Bungoma was named from engoma — the Bukusu word for drums. The town was originally a meeting place for Bukusu elders. The sound of drums would emanate from the area as the meeting venue, leading to its eventual naming as Bungoma.
The Bukusu strongly resisted British incursions into their territory in the 1890s. In 1895, they fought the British from a stronghold near Bungoma on the lower slopes of Mt Elgon called `Chetambe’s Fort’.
But the British had an early machine gun called a Hotchkiss gun and massacred over a hundred Bukusu warriors in the stronghold armed only with spears and hide shields.
Again in the 1940s and 1950s the Bukusu resisted the British under the leadership of Elija Masinde, a freedom fighter and prophet who demanded return of their lands.
During the Mau Mau rebellion was arrested, imprisoned, but was released to his home area at independence in 1963.
In Bungoma, it is the historical sites, the scenic hills and rivers dotted with interesting waterfalls that make it a superb destination.
Some of the attractions like the Sang’alo Hills, Nabuyole Falls, Kabuchai Hills and Mackingeny caves at Mount Elgon National Park that has fascinating falls are some of the hidden attractions of this area that are rarely spoken about.
There is also the historical Chetambe Fort Ruins. For any tourist, a visit to the Chetambe Fort is a must because it is here that the Bukusu and Tachoni watched the advancing colonialists.
It is claimed that Chetambe Ifile, a Tachoni warrior, built the fort on the hill from where he mobilized his troops to resist colonial rule, leading to the 1895 massacre, in which almost 500 people were killed by the British troops. The fort is built behind a protective 12-foot defensive ditch.
There is also the Nabuyole Falls on the River Nzoia, where tourists troop to watch the water cascade a full seven-metre height to the rocks below. It is an amazing site that is only comparable to the Thompson Falls in Nyahururu. The waterfall starts River Nzoia, then breaks up into seven smaller rivers with water flowing at an unimaginable speed! All the seven river branches flow and join again to form this large waterfall called Nabuyole!
You are not allowed to go near the waterfall since it is claimed to have a powerful force that can pull one towards the basin of the waterfall!
Within Bungoma County are the Mwibale wa Mwanja and Sang’alo Hills. Most people will tell you that the Sang’alo twin peaks are like the gap in a person’s front teeth, with one peak appearing to clutch a huge rock that looks as if it is about to fall. Quite interesting!