Gogo Falls in Migori County have become a huge tourist attraction site.
The rise and fall of water over the man-made falls and the feeling one gets walking over and across the narrow steel bridge is an experience many may include in their bucket list.
However, some visitors fear crossing the bridge and are left to watch from its edge.
The two-feet wide and over 150 metres long bridge cuts through the enormous River Kuja, which drains into Lake Victoria.
Below the bridge, water goes up the man-made cliffs and falls with a thud. The beautiful sight of the swollen river surrounded by green vegetation is breathtaking.
A dam covering over 100 acres and surrounded by papyrus is on one side of the fall.
However, the setting is not just for aesthetic value, Gogo Falls are a source of hydro-electric power in South Nyanza and are managed by KenGen.
Mr Charles Akuku, a community elder, says the falls have helped open up the region, with tourists frequently flocking the area.
This is made easier by the fact that the falls are adjacent to the Thimlich Ohinga archaeological site, which is now a world heritage site following its recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
“We usually request our visitors to visit the falls and the response has been positive,” says Thimlich’s curator, Mr Kelvin Somoire.
But the road linking the world heritage site to the falls is in poor condition and locals are calling on the national and county governments to improve it for easier movement.
Mr Akuku says the falls were first built by colonialists before Kenya gained its independence in the early 1950s. They used it to get power for gold mining in Macalder, Nyatike Constituency in Migori County.
But the government, through KenGen, later took over the site due to its immense contribution to the country’s economy.
Some sugar firms in South Nyanza get their electricity from the falls.
Mr Akuku says the falls have seen locals benefit in many ways. KenGen, through its Community Social Responsibility activities, has started various projects in the region.
“They support bright, needy students from this region to get education. New and well-maintained roads have helped open up the region,” he said.
Further, the firm replaced an old colonial wooden bridge that cuts across the falls with a steel bridge to increase safety.
“But we have had cases of frustrated locals jumping into the waters from the bridge to terminate their lives. Other people fall in accidentally,” said Mr Akuku.
Locals have also been offered jobs. “Most of the subordinate staff at the KenGen office at Gogo Falls are locals,” says the elder.
But residents are concerned about environmental degradation of River Kuja.
They say waters from the river are being polluted through effluents by sugar industries in South Nyanza, harming flora and fauna.
“This has on several occasions killed thousands of fish in this river,” said Mr Akuku.
County Director of Trade, Tourism and Co-operatives Daudi Okoth Obado says they are profiling all tourist sites so that they can market them as a package.
“Our county has been blessed with immense attractive sites which have in the past been underutilised in terms of tapping tourists. We are partnering with various stakeholders to see to it that this trend is corrected,” he said.