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Rusinga Island Lodge - Lake Victoria, Kenya

Rusinga is the smallest of the islands of Lake Victoria. Formerly a family home, the delightful Rusinga Island Lodge is a collection of charming en-suite cottages made from stone, wood and grass thatch, decorated in African fabrics, each with a private veranda. The gardens contain enormous fig trees (including one where Mary Leakey had her camp at the time she discovered Proconsul heseloni .

There are hammerkops on the sweeping lawns and the rare double-toothed barbet is just one of the 100 bird species that can be seen here. Activities include fishing for Nile perch and tilapia, bird watching, visits to the fossil sites that dot the island, visits to Tom Mboya's mausoleum, visits to a women's project (making paper, soap and baskets to raise funds for orphan children), boat trips to Mfangano to see the rock art, water sports, and visits to Ruma National Park, which is on the mainland.

Location and climate
Kisumu is 350 kilometres north of Nairobi on the shores of Lake Victoria.
By road: Kisumu is 350 km from Nairobi, 53 km from Kakamega, 83 km from Kericho, 121 km from Kisii and 142 km from Homa Bay.
By air: the trip by air to Nairobi takes around one hour and there are regular flights operated by Kenya Airways.
By water: Kisumu is linked by ferry with Kendu Bay, Homa Bay and Mbita (as well as to neighbouring countries).
Climate: hot and humid all year round.

The Background
Western Kenya, land of diversity
Western Kenya has it all. To the far west lie the mighty inland waters of Lake Victoria, the world's second largest freshwater lake after Canada's Lake Superior, and the regional capital of Kisumu .

Kisumu is Kenya's third largest city and provides a natural base for touring the region. Local attractions include: Kisumu Museum (open 8.30am-6.00pm daily), The Kisumu Impala Sanctuary (open 6.00am -7.00pm daily) and Ndere Island National Park (accessible by boat, open 6.00am - 7.00pm daily).

South-west of Kisumu, lying in the waters of Lake Victoria, are the islands of Rusinga (where Mary Leakey discovered the skull of Proconsul Africanus , a primitive anthropoid ape that lived on Rusinga three million years ago) and Mfangano (a centre of pre-history famous for its rock art).

A short distance to the north of Kisumu is the famous Kakamega Forest Reserve , a unique patch of lowland rainforest renowned for its abundant wildlife.

And travelling further north, but still within easy reach, are the contrasting wildernesses of the vast and rugged Mount Elgon National Park on the Ugandan border, famous for its bat-filled caves and salt-mining elephants, and Kenya's smallest National Park, Saiwa Swamp , the sanctuary of the semi-aquatic sitatunga antelope.

Lake Victoria
Few inland waters measure up to Lake Victoria, which has a surface area of 68,800 sq km, of which Kenya claims only 3,785 sq km. The lake is also bordered by Uganda and Tanzania. Unlike the lakes further west, Lake Victoria is not part of the Rift Valley system and is wide and shallow, being only 80 meters deep. The world's second largest freshwater lake (after Canada's Lake Superior), Lake Victoria is fed mainly by rainwater and drains more than 6,450 km to the north, via the Nile, to the Mediterranean Sea. First settled by the Luo peoples some five centuries ago, Lake Victoria was ‘discovered' as a potential source of the Nile by the English explorer John Hanning Speke in 1858.

Set among velvet-green lawns, which stretch down to the water's edge, there are eight cottages. Built in the traditional Luo style, they are made from stone, wood and local papyrus. The interior décor features traditional African fabrics and basket ware. Two cottages have two rooms, each with ensuite bathroom and shared veranda - which make ideal family accommodation. All the other cottages have one room, ensuite bathroom and private veranda. All meals, wines, beers, soft drinks, laundry, airstrip transfers, fishing water sports, sightseeing, bird watching and visits to the fossil sites are included in the cost.

Dining and bars
The lodge offers a central dining room, lounge, gift shop and bar. Great pride is taken in the food served and all breads, pastas and cakes are home-made. Fruit and vegetables are collected daily from our large organic garden and no artificial fertilizers or chemicals are used. Fish dishes are a specialty - cooked Zanzibari style with coconut, lime and coriander.

The lodge welcomes children.

What to see and do
The lodge offers sandy beaches, boat trips, guided walks, waterskiing, windsurfing, visits to bird islands and fishing for perch and tilapia - both of which can be cooked by the expert chef.

Giant monitor lizards and spotted-necked otters are often seen on the rocks around the island. Magnificent fish eagles soar overhead and swoop down low giving photographic opportunities. The friendly Luo fishermen fish along the shores in their colourful canoes and sailing dhows. Rusinga's guests are welcome to visit their villages where the night's catch is set out to dry in the sun and larger fish are smoked.

Ruma National Park is an hour's drive away, which offers visitors the chance to see the village life of the lake people. Remote and seldom visited, the park is the last sanctuary of the rare roan antelope - a large antelope with magnificent black and white facial markings and swept back horns. Oribi, Bohor reedbuck, topi, waterbuck and buffalo are also common here and leopard are often sighted.

The fossil sites
The lodge offers guided tours of the famous Rusinga fossil sites. These fossils are from the Miocene period, dating back to between 18 and 20 millin years ago and may be found all over Rusinga Island. There are, however, three main sites. The most famous discovery was the skull of Proconsul heseloni, a five-million-year-old anthropoid ape, the lst common ancestor of the great apes and man, which was found by Dr Mary Leakey in 1974. It was so small it could be held in the palm of the hand. However, other finds included ancestral elephants, rhinos, pigs and gian, horse-shaped hyrax, as well as a myriad of rodetns, reptiles gastropods and plants, giving a fossilized microcosm of life from te Miocene era.

Rusinga Island Lodge - Lake Victoria • Kenya Lake Island Hotels & Resorts • Other Travel Accommodation
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