Ndere Island National Park is a newly gazetted 1,038-acre park just off the northern shore of Lake Victoria. The park’s name in Dholuo, the local Luo language, means a ‘meeting place’. Also because of the Themeda grass species whose mature flowers are reddish, the locals call it Chula Rabour, the Red Island.
The Luo people attach great significance to Ndere Island National Park. According to Luo folklore, Kit Mikayi, the mother of the tribe, had rested near here. The lore says she had travelled south down the Nile Valley. The national park was opened in November 1986 and later branded, ‘the island of serenity and beauty’ in 2010 by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). In case you visit, here are five things you should not miss to do.
1. Picnic, Hike and Walk
Ndere Island National Park has well-maintained walking trails that afford you breathtaking views of Lake Victoria. From a distance, you can also see the Homa hills to the south. To the east, the island of Magere is also noticeable. Beyond the southwest horizon, you can barely make out the city of Kampala in Uganda. The place also provides lovely grounds for picnics and hiking.
2. Learn Traditional Fishing
With prior arrangements, you can accompany the local fishermen as they go out to fish. Most have moved to modern fishing techniques, but a few still practise the old woven trap technique. Fishing here is almost like a competition as each fisher strives to bring home the biggest and most bountiful catch. Hopefully, you will leave the place as an expert! Alternatively, you can try out sport fishing.
3. Go on a Boat Safari
The local community on their boats frequently organises boat safaris. With prior arrangements, it is possible also to visit the nearby sister Island of Magere.
4. See Wildlife
Ndere Island National Park has its fair share of wildlife including hippos and crocodiles which inhabit the shore waters. There is also a population of impala now numbering about fifty. But a tour of the park is never complete without seeing the rare and endangered aquatic Sitatunga antelope.
5. Go Bird Watching
Over a hundred species of birds live in Ndere Island National Park. They mostly inhabit the papyrus reeds spread along the shoreline. You are under no pressure to spot all of them in a single tour (which would set a record) but at least see if you can identify a few. Start with common water birds like the African fish eagle, hammer kop and goliath heron.
The park is easily accessible by road from Kisumu city using the Kisumu- Bondo road. Alternatively, you can take a speed boat from Kisumu and be on the island in forty-five minutes. Check the Kenya Wildlife Service website for park entry fees in case you are planning a visit.