Said to have been inhabited for centuries, enigmatic Mfangano Island is out of range of the smallest fishing boats, and, aside from a handful of motorbikes, largely without vehicles. This may be about to change, though, since a twice-daily ferry service from Mbita and the newly completed ring road around the island have gone a long way toward opening up Mfangano to the outside world. The island is populated by a curious mixture of immigrants from all over Kenya, administered by a chief and three sub-chiefs with help from a trio of policemen. Monitor lizards swarm on the sandy shores and hippos are much in evidence out in the water.
Larger and more populous than Rusinga, with a similarly rugged landscape but better vegetation cover, Mfangano’s greatest economic resource is still the lake itself. As on Rusinga, the local fishing techniques are unusual: the islanders fish with floating kerosene lamps hauled shorewards, or towards a boat, to draw in the schools to be netted. Despite the new road, many local residents still rely on a network of temporary footpaths that are constantly changing course; you can use these paths to walk through the interior of Mfangano, though it’s always easier if you have a guide.