The family week was coming to an end at my local church. To crown the week, the leadership of the Young Couples had planned for a retreat. the text directed us to the venue: “After the gate to Impala Park, drive or walk straight till you get to an open field with a banda” (Swahili for hut).
I have lived in Kisumu City, the third largest town in Kenya, for the last 13 years. I can count the number of times I have visited Impala Park as a domestic tourist just to appreciate wildlife in their natural habitat. Most of the time, the visits have been influenced by a gathering of the sort as the one planned by my local church.
So after asking several questions, of course doubting the existence of such a place in the park, I purposed to be there. I wanted to explore this side of the park I had never experienced. I got to the gates and sorted out the entry requirement. Soon I was in, within the familiar grounds. Next to gates, the usual beautiful, clean-looking impalas are exposing their splendour in the mid-morning sunshine. No wonder the park is named after them!
As if to keep them constantly agile, two leopards are hungrily pacing about in their cage, with a long electric fence separating them and the impalas. Of course to them, the tourists milling around can also be part of their day’s meal.
Further and deeper inside, I spot several people around the area with trees and nice shade. Men and women with cameras and mobile studios plying their trade to ensure those visiting have their memories recorded. At the shores of the second largest fresh water lake, scores board speed boats to have a feel of the waters in a ride that I gather takes between twenty 20 to 30 minutes deep in the waters and back.
I train my eyes deeper into the thickets and I behold the zebras. They try to be careful not to move too close to the members of the human race, some struggling to take their pictures. Did I mention that while inside the lake, the boat ride includes a trip to a point where people can have a look at hippos? Now I have.
Then there is the world’s largest bird, the ostrich. She that lays an egg bigger than her own head. She swings around her enclosure as if to give people an opportunity to catch a glimpse of her glamour.
As I make my way past the “introductory” part of the park and begin to walk through the road heading deeper into the park, a car stops by. The occupants are some of my church mates and they offer to give me a ride.
We drive slowly so that those who have never been beyond the area around the gates can have a chance to see the deeper parts of this park. The chirping birds, small insects and big insects here and there characterize the drive along the aisle. On both sides of the road are thick bushes, those that would attract insect lovers for a campus thesis and dissertation.
Along the way we meet people in groups, couples holding hands, a few people under a tree munching snacks and all manner of edibles. “Wow, so there actually exists this side of Impala Park?” I ask in awe as my equally surprised friends marvel.
We pass by a well-maintained footpath winding into the bushes, with a sign that it leads to the snake park. Actually, the entire park is properly labeled with clear signage, to guide tourists around. There is the Impala Eco lodge, a one of its kind hotel tucked deep into the woods and several other points.
After what appears to be a lifetime, we pull over at an open field. About three other cars are already parked and a number of church mates are already at the site!
Apparently, this is the furthest and deepest end of the park. With well-tended grass, washrooms, a cooking area and a meeting banda to boot!
All these years as a resident of Kisumu, I only get to know this place in 2018! Bad, but, all in good time.
Main image credit: Kandukuru Nagarjun/Flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/nagarjun/)
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- Blogger name | John Ouko Riaga
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