Machakos County, Kenya

Machakos County is a combination of rural countryside and bustling metropolis, located 43 miles south of Nairobi and just a 30-minute drive from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.Tuesday, 13 June 2017

By National Geographic Traveller The Collection

Machakos County is a combination of rural countryside and bustling metropolis, located 43 miles south of Nairobi and just a 30-minute drive from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The name Machakos was adopted from an Akamba seer known as Masaku, who welcomed the British in Kambaland; in 1887, the area was established as the first administrative centre for the new British East Africa colony.  Machakos County is a wonderful destination to explore outside Nairobi, characterised by green and fertile stretches of land. En route to Machakos County from the capital, travellers are welcomed by expansive savannah grassland with a chain of ranches teeming with wildlife. Machakos town itself is surrounded by undulating hills that offer a truly picturesque view. To the extreme end lies the Yatta Plateau — the world’s longest larva flow — and Masinga Dam, Kenya’s largest man-made water reservoir.

Throughout the year, an array of high-profile events take place in Machakos, from celebrations of age-old customs of the Kamba people to exhilarating dates in the sporting calendar.

Machakos People’s Park

Machakos People’s Park offers panoramic views of the surrounding hills and a captivating view of  Maruba Dam, making it the perfect place to take a moment to relax and unwind. The park is home to Africa’s only open-field amphitheatre, a ‘dancing water’ fountain, children’s play area and restaurants. The park is a perfect weekend getaway for families, retreats and team-building activities.

Wamunyu Handicraft Centre

This commercial carving centre was set up in honour of the late Mutisya Munge, who served with the British Army during the First World War in neighbouring Tanganyika. After the war, he began carving figures, using skills he’d learned from the Makonde people, whose homeland straddles the Mozambique-Tanzania border. Mutisya subsequently brought the knowledge of carving to his home village of Wamunyu, in Masaku. Many of the beautiful handcrafts and artifacts carved here end up in upmarket galleries and craft shops, both locally and abroad. These carvings have become a poignant symbol of the upturn in fortunes of the local Kamba people. A visit to the centre offers a fascinating insight into the story of how one man’s skill helped to transform the Wamunyu community.

Wildlife

The ranches along Mombasa Road provide an excellent base for nature walks, cycling and game drives. This magnificent expanse of savannah provides a truly wild African experience, home to cheetahs, zebras, elands, oryxes, giraffes, ostriches and antelopes, to name but a few.

Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, located 52 miles north east of Nairobi, is dominated by a mountain covered in montane forest, and is home to more than 45 species of bird — among them the grey-headed sparrow, weaver, mourning dove, augur buzzard and African pied wagtail. Buffalo are the dominant animal on the savannah, although visitors can also expect to catch sight of bushbucks, olive baboons, pythons and possibly even a leopard or two.

Machakos County offers visitors a host of historic sites and cultural attractions, many a legacy of its days as a haunt for foreign royalty and dignitaries on big-game hunting trips. With its colonial past, the region has a long history of drawing the world’s elite.

Sport Tourism

Annual sporting attractions include the Masaku Sevens rugby tournament, the Tour de Machakos cycle race, drag racing at the Masinga TT and Rhino Charge, an off-road motorsport competition. The modern Kenyatta Stadium has hosted numerous international football and rugby tournaments, as well being the home ground for national football clubs; visitors can head here to enjoy Kenyan Premier League games each weekend. Watersports are available at Masinga Dam, the high-altitude training ground for watersports in Kenya.

Adventure

Machakos’ landscapes are an open invitation to adrenalin junkies keen to satisfy their thirst for adventure. The region is popular for rock climbing, hiking, exploring hyena caves and water sports in the shadow of Masinga Dam. Motorsports enthusiasts, meanwhile, will relish exploring Machakos’ hilly, semi-arid terrain in 4WD vehicles or on quad bikes.

Entertainment & Nightlife

Machakos’ proximity to Nairobi means it’s something of an entertainment hotspot, with a host of lively night clubs to head to after sundown and numerous events on offer during the day. Machawood is an entertainment centre for film, media and the arts, which hosts an annual New Year’s party. The centre also offers talent search competitions, filming competitions and seminars to train local musicians, artists and film enthusiasts.

Macmillan Castle

Lord William Northrup Macmillan built this sprawling 32-roomed mansion as a hunting retreat and lived there for many years with his wife. It features high ceilings, underground bunkers and exquisite Edwardian furnishings. The house was officially declared a national monument in 2008 and there are plans to turn it into a museum. Hardly surprising, seeing as the castle has hosted many illustrious guests over the years, including former US president Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Sir Evelyn Baring, Prince Amedeo of Belgium and the Duke of Aosta, among others. The Macmillans were noted philanthropists and left an enduring legacy in Kenya, including the McMillan Memorial Library in central Nairobi.

African Heritage House

Set on a plain overlooking Nairobi National Park, this stunning building was designed by American Alan Donovan, co-founder of the African Heritage Pan African Gallery. The house is an exemplary showcase for a number of the traditional styles of mud architecture found across Africa, while the elegant rooms are filled with luxurious African art and furnishings.

Koma Rock Shrine

The Koma Rock Shrine is found eight miles east of Nairobi in the heart of Ukambani — the traditional homeland of the Akamba people, for whom this rocky, hilly spot has long been considered sacred. Akamba elders used to journey here to offer sacrifices to their gods, and, according to the faithful, many miracles have occurred here. One is alleged to have taken place in 1971 when civil engineers constructing the Kangundo-Nairobi highway — who planned to move the shrine to make way for the road — were unable to dynamite their way through the rock and were forced to abandon their plans; a sign, the true believers say, of higher forces at work. Many visitors to Koma Rock have reported seeing a vision of a mother holding her son. Interpreting this as Jesus and Mary, the Catholic Church has installed a sculpture at the top of the shrine, honouring the vision: an imposing 70ft-tall representation of Jesus being cradled by Mary after being lowered from the cross.

Masinga Dam

A deep sense of serenity usually overcomesthose who visit Masinga Dam. With the sun’s rays dancing on the vast expanse of water it holds back, it’s truly a site to behold. At the centre of the reservoir is beautiful Gichuki Island, a perfect spot for a picnic and to take some photos. The 46sq mile reservoir is the ideal location for canoeing, kayaking and a host of other atersports. The nearby Kobos Resort and Masinga Dam Resort ensure visitors have the perfect place to rest, dine, relax and enjoy the night.

Monuments

Machakos town is home to a number of recently erected monuments honouring various local Kamba heroes — this area has been their homeland for at least five centuries. Visitors enjoy soaking up the region’s rich history and culture.

Kyamwilu

Situated in the Mua Hills, Kyamwilu is one of the most bizarre places on the African continent. Quite simply, the laws of gravity are all but ignored. Pour water on the ground here and watch it flow up the hill, seemingly defying gravity. Cars parked in neutral appear to roll uphill. Many of the local people believe this phenomenon has a supernatural explanation: something has angered the local spirits. Scientists, however, have a more prosaic explanation: apparently, it’s all just an optical illusion caused by the layout of the hills, which makes the slightly downward-sloping
road appear to slope upward. Visitors can judge for themselves.

Sunset

Machakos offers a seemingly limitless number of vantage points from which to marvel at the jaw-dropping reds and oranges of the legendary Kenyan sunsets — from ranches and parks to beautiful hills.

Sunset

Fourteen Falls is an 89ft-tall waterfall that derives its name from the 14 falls that cascade over a broad section of the famous Athi River. From a distance, the waterfall appears as a silent white stream, cascading over the rocky outcrops — but as visitors get closer, the deafening roar of the water crashing down on the rocks can be heard. All this, combined with the breathtaking view of the area’s flora and the misty spray of the water from the falls, makes for a truly memorable experience.

Need to know

Contact

T: +254 721 490 939
E: info@machakostourism.co.ke
machakostourism.co.ke

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