Homa Bay’s tourism gems lie hidden due to lack of marketing

Abundu hot spring in Karachuonyo Constituency, Homa Bay County. The spring’s water reaches 80 Degrees Centigrade and local’s use it to boil eggs, maize and warm food. [Photo: Phillip Orwa, Standard]

Homa Bay County is considered one of the best tourist destinations in the Western circuit, famed for pristine features that draw local and international visitors in big numbers annually.

One of its finest and widely-sampled attractions is the Rhuma National Park, which is Nyanza’s only terrestrial park and home to the roan antelope.

Homa Bay also boasts scenic Rusinga and Mfangano islands, home for luxurious lodges.

But tucked in the remote parts of the county are gems only known to immediate locals and a few tourists.

Lake Simbi Nyaima, Gor Mahia shrine, Kanjera archaeological site, Homa Hills hot springs, Asego Hill and Nyam Gondho island are some of the breathtaking destinations that have not effectively been profiled and marketed.

County government officials attribute this to lack of policies and funds to harness the potential of the sites.

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“We have mapped all of these sites and we are in the process of profiling and marketing them but we have serious financial constraints, so we have not achieved much,” says the county’s Tourism Chief Officer Julius Opala.

He says delays in passing policies on the exploitation of the attractions were also to blame for slow penetration of tourism in the county.

“We want to fence and develop these attractions so that we can elevate them to serious products that can earn the county money and create jobs. We want to have various amenities around them,” says Mr Opala.

So neglected are some of the sites that there are no proper roads or signposts leading to them.

But the few determined tourists who manage to reach Homa Hills hot springs in the heart of Karachuonyo Sub-county are treated to scenes only similar to those witnessed at the Lake Bogoria National Reserve.

Although the water boiling at between 70-87 degrees Celsius does not gush out of the ground like that of Bogoria, the spectacle created by nearly 20 bubbling hot springs on the bed of an escarpment is a rare treat.

Porous rocks underneath which the springs bubble are covered in white salt-like mineral which locals harvest for use in cooking traditional vegetable and as salt lick for cattle.

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Jacob Ongeri, 28, has taken the role of a tour guide to help visitors sample the attraction.

He says tourists have been streaming to the isolated site since experts from the Energy department visited the area in 2011 to establish its geothermal potential.

“Nothing much has been done since then. We were hoping the county would fence it, market it and impose charges on visitors so that we can benefit from the growing number of local as well international visitors, but that is yet to happen,” says Mr Ongeri.

He says due to neglect, locals use the hot water to bathe, boil food such as eggs and maize and herd their cows at the foot of the depression.

“The water is believed to have curative properties against skin ailments and prevents worms in cattle,” says the guide.

Downstream where the saline water empties into Lake Victoria, a group of women with scratch the earth as one approaches the Abundu, Balla and Kakdhimu hot springs.

The women collect the saline substance that dries into crusts on the plains surrounding the hot springs for use as salt lick.

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