travel guide Masai Mara

Roho Ya Chui, Swahili for "soul of leopard", your partner for innovative training solutions in combination with safari packages and wildlife photography.

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M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya W E s T E R N H I g H l a N D s M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya s l E E P I N g & E a T I N g M a s a i M a r a & W e s t e r n K e n ya K I s I I organise ascents of Mt Kwitutu. He can also arrange homestays (KSh400), though be prepared for some extremely basic conditions, a humbling experience and a warm reception. 4 Sleeping & Eating Joyland Hotel HoTEl $ (sena; s/tw with shared bathroom excl breakfast Ksh400/800) Although the basic rooms are essentially clean, those with delicate sensi- bilities might find the shared toilets a bit grim. Food is available in the attached (and only) restaurant in Sena. Mfangano Island Camp REsoRT $$$ (% Nairobi 020-2734000; www.governorscamp. com; s/d full board Us$609/970; h closed apr & May; W s ) Nestled into the banks of beauti- fully maintained gardens alive with monitor lizards and birdlife, these stone-and-thatch cottages, 6km north of Sena, are the smart- est digs on Lake Victoria. The camp was formerly a fishing resort, and now offers a number of other water sports, all of which are included in the tariff. 8 Getting There & Away Boats ply the lake waves between Mbita and Mfangano Island daily (foot passenger Ksh200, car Ksh800, 1½ hours). In theory they leave at 10am and 5pm, returning at 8am and 2pm. In practice they go only when full and dangerously overloaded. Usually they call at Takawiri Island en route, stop at Mfangano's 'capital', sena, and then carry on around the island, stopping at most villages on the way. Private boats can be arranged through Wayan- do Beach club Eco lodge (p131) for between Ksh8000 and Ksh15,000, depending on boat type, for a full-day trip from Rusinga. WESTERN HIGHLANDS Despite media impressions depicting a land of undulating savannah stretching to the ho- rizon, the real heart and soul of Kenya, and the area where most of the people live, is the luminous green highlands. Benefiting from reliable rainfall and fertile soil, the Western Highlands are the agricultural powerhouse of the country – the south is cash-crop coun- try, with vast patchworks of tea plantations covering the region around Kisii and Keri- cho; while further north, near Kitale and Eldoret, dense cultivation takes over. The settlements here are predominant- ly agricultural service towns, with little of interest unless you need a chainsaw or wa- ter barrel. For visitors the real attractions lie outside these places – the rolling tea fields around Kericho, the tropical beauty of Kakamega Forest, trekking on Mt El- gon, the prolific birdlife in Saiwa Swamp National Park and exploring the dramatic Cherangani Hills. Kisii P OP 97,000 Let's cut straight to the chase. Kisii is a noisy, polluted and congested mess, and most peo- ple (quite sensibly) roll right on through without even stopping. However, it's an im- portant transport point and there's a good chance you'll pass through at some point in your explorations of western Kenya. While the feted Kisii soapstone obviously comes from this area, it's not on sale here. Quarrying and carving take place in the Gusii village of Tabaka, 23km northwest of Kisii. Soapstone is relatively soft and pliable (as far as rocks go) and with simple hand tools and scraps of sandpaper the sculptors carve WEST TO UGANDA There are two main border crossing points into Uganda: Malaba and Busia. Both are generally pain free as Ugandan (or Kenyan) visas are available on arrival. Both towns have a couple of banks where you can exchange cash, but unless you're a fan of bureau- cracy it's easier to use one of the numerous moneychangers prowling around. Ju make sure you know the exchange rate beforehand (but don't expect them to match it) and count your money carefully. The Kenyan border is open 24 hours, but we've heard the Ugandan one runs to a more 'flexible' timetable, so try to arrive in daylight hours. It's also prudent to keep an eye on your bus. Nothing irritates the drivers more than someone who hasn't the sense to take note of where they park. If you get uck in either town for the night, you'll find a couple of ropy places to put your head down for the night. Thankfully, onward matatus are fairly easy to come by on both sides of the border. 1 3 2

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