and warthogs.

Takawiri Island is your typical beach destination. A stretch of white sandy beach carpets the shores of the island, providing a relaxing atmosphere.

Ruma National Park

Beyond the islands, there is Ruma National Park with promises of undiscovered wildlife treasures and undisturbed peace. It is the only sanctuary for the endangered Roan Antelopes in Kenya. While its birdlife is prolific, it plays a vital role in the survival of the globally threatened Blue Swallow. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, Blue swallows, which depend on moist grassland to feed and roost, arrive in Kenya from their breeding grounds in Southern Tanzania around April and return in September.

Kisumu to Maasai Mara

While Ruma National Park gives you a taste of Kenyan wildlife, Maasai Mara National Reserve presents you with the world’s theatre of wildlife action. With a 30-minute flight on AirKenya, you can make your way to this year-round destination. The months of June to September are particularly busy due to the annual spectacle – The Great Wildebeest Migration. It would be remiss of us not to mention that we operate daily flights from Kisumu to Maasai Mara.

Kisumu to Uganda

Instead of heading south, you can head West to Uganda, a famous destination for Gorilla trekking, Chimpanzee tracking and the best birdwatching experiences. From Kisumu, Airkenya will connect you daily to Entebbe, and your onward journey into Uganda’s National Parks will be serviced by Aerolink, our subsidiary airline in Uganda.