August 11, 2022
Held at Che bay on the shores of Lake Victoria in Budalang’i, Busia County, the Isambo Beach Carnival is hailed one of, if not the largest beach festival in the country.

It first debuted in December 2014 with an aim of celebrating the cultures and traditions of the local communities as reported by The Standard.

Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba described the event as a major feat in the Abanyala (Luhya community) calendar that focused on celebrating the community’s natural resources and culture.

Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba (black baseball hat) joins in on a dance during the 2019 edition of the Isambo Beach Festival.

“Isambo in Luhya means celebration and being happy. We are here to rejoice and identify with our culture, natural resources like hills, water towers and our people,” Ababu was quoted by the publication. 

Over the years, the festival has grown to international standards, making it an attractive tourist destination for both locals and international visitors, away from the national parks and Kenya’s coast.

The fiesta is hosted by the Che Bay Resort and targets members of the public from all walks of life regardless of the disparity in their social and financial statuses.

Isambo Beach Carnival stands out as one of Kenya’s best and is reportedly comparable to some of the world’s top carnivals like the Mardi Gras, the Venice Carnivals, the Spanish Tenerife and the famous Brazilian Rio Festival. Unlike other local festivals that come and go, Isambo has shown longevity. The 2019 edition was the seventh.

The variety in festivities at the event ranging from sports, nature, culture, beauty and the rich diversity owned by the communities in the region, invited guests, and neighbours, have established the Isambo Beach Carnival as one of the most famous continental beach festivals.

This has seen the event attract visitors from as far as the US, China, Japan, Costa Rica, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, among many other nations, forming a point of international racial integration and bonding. The venue is usually decorated with flags of guest countries and donors.

For enthusiasts of water sports, the festival avails boat rowing, kayaking, swimming, and fishing sports. The Singwe Hills, Sumba and Nabaduma islands provide a perfect scenery and test for the lovers of endurance sports.

Wrestlers during the 2017 edition of the Isambo Beach Festival.
Wrestlers during the 2017 edition of the Isambo Beach Festival.

Along the beach, visitors are embroiled in beach football, volleyball, traditional wrestling and the tug of war sports.

Live music and guest performers keep the attendants entertained, with a kick of modern age music blended into the cultural songs, employed to help make the younger generation feel involved.

The nights are capped off by the Mr and Mrs Isambo Beauty Pageant, along with glittering performances from guest artists, cultural and modern dance groups. The winner enters the roll of honour as an Isambo Carnival Ambassador.

The winners receive cash prizes on the material day along with a four day trip for three to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, sponsored by the festival partners.

The carnival bears a great significance to the locals, as it presents an opportunity for them to take advantage of the huge turnout for commercial benefits by setting up stalls to sell their products.

On December 22, 2019, Deputy President William Ruto was a guest at the famous event, which he described as pivotal in acknowledging Kenyan history.

“Culture is the reservoir of our collective experience and everything unique about us, not just today but across generations. It is a deep well that we draw from in times of joy, crisis, and even sadness,” Ruto stated.

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