Siaya County

Discover Siaya County

View of Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya County.  Photo Courtesy
View of Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya County.  Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Brief Overview of Siaya County

Spread over a land surface area of 2530 km2 in the Western Region of Kenya, Siaya County butts up against the Counties of Busia (northwest), Vihiga and Kakamega (northeast) and Kisumu (southeast). The southern border of Siaya County are flanked by Kavirondo Gulf across from Homa Bay County, while the west frontier is guarded by the open waters of Lake Victoria. Administratively, it is split into 6 sub-counties – Gem, Ugunja, Ugenya, Bondo, Rarieda and Siaya – the latter, its largest, covering an area of 605 km2. Much of the landscape in Siaya is topographically homogeneous, the altitude only elevating slightly from 1140 ms along the shores of Lake Victoria to 1400 ms ASL in the highest areas to the north. In the same way, many of the hills seen around Siaya County are analogous both in size and form. These include: Mbaga, Odiado, Akala, Regea, Nyambare, Usenge, Got Ramogi, Rambugu, Abiero, Sirafuongo, and Naya Hills.

About 40 kms west of Siaya Town via Nyandiwa-Yimbo Road and C27 Bondo-Usenge Road rises Ramogi Hill, which is arguably Siaya’s cultural masterpiece and the centerpiece of its hillscape. The sacred Ramogi Hill stands-sentinel in a sparsely populated back-country at the western corner of Siaya County and just 2 kms outside the shores of Lake Victoria. It is festooned by the prolific sweeps of the Yala Swamp. At hand are the much-talked about but rarelay visited triad of picturesque Lakes: Sare (1 km south), Namboyo (2 kms east) and the larger Kanyaboli (4 kms east). Ramogi Hill, or Got Ramogi its local epithet, illustrates the important role landforms have in shaping cultural dispositions. It is also a vouched for hiking destination. This combination of hills and lakes also support a stellar array of bird species, making it an outstanding area for ornithologists. Also notable among Siaya’s natural heritage are its two main rivers – Nzoia and Yala – which criss cross it before draining into Lake Victoria at the Yala Swamp.

The misnomer and rarely acknowledged tourism potential of Siaya County may arise from the fact that much of the county is rural and cut-off from the main trunk roads in Kenya. Its principal line of communication the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road only travels across a small section at the extreme northeast area between the towns of Yala and Bumala (48 kms). All the same, in the recent times, Siaya County has witnessed a dramatic improvement in the road network with several roads been tarmacked, to include: Rang’ala-Siaya-Bondo Road, Ndori-Owimbi-Luanda Kotieno Road, Bondo-Mituri Road, Kisian-Bondo Road and the Ngiya-Ndori Road, making access easier. And from the obvious to the obscure, there’s plenty to see around these neck-of-the-woods famously dubbed as the “land of heroes”, a sobriquet that answers to its long list of famed leaders and nationally celebrated heroes who in their own rights shaped the history of Kenya. Perhaps more than any other County of Kenya, Siaya has a florid catalog of mausoleums.

Salient Features of Siaya County

  • County Number 41
  • Area – 2530 km2
  • Altitude – 3937 ft
  • Major Towns – Ugunja, Siaya, Bondo
  • Borders – Busia, Vihiga, Kisumu, Homabay, Kakamega

Brief History of Siaya County

Originally occupied by Bantus, Siaya County would over time become the heart land of the Luo Community who first entered Nyanza from the eastern area of Uganda in tandem to the series of migrations of the Nilotic Tribes.  By the mid-18th Century several Luo groups expanded out of Siaya County and spread out over most of South Nyanza.  This divergence was only halted by the imposition of British colonial rule at the end of the 19th Century, when the areas occupied by various Luo subgroups at that moment in time were inscribed as the borders.

View of Got Ramogi or Ramogi Hill from a distance.  Photo Courtesy
Got Ramogi or Ramogi Hill from a distance.  Image Courtesy of WikiMedia

Places of Interest in Siaya County

1. Kit Mikayi

Most travellers to Siaya County make Bondo Town 61 kms west of Kisumu City the starting-point to explore its places of interest. Bondo, which sits in the mid lower half of Siaya County and 23 kms south of Siaya Town, the capital, has a good deal of meritorious hotels and resorts, making it the perfect jumping-off place. En route Bondo along C27 Kisian-Bondo Road it is traditional to make a stopover at Kit Mikayi, which is especially memorable for first time visitors to this region. It sits in Kisumu County just 15 kms outside Siaya’s eastern border. The much-acclaimed and stupefying rock formation of Kit-Mikayi is found 16 kms from Kisian, past Pau Akuche and Holo Market. Unmissable and towering over the surrounding landscape, the outlandish arrangement of its seven jumbo stacked rocks reaching 120 ms is breathtaking. It is also impressive for the old-wives-tales that answer to the moniker of its existence. As it goes, Kit Mikayi – a contraction of the two Luo idioms “Kit” which means rock and “Mikayi” which means “first wife” – was a cherished hideout for a Luo ancestor who settled and lived in proximity to this colossus. The elderly man, with many wives, loved to spend his time around these rocks, enjoying the morning sunshine, succumb to the afternoon siesta here and return again in the evenings to unwind. So much so, he decided to give them a name. After consulting his wives, they granted in accord to name the rocks (Kit) as his first wife (Mikayi). And thus, Kit-Mikayi, the rock of the first wife, came to being. These hold great cultural-sway on the communities living around them as a landmark and shrine, and members of the Legio-Maria meet here to pray. Kit Mikayi is located nearby Kit Mikayi Primary.

2. Kogelo Cultural Village

34 kms from Kisian along C27 Kisian-Bondo Road and 22 kms before Bondo Town you reach Ndori Market. A good road (the C28) takes from here northerly heading to Ng’iya 19 kms away. Halfway along this recently laid stretch or road is the agrestic Nyang’oma Village. Within its bounds, and gazetted as a place of national importance under the National Museums of Kenya, is Kogelo Cultural Village which was earmarked for preservation and refurbishment into a modern touring centre of Siaya County. Among the highlights planned are a leisure and learning centre and a cultural village with an emphasis on promoting cultures of the native Luo People.  Unfamiliar to many Kenyans until just a decade ago, “Nyang’oma Kogelo first came to public attention in Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father, his acclaimed autobiography published in 1995. The story is largely about young Obama’s search for the truth about his brilliant but self-destructive father”. Herein, it gained international reputation as the ancestral home of Barack Obama Senior. And on that account the ancestral home to the 44th President of America, Barrack H. Obama. Almost overnight this far-flung village became a media sensation and headliner, plunging it to a hurly-burly of activity especially in concomitant with the official visit by then senator Barack Obama. In the wake of its new found fame and in anticipation of the completion of the Kogelo Cultural Centre a handful of commendable hotels have come up to include Kogelo Resorts. Still and all, this site is now a must-see in Siaya County.

The new asphalt highway to Barack Obama’s ancestral village winds past maize fields and thatched-roof mud huts for several miles before terminating at a startling sight: a row of lime-green cottages with pink pagoda-style roofs, flanked by two whitewashed, four-story villas. Kogelo Village Resort, a 40-bed hotel and conference center that opened last November, is the latest manifestation of the global fascination with the U.S. president’s Kenyan roots.

3. Luanda K’Otieno Pier

With the completion of the new C28 Ndori-Owimbi-K’Otieno Road terminating at the Luanda K’Otieno Pier, in the southern corner of Siaya, and the imminent improvement of the ferry facilities, it’s possible that the islands in Lake Victoria will regain their former applause and once more become Western’s playground. The pier, which is the springboard to many of the lovely islands like Maboko, Rusinga and Mfangano, sits 83 kms from the Kisian turnoff along C27 Kisian-Bondo-Usenge Road and C28 Ndori-K’Otieno Road. From Ndori Market it is about 57 kms southerly via C28 through Asembo and Ndigwa. The transfer to the islands is still as memorable as it was when the vintage MV Mvita cautiously dogtrotted across the channel to give its passengers skyline views of the lake. Moreover, this is after a marine transport company announced plans to launch at least two passenger ferries plying the Kisumu-Homa Bay and Siaya-Migori Routes linking to Luanda K’Otieno, signaling a return to the once-vibrant lake transport system which had collapsed decades ago. It takes about an hour from Luanda K’Otieno to Mbita. Boats leave Mbita at 7am, 10am, 2pm and 5pm via Ringiti, Wakula, Nyakwere, Yokia, Sena and Takawiri. The return leg, coming from the other direction, boats depart Luanda K’Otieno at 8am, 10am, noon, 3pm and 5:30pm. “If it is about ferry rides and beaches, Mbita rivals the Coast”.

Inside MV Mbita III Ferry. Published by Emmanuel Yegon

4. Bondo Travellers Hotel

Bondo Town has no less that ten bog-standard hotels catering to a wide class of both business and casual travellers to include the Bondo Travellers Hotel, a budget-friendly hotel complex along Ukwala-Bondo Road and nearby Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in Bondo Town. Basic yet very homely, the 36 rooms hotel complex is conveniently located just 400 ms from the main Bondo Town. All the rooms have double/single beds with closet, table, chair, and a private shower room with hot and cold shower. Other amenities include a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden. Among the notable hotels proximate to Bondo town comprise of Rozala Hotel, Don Hotel, Switel Hotel and Pride Hotel Bondo.

Routes to the Luanda K'Otieno Pier in Siaya County
Routes to the Luanda K’Otieno Pier in Siaya County

5. Jaramogi Mausoleum

Jaramogi Mausoleum is located just 8 kms west of Bondo Town via C27 Kisian-Usenge Road. “It is an iconic place, locally known as Kang’o Ka Jaramogi. From the outside, one can easily dismiss it as another ordinary building. But there is more than meets the eye at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Mausoleum, a place that has extremely valuable information that tells the history of Kenya. So dear is the mausoleum to Kenya’s long-standing opposition chief Raila Odinga that he personally takes all his important visitors on a guided tour in the place” – Harold Odhiambo. At the entrance of the huge hexagonal pyramid like building, Jaramogi’s cemetery is marked by a sculpted lion resting on top it to signify his relentless spirit of opposition politics. His famous quote, “Freedom has a price” is neatly inscribed on the wall to signify the road to freedom Jaramogi Oginga advocated for. Along the wall spaces inside the mausoleum is a pictographic memoir of his life and times, both in politics and as a family man. Celebrated as the father of opposition politics in Kenya, he rose to fame as Kenya’s foremost Vice President and a lionized figure in Kenya’s struggle for independence and in expediting the release of Jomo Kenyatta from house arrest at Maralal. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga epitomized a rare pedigree of Kenyan leaders who put country before tribal politics, regional influence and party manifestos.  He is credited for the phrase ‘Not Yet Uhuru’, that’s the title of his 1980 autobiography written while he was under house arrest.  Also of interest at Jaramogi Mausoleum is an invaluable collection of his tribal regalia, mementos, rare Luo artefacts, among varied gripping displays.  Also located not far off is the Justice Ayanga Museum.

Raila Odinga takes President Kenyatta on a tour of the Jaramogi Mausoleum

6. Achieng Oneko Mausoleum

The Achieng Oneko Mausoleum nearby Bondo was constructed by the National Government in honour of Achieng Oneko – one of the infamous Kapenguria 6 – to celebrate the venerated national hero and as a tribute and solemn memoir of the knotty road to independence. In his book “Not Yet Uhuru”, Jaramogi writes candidly about his excitement when he first met Mzee Kenyatta. “It was in 1952 that Kenyatta came to Kisumu again. Achieng’ Oneko introduced me to him and for several hours before the Kisumu public meeting, we had talks at the Maseno Store”. Exhibited at the location are many of Achieng Oneko’s personal effects including his much-liked typewriter and his original detention and order notice.

7. Justice Hayanga Museum

For the vast majority of citizenry, the name Hayanga is rightly associated with the prominence of the established Judge, Justice Andrew Hayanga. At his rural home about 17 kms west of Bondo, Justice Hayanga set up a personal museum, cottages, campsite on a beautiful property that also has a small chapel to piece together a restful outdoor retreat fit for day adventure. It is open to the public daily between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. The museum itself exhibits an illustrious and informative collection of cultural artefacts associated with Luo traditional music, primeval weapons, and the petering-out traditional cultural regalia.  The Hayanga Museum also hosts educational and cultural expos from time to time with an aim to perpetuate the fast-disappearing local and indigenous ways and skills.  Aside from its enriching history, the site has many lovely sights including a viewing-point overlooking Lake Victoria and the series of far-between islands.

8. Mageta Island

16 kms northwest of Bondo along C27 Kisian-Usenge Road you reach Kadimu, setup near a small papyrus fringed gulf. On most days, standing at higher areas, Mageta Island located about 5 kms coastal can be sighted from here. Composed of a rocky granite outcrop, famed for its giant monitor lizards that lazily dawdle the sun-scorched rock-strewn ground, Mageta Island makes for a great cultural passage into an unusual landscape. A sleepy fishing island with little signs of modernity except for the mobile network towers, it was historically used as a detention camp for radical Mau Mau fighters. And remnants of the Mau Mau cells can still be traced in many parts of the island. “Grim waters full of hungry crocodiles surrounded the detainees. There was no question of escape and we despaired of ever seeing our blue hills, red soil and crumpled valleys.” – J.M. Kariuki. Or again, “the impregnable sultry volcanic rock provides unshakable foundation for an island that nature never intended to support much life. And armies of mosquitoes and tsetse flies jealously guard the land to discourage any form of human habitation” – Standard Media. On arrival, Mageta Island gives away very little of its charm, with the mussily arranged houses of mostly timber and iron sheets almost reaching the water’s edge. Past this chaotic entrance, the Island is quite beautiful and peaceful, and makes for an interesting morning or afternoon adventure of exploring the island on foot. One can drop-in at Mageta Island Resort to refresh. A call-in on the island should not omit interacting with the fishermen, consideration fishing is the only economic activity here. Mageta Island is reached by way of a one-hour’s boat ride aboard the Mageta Waterbus boarded at Usenge Beach and which depart in two hour intervals from 8:00 am.

9. Sirigombe Island

Passed on the way to Mageta Island, the bare and unsettled Sirigombe Island is more impressive for its folklore rather the place itself. Legend has it that in the foregone days residents of Yimbo (Asembo) used to pasture their livestock (of mostly cattle) at Sirigombe Island over the dry season of the year.  As it goes, in one of these periods of prolonged drought, a marshal of herders left their cattle unattended for six months on the Sirigombe.  When they returned, they found their cows had long turned wild and could no longer withstand the human face!  Myth or not, the devastated Sirigombe Island is girded in a timeless bubble that stirs up the imagination and evokes the eerie ruminations of a cast-away-island.

10. Fishing Cages at Lake Victoria

Arguably one of very few man-made offshore developments within the Kenyan side of Lake Victoria, the conspicuous strands formed by steel cages oftentimes lined with yellow bouys signals a disruptive innovation and a modern-shift from the traditional fishing predominantly done on boats. ‘Farmers in Siaya County are assuredly venturing in fish caging in Lake Victoria at a very fast rate. Fish caging involves putting fingerlings in a cage, providing them with a controlled diet, then monitoring their growth and harvesting the fish after six months. It is a simple, off-centre and very productive fish farming technique’ – Siaya County.

11. Lake Victoria

Spanning 68,800 km2 and shared by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, this is the second largest lake in the world and most prominent feature of Western Kenya.  Although only 6% of Lake Victoria sits in Kenya it is an unsurpassed source of sustenance for diverse seafaring communities living around it.  In Kenya, Lake Victoria spans the borders of five counties – Siaya, Busia, Kisumu, Migori and Homabay – and is sometimes known as ‘Nam Lolwe’ in Luo or Victoria Nyanza in Bantu. Revered for its awe-inspiring sunsets, boating trips around the lake’s islands and, of course, its umpteen oodles of fish, it offers travellers to Western Region of Kenya the chance to marvel at Africa’s largest lake and assess how it has influenced the lives of communities living around it. Over 30 million people in five countries share and effect resources of Lake Victoria as a source of food, source of domestic and farm water, transport, recreation and waste-respository.

12. El Molo Crocodile Park

Located close to Uhanya Beach, the El Molo Crocodile Park was the first wildlife sanctuary to be established in Siaya County. It was existed primarily to exhibit the native Nile crocodiles in captivity as well as various reptiles and the exotic avi-fauna sighted in the region that include: the Egyptian goose, pelicans, kops and cormorants. El Molo Crocodile Park is one of the popular alternate touring sites in Siaya and especially makes a good impression for the young generation. Aside from close up views of jumbo crocodiles, callers to El Molo can also thrill in exploring the islands found close at hand and notably of Mageta or Sirigombe Islands (reached via a short boat ride), visit Uhanya Beach or take a hiking trip to Ramogi Hill. El Molo Crocodile Park is found 14 kms west of Kadimu Centre.

Spatial Location of El Molo Crocodile Park in Siaya County
Spatial Location of El Molo Crocodile Park in Siaya County

13. Siungu Beach

From Kadimu, passing the turnoff to El Molo Crocodile Park (set up on the edge of the headland between Kadimu and Mageta Island), you get to Usenge Centre and the jumping-off base to Siungu Beach. A superb 2 kms long sandy beach on a naturally formed bay. Siungu Beach is separated from Lake Sare by a narrow tract of land over which the C27 Kisian-Usenge Road passes and winds-up in 10 kms at Oseko Fishing Beach. Of Siaya’s 33 undeveloped beaches, Siungu Beach eke-named ‘Mombasa Raha’ holds the most promise as the fastest-developing beach in Siaya County.  It is nonchalantly securing the attention of both hotel investors and local tourists. And things are looking up that Siungu Beach will be the next big delighter in Siaya.  At the moment, Crystal Charlotte Beach Resort with its grandiose untarnished sandy beach, manicured lawn and gardens, in a backdrop of sweeping hillscapes full with African simplicity, has been the most successful at attracting visitors to Siungu Beach.  It’s found 2 kms from Usenge.

14. Lake Sare

The 5 km2 Lake Sare within Yala Swamp Wetland is widely acknowledged as a key biosphere alongside Lakes Kanyaboli and Namboyo for its safeguarding and preservation of the cichlid fish species of Lake Victoria and harbouring the rare and endangered Sitatunga antelope. Among the triad of satellite lakes in Siaya a total of 28 species of fish belonging to ten families have already been recorded, Haplochromine cichlids being the most diverse group followed by Barbus. The endemic Oreochromis esculentus is the dominant species among the tilapiines particularly in Lake Kanyaboli. Lake Sare has the highest species richness and diversity. Some of the interesting things at Lake Sare include exploring the river mouth of Yala Swamp into Lake Victoria as Lake Sare discharges directly into Lake Victoria, walking along the papyrus fringed swamps, birding, prospecting Goye Beach and Siungu beaches, and exploring Ramogi Hill and its sacred sites.

15. Yala Swamp Wetland

Standing further up one of the many hillocks that from a low ridge around the 175 km2 Yala Swamp Wetland its scale and beauty are wondrous, perhaps even stupefying. From here, the flat cauldron-shaped ever-green sward comprised of patches of bogs, marshes and swamp always makes an impression. A good pair of binoculars will better this experience ten-fold. Yala Swamp which is one of the most important wetlands found within Kenya is set along the northeastern shoreline of Lake Victoria forming the mouth of Rivers Yala and Nzoia. It also harbours three fresh water satellite lakes – Kanyaboli, Namboyo and Sare.  The birds are the star here and the rich biosphere of the Yala Swamp is classified as one of Kenya’s Important Birding Area (IBA). Much to the delight of birders, it is almost impossible to keep up with the diverse and fascinating species of birds at Yala estimated to be upwards of 100, that include: endemic species like great snapper, baillor’s crane, papyrus Gonolek, papyrus canary and yellow warbler. Travellers to Yala Swamp Wetland should also look forward to the vistas of the open water of Lake Victoria from sundry vantage points spread out around the wetland, the cultural passages to Swila and Seje, and boating at Lake Kanyaboli.

16. Got Ramogi

Got Ramogi, easily recognized by its wooded and flat-topped taper hump, sways huge cultural gist among the Luo Community and it is epitomized as a fount of their communal origin and divine protection. Also known as the Sacred Ramogi Hills, it is culturally-thought to be the foremost site where Ramogi (Luo hero of origin) first settled and thrived.  Safe to say, Got Ramogi is the most important cultural shrine in Siaya and a trip to this region should not omit sighting the hill and better still exploring the landmark.  Got Ramogi or Ramogi Hill epitomizes the Luo Community’s cultural hegemony and sphere of confluence within the Lake Victoria region as it migrated the ‘Bal El Ghazar’ along the River in Sudan. Traversed by the Equator, it has several sacred sites and objects associated with Luo cultural beliefs.  Historically, Got Ramogi has been utilized as a shrine for many communal rites like ritualistic animal oblation and divine-providence by the elders.  A guided trip along its walking trails goes past a great many of its the cultural sites which contribute hugely to the cultures of Luo. Got Ramogi is located 40 kms west of Siaya along Ratuoro to Yimbo Road through Bar Olengo.

Spatial Location of Got Ramogi or Ramogi Hill
Spatial Location of Got Ramogi or Ramogi Hill in Siaya County

17. Sacred Olua Tree

Of the floral diversity seen at Ramogi Hill, which is estimated at over 500 plant species, none, perhaps, is as reverenced as the Sacred Olua Tree – a 30 metres evergreen ‘divine tree’ – said to be the mother of all the motley plant-life on the iconic sacred hummock of Got Ramogi.  Also found near the Sacred Olua Tree are copious other sacred shrines that include: Asumbi, Alego, Pong and Luanda Laure Sacred Rocks and the traditional Humba (clay mines).  To the north and east are aspects of Yala Swamp and Lake Kanyaboli, and Lake Sare to the south.

18. Asumbi Rock

Asumbi Rock at Ramogi Hill, also locally referred to as the ‘Agulu Dhoge Ariyo’, translating to ‘pot with two mouths’, is thought to have been the source of water for Ramogi where he and his family harnessed water, and for which reason the water from the Asumbi Rock has veritable medicinal value for the communities living around it.  Just a short distance from the Asumbi Rock there are several time-honoured traditional huts symbolic of the former residence of Ramogi’s family.  Callers to Got Ramogi Hill who aim for the Asumbi Rock would also be interested in exploring the mythical “sacred lake” that locals say existed in the olden days and touring “Mwanda Point” which marks the place where Ramogi first entered this area; after migrating cross-border from neighbouring Uganda.

19. Goye Beach

Despite having a picture-perfect unexplored sandy beach Goye still hardly rings any wanderlust bells and remains an unrevealed gem of Siaya. And much like Siungu Beach found at hand, Goye Beach is, although lesser-developed, a sun and sand lovers paradise. What’s more, both these beaches are patrolled by a respectable collection of bird species that prefer to keep to the papyrus fringes. At the moment Goye Beach is a no-frills destinations and travellers need to be self-sufficient. It is located 2 kms north from Siungu Beach along the C27 Road.

20. Lake Namboyo

The circular trip of Yala Wetland on the northern march of Lake Victoria is best tackled by using the Yimbo-Nyandhiwa-Siaya Road on the return leg. That is to say you double back to Kadimu from Ramogi Hill and then head north and east passing through Lakes Namboyo and Kanyaboli to Siaya 39 kms away. About 4 kms north of Kadimu Center where the road takes a sharp round bend sits Lake Namboyo, the smallest of the three lakes within Yala Swamp Wetland, which is only 500 m2, and bears most of the characteristics of its sister lakes. River Yala meanders along its entire northern limits and it is fringed by a ring of papyrus that eventually merges with the swamp. And like Lakes Sare and Kanyaboli this lake is swamped by flocks of birds. Ramogi Hill can be sighted to the northwest.

21. Dominion Bird Sanctuary

Dominion Bird Sanctuary found within the 17000-acre privately-run Dominion Farm is an impressive nesting ground for abounding migratory and indigenous bird varieties.  In 2003 Dominion leased this acreage of lowlands with an aim to produce and sell of rice, other cereal grains and tilapia fish to markets in Kenya and surrounding countries. “Dominion permanently relocated key construction, maintenance, agricultural and management personnel to Kenya and shipped more than 500 tons of state-of-the-art construction and farming equipment from U.S. and Brazil. Construction of paddies and canals continued for years, early batches of rice, corn, soybeans and cotton proving the most commercial viable of the operation. Initial rice crops harvested in 2006 resulted in some of the highest yields per acre ever recorded. At the rate of two crop cycles per year, the farm is expected to produce 90,000 tons of rough rice per annum when at full potential”. The papyrus reeds and rice paddies make for a thriving roosting habitation for its quellas, herons, kopps, pelicans, cormorants, cranes, eagles, hammer kops, plovers and porchads – among many others.  Also of interest at Dominion Bird Sanctuary are the remarkable semi-aquatic Sitatunga antelopes and their agricultural tours.  Callers to the sanctuary can enjoy a night or two at Dominion Farm Guest House or at the nearby Hawi’s Tented Camp.  Dominion Bird Sanctuary is found 17 kms west of Siaya town and 12 kms north of Kadimu.

Location of Dominion Farm nearby Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya County
Location of Dominion Farm nearby Lake Kanyaboli in Siaya County

22. Lake Bob

Lake Bob, which is situated within the Dominion Farms, is an artificial lake of approximately 2 km2 resulting from the anthropogenic activity of damming River Yala for commercial purpose. As with all the lakes in the area, the birds took it like fish took to its water. Today it is a parade of many pretty bird species including the rare Hadada ibises, cormorant, little egret, Egyptian goose and whiskered terns in the company of hippos and reptiles. Also found within the Dominion Farm is a conservation area designated for perpetuation of its birds. To get to Lake Bob, drive 15 kms west from Siaya Town via Siaya-Ratuoro Road.

23. Lake Kanyaboli

The recent history of the plight of the satellite lakes in Yala Swamp has brought to the forefront the urgent need to safeguard this biospheres and rethink how their resources are harnessed. The fisheries of the lake that once drew hundreds of fish species now rely primarily on the native pelagic minnow locally known as “Omena” and the introduced Nile perch and tilapia. Further, the cannibalistic Nile perch is threatening not only to destroy itself but the entire lake ecosystem. A management strategy designed to improve and preserve the pleasing 15 km2 Lake Kanyaboli and its sister lakes is underway. Encircled by papyrus round its rim and framed as a living museum for its abundance of the cichlid – a rare and variegated fish species – Lake Kanyaboli is notable as the second largest oxbow lake in Africa.  It is best-known as a bird-lovers paradise that can be combined with sightseeing around its ring-road that loops around the lake, spectacular at dawn and dusk. There are large rock outcrops at the waters edge that are easy hiking sites with exceptional vantage points at the summit. Also of interest for callers to Lake Kanyaboli is sighting the Sitatunga and exploring Kombo Beach.  A trip to the lake is easily combined with a look-see of the near Dominion Farm.

Documentary on issues facing the Akara-Yala-Lake Kanyaboli Ecosystem

24. Hawi’s Tented Camp

Raised strategically just 2 kms from Lake Kanyaboli and Dominion Farm, with fetching views of the Akara Hills and a wander away from the papyrus-fringed Lake Kanyaboli, Hawi’s Tented Camp comprised of 7-safari-style camps fused with a modish interior is a deserving base to take in many places of interest in Siaya County. Among the interests at Hawi’s Tented Camp are orderly grounds which are lovely for group bonding, cultural passages to the nearby villages, and walking trips to Lake Kanyaboli. The slogan at Hawi’s Tented Camp is help you “Discover what Siaya Kababa has to offer. Siaya County will definitely revamp Kenya’s tourism agenda and we are proud to be part of the journey”. It’s found 12 west of Siaya Town via Siaya-Yimbo Road and 2 kms before Dominion Farm.

25. Siaya County Club

Siaya Town like the opposite-number Bondo Town has a handful of hotels that serve as useful jumping-off places to Siaya County. Among these, Siaya County Club features a bar and a garden. Among the amenities include a restaurant, a 24-hour front desk and room service, outdoors gazebos, along with free WiFi throughout the property. The hotel has family rooms. The hotel is of a modern touch, its rooms spacious and tastefully furnished with modern touches. Other laudable accommodations in Siaya include Siala Apartments, and Rozala Hotel.

26. Holy Got Adodi

The rock formation of Holy Got Adodi is to Siaya County what Kit Mikayi is to Kisumu County. Its appellation as Adodi justifies its function and resemblance to Adodi Rock at Got Ramogi. Adodi or the “whistling stone” on Got Ramogi is asseverated that its whistles (accompanied by singing to help distract the mind from its worries) pass a message from ancestors. Both the Kit Mikayi and Holy Got Adodi rock formations are associated with traditional religious powers. In the foregone days, both these rock formations served as a shrine and sacrifices were offered to ancestors inside the caves found at the base of the formations. “Today, when referring to the relationship between geology and religion, people usually think immediately of Christian (and other) fundamentalists and their chronic palaeontological illiteracy leading to creationism, to intelligent design, and to a distrust of science in general and especially geology, palaeontology and evolutionary biology. Thus the relationship of geology and religion is usually considered to be under strain. However, outside this specific field of conflict, there does not seem to be a relationship at all” – M. Kölbl-Ebert . To get to the site from Siaya Town you drive out on C30 Siaya-Rhambwa-Nyadorera Road to Boro Market 7.5 kms away the onto an all weather road for 4 kms to the rocks. Locals at Boro Center are usually friendly enough to give directions to the place.

27. Kalenjuok Tinga Dam

The Kalenjouk Tinga Dam 2 kms southwest of Boro Market via Boro-Lake Basin Road is worth a look-see by motorists aiming to Uwasi Rice Schemes. It is tiny – only 0.5 km2 – and encompasses a swamp which contains plenty of birds and a bucolic setting deep in the countryside. Additionally, it is also adjacent to the rocky Gang and Kalenjuok Hills which are ideal for rock climbing activities and and pretty sceneries. The caves of Gang and Kalenjuok that shelter the famous laughing hyenas of Got Ager, or the dreaded Owls, has populations of wild pigs and vervet monkeys. Lake Kanyaboli is also accessible via the Lake Basin Road.

Spatial Location of the Kalenjuok Tinga Dam in Siaya County
Spatial Location of the Kalenjuok Tinga Dam in Siaya County

28. Uwasi Rice Scheme

Also known as Muluhwa Rice Scheme in Alego-Usonga, this community based irrigation scheme along the lower end of the Nzoia River covers an area of 760-acres where rice is grown and sold for commercial use and subsistence use. The main water sources for irrigation within the area comes from the Nzoia River, which also waters close by Bunyala Rice Farms in neighbouring Busia County, as it flows through the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza Regions to terminate at Lake Victoria at Yala Swamp. Although tourism realization is still behindhand the area is ideal for agro-tourism and bird watching. Birding Paradise, a homely two-bedrooms privately-run guesthouse is available to rent next to Uwasi Rice Scheme and has a lot of trees which give visitors chance to see birds of different species. Lake Kanyaboli is also near for sundowners, boat rides and guided bird watching. It is found nearby Nyadorera Centre at the northwest corner of Siaya County, 21 kms northwest of Siaya along C30 Siaya-Rhambwa-Nyadorera Road.

29. Naya Hills

From Siaya Town there are three routes to join the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road: C29 Siaya-Ng’iya-Luanda Road to Luanda Town, C28 Siaya-Uyoma Road to Rangala and Segere-Ambiya Road to Ugunja Town. The low-lying Naya Hills are found at Naya (South Uyoma) Rarieda Sub-county along C28. The spectacular view of the hills from a distance makes it a perfect tourist destination for hikers with an array of hills to climb. Their rocky geological profile also makes it a noteworthy roosting location for migratory and other species of birds. Other wildlife species found here are Colobus monkeys, various species of snakes, hogs and antelopes.

30. Anyiko Wetland

Anyiko Wetland is a permanent riverine wetland within Anyiko sub-location of northeast Ugenya. It is the largest wetland at the easternmost section of the mid-lower River Nzoia, and is longish shaped with an average length of 10 km and width of about 700 ms. The wetland is an important habitat diverse birds. Anyiko Wetland is located 22 kms from Siaya via Siaya-Ugunja-Bar Ober Road.

31. Chief Odera Akang’o Cells and Office

42 kms from Kisumu City (going through Kisian, Maseno and Luanda) brings one to Yala Town at the northeast corner of Siaya County. Fabulous scenery en route, especially over the shoulder of Nyando Escarpment near Maseno and the subsequent ascent to the higher areas of Western Kenya. Between Maseno and Luanda the road stitches from Kisumu to Vihiga County before entering Siaya County. At Yala one would be interested in sighting Chief Odera Akang’o Cells and Office. Chief Odera Akang’o, renown as a no-nonsense administrator, was a big advocate for formal education in the early and mid 19th Century, and long before Kenya attained independence. During Chief Odera’s time at the helm, attending school was compulsory, failure to which both parents and students faced consequences including a jail term. Subsequently, the area around Gem became famous as “home of professors” and by the same token Siaya County earned its express approval as the “home of heroes”. The University College at Gem was named in his merit. Chief Odera’s Cells and Office stand at Yala Town.

32. Grace Ogot Mausoleum

This mausoleum enclosing the interment space of Grace Ogot is also a heritage resource in terms of the systematic exposition in a photographic gallery of her life and times and sundry ideas of the history of Kenya through the lens of her alloted span. It is also supported by a library set up by Professor Bethwell Allan Ogot. Opened in 2016 at their country home at Gem, this celebrates the life and times of Grace Emily Ogot, a half of this remarkable writing couple married for 56 years, who passed on March 18, 2015. Grace Ogot is best known for her great book The River and the Source published in 1995. A captivating and well told story spanning cultures and generations. It tells the tale of three generations of women and traces the story of Akoko in her rural customary Luo mise en scène, through to her children who live and die during the 20th Century. The book, in its dying embers extinguishes the life of Awiti after she had buried her mother many years ago in Aluor besides Akoko. “It is an epic story that spans cultures; that is filled with tragedy, laughter and tears”. Grace Ogot delivered a breathless and effortless spiel in promotion of cultural anectodes. Bethwell Allan Ogot, her husband and curator of the mausoleum, is one of the great historians Kenya has yet been blessed with and the former President of the UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa, 1978-1983.

33. Ndanu Falls

Ndanu Falls is one of the country’s unknowns. Despite being easily accessible for Yala Town – 4 kms south of Yala and 2 kms from B1 Kisumu-Busia Road – via Yala-St.Mary’s High School Road, on towards Hera Village, not many people call in on it. Indeed it is unlikely that most travellers along the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road know the pretty Ndanu Falls exists! Like Mahira and Godha Falls further along the B1 Road it remains undeveloped and is often sold short. Ndanu Falls, reachable without too much difficulty from Yala Town by means of motorcycle (boda-boda) or personal vehicle, results from an abrupt change in the profile of River Yala. The rushing falls offers nature-lovers a wondrous walk in the back-country that is transmuted to a floaty valley by the rolling hills and glorified by the tranquil rural hush.  On arrival at Ndanu Falls most travellers often find it incomprehensible that this beautiful location is only a village delight.  There are plenty of places to explore within the site including Ndanu and Sangu Islands.  Also memorable while at Ndanu Falls are the sweeping views of the landscape of Gem and the neatly arranged village setting, and birding.  Ndanu Falls Lodge in the outskirts of Yala Town is a great launching-point to scout this folksy falls.

34. Rawalo Hills

Reaching 1520 ms and 150 ms above the surrounding landscape west of Yala Town, Rawalo Hills alongside Nguge Hills are the most prominent hillscapes in Gem area. Rawalo Hills are situated about 2 kms west of Ndanu Falls. The C29 Siaya-Ng’iya Road passes along the northern flank, so they are approachable from both east and west; 26 kms east of Siaya Town if approaching from the east. There is no accommodation and adventure-makers who explore Rawalo Hills must venture to this off-the-beaten-circuit either from Siaya, Bondo or Yala. Nevertheless Rawalo Hills provide the nature-lover an unusual flora and exemplar vantages of the western landscapes. It is necessary to carry plenty of drinking water and refreshments. Among the attraction here include: hiking to the upper reaches and then scrambling up huge boulders to the summit with rewarding out and out views of the countryside; exploring the series of caves; and sighting a small number of antelopes. For birders these hills are a breeding ground for owls. Rawalo Hills are culturally important landmarks. Situated just 5 kms outside the boundary with Kakamega County, these form the unofficial border between Nyanza and Western Provinces. Historically these served as a sacred shrine where locals from various communities gathered to talk and pray.

35. Huluwino Blacksmith Industry

14 kms from Yala Town along the B1 Kisumu-Busia Road you arrive at Malanga, shortly before Sidindi Center. At Malanga Village there is an opportunity to see the Huluwino blacksmiths at work, who have survived the antediluvian industry that relies mostly on sheer elbow grease and open flames.  A visit to Huluwino Blacksmith Industry offers a rare opportunity to see this ancient and primordial craft in motion, as the seasoned blacksmiths use home-style but very laborious processes to produces a variety of products. Many of their antiquated finished products and fabricated weapons are also on display and available for purchase.

Spatial Location of Malanga Village in Siaya County
Spatial Location of Malanga Village in Siaya County

36. VIP Hotel Madeya

Hotels and restaurants in Siaya County are on the rise, and hotels in particular are getting better in their standard of hospitality – including general amenities, size of rooms, meals, and outdoors activities. Midpoint between Malanga and Sidindi – 17 kms from Yala Town – is VIP Hotel at Madeya, more proper Villa International Palace (VIP), and one of the new additions in the hotel scene in Siaya County that has, beyond doubt, made a name for itself. It offers different types of room layouts to suit the needs of various classes of travellers; Double Suite, Executive Suite and Standard Suite – all en-suite. The rooms are layed out around a capacious central lawn. Other highlights include a swimming pool, gym, kids play area, barbecue pit, fully-stocked bar and live bands on weekends.

37. Mahira Falls

The natural wonder of Mahira Falls nearby Sidindi is one of many lesser-known destinations in Siaya County. The 20 ms falls set hard in the winding pathways across from the villages is a restful and barely travelled spot.  Among the things to do on the tour of Mahira Falls are exploring the countryside, walking around the falls and visiting VIP Hotel at Madeya – one of the popular accommodation option in Siaya County.  Situated about 17 kms away is the fetching Godha Falls.

38. Godha Falls

From Sidindi it’s 17.5 kms through Ugunja to Ligega and the furthest center in Siaya County before reaching Bumala Town in Busia County. Not too far from Ligega Center through the villages is the delightful Godha Falls, which derives its name from the Luo idioms “Got or God” meaning “hill” and “Ha” translating to “the sound of falling water.” Godha, worth a visit soon after the rainy season in May, is great for sightseeing with fine views of River Nzoia and rural villages.

View near Siungu Beach in Majimbo. Photo Courtesy of Place Map.
View near Lake Sare and Siungu Beach. Image Courtesy of Place Map.

Geography of Siaya County

Siaya County has three major topographical zones: dissected uplands, moderate lowlands and Yala Swamp. All have different relief, soils and land use patterns. The altitude of Siaya County rises from 1140 ms on the shores of Lake Victoria to 1400 ms in the north. There are few hills found in the area: Mbaga, Odiado, Akala, Regea, Nyambare, Usenge, Ramogi Hills, Rambugu and Naya Hills. The expansive Yala Swamp around Ramogi Hill has potential for irrigation utilizing River Yala. Bondo has a few islands: Mageta, Sirigombe, Magarii, and Yalombo.

Land Use in Siaya County

Most of the land in Siaya County is privately owned.  Almost 2059 km2 of land is arable and a major form of land use is subsistence agriculture. Only a small potion of Siaya Town has been set aside for industrial use.  In Ugunja, Gem and Ugenya there is limited land for agriculture owing to a high population density. The main food crops include maize, sorghum, millet, beans, cowpeas, cassava, groundnuts and millet. The main cash crop include cotton, rice, and sugarcane.

Highlights in Siaya County

Siaya County has only one gazetted game reserve – the Lake Kanyaboli Game Reserve.  There has been investment in hotels, cultural and heritage centres to help link it to the western circuit and tours and travel investments. Some of these investments include Alego Nyang’oma Kogelo Village. Other cultural sites in Siaya County include Olua Sacred Trees, Holy Got Adodi, the Bullock of Got Podhe, Rambugu Hills, Got Ramogi, the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Mausoleum, Achieng’ Oneko Mausoleum, Mageta Island, Odera Akang’o office and cells in Yala and several island lakes along River Yala (Sare, Nyamboyo). There are 33 beaches and five inhabited islands (Oyamo, Mageta, Ndeda, Magare, and Sihu).

Population in Siaya County

The average population density in Siaya County as at 2012 was 350 people / km2. High potential areas include South Alego, Ukwala, North Ugenya, Central Ugenya, Yala, Wagai, Central Sakwa, Mageta Island and Asembo. Low potential areas include South West Alego, Usonga, West Sakwa, Usigu and East Uyoma. The total population of Siaya County in 2012 was estimated to be 885,762.  The County had an annual population growth rate of 1.7% and was projected to rise to 964,390 persons by 2017.  Siaya Town is the most populous, while Usenge Town is the least populous, with populations of 22,019 and 10,345 as at 2012.

Fishing cages in Lake Victoria.  Photo Courtesy of The Star
Fishing cages in Lake Victoria.  Image Courtesy of The Star

Airports in Siaya County

Siaya County has three dormant air strips at Gombe, Dominion and Sega.

Roads in Siaya County

Siaya County has 283 kms of bitumen standard roads, 741 kms of gravel and 1161 kms of earth roads.  The County has seen a big improvement in the road network with several roads being tarmacked including Rang’ala-Siaya-Bondo Road, Ndori-Luanda K’Otieno Road, Bondo to Mituri and Kisian-Bondo Roads.

Climate in Siaya County

Temperature in Siaya County varies with altitude rising from 21°C in the north east area to about 22°C along the shores of Lake Victoria. Humidity is relatively high around Siaya County, the relative humidity ranging between 73% in the morning and 53% in the afternoon.  Siaya County experiences bi-modal rainfall.

Siaya County Distance Chart
Siaya County Distance Chart

Hawi's Tented Camp in Kadenge.  Photo Courtesy of Hawi's Camp
Hawi’s Tented Camp in Kadenge. Image Courtesy of Hawi’s Camp

National Monuments in Siaya County

  1. Oginga Odinga Mausoleum
  2. Kogelo Cultural Village

Siaya County Map

Siaya County Map