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The gem of Lake Victoria

Sunbathing on the beaches of Takawiri Island is no different from loafing on the sands of the Kenyan Coast

Barry Silah @obel_barry

From miles away, it looks just like any ordinary island. But once ashore, the perception changes. Welcome to Takawiri Island, a gem on Lake Victoria, which looks pristine, but lively.

Though usually with little activity, this is the only white beach spot on Lake Victoria. It’s a tourist attraction for those who have the passion for tours on water. A media team from Nairobi was on a fact-finding mission during the December festivities. It turned out the ‘white island’, which occupies about 26 square kms, is a hit with stopover holiday goers keen to experience the cool lake breeze.

For accommodation, Takawiri Island Resort is beautifully set out in lush lawns and breath-taking landscapes. We arrived at this facility after a one hour boat ride from Rusinga Island and were served with cold refreshments.

The lodge, which has been under renovations, was reopened last year under the management of Mainlake Enterprises. It has six immaculately designed and arranged cottages, which can collectively host 18 people.

Boat operator Charles Otieno said: “Takawiri attracts a lot of stopover travellers and as boat riders, we get many clients coming here. We often carry teams of either science or history researchers or travellers. It is a great experience for them while for us, boat operators we earn good returns.”

The outdoor serving area overlooking the lake. Photo/BARRY SILAH

The hotel is eco-driven, relying on solar energy to power its operations from outdoors to indoors. There also have a compost manure site and septic tanks that are well-controlled so that they do not mess with the lake’s ecosystem.

The resort’s manager, Manmeet Singh, told us their idea was to make the facility as environment-friendly as possible and to save energy costs. Guests pay Sh12,000 per person per night full board.

Some of the more restless members of the team soon started exploring the surrounding area. Another lot sat under an outdoor tent, sipping cold drinks and enjoying the mesmerising view.

Others changed into swimsuits and were soon seen diving into the crystal-clear waters. After a while, laughter and shouting could be heard from the shore. Despite having arranged to be here for half-an-hour just for refreshments, the team ended up taking 75 minutes. East of the reception, there were outside lavatories and bathrooms.

The lodge has a classy restaurant, which can carry about 50 people and offers a variety of drinks from an adjacent bar. The outside eating area is magnificently arranged; it overlooks the lake and offers guests an opportunity to eat outside. The manicured flowers and well-tended lawns enhance the serene environment.

“Most of our guests come from the surrounding counties of Kisumu, Siaya and Migori,” Singh said. “Many of them prefer to just come over for a fresh meal of tilapia fish sourced right here from the lake,” he added.

As we toured the cottages, most of us were wowed by the artistic display, which also had a tinge of African themes. From the outside, they look simplified with two rooms and a veranda plus adjacent bathroom.

They also face the shores and rustling waters, especially in the evenings, a hit with overnight guests. Other popular activities, especially with foreign tourists, include fishing, and surfing.

There are boat excursions and evening tours across to the larger neighbouring island of Mfangano, a heritage of the Abasuba community. Nearby are great ecosystems of birds, lizards and plant life, which are an attraction to numerous filmmakers and bird-life photographers.

Due to the turbulent political situation last year, very few visitors visited the location, we soon got to learn. This naturally affected business and customer inflow, which meant even operations stalled.

However, from late November, business has picked up. After tour guides and boat operators petitioned us to mind about time, we left at about 12.15pm, though reluctantly. During our return journey, we enjoyed enchanting views of the lake.

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