Jambojet: A low-cost airline in Kenya embarked on a progressive campaign dubbed #NowTravelReady that has gained massive popularity amongst travel enthusiasts in Kenya. The campaign was a much-needed comeback in the aviation industry following the lift of travel restrictions by the Kenyan government because of COVID-19. The pandemic paralyzed a significant chunk of various sectors of the economy, with airlines and the hospitality sector being some of the biggest casualties.
As countries adopt the #NewNormal in travel, Jambojet has not only assured its travelers of safety but also showed its clients and the world how it is possible to travel and explore new destinations without fear, as long as the Ministry of Health Safety Protocols is adhered to.
One such destination that we tried and tested through Jambojet’s #NowtravelReady Campaign and found to be Travel Ready was the lakeside city of Kisumu.
A little something about Jo Kisumo
I am one of those people who love the enchantment of this lakeside city and its people. I love how people from Kisumu are very intentional about living large and are unapologetic and loud about it. See, Jo Kisumo as they are known will impress you with flamboyance and kill you with class and style. These are the same people who will have fresh tilapia in Kisumu for lunch and catch an afternoon direct Jambojet flight to Mombasa for vitamin sea, some sea breeze, and a cold one as they await a seafood platter for the evening. This is usually done as they seal business deals before making it back to Kisumu in a day or two.
The difference between being at the Lakeside city of Kisumu in the morning and enjoying vitamin sea along the sandy beaches of Mombasa is Ksh.8,900. @FlyJambojet has an intro fare of 8,900 that will get you from Kisumu to Mombasa direct. #NowtravelReady pic.twitter.com/2gyuyssh75— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) October 21, 2020
Exploring Kisumu and its environs
When an opportunity to go sample a piece of Kisumu with Jambojet came knocking, I was not going to think twice! My suitcase was all packed and ready to explore.
It also happened that the day of my flight was the same day the Kisumu-Mombasa direct flight by Jambojet was being launched. There were lots of activities at the Kisumu International Airport, including a water salute and a luncheon that was attended by stakeholders from the National Government including the Kenya Tourism Board and Kisumu County Tourism stakeholders alike. The guest of honour was the the County’s First Lady;Dorothy Nyong’o.
After the event at the airport, most of the official stuff was over and so we jumped on to the main agenda of the trip! Showcasing Kisumu as a tourist, business, and as well as the gateway to Western Kenya.
Where to stay in Kisumu
The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel
Over the years, Kisumu City has beautifully evolved and found its niche equally as a top business destination in Kenya. It has hosted and continues to host both local and international Meetings, Conferences, and Events and hence the growing need of having business hotels that will have that kind of audience in mind. One such hotel is The Grand Royal Swiss Hotel.
Located at Riat Hills, this hotel is an embodiment of what a business hotel should be. It is quiet, the hotel staff is at all times suited up, the hotel’s brand color of Parliament blue and a lobby that has a newspaper stand at the entrance spells everything business. It is not a rare occurrence to spot choppers take off and land from the hotel’s helipad, as politicians and businessmen jet in and out for meetings. The hotel has an express spa for those that want to ease jet lag or just look relaxed and fresh before their next meeting.
Again as I noticed, the hotel has strictly adhered to MOH’s safety guidelines for Covid-19.
If you intend to have a business meeting in Kisumu, consider this hotel as a recommendation.
I am loving my stay in Kisumu jowaaa! My sleep and breakfast at @grandroyalswiss was so calm and relaxing. Now I want to just to go eat fish!#Nowtravelready— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) October 10, 2020
Kisumu has the vibes I need 😁 pic.twitter.com/ZflUcsjFjQ
Ciala Resort is more like a family getaway spot with cottages, an expansive swimming pool, an open garden restaurant, and a gym and spa right across. It is almost given that over weekends, you will find families enjoying brunch, as the younger ones swim, men drinking as they catch up on games in the big screens at the bar while ladies wait patiently for their turn to be pampered at the spa. As all these is happening, the DJ works a little extra to maintain the tempo and mood by dropping hit after hit of his guest’s favorite jams. If you love some family time with great entertainment and something cold to cool down the Kisumu heat, look no further than Ciala Resort.
Fun things to do and Places to Check out in Kisumu and its environs
If you are an adrenaline Junkie and you love hiking, what better way to start your day than to hike up Maragoli Hills. Maragoli Hills is rocky and steep, and it’s an unofficial boundary between Kisumu and Vihiga County.
Vihiga and Kisumu are separated by Maragoli Hills. It could easily be an easy 14km hike but the rocky outcrops make it a moderate hike. The views up the hill are breathtaking with a nice backdrop of Lake Victoria and the majestic rocks on the opposite side.#NowTravelReady pic.twitter.com/25Zftiut3t— Bonnie 🇰🇪 (@bonitaonsafari) October 11, 2020
The hike starts off as an easy hike and progresses to a moderate one as you near the summit. There are families of the Maragoli people who live up the hills. They practice animal husbandry and crop cultivation on the hills. The summit holds some indescribably beautiful aerial views of both Kisumu and Vihiga counties. A distant view of Lake Victoria as it stretches out into the horizon, expansive vegetation, and a lovely skyline. The view at the top is worth all the sweat broken while climbing. Maragoli Hills is easily the rockiest place I have ever been to. Ciala Resort can help you organize the hike.
I have been to Kit Mikayi several times in the past, but every visit feels like a new experience. Kit Mikayi is a massive rock outcrop in Seme and it is just 29km from Kisumu city. Legend has it that there was a man who totally loved that particular rock and used to spend all his time there. His obsession with rock became so deep that he began ignoring everyone including his wife because of his newfound adoration of the rock. Being an elder in the village, all his visitors would be met with an empty, sad, and an all-time generic response by the wife, almost he is with his ‘first wife’ as she points to the direction of (the rock). Over time, the wife accepted his obsession with the rock and decided to name it ‘Stone of the First Wife~Kit Mikayi. Currently, members of the Legion of Mary and other faithfuls use the rocks are a prayer point. You can carry some cash to tip the dancing women’s’ group who will sing and dance for you after the hike.
Places to eat
K’osewe Dala Branch
There are so many places in Kisumu to indulge in traditional Luo cuisine. What is traditional Luo cuisine you ask? This could be kuon bel or arega (millet ugali or ugali from milled maize mixed with other other grains and tubers), dek, osuga, mito (traditional veges), rech, athola, omena, aliya, (fish, dagaa, smoked and dried beef) and a lot more. One such place that has upheld the luo culture through food is Ranalo K’osewe foods. The hotel started off in Nairobi and has now expanded to Kisumu in Milimani. Stop by this place to enjoy healthy Luo food as you listen to your favorite rhumba and benga mixes.
Dunga Hill Camp
Located along Dunga beach and past Impala Sanctuary, Hippo point, and a little stretch further, Dunga Hill Point will serve you looks. It has a rustic aesthetic for the young hip audience. A camper van with graffiti that is converted into a fully stocked bar, high wooden bar stools dotted near the camper van, benches near the lake, and a wooden jetty that doubles up as a performance stage for events and entertainment. There is also a campsite on the other secluded end of the property. The patrons are really friendly and service is also fast considering the number of guests both local and tourists that frequent the place. I enjoyed my plate of wet fried beef, crunchy skuma wiki, and ugali. Again like I always say, if this feels like a vibe you like, do not hesitate to find your way to Dunga Hill Camp. The best thing about Kisumu is, there are so many bodabodas and tuk-tuks that will take you anywhere. Dunga Hill Camp is also one of the best places to catch the much-hyped Kisumu Sunset. Nothing prepares you for the sight that is a Kisumu Sunset, nicely washed down by a bottle of your favorite drink.
Another interesting property that you should absolutely check out while touring the region is Pikidi Gardens. It is set about 29km from Bondo town along a dust road, which at some point never seemed to end. As you approach the gate, the entrance of the gardens will still not reveal much of the pleasant surprise that awaits on the further end of the property where a majestic villa with a modern flat roof with a coastal touch and a splash of traditional Luo artifacts greet you.
The warmest welcome awaits as one makes their way inside the main villa.
On the extreme right of the gardens is the campsite complete with a built brick fireplace, manicured grounds, and hot water bathrooms. Very decent I must say. The campsite has tents with camping safari beds, mattress bed sheets, and a blanket. Any additional stuff like slippers and towels are billed separately.
The Villa is so spacious and can easily accommodate fourteen people. It has three spacious ensuite bedrooms, a fully furnished kitchen, a dining room, and two lounges. The most fascinating feature about the villa is that it is Lakefront and the unobstructed view of the lake that one enjoys while standing at the balcony is simply unrivaled!
The other reason that will have me go back to Pikidi Gardens is the food. They totally put their best foot forward. Without exaggerating for effect, that was the best Luo cuisine I have ever eaten. Fermented milk, brown ugali, omena, fish, porridge, beef, I mean, name it all! The food was rich in flavor, the portions were just perfect! Licking fingers, we did!
As dusk drew near, there is a hideout on the property that promises the best sunset. This corner formed the best symphony with nature as the heavy tides beat the rocks at the shoreline with an unpredictable increasing force which for a moment made me forget everything in my mind and simply soak in the moment and enjoy the lakeside breeze.
About a 20-minute boat ride from Pikidi Gardens is Ndeda Island. It is a fishing island in Lake Victoria, which means that the residents predominantly rely on fishing activities for their livelihood. A tour of the island, and getting to understand how they operate is a good form of cultural tourism that I would highly recommend. The most fascinating thing for me was seeing the fishermen draw their fishing nets from the lake to remove huge fish that had been trapped. They take the fish to the receiving area, where they are weighed and priced. It is also advisable to buy some fish from the fishermen.
What other places of interest do you recommend in Kisumu and its environs? Kindly give a suggestion in the comment section below! 😀.
To book your flight to a travel-ready destination, check out Jambojet’s website for more details.
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