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Caves that gave the Suba refuge during attacks

Thursday August 29 2019

Nyumba ya Mungu caves

A man praying inside the Nyumba ya Mungu caves in Migori County. PHOTO | RUTH MBULA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

RUTH MBULA
By RUTH MBULA
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Close to the shores of Lake Victoria in Mihuru Bay, Migori County, are two sites worth visiting: the Nyumba ya Mungu and Mugabo caves, which make for the perfect hiking site. The area above the Nyumba ya Mungu caves offers a kaleidoscopic view of the lake.

But the Mugabo caves are not well known and therefore not frequented by tourists. The two sites are located less than three kilometres apart.

CALM

Nevertheless, they offer a perfect place to spend time alone, whether it is just to enjoy some peace and quiet, to meditate or to pray. The caves are large enough for a human to enter comfortably. Love birds also spend quality time on the bushy and rocky surroundings after a visit to the caves.

On top of the caves are big flat stones that offer, not just a panoramic view of Lake Victoria, but also a glimpse of the famous Migingo Island in the distance.

Depending on the time you visit, the lake’s waters might be calm or rough, but viewing it from the top of the rocks produces a calm feeling.

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The people of Mihuru Bay, the custodians of the caves, say that Suba artefacts were preserved in the caverns until the early 1990s, but they gradually disappeared for lack of care at the time.

“Our grandfathers preserved the artefacts of our community, but visitors would come and steal them, until there was nothing left,” said Mr Eliakim Ajenjo, an elder from the community.

Mr Ajenjo further reveals that before and after the colonial era, they would hide in the caves from their enemies. 

“No warrior from the invading party would pursue our fighters once they entered the caves,” he said. “It was an unwritten rule! Women and children also sought refuge there in times of trouble.”

VANTAGE

But with no wars today, the caves are frequently used by those seeking a quiet place to pray.

“People believe that their gods hear them better from there. Some people believe that the spirits of their ancestors hover around Lake Victoria, and given that the caves are adjacent to one of Africa’s largest water bodies, they are bound to hear them,” offered Mr Ajenjo, 70.

Mr Joshua Wakirongo, also a community elder, says the prehistoric caves were used for surveillance.

“During wars, especially with neighbouring communities, a warrior would climb the rock on top of the caves to survey the situation since it is a vantage point,” he said.

Mugabo Beach Management Unit chairman Tobias Moragiri says the Migori County government should fence off the caves to make it easier to preserve them. This, he says, will enable the county to earn money from the dozens of tourists who visit the site.

“The county government needs to step in and preserve the caves, which have become a major tourist attraction.” he said. “That way, they can easily earn money by charging visitors a small fee.”

EXTORT

For now, crafty villagers take advantage of the situation to extort from visitors, demanding not less than Sh1,000 from every group of tourists.

But Migori County Director of Trade and Tourism Daudi Obado said the local administration has teamed up with the Kenya National Museums to improve tourist sites in the region, including the caves.

He added that they have taken an inventory of all the sites and are planning to build a tourist resort in Mihuru Bay and improve the roads leading to all the mapped sites.

He said Migori County is the gateway to famous tourist attractions such as the Serengeti and Maasai Mara national parks, a situation he said should be well exploited.

“Our attractions should be their first stopovers as they transit to the Masai Mara and Serengeti national parks,” said Mr Obado.

He said a forum for marketing tourist sites in western Kenya is also working with Migori County to ensure that the little-known tourist attractions get national and international attention.

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