Trip Report: Kakamega, Eldoret

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Mar 1st, 2006, 03:03 PM
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Trip Report: Kakamega, Eldoret

Nearly all of my time was spent in Eldoret, but I realize no one really goes there for fun, so I'll keep those comments extra-short. The lack of coverage on Eldoret in the guidebooks is, unfortunately, appropriate. Not much going on there.

But, during one of the weeks, two of us went for two days to Kakamega Forest. (We made other side trips to Naivasha and Masai Mara, but those will be in a different report). We paid a driver from Eldoret to take us to Rondo Retreat and then pick us up about 30 hours later. I think we paid 4000 shilling, which was probably highway robbery but still seemed to be the going rate. Eldoret is also probably the closest airport, and it's around an hour drive to Rondo. Only the last 8km were on dirt road, and it wasn't very dusty, unlike most drives in that part of Kenya.

Rondo sits right in the forest, on beautiful grounds. It was an old logging lodge, eventually donated to a Christian group who maintains it and uses if for some functions but mostly just rents rooms.

The rooms were in a series of cabins with I think 2 rooms per cabin, with a large, shared veranda/porch. The rooms were decent sized and the bathrooms pretty nice, which always must be considered in Kenya. There is a small giftshop (which, sadly, does not sell the tea that they grow across the road). The employees were very nice and inobtrusive. There was a slight billing disagreement, which was resolved immediately and in my favor, no questions asked.

All three meals are served in a dining cabin. There is no menu at Rondo--you sit down and they start feeding you. You have options for water and softdrinks (no alcohol) and you can have seconds, but no real options, altho they do apparently make alternatives for vegetarians who ask ahead of time, but I don't remember a lot of meat in the dishes anyway. They offer tea after every meal as well. Again, the service was quite good. I don't think they charged us for the drinks.

One little thing is that the place runs on generators that switch off at 10:00, so showers after that time are impossible and even bathroom trips are a little sketchy, as there are no lights anywhere in the compound to provide even ambient light through the windows. Rondo is very quiet at all hours--the "Retreat" definitely fits.

The grounds are very nice, with monkeys (blue, redtailed, and colubus) in the trees, altho they were very shy. In the morning and afternoon, they offer guided walks into the forest for I think 300 shilling a person. They also offer a night-time walk, but we didn't indulge, we heard mixed reviews from the other guests. The walks last about 2 hours and have a variety of destinations. Apparently, Americans aren't frequent visitors. I only say this because I have a theory that Americans are more interested in monkeys and Europeans are more interested in birds, and our guide seemed a bit confused when we were more interested in tracking down a troop of baboons than we were in finding what turned out to be a fairly average-looking bird.

That having been said, there were lots of wonderful birds and some pretty amazing butterflies. Our guide also took us to the top of a volcanic hill with great views of the forest. From the hill, he was able to show us where the old-growth forest was and where the secondary forest had grown in after logging had ceased about 100 years ago. There is an old mine shaft on the hill that we entered and saw big fruitbats with I'd guess an 18" wingspan, maybe more!

He also pointed out various plants with medicinal value and which trees different species lived in, and it was pretty interesting stuff.. the forest is dense and green, tho not the dripping wet jungle I'd imagined.

The next day he took us to where some of the locals were building another lodge/camp for visitors, altho it sounds like their target audience is scientists and not tourists. The locals were also working on a butterfly farm to help augment incomes to help discourage burning of the forest for grazing land.

Anyway, it's hard to do the place justice. I'd give the whole experience a very positive review, although I couldn't judge if it would be worth it on its own for a drive from Nairobi or whatever. Maybe in conjunction with Mt. Elgon (which I didn't visit but some in my group did) and Lake Victoria...

Questions? Even about Eldoret...
Meichx is offline  
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Mar 1st, 2006, 03:22 PM
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Thanks for the report. Kakamega has come up a time or two on the forum and has aroused my curiosity. Interesting theory on the monkeys and the birds. Your theory holds in my case. I'm American and go for monkeys over birds, but not by very much.
How far would you estimate Kakamega from Nairobi by vehicle?
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Mar 1st, 2006, 04:09 PM
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This is indeed a rare bird - a trip report from Kakamega.

First, you almost certainly weren't robbed by the driver if 4000 shillings was both ways - that's 1000 shillings per leg for him and sounds very reasonable. It is certainly good news for semi-budget travellers!

Some questions:
Is Rondo actually surrounded by the forest, or on the edge? Did you see much on the walks? What did the others think of Mt. Elgon - did they see the elephants "mining" salt? Does Rondo clearly discourage alcohol or only not serve it?
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Mar 2nd, 2006, 12:07 PM
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Driving estimate: hard to say, I had flown to Eldoret, so I don't have a very clear sense of exactly how far it is. Like I said, an hour or less from Eldoret (which is about a $150 RT from Nairobi). My thought is that it's about 6-7 hours (5-6 to Eldoret, then the other hour) going through Naivaisha and Nakuru (by the way Nai-Nak is the worst "highway" I've ever seen, but that's a whole other story). There might be another, less dusty route "the other way" through the Kisumu area(?) but I couldn't say, we didn't drive that.
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Mar 2nd, 2006, 12:13 PM
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Rondo is actually in the forest, surrounded by it. It's probably about 8km in. It's not in the middle exactly, but it's in it for sure.

In terms of alcohol, there aren't any signs or anything. Although we are both drinkers, we didn't bring anything from Eldoret. My guess is that you'd be able to drink in your room with no issues at all and probably none at all on your veranda as well. Probably not a very clear answer. Let me put it this way: if we'd brought something with us, we would have drank/drunk it.

My sense from Mt Elgon is that they saw the elephants, yes.
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Mar 2nd, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Hi Meichx,

Thanks for this interesting report. What did you do in Eldoret? Nothing at all? Iíve heard that the roads around Eldoret are the best in the country because former president Moi is from the area. Is that true? The last stretch of the NairobiĖMombasa highway is a lot worse than Nairobi-Nakuru and Iím a European and Iím more interested in monkeys than birds. Rondo sounds really nice, but I canít stay at a place with no showers after 10 PM. Iíd love to see those bats and everything else.


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Mar 3rd, 2006, 04:03 AM
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The drive from Nairobi is 5-6 hours to Eldoret. The roads are pretty good. I went for an Army event... a passing out parade at the barracks. (If you go, don't take a camera, it will be taken off you.... and you risk being given the wrong camera back!

We set off at about 5 in the morning, stopped for breakfast on the way, and were there by 10.30 ish.

Interesting being the only Mzungu at the event... and being followed by a crowd of curious children.
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