Mwasaha Mwagambo, founder of Good Samaritan Vision, a child care education centre and orphanage, leased a piece of wasteland that was once a quarry with one mission in his mind.
He set out to rehabilitate the neglected land nestled inside a Kenya Forest Reserve in Kilifi County.
Sitting on a six-acre piece of land, the quarry had left behind an eyesore, with the previous blasting posing a risk to the surrounding ecosystem of rare bird species and wildlife. Rehabilitating and repurposing it, Mwagambo figured, would appeal to and pull in eco-tourists.
Mwagambo’s first step to reclaim the wasteland was to fence and plant trees around it. While doing so, he discovered there still remained a variety of animals and different bird species, which instantly birthed the idea of an eco-hotel – Good Samaritan Nature Hotel, which is powered by solar energy. It is only minutes away from the coastal beach.
“I envisioned a reserve and park that would generate enough income to run the orphanage and conserve the environment at the same time,” said Mwagambo.
Tucked away in Bofa from the hustle of towns and beach resorts of Kilifi, the hotel complex sits pretty in an undulating landscape, teeming with a string of small eco-camps complete with a restaurant, park and several cottages.
The park, in particular, is a hidden treasure, with which not many safari goers are familiar. Yet it’s overflowing with raw beauty, offering a golden opportunity to explore its beguiling diversity of habitats.
The quaint eco-hotel in the middle of the forest is built of local material inspired by the Mijikenda community. Energy use at the facility is distinctly solar and water is self-generated from a well that was struck in the quarry. Naturally fallen twigs and logs are sometimes used to warm the fireplace.
“The facility carries with it the challenge for us to be creative and innovative and sensitive to the environment. We self-manage our trash and strictly forbid littering. We also don’t allow any plastics into the hotel,” Mwagambo said.
“The compound is seamless and offers a spectacular view of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. In the early mornings, guests can indulge in bird watching and butterfly catching,” he added.
Nature walks, according to Mwagambo, are stress-relieving and could help ignite creativity.
“The nature trail through the forest is endowed with tree species specifically known to relieve stress. The biophilic design of nature presented here offers us a chance to be part of a creation that can improve our cognitive performance and improve our moods. The shadows and heights of trees fascinate us as does the sight of animal companionship. Strolling through the lodge has restorative healing effects,” he said.
The facility also acts as a learning centre on different tree species and birds as well as butterflies. Learners and researchers from far and wide frequent the area.
Of importance is the value the hotel has brought to the surrounding community.
“Being the only forest lodge in Kilifi, it has restored the natural biodiversity and reduced the impacts of climate change in the area. The forest is able to maintain a regular weather pattern that has seen more land productivity in the area.
Money raised from the hotel supports the Good Samaritan Education Centre which has given more young people in the area an opportunity to grow and enhance their living standards. This has, in effect, reduced crime rate and poverty.
But it is not entirely without its own challenges.
Among the most pressing challenges, he says, are cash-flow challenges especially now amid coronavirus, poaching and deforestation.
“There is need for a shift in the mindset of the wider public towards environmental conservation. Good investments in this direction can also go a long way in ensuring we co-exist in harmony with nature. Our facility offers a true haven of calm and relaxation. No disturbances, complete unwinding, spaciousness, quiet and impeccable service. The future of tourism is towards restoring nature. More hotel owners need to embrace this culture as it benefits both the economy and the environment.”