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Spellbinding Mbita

Thoughts of sampling fresh delicious Tilapia dominate my mind during a mid-morning drive from Homa Bay town to Mbita. After a two-hour drive along a lovely landscape that alternates between maize and sorghum fields and distinct verdant hills, I disembark at the small town set along the shores of Lake Victoria.

I am enveloped by a cold breeze that carries with it an evocative scent of the lake fused with smells of freshly deep fried fish. See, like many clueless first time visitors of the predominantly fishing town that’s a major source of Nile perch and Tilapia, my expectations revolve around its gourmet produce — fish. But as I realise on arrival, there is more to Mbita than its culinary delight. Join me in the ride…

Combine fine food, a town full of life and beautiful sceneries of expanse turquoise waters of Africa’s largest fresh water lake, dotted with imposing islands and the allure of Mbita is evident.

The town is famed for being an entertainment hub and has seen the residents fondly christen it ‘Mbita Asayi’, which loosely translates to “Mbita please let me go back home.”

“Mbita is considered a fun-filled place that makes it difficult for those visiting to tear themselves away from it. It’s famed for its beautiful women, a lot of partying and regularly hosts concerts by popular musicians in the region. It’s easy to come to, but hard to leave,” explains Otieno, a Homa Bay resident.

It also offers a gateway to three distinct islands in Kenya’s side of Lake Victoria, namely Mfangano, Rusinga and Takawiri, all with unique atmosphere and steeped in natural beauty. Rusinga, which is the closest of the three, is connected to Mbita by a crossway just a few minutes walk from the town.

Sadly, despite its proximity to Mbita, I did not get a chance to sample the charm of Rusinga, which bears rich history as the cradle of mankind. I am on a different mission, however, to cross over to Mfangano Island, which is a one-hour ferry journey on a field assignment.

As the ferry leaves Mbita, the outline of the hilly island crowned with green vegetation can be seen from a distance. Small sailing fishing boats dot the waters. Leaning over the deck railing of the ferry, I look at the lake transfixed by the beauty it holds and the tranquility it brings.

The shores are lined with short trees drooping towards the water with dozen birds circling around in wide arcs. Flashes of silver appear as small birds dive into the calm water and quickly re-appear with fish pressed between their beaks.

Along the way, swaying palm trees along white sandy beaches of Takawiri Island beckon. Even from a far, the beauty of this reclusive island is breathtaking. One gets a sense of being at the Kenyan Coast.

At Mfangano Island, where I spend an hour at a clinic working on a health feature, serenity and quietness reign. Here, activities pass in unhurried fashion. A ferry ride back to Mbita and a drive back to Homa Bay town conclude the short visit to the spellbinding Mbita.

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