The reed frogs croak the night away, their bellies extended with air. Clinging to the papyrus around the luxury villa that is the family suite at the luxurious Impala Ecolodge, their tiny size belies their croaks.
Hippos still wander in at night, knowing that they are safe in this part of the lake and it is difficult to imagine that such a luxury lodge sits in the famed Impala Sanctuary in Kisumu â€” created specifically to protect the remaining herds of impala that up to the 1960s were common around town.
Hidden from view, a suspended bridge leads to the lounge that is under canvas and offers the best views of the lake and the unforgettable sunsets sinking into the gigantic mass of water.
The lodge has just 12 cottages styled in accordance with the Luo ethos. Their roofs are capped with grass and the walls of the spacious, elegant rooms are built with cement mixed with soil and held in place with chicken wire.
Huge sliding glass doors open on to a spacious deck fitted with lounge beds overlooking the shallow shores of the lake lined with papyrus and other grasses.
â€œWe fashioned this to be a boutique lodge and at the same time an eco-lodge,â€ says Stanley Mbau, the general manager, as we wander around the lakeshore lodge. We catch the fresh breeze from Lake Victoria from whence the waters of the Nile originate, flowing 6,000 kilometres to Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea.
As a boutique lodge, it has brought Kisumu to the next level in luxury travel where customers want personalised service and attention to detail.
We hear the unmistakable call of the African fish eagle perched on tall trees as we walk with the free roaming impalas. It is a beautiful late afternoon and the breeze from the lake is refreshingly cool.
Besides the impalas, the sanctuary has become a refuge for many other animals housed in spacious pens â€” lions, leopard, cheetah, buffaloes, zebra, rhinos, and different types of monkeys. The leopard ignores us but the cheetahs come to the fence.
â€œThis is the oldest lion in Kisumu,â€ Kenya Wildlife Service officer Amos Otieno points to 11-year-old Kijana, whose russet-gold mane glows in the sun. He roars and saunters off to woo a lioness. He gets his way and we move on to see the monkeys from Nandi Hills, a place on our itinerary for the following day.
From the edge of the private jetty, there is the vast view of the hills surrounding Winam Gulf as far as Homa Bay and the horizon beyond, and turning towards the terra firma is the new Kisumu International Airport, from where clients are brought in by speedboat depending on which way the wind has pushed the water hyacinth.
A couple enjoys a meal at the dining area at the tip of the cool suspended jetty â€” sitting a few metres above the lake which at this point is a lush green carpet with purple flowers on it.-Nation