Dunga Boardwalk: A gateway to tourism and conservation of Lake Vitoria

A lot of local tourists who visit Dunga Beach in Kisumu usually start their day at the boardwalk.

By Godfrey Ombogo | gombogo@rocketmail.com

At Lake Victoria’s Dunga Beach in Kenya’s Kisumu City is a bridge-like wooden structure that extends a few metres into the water for a picturesque view of Africa’s largest freshwater lake.

At one corner of the meandering bridge is a one-roomed wooden house with artefacts depicting the life of fisher folk. Together, the bridge and building make up the Dunga Boardwalk Wetland Gallery, an outdoor museum whose main purpose is to conserve the wetland area around the lake.

The boardwalk was built in 2015 by the Dunga Ecotourism and Environmental Community Based Organisation (DECTTA) and Eco-finder Kenya, with the support of French Embassy in Nairobi and Kisumu Local Interaction Platform (KLIP).

“The main purpose of the boardwalk is to spread the knowledge on why Dunga Swamp needs to be protected and contribute to its conservation,” says Victor Didi, the DECTTA chair, adding: “The outdoor museum is also used for educational purposes for environmental groups working in the area to further develop their skills,” he adds.

The boardwalk is surrounded by a bush of green papyrus, which acts as an important buffer between the lake and its shore.

According to Michael Nyaguti, the Magnam Environmental Network chairperson, the wetland is an important cleaning agent of the lake, which is now heavily contaminated.

“There is a time some people wanted to clear the wetland areas around this lake, but we went to court and stopped them. A good bit of waste in this water is removed by the wetland around here,” says the environmental activist.

Didi says apart from the conservation efforts, the boardwalk is an important site for local and international tourists. Currently, he says, the museum receives up to 100 visitors per day.

“It receives many tourists, ornithologists, whose interests is the birdlife around the wetland, and researchers on Lake Victoria,” he says, adding that some of the most prominent faces they have hosted are the French ambassador to Kenya, Kisumu and Vihiga governors and actress Lupita Nyong’o.

Lake Victoria Tourism Association Chairman Robinson Anyal and Eldah Odongo of Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO) at the Dunga Boardwalk in Kisumu, western Kenya. The boardwalk gives visitors a sight to behold of Lake Victoria.

The boardwalk charges modest rates for those who visit, and Didi says this is meant to encourage tourism and conservation of the lake and its surroundings. Students are charged between Sh20 ($0.14) and Sh50 ($0.35). Local adult tourists pay Sh100 ($0.7) while children part with Sh50 ($0.35) to access the museum. Resident international tourists pay Sh200 ($1.4) (children) and Sh300 ($2.1) for adults, while non-resident children and adults pay Sh300 ($2.1) and Sh500 ($3.5), respectively.

The boardwalk also provides conference facilities, charged at Sh2,500 ($17.5) for half a day and Sh5,000 ($35) for a full day. And if you want beautiful sceneries for a photoshoot or videography for a birthday or wedding, you pay Sh5,000 ($35) and Sh15,000 ($105) for commercial coverage.

In his Bachelor’s degree thesis, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences student Freija Carlsten, writes that the wetland gallery could serve as a good example for the rest of Kisumu and towns around Lake Victoria on how to get closer, inspired and educated by nature.

“It can also be a good example and inspiration for how to promote conservation of valuable nature areas and inspire other communities to follow and adapt to good habits,” reads the thesis titled, Wetland Development in the Context of Ecotourism: A Conceptual Design Proposal for a Wetland Site in Lake Victoria, Kenya.

Carlsten says this wetland gallery concept can be used elsewhere around Lake Victoria and developed as a series of outdoor museums to underscore the importance of wetlands to the region.

Didi says since 2015, when the boardwalk was built, they have made milestones, including reducing destruction and encroachment in the wetland, employment creation for youth and women, and increasing consciousness in the community on the need for wetland management.

“The boardwalk has attracted many partners – both State and non-State operators. The Kisumu County government in partnership with other organisations has also offered trainings to our group,” he said.

He hopes for more resources to extend the boardwalk’s activities in more areas and attract a larger number of tourists.

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