How ‘water bus’ has changed travelling on Lake Victoria

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How ‘water bus’ has changed travelling on Lake Victoria

Mahanya Island
Passengers traveling on boat from Mahanya Island to Usenge Beach in Lake Victoria on July 10, 2016. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NMG 

Lake Victoria’s residents in Homa Bay County can now heave a sigh of relief after the introduction of a ‘water bus’ that connects its towns with those in Siaya.

The move has greatly eased travelling in the lake that for years has suffered due to the collapse of the Kenya Railways and once flourishing steamers left to gather rusts at many piers across the region.

The water bus, resembling a ferry, connects six islands – Wakula, Nyakwere, Yokia, Takawiri, Ringiti and Mulungu to mainland Mbita and Misori.

The new means of transport is expected not only to ease movement of goods and services but to spur economic growth across in the island and the mainland.

The water bus, locally assembled in Kisumu, is a watercraft based on a catamaran built with two parallel hulls that have the same size to offer maximum stability for the vessel.

Unlike travelling by motorboats and other canoes in the lake, the water bus is safe and fast while its fares are affordable.

A Catamara technology was pioneered by the Polynesians who used catamarans to sail around the islands in the Pacific.

The technology has now found its way to Lake Victoria through a company called Globology founded by Malcolm Ormiston, a Scottish investor.

Globology operates its watercrafts under the brand name Water Bus. This represents the first major investment in water travel in Lake Victoria in more than two decades.

After the collapse of the railway during which time steamers dominated Lake Victoria waters, travellers and islanders have been left to rely on motorised canoes and motorboats, which are unsafe.

The residents say travel across the lake has always been a perilous journey where people “trust God or fate and not the vessel” to deliver them safely to their destination. Incidents of vessels capsizing have been common on the lake. The vessels are also open so they do not provide any form of protection from the weather or the cold in the middle of the lake.

However, the arrival of the bus has changed that.

“Now we have variety of choices for transport,” said Ochieng’ Kwach, Homa bay resident.

“They are safe, faster and cheaper,” said Naome Achieng’, who frequently use the routes to transport fish to the neighbouring markets.

The journey to Mbita costs only Sh150 on the water bus. If you are going to Mbita and would want to enjoy a longer ride without paying any extra fare, you can board the Water Bus as it takes passengers to Misori Beach in Bondo and return with it to Luanda Kotieno where it picks passengers headed to Mbita. Travellers heading to Mbita can take a round trip through Misori Beach at only Sh150.

Travellers say they now enjoy their journey as they pay reduced fares while taking in the beautiful scenery around the lake.

The water bus journey from Luanda Kotieno in Uyoma, Siaya County to Mbita in Homa Bay takes roughly 30 minutes. Previously, it used to take hours.

On alighting, you can take a bodaboda to the main Mbita beach where you can board the second Water Bus to the Mfangano Islands.

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