The white sands of Siungu beach, two kilometres away from Usenge town is now the new leisure joint In Siaya County. Like the coastal region, Siungu beach now hosts the little ‘Mombasa Raha’ on the shores of Lake Victoria and is now changing the old narrative about holiday destinations in Kenya.
For generations, sandy beaches were mostly associated with the coastal towns in Kenya. Thousands of first-time visitors to Kenya from overseas, preferred coastal beaches for holidays.
So embedded in the tourist mind was the leisure and luxury associated with Mombasa beaches such as Malindi, Lamu and Diani that tourists, local and domestic always preferred coast as the best holiday destination.
This was largely because of its white and sandy beaches, coconut palms, and shiny azure-blue of the Indian Ocean, and coral reefs that crowned its attractiveness, magnificence and cultural treasures.
South Coast has especially been a great centre of more tourist attraction renowned for palm-fringed white sand beaches such as ever-popular Diani Beach as well as accessible coral reefs.
But if you thought that it is only the Coast that harbours the country’s best holiday resorts ideal for luxury, then a visit to Siungu Beach in Siaya County would prove you wrong.
Around Lake Victoria, established investors are now eyeing Siungu beaches to put up hotels and beach resorts akin to those found in Mombasa. One such beach is Crystal Charlotte Beach Resort christened Mombasa Raha, located on the white sands of Siungu Beach, two kilometres away from Usenge Town.
Local tourists now say instead of county-trotting or globe-trotting to find a pristine beach, pack your bag and discover the fantastic new beaches in Siaya County.
The resorts, which sit on the shores of Lake Victoria and located some 85 kilometres from Kisumu International Airport, offers a countryside atmosphere full of African simplicity.
The resort is a perfect gateway from the daily grind of officialdom to relax in a cooling breeze from the azure blue tropical Lake Victoria.
As we drive on the road that heads to the resort, we enjoy a cool breeze that blows from green vegetation in the countryside panoramic view and natural scenic beauty.
Lush green and well-kept grass ushers you into the compound. The first thing a visitor sees is the breathtaking view of Lake Victoria.
The serene and tranquil environment just makes the resort an excellent break as it offers open water swimming experience.
Godfrey Thii, a manager at Little Mombasa Raha, tells Home & Away they offer first-class services.
Siungu Beaches provide great room for fishing expedition for holiday makers on daytrip.
From the balcony, one can have a clear view of nearby attraction sites like Got Ramogi and Mageta Island, a former colonial detention camp.
Besides the restaurant, there are cottages which have names of African heroes like Nelson Mandela, Dedan Kimathi and Che Guevara. Mandela is lionised as the father of Ubuntu.
Like the Indian Ocean, here the lake is clean and fresh for those who want to swim and have a drink on the Siaya white sands as they enjoy some soft Rhumba music playing in the background.
Bondo is the home of the doyen of opposition politics, the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who was also a freedom fighter.
Kevin Ogonda, a pilgrim we met here, says they no longer need to travel to Mombasa for holidays.
“Why go all the way to the Coast when one can get similar services here,” asks Ogonda, a native of Siaya. Like Ogonda, and June Paul, another native, concurs.
Ogonda, who is eyeing putting up a beach resort, was surprised at the rising cost of land.
Martin Onyango, a village elder, says residents were disposing of land at a fairly cheaper rates.
He says a third resort city should be constructed in Siaya to optimise the rich tourism potential presented by the white sands of Siungu, which has now sparked a specboom in land demand.
“An acre that used to go for Sh300,000 is now going for Sh1 million,” he says. Mzee Onyango says many local villagers are also becoming millionaires now as a result of the land they own. Jerim Omollo, says he will not settle for less than Sh2 million for an acre.
The growing attraction of beach resorts has awakened the hitherto sleepy sandy villages of Siaya. Omollo says security patrols have also been intensified with Kenya Power connecting more surrounding homes to the national grid
Youths who used to idle around have also found themselves engaged in bush clearing for investors while some have turned into tour guides.
Ken Ochieng recalls that they guide tourists to the beaches and paid tokens. The business now booms at the weekend when many tourists turn up. On a good day, he says, he makes up to Sh800 by showing investors around and guiding tourists to beach resorts.
Ogonda advises county authorities to invest in the promotion of tourist attraction sites in the area.
“Siaya must increase her attractiveness to international visitors and ensure that the tourist experience is superior to that of many alternative destinations,” says Ogonda, a cultural ecologist.
He says the development of new attractions presents a good opportunity to open up new channels of tourism and the eco-cultural tourism.
The upcoming beach resorts have the potential to create thousands of jobs, create significant wealth, and improve the quality of life for thousands.