The Maasai originally referred to this area as eldore (stony river) after the nearby Sosiani River, but this proved too linguistically challenging for the South African Voortrekkers who settled here in 1910 and they named their settlement Eldoret instead. In 2008 Eldoret achieved notoriety when 35 people (mostly Kikuyus) were burnt alive in a church on the outskirts of town.
Kericho is a haven of tranquillity. Its surrounds are blanketed by a thick patchwork of manicured tea plantations, each seemingly hemmed in by distant stands of evergreens, and even the town centre seems as orderly as the tea gardens. With a pleasant climate and a number of things to see and do, Kericho makes for a very calming couple of days.
Not so long ago, much of western Kenya was hidden under a dark veil of jungle and formed a part of the mighty Guineo–Congolian forest ecosystem. However, the British soon did their best to turn all that lovely virgin forest into tea estates. Now all that’s left is this slab of tropical rainforest surrounding Kakamega.
Let’s cut straight to the chase. Kisii is a noisy, polluted and congested mess, and most people (quite sensibly) roll right on through without even stopping. However, it's an important transport point and there's a good chance you'll pass through at some point in your explorations of western Kenya.
Three hours west of Nairobi, this ramshackle provincial town – the capital of the Mara region – is the last proper centre before the vast savannahs of the Masai Mara. It’s a friendly and surprisingly hassle-free place, but few travellers have reason to stop. Most people roll on in, browse the curio shops while their driver refuels, then roll on out again.
Mt Elgon National Park
Straddling the Ugandan border and peaking with Koitoboss (4187m), Kenya’s third-highest peak, and Uganda’s Wagagai (4321m), the slopes of Mt Elgon are a sight indeed – or at least they would be if they weren't buried under a blanket of mist and drizzle most of the time.
If you want to fall totally off the radar then Mfangano Island, sitting out in the placid lake waters, is an idyllic place to get lost. Home to many a monitor lizard, inquisitive locals, intriguing rock paintings and the imposing but assailable Mt Kwitutu (1694m), Mfangano Island is well worth a day or two.
Mbita & Rusinga Island
Mbita and Rusinga Island (connected by a causeway) are delightful. Tiny, languid and rarely visited, they offer a glimpse of an older Africa – an Africa that moves to the gentle sway of the seasons rather than the ticking of a clock. This is the sort of place where schoolchildren abandon their classes to watch you pass by and old women burst into song at your arrival.
Homa Bay has a slow, tropical, almost central African vibe, and the near-total absence of other tourists means it’s extraordinarily and genuinely friendly. There is little to do other than trudge up and down the dusty, music-filled streets or wander down to the lake edge to watch the marabou storks pick through the trash as they wait for the fishermen and their morning catch.