If you’ve been following this blog this past year it’s pretty obvious by now that Kenya’s tourism marketing may have sold us a few false truths. It has ingrained in our minds that travel is expensive and complicated, we’ve fallen for the marketing pitches that indicate the only options open to us are the wildebeest migration or the beach; that we cannot truly exhale unless we are lying by a pool with a colorful drink in hand.
Are the above options wrong? Of course not let’s not be ridiculous here. But are they the only options? No, not by a long shot.
Mount Kasigau, located in Taita-Taveta County is part of the Eastern Arc Mountains bordering the southernmost reaches of Tsavo West National Park. Located a third of the way between the Taita Hills and the Indian Ocean it rises 1600m above the Taru Desert, with savannah plains below giving way to its high montane forest. If passing travelling on the Nairobi – Mombasa Highway is clearly visible on your right as you pass through Voi.
This region consists of 5 local communities around the mountain, Jora, Kiteghe, Rukinga, Bungule and Makwasinye with about 3000 people each. Being between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks this area is an important elephant dispersal area.
Mount Kasigau is about 45min (for some reason GMaps says otherwise) from Voi Town, there is another route through Maungu if you decide to go further down the highway. However the road between Voi and Maungu is very bad at the moment so the route shown below is a better option at the moment.
The road is well graded however there are long stretches with corrugation and a few places the road has been washed out but well diverted. 2WD will make it no problem in dry conditions, public transport is also available from Voi town.
Kiteghe village is one of the 5 villages located around the mountain and is a quick 10min drive from Rukanga Village which is the ‘capital’ of the area.
This is also where we meet Maasai Kamando, Chairman of the Kasigau Community Forest Association, to show us the way. From the main road the bandas are located about 10min up toward the mountain. Photo below kind of shows you what the track looks like.
I must say at this point I still have no idea what to expect, but am not disappointed; the banda is a spacious rondavel spectacularly perched on the hillside at the foot of the Mount Kasigau.
Each community of the 5 around the mountain has it’s own banda. This eco-tourism project was begun to assist the communities benefit from tourism income and stop deforestation, poaching and mitigate the effects of human-wildlife conflict.
Are peak to the west dominates the view and is a constant companion to the bandas.
You hear about commanding views; this place wrote the book on it. The structure on the left is a shower should you want to take a bucket bath under the stars.
The inside is no less impressive containing a small living area, kitchenette and 2 bedrooms. I liked the canvas ceiling below the makuti, nice touch.
Kitchen area is stocked with all cutlery and crockery, also available is a meko gas stove and paraffin lamps (all fuel provided). In the right hand corner there is a solar charging system, be warned though the battery is old and it will only charge mobile phones VERY slowly a that. It’s going to be changed soon though.
Water for washing and cooking is also provided, although you might want to boil it before drinking if you’re sensitive like that.
Bedroom one has 2 double beds (tight squeeze), all linens available and there are blankets if you get cold at night. Mosquito nets are also provided.
Bedroom 2 can sleep an additional 3 people and has the same items available as bedroom 1.
What you can see from the door of the banda.
About 10m down the hill is the shower/toilet. Running water is available here, and is really appreciated in the heat!
Tea time! When passing through Voi don’t forget to stop at the markets for some mangoes, some of the best I have ever tasted.
We ordered a local kienyeji chicken from a neighboring homestead; cooked Kasigau – style roasted over hot coals with mustard, salt and pepper and of course, more mango. Picture doesn’t do it justice, it was delicious! Who needs a buffet?
However please make it clear to whoever you ask to bring the chicken that you would like it cooked. There was a momentary crisis when the chicken was brought squawking right to our door and me and the lady who brought it blinked at each other for what seemed like a lifetime.
As usual we spend most of our days here just hanging out and doing nothing. The Muse particularly enjoys catching up on her reading.
It’s difficult to describe the sense of peace here, the sound of cows coming home, a child crying in a nearby homestead, it all just adds to something I do not have the words to explain.
With the weather so warm during the night we saw no need to make much use of the fire pit. Firewood is supplied but I am currently trying to use less of it when travelling, especially in areas where deforestation is a challenge.
Another day ends at the Kiteghe bandas.
Its always such a sight to see the sun go down, the colours seem to change every 5min. Thats something I can never get enough of in Kenya. Remember how I described this same phenomenon in Lake Bogoria? Just doesn’t get old.
- Contacts for the bandas are: Maasai – 0718-567979 or Newton – 0710-755225
- The bands are self-catering. If you are doing major shopping Voi Town is a good place to stop, the supermarket in Rukanga is quite small but will do for basic commodities and fresh produce.
- Cost for Kiteghe banda pppn is Ksh 800 for residents and Ksh 1,200 for non-residents. Camping around the banda with own gear is Ksh 400 with own gear.
- If climbing Mount Kasigau tour guides are available at Ksh 1000 and porters at Ksh 300. Camping on the mountain itself costs Ksh 2000 payable to the Kenya Forest Service.
I’d like you have a look at one final image. I warn you, it’s not pretty.
This is the visitors book at Kitege banda. Look at those dates again, I’ll wait.
Done? Communities always ask me “Wakenya wako wapi, mbona hawatutembelei?”. On the other hand i hear Kenyans say “Travel in Kenya is too expensive, hotels only target wazungus, why are there no prices for Kenyans?”. And lets not forget our governments “commitment to opening up new tourist circuits”, it goes on and on and on in a cycle of self-destruction. Where is the middle ground in this impasse, and how can we address it?
As per my introduction, we need to realize there is a problem when it comes to our perceptions as regards travel in Kenya. You’re wondering how we can change this right? Its simple, it begins with us. Next time you choose to travel, take a little time to think about the WAY and the WHY of your own journeys.
Are you likely to see the Kasigau community up on some flashy billboard or in a glossy magazine? No. But you dont need to, you’ve just read this article. I’ve done my bit, I’ll leave it to you to spread the word.