The guests all joined forces at Mbita point on the mainland, after either driving from Nairobi or Eldoret (some choosing to stop in Ruma National Park the night before to break up the journey where they saw endangered rhino and Rothschild’s giraffe among other game), while others flew to Kisumu and then proceeded by road to Mbita. *(Note that if flight schedules allow, the best airport to fly into is Homa Bay rather than Kisumu as there is less of a drive to Mbita).
The big camp boat was loaded up with 13 bicycles, 17 guests, 1 baby, 2 dogs and 2 boat captains before setting off for the hour’s boat ride across the lake. On arrival we were met by a huge feast laid out in the dining room overlooking the water. Chefs Tom & Thomas’ cuisine never disappoints and everyone enjoyed plenty of home grown salads from our permaculture garden, beautiful chilled avocado soup and delicious chicken satay skewers cooked over the outdoor BBQ.
Lunch at Mfangano Island Camp, overlooking the lake
After lunch some of the group set off for a short (20km) warm up cycle to Sena village along the lake shore track and were greeted by lots of smiling children on their way home from school as well as fishermen preparing to head out for their night fishing on the lake. A sunset swim in the lake back at camp was the perfect way to end the first afternoon, after which nice hot showers in the “Luo style” guest cottages and a wholesome dinner of freshly caught Nile Perch were enjoyed by all. Moringa tea also grown in the permaculture garden is offered as an alternative to store bought herbal teas after dinner as it has wonderful health benefits!
The camp’s permaculture garden – fresh salads and herbs!
On Sunday morning there was a buzz in the air as the 13 cyclists got ready for the 33 km bike ride around the circumference of the island! Lots of energy bars, lashings of sun cream, filling of water bottles, oiling of chains and pumping of tyres were the name of the game! At about 8:30am we all headed out and were joined by one of the guys from the village who was keen to ride with us. We quickly split into two groups of more advanced cyclists ahead and beginner/intermediate cyclists enjoying a more leisurely pace.
Mfangano Cycle Challenge
The lovely thing about this cycle is that it is not a race, therefore allowing everyone to go at their own pace, take in the views, stop for photos and really just enjoy this vibrant and colourful island. At just under 14 km our boat captains had set up a water stop where the cyclists were able to regroup before setting off again. By around 11:30 the first people arrived back into camp and promptly fell straight into the lake to cool down! Ice cold Tusker beers, with the apt slogan “brewed to go with the good times”, were in high demand and set the relaxed tone for the rest of the day! Once everyone was safely back in the camp we enjoyed another delicious meal after which the spot to be was chilling by our pool under the huge sausage tree watching the local dhows sail past.
The refreshing pool at Mfangano Island Camp
A few members of the group sadly had to head back to work on the Monday morning but for those that stayed behind, after a slow day of reading books, painting and eating we headed off on a late afternoon boat ride along the lake shore, taking in the sights and sounds of the little fishing villages; people bathing in the lake, others selling the days catch, children splashing in the shallows and men mending colourful fishing nets underneath banana trees. Donkeys and cows were herded to the water to drink and dogs and chickens darted in amongst people’s legs.
Fishing villages along the shore – Lake Victoria
In the more untouched parts of the island we spotted pairs of fish eagles swooping to catch sunbathing cormorants, vervet monkeys feasting on ripening figs and monitor lizards basking in the sunshine. Lines were cast from the back of the boat and in no time at all the youngest member of the cycling group had (with the help of our boat captain John Williams!) reeled in a 5kg Nile Perch! With this success under our belts we headed for the “Sacred Island”. This is a protected island on which nobody is allowed to settle. With a lack of human disturbance, the birdlife on the island has flourished. Thousands of Greater Cormorants and Long-tailed Cormorants perched on the overhanging branches turning the trees white with years of their guano, while Little Egrets and Sacred Ibis were also well represented. We were on the lookout for Spotted-necked Otters, and eventually saw a few darting around rocks, though annoyingly they never stayed in one place long enough to snap a photo of! As the sun dipped for the horizon the cooler box was cracked open and everyone toasted the setting sun as fishing boats headed off seemingly into it. Dinner that night was enjoyed al fresco on the jetty to the sound of the lapping lake water below.
Tana Simkin with her 5kg catch!
The next day a couple of people headed off on an early morning cycle to get a last taste of island life and for lunch we were served the previous days catch of Nile Perch simply grilled over the BBQ and served with the garden salads at everyone’s request! Chef Tom’s homemade chilli sauce proved to be a real hit with the group and was completely sold out by the end of the trip! With heavy hearts the time finally arrived to bid the camp and friendly staff farewell. This truly is a hidden gem in Kenya and we hope to put on more group trips so that more residents can enjoy this little slice of heaven with us!
Mfangano Island Camp – a hidden gem on the shores of Lake Victoria
All photos and write up by Alisa Bowen- Service Manager for Governors’ Camp Collection.