Kisumu City, Kenya: The Floating Lights of Lake Victoria
A night without witnessing the floating lights on Lake Victoria is not a night at all around Kisumu City. Francis had been reveling in the splendid beauty of the lights from the floating towns on Lake Victoria for months.
“Come, check it out,” he frequently chided me. So, I arrived unannounced one weekend for a surprise visit.
Francis lives in Dunga, located southwest of Kisumu City. Dunga, built on a small hill rising steadily from the bottom of Lake Victoria, gives a fantastic view of the floating towns at night.
In the rural settlements around the lake, community members sleep in shifts, making a living out of fishing. The majority take catnaps during the day to adjust and cope with the physical strain. A few, hard pressed for time, ward off sleep with continuous activities and knock off at odd times.
“When are the lights set up?” I asked Francis out of curiosity.
“One fisherman operates an average of five to ten lamps within a given area,” He explained.
“You’re wondering how these lamps are secured to float on water…” Francis beat me to the next question. He then went on to describe the technique used to secure and anchor the lamps, which resemble floating towns on the lake at night.
“The catch of omena on Lake Victoria is determined by the number of lamps within one’s territory,” he added. Millions of lake flies crowd around kerosene lamps securely anchored to the water at night.
In the house at Dunga, lake flies slip inside and gather around the light bulbs. Dead lake flies pile up in heaps along the wall where security lights are mounted on the veranda outside.
“Without these lake flies, there would be no harvesting of omena,” Francis clarified as he pointed to the lake flies falling over each other around the light.
“These flies are as good as money in the bank,” he said and scooped up a handful of lake flies, which had lived their entire lifespan in a day. Suddenly the purpose of the floating lamps dawned on me. It all made perfect sense. I couldn’t help but think of Albert Einstein’s words,
“…one cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, gives Kisumu City its mystery. Purple, red, pink and gold shot through with streaks of pure green reflect on the lake as the sun sets. At night, floating lights against the dark water create a replica of Lake Victoria’s spectacular sunsets. For the best seats to the show, visit Dunga Hill Camp and Hippo Point to watch the lights come on.
But there is more to see and enjoy in Kisumu City than just Lake Victoria. For one, the Kisumu Impala animal orphanage has a collection of lions, leopards, baboons, hyenas, jackals, and cheetahs.
Then there is Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground, the perfect place to cool off or curl up with a good book. Here you can sit under the shade of indigenous trees or fall asleep on the green grass. If you haven’t been to Kenyatta Sports Ground, you haven’t touched base with the heartbeat of Kisumu City. Navy blue steel gates mark the entrances and exits to Kenyatta Sports Ground. The majority of visitors walk in, spend time and leave. The minority shuttle through and exit the ground through different gates. The eastern and westerns gates serve as a shortcut to and from the city center if you’re coming from the bus stop. Walk around the bend on the terrace past the pond and you’re deposited on the back street of Kisumu city center.
To witness all that Kisumu has to offer, take the newly built Kisumu–Nairobi Highway. The route is serviced 24/7 by public vehicles that load and offload commuters from around and beyond Kisumu County. No matter where you’re coming from, it’s worth the journey to see the floating lights of Lake Victoria!