Traveling Solo To: Takawiri Island

Hey hey heyyyy! Hey!! Hey!!! Hello internet humans, because you can’t possibly be reading this off a banana leaf, how are y’all doing? Yes it’s really been 8 months and because I’m a non-committal blogger, I was going to drag it out a couple of more months but I was touched by my ancestral aunties in a daydream and decided to deliver this post as promised on my Instagram and Twitter.

In this post I’ll be talking about:

  • Why I decided to travel solo and why I chose [and will continue to choose] Nyanza Province/Western parts of Kenya.
  • How I got to Takawiri Island — which was my furthest destination on this trip.
  • Answers to your questions on accommodation, logistics, safety, and way of life on the islands I visited, etc.
  • My experience overall [pros, cons and tips] as well as a few interesting stories from the people on the islands that you can find on my portfolio tab in the future.

 

WHY TRAVEL SOLO MARIE? HAVE YOU NO FRIENDS? NO BAE?

Yes I have all the above but this is also what confined my spirits of travel last year; not factoring in the obvious dilemmas of time and money. I pretty much stayed in the city 90% of the year which wounded my curiosity and creative productivity.

I also dipped into a few depressive episodes that completely made me put my camera away except for when I needed to deliver on professional assignments. I wasn’t doing anything new and frankly I was not inspired by anything or anyone around me.

 

So on Saturday the 10th of March at 1pm, I walked down to the Modern Coast offices and booked a ticket to Kisumu. I figured that would be a great starting point for all the adventure I was looking for around Nyanza. I was intentional about having a non-mainstream experience as much as possible. A destination that would make people go like “Where’s that? I didn’t know that place was that amazing.” [And true to my word I got several people messaging me: “This is my home” “These are my people” and that truly warmed my heart.]

 

As your typical millennial would, I went ahead and searched Airbnb for accommodation slots in the city. The dorm room at the Kisumu hostel seemed perfect because of its great reviews and the fact that it was only $15 a night, bed and breakfast. Beyond a steal!

I won’t lie. The night before I set off, I absolutely doubted myself. What if this was a waste of time? What if I don’t come back? What do I do if I am stranded or hurt? And so on and so forth because there’s less information about Nyanza province on google as compared to Coast or Central provinces in Kenya.

 

I also did not know anyone there before I went so I tried messaging a few popular people living in Kisumu on Facebook and luckily one got back to me and linked me with Winnie, the model you saw on my Instagram page who guided me a lot during the first half of the trip.

I packed real light and the next morning, I was on a bus from Nairobi to Kisumu.

HOW I GOT TO TAKAWIRI ISLAND

This is where it gets quite interesting. After three days in Kisumu, I decided to set off on this journey to a white sandy beach island on Lake Nalubaale [colonially named Lake Victoria]. Most people I had asked had not been there themselves except for a few and even then they had not gone past Rusinga or Mbita islands.

However, a one opinionated and liquored up Jonathan that I had met in Kisumu told me that “Takawiri is where the dead go when they die. It is pure heaven”. This sparked my excitement even more! I promised myself that I would not stop till I got to Takawiri.

 

I had no idea how far I was going but I stretched my wallet and spirit till I made it. I also bought a swimsuit from Winnie for good measure. There was no way I was going to bail on myself if I had the swimsuit. There was no turning back!

I got clear directions via DM from my friend Theo that knew how to get there so I hopped onto a bodaboda the next morning at 10am and set off as instructed. For purposes of length, I’ll just write out the route:

 

  • Take a tuktuk/bodaboda to the Kisumu bus station. Ask for the matatus going to Luanda K’Otieno and hop on one. Pay 300kshs [$3] nothing more! This drive is 2 hours long.
  • Wait for the waterbus departing for Mbita Island. Pay 150kshs [$1.5]. This trip is about 30 minutes long.
  • Take a bodaboda from the southern port of Mbita Island to the northern port bordering Rusinga Island and wait for the next waterbus.

 

  • Take that waterbus to Takawiri Island and drop off there if you are staying at the Takawiri Island Resort OR continue to Mfangano Island and spend the night there at cheaper accommodation spots.
  • Take another waterbus in the morning from Mfangano to Takawiri. Basically waterbus waterbus WATERBUS!
  •  All these trips span from 30-45mins and should not cost you more than 200kshs [$2].

 

  • Call the resort to book a speedboat if you want to spend a couple of hours at their beach. Please note that this resort is the only formal accommodation/restaurant on Takawiri island. They work on appointment basis so communicate all your needs: food, transport, activities etc. at least a day in advance.

TIPS: These waterbuses make three trips a day maximum and sometimes there’s only one available so you may have to take a ferry which may not fill up as fast as the waterbus. Just don’t get on the small boats no matter what anyone tells you. It’s not a short distance and they don’t provide life jackets.

Matter of fact, I hopped on one oblivious of the risk and distance of traveling from Luanda to Mbita then it started trickling in water at the bottom and we were mid-lake! Fucking MID-LAKE! I was scared to shits but that was not even the scariest part of the trip.

I can’t list the exact times they depart and return around all the islands but I would suggest that you ask around as much as possible and make friends with one or two crew members on the waterbus so you don’t get left behind or lost because these vessels don’t wait for NOBODY!!!

For accommodation, I stayed at The Chillspot on Mfangano Island which was $25 a night on Airbnb. It wasn’t as good as the Kisumu hostel but it was decent enough. They played courtship and gospel Luo/Suba music all night long with a touch of Lingala here and there which was truly a MESS especially since I was so tired and borderline seasick from all the waterbus trips.

With regards to this stop, I was scared because it finally hit me that I was too far into the lake and the trip overall to turn back. To add on, I was among a minority tribe of people I had never heard of [Abasuba]. The African child in me swallowed all that paranoia and slept ready to run in case of any unusual turn of events.

I think I’ve given away enough for this post thus far and this is not an essay writing application abeg! I’ll probably come out with a Part 2 [cue Nollywood music] answering more of your questions, the pros and cons, sharing my final thoughts as well as more images and stories from the entire trip.

Till then, see you later!

Yours untruly,

Marie with the irregular blogposts.