Western Kenya Tourism Circuit
With its lush green landscapes, picturesque lakeshores and expansive rainforests, this part of the country offers an unforgettable experience to visitors. In this blog, we will take you through some of the top attractions, parks and reserves that make up the Western Kenya Tourism Circuit.
What is the Western Kenya Tourism Circuit?
The Western Kenya Tourism Circuit refers to a collection of attractions, parks, reserves, and cultural sites located in the western region of Kenya. The circuit covers 10 counties including Bungoma, Busia, Homa Bay, Kakamega, Kisumu, Migori, Nyamira, Siaya, Trans Nzoia, and Vihiga. It is a unique tourism destination that offers visitors a chance to explore the rich culture and natural beauty of Kenya beyond the typical safari experience.
Map of Western Kenya Circuit:
The Western Kenya Circuit, as depicted in the map below, stretches from Trans Nzoia County in the North, bordering Uganda, all the way to the Southernmost County of Migori, which shares its border with Tanzania. The Northern Counties, namely Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, and Vihiga, are predominantly inhabited by the Luhya community. Moving towards the middle, Siaya, Homabay, and Kisumu are predominantly populated by the Luo community, while Kisii and Migori, the two lower counties, are predominantly occupied by the Gussi community.
Lake & National Parks in the Western Kenya Circuit
Western Kenya is home to various attractions that will leave you mesmerized. Here are some of the top must-visit attractions in this region:
The largest freshwater lake in Africa and the source of the Nile River, Lake Victoria is a major attraction in Western Kenya. The lake offers spectacular views and opportunities for water activities such as fishing, boat rides, and birdwatching.
Lake Victoria offers a humid climate and hot temperatures year-round, making it an ideal destination for esteemed travelers. For those seeking cooler seasons, July to October is the perfect time to visit.
The lake is a sanctuary for wildlife, harboring a diverse array of attractions. From wetland creatures like cichlid fish, sitatunga, and African clawless otter, to a rich tapestry of birdlife, there’s no shortage of wonders to behold. In the region of Lake Victoria, numerous mammal species find their home, including the mighty hippopotamus, the elusive marsh mongoose, and the charming giant otter shrew. Reptilian inhabitants such as the Nile crocodile and the African helmeted turtle grace its waters, alongside a multitude of crustaceans, including four distinct species of freshwater crab.
2.Kakamega Forest National Reserve
Covering an area of over 45 square kilometers, the Kakamega Forest National Reserve is a tropical rainforest that is home to various flora and fauna. Visitors can enjoy nature walks, birdwatching and primate viewing in this beautiful reserve.
Kakamega Forest offers a captivating interactive experience, perfect for immersive walking safaris. Explore a variety of activities such as birdwatching, hiking trails, visits to the falls, and even nighttime safaris. As a rainforest, the forest can be occasionally wet, so the best time to visit depends on your preference for rainfall. May and August are the wettest months, while December to February and April are the driest.
3.Saiwa Swamp National Park
Located in Kitale, Saiwa Swamp National Park is a small but spectacular wildlife sanctuary. It covers an area of just 3 square kilometers and is known for being the smallest national park in Kenya. Despite its size, it boasts a high number of endangered animal species.
The main attraction at Saiwa Swamp National Park is the rare Sitatunga antelope, which can only be found in the wild in two places in Kenya. Visitors can also spot other animals such as De Brazza’s monkey, bushbuck, and otters. The park is also home to over 372 species of birds, making it a birdwatching paradise.
4.Mount Elgon National Reserve
Situated on the slopes of Mount Elgon, this national reserve offers a diverse and unique landscape. Visitors can enjoy hiking through bamboo forests, caves, and waterfalls while spotting wildlife such as elephants, buffaloes, and antelopes.
The main attraction at Mount Elgon National Reserve is the Kitum Cave. The cave is famous for its salt-licking elephants, who come to the cave to feed on the mineral-rich rock. Visitors can also take part in birdwatching and cultural visits to nearby communities.
The optimal time for visiting is during the months of June to August or December to March.
5.Lake Kanyaboli National Reserve
Located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Siaya County, this national reserve is a haven for bird lovers. It covers an area of 10 square kilometers and is home to over 450 species of birds, making it one of the top birdwatching destinations in Kenya.
Aside from birdwatching, visitors can also enjoy boating and fishing on the lake or explore the nearby Kanyaboli Wetland, which is a Ramsar site and an important bird area.
6.Ndere Island National Park
Located in the middle of Lake Victoria, Ndre Island National Park is a beautiful and serene escape from the bustling cities. The island offers opportunities for birdwatching, fishing, boat rides, and nature walks.
The main attractions at Ndre Island are the abundant birdlife and the presence of rare mammals such as sitatungas and colobus monkeys. Visitors can also explore the island’s historical sites, including ancient burial grounds and ruins of a prison.
7.Ruma National Park
Located in Homa Bay County, Ruma National Park is the only park in Kenya where you can find the rare Roan antelope. The park also boasts a variety of other wildlife such as elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, and leopards.
Visitors can take part in game drives or guided walks to spot these animals in their natural habitats. The park is also a popular destination for birdwatchers, with over 400 species of birds recorded in the area.
Western Kenya Tourist Attractions:
Kisumu National Museum:
Located in Kisumu city, this museum showcases the traditional culture and history of the Luo people, one of Kenya’s largest ethnic groups. Visitors can view artifacts, and traditional homesteads, and learn about the community’s way of life.
Kisumu Museum opened in 1980, is the hub for preserving the cultural and natural heritage of Western Kenya. It features outdoor exhibits of animals, including venomous snakes, Luo homesteads, and traditional clothing. The museum also offers educational services about ancient times and showcases the largest Nile perch caught in Kenya. Open year-round for visitors.
We visited this museum when we were in Primary school as a class and remember enjoying the snake park within the Museum. There is lots to see here though.
Kisumu Impala Sanctuary
This impala sanctuary is home to hundreds of impalas, as well as other wildlife such as zebras, buffaloes, and giraffes. Visitors can take a guided walk or bike ride through the sanctuary’s lush greenery while spotting these animals.
The sanctuary also offers boat rides on Lake Victoria to view hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat. The picnic spots and campsites within the sanctuary make it a perfect spot for a family day out or a romantic getaway.
El’ Molo Crocodile Park
El’ Molo Crocodile Park is located at Uhanya Beach Yimbo in Siaya County. It is a captivating animal and nature park, making it an ideal destination for camping and family holidays. The park welcomes visitors throughout the year, offering a delightful experience for nature enthusiasts and vacationers alike.
Kit Mikayi, meaning “stone of the first wife” in Dholuo language, is a large rock formation that resembles a woman carrying a child on her back. It holds great cultural and spiritual significance to the local Luo community.
Visitors can hike up to the top of Kit Mikayi for stunning views of the surrounding landscape and Lake Victoria. The site is also believed to have healing powers, and many people come to pray and make offerings at the shrine located on top of the rock.
The Crying Stone of Ilesi
The Crying Stone of Ilesi is a geological wonder located in Kakamega County. This massive rock formation is said to “cry” when it rains, creating a unique and mesmerizing experience.
Apart from its natural beauty, the site also has cultural significance to the local Isukha and Idakho communities. Visitors can learn about the legend behind the stone and its importance in the community’s history.
Tabaka soapstone and mining site
Tabaka soapstone is a unique and sought-after material in the art world. It is found in Tabaka, a small village in Kisii County. Visitors can witness the traditional methods of mining and carving soapstone, as well as purchase handcrafted souvenirs.
The site also offers guided tours to nearby quarries where visitors can watch miners extract the beautiful soapstone from the earth. It is a great opportunity to learn about the local culture and support the community by purchasing their handcrafted products.
Located in Homabay County, on the southern shore of Winam Gulf, lies the magnificent Homa Hills. jutting out into Lake Victoria, this expansive peninsula boasts breathtaking trails, mesmerizing waterfalls, and rejuvenating hot springs. One of the highlights of Homa Hills is the Homa Hot Springs, reminiscent of Lake Bogoria, where the evaporation process leaves behind sodium, locally known as ‘bala’. This natural wonder is not only a sight to behold but also serves domestic purposes. For the ultimate experience, plan your visit between June and August or from mid-December to early April.
Siaya County boasts a distinctive landscape adorned with captivating flora and fauna. At the heart of this enchanting vista lies a magnificent rock cliff, from which cascades of water gracefully descend to the lower ground. This breathtaking spectacle provides an ideal backdrop for leisurely strolls and thrilling adventures. While the site remains open year-round, it is particularly delightful to visit during the sunny seasons.
Islands and Beaches in this Circuit:
Located on Lake Victoria, Rusinga Island is a must-visit for those seeking an island getaway. Here you can indulge in water sports such as fishing, kayaking and sailing while taking in the stunning views of the lake. The island also boasts rich cultural heritage including rock art sites and traditional Luo homesteads.
Also located on Lake Victoria, Mfangano Island offers a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Visitors can enjoy bird watching, fishing and cycling around the island while taking in the majestic views. The local community also provides an immersive cultural experience with their traditional dances, songs and handicrafts.
Located near Mfangano Island, Takawiri Island is a hidden gem waiting to be explored. Its calm waters and pristine white sand beaches make it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing and picnicking. Visitors can also take boat rides to explore the surrounding islands and witness unique bird species.
Dunga Beach and Wetlands:
Dunga Beach is a popular spot for water sports and outdoor activities such as swimming, canoeing and bird watching. The nearby wetlands are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers. Visitors can also take boat rides to explore the wetlands and learn about their conservation efforts.
When to visit this Western Circuit:
The Western Kenya Tourism Circuit is best visited during the dry seasons of January to March and July to October. This ensures pleasant weather and easier access to attractions, parks and reserves. However, some destinations such as Rusinga Island can be enjoyed year-round due to their location on Lake Victoria.
Kambu Campers Safari Packages in this Circuit:
Kambu Campers offers three safari packages that cover the Western Kenya Tourism Circuit. These packages include guided tours, accommodation at unique and eco-friendly campsites, and opportunities for cultural immersion with the local communities. Our knowledgeable guides will ensure that you have an unforgettable experience while exploring this beautiful region.
You have the option of going on a 3-day, 5-day or 7-day road trip safari starting from Nairobi and traversing the Rift Valley all the way to Western Kenya via Kisii or via Eldoret-Kisumu routes. Each safari package includes visits to major attractions such as Ruma National Park, Kakamega Forest Reserve, and Lake Victoria.
The Western Kenya Circuit offers a range of captivating destinations to explore. Among them is the magnificent Kakamega Forest, a lush equatorial rainforest teeming with unique wildlife not found elsewhere in Kenya. Another noteworthy site is Saiwa Swamp, where walking allows for close encounters with the rare sitatunga antelope. Ruma National Park boasts a verdant valley inhabited by reticulated giraffes, roan antelopes, and black rhinos. Mount Elgon, an extinct volcano rivaling Mount Kenya in grandeur, offers a crowd-free experience. Lastly, Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa, with its stunning islands and diverse ecosystem, adds to the allure of the region. Along the journey, don’t miss the chance to visit smaller attractions such as Kit Mikai, a village with ancient caves and rock art, as well as Kogelo, the ancestral home of former US President Barack Obama.
But the Western Kenya Circuit is not just about nature and wildlife. It also offers a chance to immerse yourself in local culture and traditions. The region is home to various ethnic groups such as the Luo, Luhya, Kisii, and Kalenjin, each with their own unique customs and traditions. You can visit local markets to experience the vibrant atmosphere and sample traditional dishes like mtori (a blood and meat soup) or ugali (maize meal) served with various stews.
If you’re looking for a more adventurous experience, you can embark on a trek to the summit of Mount Elgon or go canoeing on Lake Victoria. For those interested in history, the Kakamega Forest Reserve is a must-visit with its rich history as a former hunting ground for local tribes and later a colonial settlement.
In terms of accommodation, the Western Kenya Circuit offers a range of options from luxury lodges to budget-friendly campsites. We also offer custom campsite accommodations for those who prefer a more immersive experience in nature.
If you are interested in exploring this circuit, please reach out and we’ll give you a quote.