Homa Bay County

Discover Homa Bay County

Lake Victoria Safari Village near Mbita.  Photo Courtesy
Lake Victoria Safari Village near Mbita. Image Courtesy of NMG

Brief Overview of Homabay County

The defining features of Homa Bay County – a lateral teardrop-shaped county that becomes narrower to the right – are the presence of Lake Victoria and the Kavirondo Gulf bounding it along the entire northern and western boundaries covering a distance of almost 130 kms from near Kendu Bay (east) to Nyandiwa (west), and the presence of round about twelve islands, big and small. It’s this considerable presence of Lake Victoria that influences much of her geography, climate and socio-economics. On a much lesser scale, on the lay of the land in Homa Bay, are Gwasi Hills in the furthest west and Lambwe Valley. Beneath these hills is found the Ruma National Park sits. In the south, it is bordered by Migori, Kisii, and Nyamira Counties. To the northeast is found Kisumu County.

If, instead of proceeding to Kisumu at Ahero, one turns left travelling towards Homa Bay County, taking a right turn at the small centre of Awach (Katito), one finds themselves in a picturesque rural setting on a good road (which is notably raised above the ground because the land bordering the highway tends to flood during the rains) passing through a low-lying almost level delta region adjacent to Lake Victoria. A short distance from Pap Onditi, Sondu Miriu Hydro-Power Station provides haunting views for first-timers to this area. At the same time, views of Lake Victoria and a glimpse of the local fishing boats occupy the scene, before arriving at Kendu Bay.  At first glance, Kendu Bay has little to commend it, being little more than an administrative station. A closer inspection reveals the population here is dominated by Muslims and Christians, in equal fractions.

It is only 31 kms from Kenbu Bay to Homa Bay, its largest town. ​Shortly before entering the main town, one may be interested in visiting the Homa Bay Tourist Hotel or ACK Guest House to catch lovely views of Lake Victoria, especially at sunset.  Ahero-Kendu Bay-Homa Bay Road is the main line of communication in Homa Bay County, and from Homa Bay it continues west, passing the turnoff to Mbita and Rusinga Island, to the Ruma National Park, 31 kms away. From Ruma, it takes a wide curve from Magunga to Karungu from where it begins to double-back east, passing through Ndhiwa, Rodi Kopani, Rangwe, Oyugis and Kandondo before terminating at Sondu, the most easterly point. From Sondu, it is 15 kms north to Awach and 30 kms to Ahero and A104 Nairobi-Kisumu Road.

Salient Features of Homabay County

  • County Number 43
  • Area – 3183 km2
  • Altitude – 1293 ft
  • Major Towns – Kendu Bay, Homa Bay, Ndhiwa
  • Borders – Kisumu, Nyamira, Kericho, Kisii, Migori

Brief History of Homabay County

To gain free access to the protectorate, the British Empire decided to cut across from Mombasa to reach the shores of Lake Victoria by train.  In 1902, the IBEA Company opted to transfer British East Africa inland port serving the thriving Kavirondo area, and the lake regions, from Mount Elgon to Homa Bay.  From this, a new political entity began, with many immigrants, white farmers, Indian traders, missionaries arriving in the region and who, by will or whip, introduced their ways to the people of Homa Bay County, and by extension South Nyanza. Homa Bay was formerly the headquarters of South Nyanza before it was split to constitute the Kuria, Suba, Migori, Homa Bay, Rachuonyo, and Rongo Districts.

View of Sondu Miriu Power Plant.  Photo Courtesy of Heavy Engineering
View of Sondu Miriu Power Plant.  Image Courtesy of Heavy Engineering

Places of Interest in Homa Bay County

1. Sondu Miriu Hydro Station

Set between Nyakach Escarpment (right) and the Koguta Forest Reserve (left), on the boundary between Homa Bay and Kisumu Counties and a short distance from Pap-Onditi, the massive structures and layout of the Sondu Miriu Hydro-Power Station are in sum an impressive sight. It unfolds from the top of Koguta Hill, along its side, to the level valley. Commissioned in 2009, with an installed capacity of 60 MW, it diverts water from the Miriu River to a reservoir atop the Koguta Hill, before this is diverted through a 6.3 kms headrace tunnel along the side of hill through a power house at the base of the Nyakach Escarpment. Back above ground, the intake structure (a small impoundment behind an 18-metres high intake weir) regulates the pressure in the tunnel, and after passing through the powerhouse the water is returned to Miriu River along a concrete 4.5 kms long culvert-channel running westwards along the foot of Nyakach Escarpment.

2. Old Kendu Bay Town

At Kendu Bay Town, 23 kms west from Sondu Miriu, one may be interested in making a quick detour to swing over to the Old Kendu Bay Town. Now just a deserted row of dukas, this resembles a movie set for a classic western. “The old town has a mini network of tarmac road stretching towards the lake. It also has an old pier where steamships docked as recently as the 1980’s to late 1990’s” – Nation Media. Kendu Bay pier, however, permanently stopped operating in the early 1980’s, as the hyacinth paralyzed transport, which began the downfall of Old Kendu Bay Town. A few other factors contributed to the relocation of the township including the influence of the Adventist Church and that of the Asian traders. Just the same, the straw that broke the camel’s back was the paving of the Kendu Bay-Homa Bay Road, between 1971 and 1974, which completely by-passed Old Kendu Bay Town. Hence, when the new town was built further from Lake, everyone moved and never returned, leaving in its wake a neglegted town.

3. Kendu Adventist Hospital

Also of interest near Kendu Bay Town is a visit to one of the largest installations by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kenya. This is reached by taking a good road up and over the hill from Kendu Bay, for 4.5 kms. This road, going through Karachuonyo North, eventually terminates at Oyugis Centre, 20 kms away. The Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) have a long history in this region, arriving here in 1906 in company with the Asian traders and settlers. Kendu Adventist Hospital was established in 1925 and it now provides a full-service healthcare center for the people near Kendu Bay and beyond. The Old SDA Church at Rapethi, 5 kms from Ndhiwa Town, was gazetted as a National Monument on March 9th, 2001, for its outstanding contribution to the spiritual nourishment and social welfare.

Spatial Location of Kendu Adventist Hospital in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Kendu Adventist Hospital in Homa Bay County

4. Lake Simbi Nyaima

2 kms from Kendu Bay en-route Homa Bay the turnoff to Lake Simbi Nyaima is reached. Mythologized as “the village that sank”, this miniature lake measuring only 1 km in diameter geologically occupies a small caldera depression resulting from volcanic activity. The landscape around the Lake is generally flat; sloping only slightly towards the shoreline of Lake Victoria a few kilometers north. To the far-west are the spectacular Homa Hills, which may have been formed by the same geological processes that formed it. Even so, it is its cultural heritage that thrust it into the limelight and it is an important cultural construct for the locals because it accounts for both its origin and plans for its conservation. And where the traveller is not convinced by its old wives tales, its branding value for eco-tourism is agreeably appropriate and tramples scientific explanations. It is also a critical transitional refuge for migrating lesser flamingoes from the Rift Valley lakes. Visitors here can enjoy its views both by driving or walking along a ring road encircling it. The Ondago Swamp is situated 700 ms from Lake Simbi.

“A certain ugly-looking woman with skin conditions visited the local area looking for someone to take her in and give her food and rest. However, nobody accepted to host her but instead the people chased her away. Wild, angry and desperate, the woman unleashed her anger and ordered the entire village to sink along with all its houses, leading to the formation of the lake. All the people present in the village perished as she went on her way.” – The Hidden Treasures

5. Ondago Swamp National Sanctuary

The arrival of flamingos at the Ondago Swamp from Lake Nakuru transformed this otherwise abandoned swamp to a variegated birding area, and surprisingly into a National Sanctuary almost instantaneously. While there are more than 21 recorded bird species, it is the hundreds of flamingos – sometimes swelling to thousands – that draw in the travellers.  The main activity at Ondago Swamp is watching the flamingos go about their daily avocations, undeterred and rather uninterested in the spectators or by the human settlement near the swamp. It is located 700 ms from Lake Simbi Nyaima and just 3 kms from Kendu Bay Town.

6. Kisindi Lodge and Spa

This is found midway between Kendu Bay and Homa Bay, taking a right turn at the small centre of Kadel into Kandiege. From here, it’s 16 kms along a good all weather road, past Kandiege Sub-district Hospital and Alara Secondary School, taking an exit just before Homa Line at Lake Victoria’s water edge. Tucked away deep in this bucolic back country, Kisindi Lodge and Spa Resort is comprised of 5 tastefully furnished rondavels (with the iconic thatched roof) all looking out to the Lake and amenably responding to the landscape. At sunset, the happenings and stress of the world rarely get in the way of the magical sunsets, and the sun glints over the lake, with Homa Hills in the forepart, offer a rare treat. Kisindi is an exceptional hidey-hole for anyone who enjoys a touch of solitude and partial to disappearing for the nonce. Away from the repose and relaxation, visitors can enjoy a sunset cruise on Lake Victoria, hike and explore the nearby Homa Hills. Other facilities include a swimming pool, spa, fully-stocked bar, and restaurant.

7. Homa Hills

The 6 kms long range of peaks of Homa Hills seen as you approach Homa Bay from Kendu Bay form a pleasant roadside delight. Set between Homa Line and Mainuga Beach, on the Homa peninsula which protrudes into the Winam Gulf and forms the east flank of Homa Bay, they sit in the tectonically active region along Kendu Fault. Its main peaks, Nyasanga, Apoyo and Homa, are encircled by cliffs steeply standing out above the surrounding landscape as they abruptly rise from the Kavirondo Gulf, with the tallest of these, the Homa, rising to 1581 ms. The geothermal prospects of Homa Hills, with hot springs on the northern and southern parts of the area, are especially of interest for visitors. These hills, which are a popular hiking and scrambling locale, are best explored during the early morning hours when the sun is not too high overhead.  From above, the boundless vegetation in the delta region, typified by grass, shrubs and natural trees including acacia and other semi-arid species, is striking. The view of Lake Victoria from the upper reaches of Homa Hills are superb. Kisumu and Ndere Island can also be sighted. Kisindi Spa and Lodge is a perfect jumping-off base.

Spatial Location of Homa Hills or Mount Homa in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Homa Hills or Mount Homa in Homa Bay County

8. Bala Lawi Hot Springs

Also known as the Kanjera Hot Springs, these springs of warm-hot water rising from Homa Hills flow along a tectonically active stretch of the Kendu Fault that results in its geological wonder. “Although the water boiling at between 70 to 87 degrees Celsius does not gush out of the ground like those seen at Lake Bogoria, the sight created by nearly 20 bubbling hot springs on the bed of an escarpment is a rare treat” – Standard Media. At the site, there are several narrowed springs oozing from the fault and fractures, in a striking landscape that is dominated by the multifarious bizarrely eroded gullies and valleys.  The Bala Lawi Springs are found near Kanjera Prehistoric Site, about 17 kms from Kadel Shopping Centre.

9. Kanjera Prehistoric Site

The late Pliocene Oldowan occurrences at the Kanjera Prehistoric Site are set on the northern margins of Homa Penninsula. Discovered and excavated by Dr. Louis Leakey, in 1932, Kanjera produced a cornucopia of hominoidal remains, some dated 1 Mya.  Since, subsequent excavations at Kanjera have expanded its collection of artefacts. “The lithological sequence at Kanjera South consists of 6 beds of the Southern Member of the Kanjera Formation”. – Plos One. Informed by decades of research and science, it was concluded that at least one species of tool-making hominin, almost certainly of the genus Homo, was regularly using this open setting. In contrast, most other Oldowan occurrences are situated in more wooded settings. The discoveries at Kanjera indicate that by 2.0 Mya tool-making hominins, probably early Homo, accessed and used a broad spectrum of East African habitats, from these open grassland to riparian forests. Away from its archaeological value, Kanjera Site has exceptional panoramic vistas of the countryside and there is also the Bala Lawi Hot Springs found at close quarters.

10. Kanam Prehistoric Site

Also first excavated in 1932 by Dr. Louis Leakey, Kanam is best-known for the discovery of a fossil human mandible alongside varied Pleistocene fauna and pebble tools of the early Pleistocene epoch. Gazetted in July 1982 as a National Monument, the area comprises of hillocks and gullies bounded to the north by Pala-Kuwur Road starting at the point where Rawe River branches eastwards. Kanam Site, not far from Kanjera, produced numerous artefacts which included hominidal remains dated 1 Mya.  Although there is very little at present to show for its archaeological achievements, trippers can enjoy walks around the area to various vantages. “At Homa, there are only sparse remnants of extrusive cover by which the sub-volcanic surface can be identified. Patches of melanephenite petrographically identical with the Miocene Kisingiri lavas occur north of the Homa Hills, on the south flank of Nyasanja Valley and at Kanam” – Juliet Bach.

11. Asego and Kasarua Hills

From Kendu Bay, it’s a relatively easy 30 kms hop to Homa Bay, set on the end of the lakeshore lowland where the gently rolling terrain flattens towards Lake Victoria. Homa Bay – a name which seems to conjure up all that is bouyant and bona fide in Nyanza – is skirted by a shoreline of 16.5 kms, where the activities of its much reputable fishing are centered. Springing up from this undisturbed peneplain are its duo signature hills – Asego (Simenya) and Kasarua – standing separately, about 2 kms apart. The road into town passes between the two cone-shaped hills, unofficially known as the gateposts of Homa Bay. Built high on the Kasarua Hill, overlooking Lake Victoria, is the excellently appointed ACK Guest House. A short distance from here, before getting into the town, is the old-time Homabay Tourist Hotel – a 40-rooms hotel complex with large front gardens bordering the lake. The town itself, of mostly single-storey buildings, is mainly located along the transport routes such as the roads to Kendu, Rodi, and Mbita.

Spatial Location of Asego and Kasagua Hills in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Asego and Kasagua Hills in Homa Bay County

12. Ruri Hills

Seen en route Mbita, 2 kms after the turn from Homa Bay-Ruma Road, Ruri Hills consist of two unique hills – North Ruri and South Ruri – and numerous neighbouring conical eminences. They stand 5,300 (approximately) and 5,596 feet above sea-level, respectively. The smaller sharp conical hills surrounding them and the ridge of Nyamaji (4,800 feet) to the north are formed by volcanic plugs composed of hard lava. Ruri Hills mark the northern margin of Lambwe Valley, which unravels east and southeast as “a mosaic of landscapes, ranging from riverine woodland and rolling savannah to magnificent escarpments and towering cliffs”, all flanked by the Gwasi Hills and the Kanyamwa Escarpments.

13. Mbita Point

The Homa Bay to Mbita Road travels northeast from the turnoff until it reaches Mbita Point, 32 kms away. This outmoded town is a favourite starting-point for any trip that aims for the 16 Islands of Homa Bay County. There’s a long route branching off at Mbita Point that takes wayfarers into the Ruma National Park up over and through the Gwasi Hills. The best way to spend a day at Mbita is a visit to Lake Victoria Safari Village and to take walking trips to the fishing ports and villages, where you may see local anglers bringing in their huge catch and spirited fishmongers haggling over prices: Mbita is chiefly a fishing village. For overnight guests, the Lake Victoria Safari Village has attractive rondavels, each with its own bathroom and a private veranda overlooking the Lake Victoria. Its other highlights include its gardens, beach front, light house and boating trips. Reduced packages are offered to those visiting the Village and Takawiri Island Resort on consecutive terms. From Mbita, a motorable causeway connects it to Rusinga Island. Mbita Ferry connects it to more than ten other islands. For the more adventurous trippers, the Hiwegi Hills provide great prospects for hiking.

14. Mbita Ferry

Mbita Ferry, which connects Mbita to Mfangano Island, and Kisumu to Mbita from Luanda K’Otieno Beach, is a unique way to commute and revel in the fine landscapes of Kisumu and Homa Bay Counties. The voyage on Mbita Ferry also offers an unfamiliar reverse-view of Kisumu City, Mageto Island, Ndere Island National Park, Mfangano Island and Gwasi Hills.  Equally impressive while on transit are the traditional fishing canoes and fishing villages. At Mbita Point, first time visitors to the region can enjoy mingling with local anglers.  The new ultra modern ferries (that include MV Uzinza) are capable of carrying 30 small cars and almost 150 passengers on a smooth ride. To get to Mbita Ferry from Kisumu take the B1 Busia Road for 11-12 kms to Kisian, turn left towards Bondo and drive up to Ndori Centre – about 36 kms away – then turn left at Ndori for Luanda K’Otieno. There are two ferries (MV Mbita and MV Uzinza) that operate in alternate cycles five times daily at 7 am, 10 am, noon, 2 pm and 5 pm.

15. Rusinga Island

Rusinga Island, connected to the mainland by the Rusunga Causeway, contrasts with Mfangano Island by its constitution of several comparatively low distinct hillscapes with a central summit on Lunene (4,790 feet). Both these islands are comparatively densely populated, yet, owing to the rocky nature of the terrain, the island people are little more than self-supporting, even with the supply of fish from the lake. Surprisingly, Mfangano Island has many small permanent rivulets. Excepting the offshoot sprig arc to the east, the 16 kms wide Rusinga Island is easily accessible along a ring road that encircles it, along which, on the outer edges, are to be found several reasonable resorts and camps that include: Holiday Inn Rusinga, White Stone Beach Resort, Wayando Beach Eco Lodge and Rusinga Homestay. Of its growing list of establishments, the most revered and popular is, of course, Rusinga Island Resort which is served by its private airstrip. Rusinga Island has many places of interest that are within reach of an afternoon’s wander-round to include Hiwegi Hills and Tom Mboya Mausoleum.

Mbita Rusinga Bridge, and Takawiri Island. Published by Kenya Skys

16. Rusinga Island Resort

Set in the northwest edge of Rusinga Island, in a backdrop of tropical serenity abounding with lovely exotic gardens, Rusinga Island Lodge has, many times over, been christened the ‘romantic place of sweet tranquility’. The Lodge has 11-luxury cottages – all named after local birds – with high thatched roofs and spacious patios looking out over lush gardens and the sparkling lake beyond. Sunset and dinning catering are best enjoyed at: the Fish Eagle House; along the candlelit jetty; or around the floodlit pool. There’s a fully-stocked bar. Other amenities include a swimming pool and spa. Outdoor activities include boating to the islands, biking or walking to Tom Mboya Mausoleum or the Pre-historic site where the Proconsul Africanus was discovered in 1948, or a day trip to the Ruma National Park. Rusinga Island Resort is found 10 kms from Mbita Point.

Spatial Location of Rusinga Island Resort in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Rusinga Island Resort in Homa Bay County

17. Tom Mboya Mausoleum

Also located in the northwest quarter of Rusinga Island near the Rusinga Island Resort and about 1 km from the junction to Kolunga Beach, is the Tom Mboya Mausoleum under the aegis of National Museums of Kenya. The bullet-shaped mausoleum, on his ancestral home at Kasawanga, is symbolic of Mboya’s unjust and ill timed death on July 5th, 1969, in Nairobi. Inside, there are exhibitions of Tom’s mementos, memorabilia and awards. As one of the most impeccable and charismatic leaders Kenya has yet been blessed with, Mboya was widely tipped to become Kenya’s second president, succeeding Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Thomas Joseph Odhiambi ‘Tom’ Mboya was first monumentalized in Kenyan chronicles as the vanguard of the negotiations for the Independence of Kenya at Lancaster House Conferences.  Right off the bat, after Kenya’s independence, he became Kenyatta’s maverick kingmaker; his first task of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of the constitution – in company with Charles Njonjo – handled masterfully.

Henceforth, Mboya would bolster unwavering loyalty to Kenyatta, always top-scoring on pro-government agendas and tactfully thwarting many attempts by opposition members to engender bootless policies. Indeed, Tom Mboya’s legal, political and diplomatic astuteness had in equal part impressed and terrified. Furthermore, his age, many years younger than the high ranking government officials of the day, did not sit well with many, at a time when tribal politics was beginning to rear its ugly head. An eloquent statesman and enigmatic leader, he would also go down in history as the first Kenyan to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine – March 7th, 1960, as a second to none political colossus. News of Tom’s death send shock across the nation on a scale never witnessed before. What was not in doubt, was that his assassination was the last refuge to silence a brilliant political maven whose abstruse ingenuity had remained unanswered.

Tom’s Memorial at Holy Family Basilica. Published by British Pathe

18. Kasawanga Fishing Village

Fishing has always been key to Homa Bay’s economy and it’s fishing that drives growth of many of its island villages.  A call in on one of Homa Bay’s buzzy-busy fishing villages is a great way to round a trip of the islands and discern the ways of life of these seafaring communities. Not far from the Tom Mboya Mausoleum and Rusinga Island Resort, on Kolunga Beach, sits the ludicrously windswept Kasawanga Fishing Village, with a welcoming and frienly fork. For the intrepid, this vibrant fishing community, who own fleets of intricately built boats, offers rare experiences to engage and understand how these communities thrive here. 

Fishing is the main economic activity in Homa Bay County, with the county controlling over 80% of the Lake Victoria Beach front in Kenya. Mbita Town is a leading fishing zone with over 80% of its inhabitants being fishermen – MSDP.

19. Rusinga Island Festival

Rusinga Island Festival is an annual celebration of the vibrant cultures, and all things goods, in Western Kenya particularly of the Abasuba People who inhabit Rusinga Island where this festival is held. Traditionally held in December, it is an exuberant two days of music, fashion, film, food, artistry, literature, sports and conversations that take you back in time into the wealth of the Abasuba Culture. “As a result of assimilation and intermarriage with the Luo, the Suba culture has come under pressure and the language is now listed in UNESCO’s Red Book of Endangered Languages (2003). Rusinga and Mfangano Islands are in the tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.” In December 2019, it will commemorate its 8th Edition as one of the most popular festivals in Kenya.

20. Ngodhe Island

Ngodhe Island, found immediately north of Rusinga Island, is one of the least inhabited of the 16 small islands found in Homa Bay County. It is also one the most pleasant to explore and photograph. Easily reached on a short boating trip either from Rusinga or Mfangano Islands, Ngodhe offers a great day adventures of walking and sauntering around the island, hiking to the summit, exploring its striking flora, birding, enjoying the extraordinary vistas and the superb sunsets.

21. Mfangano Island

The 65 km2 Mfangano Island 8 kms west of Rusinga Island is with little effort recognized by its steep rise from Lake Victoria and its exotically lush and varied tropical foliage. The southern coast of Mfangano Island is a sheer cliff, rising 1,800 feet from Lake Victoria. Much the same as Rusinga Island, it is populated mainly by Suba Community – who originally came from Uganda – and the Luo. Dr L.S.B. Leakey also carried out detailed archaeological research on Mfangano Island, over many years, and some of these sites can be toured. End to end, this 15 kms wide island is typified by upthrown large volcanic rocks, although it has fewer hillocks compared to Rusinga. It has a well defined road traversing much of the lower half. For tourism, Mfangano has various accommodation options to include: the Mfangano Island Beach Resort, Joyland Lodge and Kakimba Beach Hotel. Its most famed establishment, the Mfangano Island Governors Camp, is found in the extreme northern tip. Other places of interest on the island include the Mount Kwitutu Rock Art sites and the Abasuba Center and Peace Museum. Mfangano Island is accessible by ferry – either from Rusinga, Mbita or Kisumu.

The twin islands of Mfangano and Rusinga are relatively different, as if they were unrelated. Mfangano, out in Lake Victoria, is rocky and steep, the farms are small, and the hilltops still thick with trees and bushes. Rusinga is more densely populated, its shoreline wide with many farms, sandy soil and layers of sedimentary rocks. The hills that rise from the centre are largely denuded, but feature sites sacred to the native people – Trust for African Rock Art.

22. Mfangano Island Camp

The charming and offbeat Mfangano Island Camp encapsulates all that we love about island hideaways. The rustic lodge, set on the exclusive northern edge of Mfangano Island, is inspired and built using the Luo-tribal-style to pay homage to the local community and aptly blend with the landscape. All in all, it has nine double-bedded cottages, including a beautiful dedicated family cottage, situated right on the lakeshore and all enclosed in secluded beautiful gardens running to the littorals of Lake Victoria.  Among the highlights at Mfangano Island Camp are its panoramic views over Lake Victoria, a spa, water-sports, fishing, biking and exploring nearby rock art sites. It has an infinity pool from where one can wallow in the luxury of the year-round pleasant tropical weather and fine views.

23. Mawanga Rock Art Site

Although transport to Mfangano Island is basically limited to engine boats, with one ferry and waterbus linking it to Uyoma and Luanda, a causeway is under construction to ease movement. Most arriving on the Island reach it from the southeast terminus, near Joyland Lodge. From the boat landing, it’s a quick 5 to 10 minutes walk westbound to Mawanga Cave and to the 8 m2 rock art panel, consisting of concentric geometric circles. The last few metres of the approach are quite steep and a railing is provided. A didactic pediment reads: “This rock art site is sacred to the Wasamo Clan who are the rainmakers of the Abasuba Community and who used it until recently for rainmaking ceremonies. The red and white painted concentric circles, spirals and sunbursts were used in the morning for specific rituals by women from the clan during ceremonies. The red paintings were believed to represent the moon and the white ones the sun”.

Howbeit, it is also widely thought that the panel, originally painted by the Twa People over 100 years ago, was meant to ward-off bad omen and enemies from the site. Interestingly, Mawanga Cave overlooks the tiny island of Nzenze which carries yet another fascinating rainmaking folklore. This, according to the local generational wisdom of the community, is also sacred to the Wasamo Clan and was believed to be the ‘abode’ for the rainmaking spirits. “It is believed that the rainmaking spirits were vested in the rock art of Mawanga Cave which directly faces Nzenze Island”. Also of interest at Mawanga is an impression on the base rock thought to resemble fingerprints, locally known as “Sacred Hand of God”. Not too far from here is the resplendent Mount Kwitutu where the larger and more impressive Kwitone Rock Art Site is located. It takes about 45 minutes by ferry from Mbita to Mfangano and there are a few good hotels found nearby to set up base, that include Joyland Lodge and the Mfangano Island Beach Resort.

24. Kwitone Rock Art Site

Rising to 1,635 ms from the south to center of Mfangano Island, Mt. Kwitutu is its most prominent land-form. Its moderate slope allows for easy walking to its upper reaches and where the Kwitone Rock Art site in located. Made up of sets of intricate red and white circles, on a concealed 40 ms overhang ledge on the hillside, sometimes known as the Kwitone Hill, the Kwitone Rock Art delineates that this site was most probably used as a shrine.  It bears much resemblance to Mawanga although here the colour and vibrancy is more intricate. “According to the elders, in times of war and trouble, people would come to the cave to ask the ancestors to bring peace. In their battle between the Wagimbe and Wasaki (about 200 years ago), the Wagimbe had taken refuge in the cave” – TARA. The Abasuba used Kwitone Rock Art Site for rainmaking ceremonies as late as the 1980’s, before the missionaries opposed ‘these rituals of worship’.  The Kwitone Rock Art is found 6 kms from Mawanga site. It can be visited with a guide from the Abasuba Peace Museum, and requires a hike of one and half hours to reach.

25. Abasuba Peace Museum

The Abasuba Community, originally from neighbouring Uganda, predominate the rocky Mfangano Island and the Abasuba Peace Museum founded in 2000 aims to promote and preserve their remarkably unique cultural heritage. Here, travellers can view a pictographic collection of the Abasuba Rock Art, visit the Magerenge Shrines, learn at the Communal Centre, study more about culture at their library or enjoy a night or two either at their campsite or cottages. The Abasuba Peace Museum, managed by the Trust for Rock Africa Art (TARA), was one of the first community museums to be supported by the National Museums of Kenya and the Government of Kenya through Kenya Tourism Trust Fund.  It is located near Ramba 2 kms north of the ferry jetty at the east tip of Mfangano.

26. Takawiri Island

Situated 1 km southeast of Mfangano Island and served by the Mbita Ferry or via motorized boats from Mbita, the surprisingly untraversed Takawiri Island is fast-growing as a fairyland beach destination. The appeal of this tiny island is capped by a pristine stretch of pretty palm-fringed sandy beach, azure waters, and the most inviting tropical weather. Whether you are visiting for a weekend or longer or a mere day outing, it’s not hard to imagine this as part of Kenya’s fine beaches somewhere in the Coast Region. But unlike at the Coast, Takawiri Island offers an element of surprise and a wildly scenic landscape. Its foremost destination, the Takawiri Island Resort, is set up along its southwestern corner.

Spatial Location of Takawiri Island in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Takawiri Island in Homa Bay County

27. Ringiti Island

The tiny Ringiti Island, 800 ms west of Mfangano Island and near the Kenya-Uganda maritime border, is home to a modest fishing village of about 5,000, and fishing of the highly-prized wild Nile perch and tilapia is the only thriving industry on the island. While there is little to see on Ringiti Island, callers to its village can get a general appreciation of cultural diversity, the stories and tales of the brave anglers who risk life and limb, or sail their traditional fishing boats.

28. Mbasa Islands

Only minimally utilized, the two small rocky Mbasa Islands are widely-known as a bird sanctuary, where over 100 bird species have been recorded. “Mbasa is home to a wide variety of wetland birds, including long-tailed cormorants, fish eagles, marsh harriers and little white egrets” – Lonely Planet. Bird gatherings are thickest at sunset, when birds return to roost. Tucked between Takawiri and Rusinga Islands, no one is allowed to live here. Trippers only visit and go round the islands on boats. In turn, the birds mainly depend on the fishing villages for food, as they mostly depend on the worthless parts discarded by the fishermen.

29. Gwasi Hills

Rising abruptly from Kavirondo Gulf to 2,133 ms, the highly dissected massif of the Gwasi Hills, in part forested, covers 1,048 km2 at the northwest corner of Homa Bay County, south of the Mfangano Island. Only along the upper reaches and hilltops of the steep-sloped Gwasi Hills do the deciduous seasonal forests occur, and much of the lower regions are outgrown with thickets and savanna type vegetation which eventually merges with the Lambwe Valley, immediately south and south east. The outer extent of the Gwasi Hills are typified by steep, deeply gullied stack ridges of volcanic rocks called Kisingiri with high points at Gembe (6,230 feet), Sumba (6,034 feet), Gwasi (6,384 feet) and the Usengere, also known as Kwirathia (7,454 feet). The Gwasi’s form a magnificent backdrop at Mfangano, Rusinga, Takawiri and Kimamboni Islands – south of these hills – and at the Ruma National Park, which sits east of these hills. Locally known as the Gonsi or Usengere Hills, meaning ‘the revered and sacred shrine’, the steep-sloped Gwasi Hills are endowed with a pleasant diversity of biota and scenery.

Terrain Map of the Gwasi Area
Terrain Map of the Gwasi Area

30. Lambwe Valley

The Lambwe Valley unfolds congenially as an extensive flat valley that’s quite unexpectedly typified by woodland and open grassland. It is a south-westerly extension of the Kavirondo fault lying between the Kanyamwa Escarpment to the east and the Gwasi Hills to the west. Its dip slope declines moderately in a southeasterly direction to the Kuja River system, from an altitude of 1,280 ms to 1,190 ms at the shore of the Kavirondo Gulf. Lying close to the equator, the Valley tends to be hot and humid, but extreme temperatures and humidity are seldom experienced. Its tropical woodlands and savannas harbor an enormous concentration of wildlife at the 120 km2 Ruma National Park deep in the valley.

31. Ruma National Park

Originally dubbed the Lambwe Valley Game Park, the 120 km2 Ruma National Park lying within the Lambwe Valley was set up in 1966 as a protection area for the endangered roan antelope. “This species has never been abundant in Kenya and the game laws of 1909 gave it special protection on account of its scarcity”. Located close at hand with Lake Victoria, and bordered by Gwasi Hills and the Kanyamwa Escarpment (in the east and west) and by the volcanic plugs of the Ruri Hills (in the north), the drive to Ruma National Park is a wildly beautiful one. Moreover, its relatively flat terrain which makes it easy to drive across the park offers unbroken scenery. This does, however, make it harder to spot game, because one can hardly see more than the length of the glades. It is found 42 kms from Homa Bay via C19 Homa Bay-Ruma Road and 28 kms from Ndhiwa.

Ruma offers visitors an opportunity to see various wildlife species including the Rothschild’s giraffe, serval cat, hyena, impala, buffalo, vervet monkey, roan antelope, oribi, bohor reedbuck, leopard, buffalo, and the Jackson’s hartebeest. Recently re-introduced species are Black rhino,White rhino, Burchell′s zebra whose populations have adapted quite well. Roan antelope, Oribi and Jackson’s hartebeest are easily spotted in Ruma than anywhere else in Kenya. KWS

Roan Antelope, (Korongo)

Standing 5 feet at the shoulder, and just slightly smaller than the Eland and Bongo, this large and powerful antelope is sighted in open country containing patches of woodland. The horns, present in both males and females, curve backward and are tightly ringed. It’s colour is mostly red-brown with a white belly, and the face has black and white markings.

32. Kanyamwa Escarpment

The Kanyamwa Escarpment sheltering the Ruma National Park to the east, is a north-facing fault-line range extending in a west-southwesterly direction from Kanyada to Uganju and marking the unofficial border between Homa Bay and Migori Counties. This is low-lying and less impressive compared to the Gwasi Hills, on the opposite side of the park, only reaching an average height of 1,500 ms with its highest point of Kiambo Hill rising about 1,722 ms above sea-level. The range is extremely steep but negotiable over most parts. On the dip-slope, south-east of the range, the country falls gently to the Kuja river, following the gentle dip of the Gwasi Hills outwards from the noted eminence of the Kisingiri.

33. Nyamugondho Site

About 28 kms west of the Ruma National Park lies a cultural space of intriguing cultural anecdotes. It is located at the narrowed Nyandiwa peninsula, the most westerly point in Homa Bay County. The site, more proper ‘the lady of the lake’, has an inscrutable myth that baffles travellers. The legend relates that Mbare, poor and without two pennies to rub together, was out fishing in the lake using a fishing net (mugondho). Eager for bountiful fish, he pulled in his net, only to find a beautiful woman inside. Once on land, the two agreed that he would take her in and keep it a secret. In time, Nyamugondho, or lady of the lake, brought good tidings and fortune to Mbara. “But as only heaven is impregnable to vice”, he became capricious, often brutal and an increasingly fickle companion. Angry and distraught, Nyamugondho returned to whence she had come from. “Local mythology says that rock formations resembling Nyamugondho’s footsteps and those of her animals can be seen at the point where she entered Lake Victoria!”

Spatial Location of Nyandiwa in Homa Bay County
Spatial Location of Nyandiwa in Homa Bay County

34. Gor Mahia Shrine

Shortly before taking the Ndhiwa-Rodi-Homa Bay Road, one may, however, be interested in visiting the Gor Mahia Shrine: the humble abode of one of Kenya’s quintessential real life superheroes – tough as steel, strong as an ox, with other-worldly abilities. Gor Mahia, or Gor Makogalo, who died on May 9, 1920, aged 126, was a legendary warrior who wielded magical power, and the son of a well seasoned medicine wizard named Ogalo. In traditional Luo, his full name was Gor Wuod Ogada nyakwar Ogalo which literally means Gor son of Ogada and the grandson of Ogalo. It is not at all uncommon in Luo-land to be awarded the epithet of one’s village or lineage. Hence, he was also known as Gor Makogalo or Gor K’Ogalo, a short form of Gor who hails from Ogalo’s homestead (family). Quite the unlikely paragon, Gor Mahia had been banished from the Kanyamwa Chiefdom in his earlier years, for disorderly conduct and for highhandedness. This was pre-colonial Kenya. It would be his contribution, around 1903, at the onset of British occupation of East Africa and his surpassing prowess – both as a leader and a warrior – that would metamorphose his legacy from hero to god-like. At the shrine, there is a giant ancient tree, locally known as the Nyagidha Towers, and a pile of stones that mark the final resting place of Gor Mahia. It is customary for visitors to Gor Mahia Shrine to pay reverence to this sacred tree in order to invoke the blessing of Gor Mahia – a popular ritual among football fanatics.  The shrine is found 2 kms from Ndhiwa Centre, in Kanyamwa Village.

When Gor died on May 9, 1920, the Luo people mourned heavily, wondering whether there would again be such a hero. The colonialist were likewise grief-stricken and frustrated for no one could satisfactorily fill the vacuum left by Gor; consequently a line of complaints and insults run through their reports on all of Gor’s successors. – The Epic of Gor Mahia: The Luo Epic – a book by Adrian Onyando.

A view at Rusinga Island Resort.  Photo Courtesy of Rusinga Resort
A view at Rusinga Island Resort. Image Courtesy of Rusinga Resort

Geography of Homa Bay County

Homa Bay County is divided up into two main ecological zones:the lakeshore lowlands and the upland plateau. The lakeshore lowlands lie between 1,163 and 1,219 ms, and comprises a long narrow stretch bordering Lake Victoria in the northern parts of the County. The upland plateau starts at 1,219 ms and has an undulating surface that has resulted from erosion of an ancient peneplain. It is broken up by residual highlands like Gwasi and Ngorome in Suba, Gembe and Ruri in Mbita, Wire in Kasipul and Homa Hills in Karachuonyo. Kodera Forest in Kasipul and Kanyamwa Escarpment, that runs along the borders of Ndhiwa and Mbita, also forms part of the upland plateau. In the west area of Homa Bay County lies the plane of Lambwe Valley where Ruma National Park is situated.

Land Use in Homa Bay County

The vast majority (80%) of the farmers in Homa Bay produce maize and beans. This is because maize and beans are considered the staple foods of the county. The main cash crops produced in Homa Bay County are sugar cane (Ndhiwa), sunflower (Suba), pineapples (Rangwe) and potatoes (Kasipul and Kabondo). The Fisheries sub sector is equally important in the county, as it boarders Lake Victoria. The main species caught here include Nile Perch, Tilapia, and Clarias.

Highlights of Homa Bay County

Homa Bay County has sixteen islands, some with unique fauna and flora and an impressive array of physiographic features with prolific aesthetic value as well as breathtaking scenery and forested landscape – particularly those around the islands and the shores of Lake Victoria and a peninsula like Sikri of Mbita sub-county.  Homa Bay County is prominently positioned to be a fashionable and sought-after region in Western Kenya owing to its enormous touring resources.

Population of Homa Bay County

The population density for Homa Bay in 2012 was 342 people/ km2, which was expected to rise to 368 persons per km² and 387 persons per km² in 2015 and 2017 respectively.  Based on projections from the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Homa Bay County had an estimated population of about 1,038,858 in 2012. This population was projected to rise to 1,177,181 persons in 2017.  Urban population accounts for 8%, found in Homa Bay, Mbita Point, Oyugis and Kendu Bay – with a combined population of 82,357, 2012. Homa Bay Town hosts 41,844 people representing about 50% of the urban population.

View of Homa Hills, in Homa peninsula.  Photo Courtesy of Kenya Facts
View of Homa Hills, in Homa peninsula.  Image Courtesy of Kenya Facts

Airports in Homa Bay County

Homa Bay County has five airstrips: Kabunde, Mfangano, Rusinga, Otange and Otaro. Of these, only Kabunde Airstrip has a bitumen-surface standard runway.

Roads in Homa Bay County

Homa Bay County has one A-class Road (A1 Kisii-Kisumu) covering about 150 kms; one C-class Road (C20 Homa Bay-Rongo) road covering about 30 kms; two class C19 roads (Homa Bay–Mbita and Homabay–Kendu Bay) covering about 71 kms and one class C18 (Rodi Kopany–Sori) road covering about 32 kms. All these class A and C roads are bitumenized and in fairly good condition.

Climate in Homa Bay County

Homa Bay County has an inland equatorial climate pattern modified by altitude and the vast presence of Lake Victoria.  The temperatures in Homa Bay County ranges from 18°C to 33°C, with the warmest months being between December and March. February is usually the hottest month of the year. The temperatures are however lower in the higher mid and southern area bordering Kisii County. 

Homa Bay County Distance Chart
Homa Bay County Distance Chart

View on approach to Ruma National Park from Homabay.  Photo Courtesy
The Lambwe Valley, Gwasi Hills and Kanyamwa Range. Image Courtesy

National Monuments in Homabay County

  1. Kanam Prehistoric Site
  2. Kanjera Prehistoric Site
  3. Tom Mboya Mausoleum
  4. Government House – Sori
  5. SDA Church – Rapedhi

Homa Bay County Map

Homa Bay County Map