Kingo’ri Wathobio was in search of a retirement investment when he came across an old dilapidated colonial house about 10 years ago.
The civil engineer who has for years lived in Nairobi pictured a home nested along hills and a well-forested neighbourhood to provide him and his wife a serene and blissful environment.
Even though he had not worked in the hospitality industry, King’ori also envisioned a luxurious hotel that would become a preferred destination for city dwellers who want to escape the chaos of urban towns, as well as tourists touring Mt Kenya region.
“I wanted a home where my wife and I would just relax and unwind when we retire. We also wanted to offer nature lovers a place to relax,” he says.
As they scouted for land in Nyeri town, he came across a homestead that belonged to a British colonial settler James Ramsey Smith.
Bets on greenery
It had a Victorian house with a clear view of Mt Kenya. Built in 1930 it was battered following years of neglect, but King’ori fell in love with the ancient and colonial look.
“When we bought this land, the garden was nothing like the beauty everyone notices immediately they set foot here. It has been years of renovations, landscaping, planting and tending to trees and flowers,” he says.
As cities get crowded, hotel investors are betting on areas previously seen as remote and their selling point is lower bed and food prices, and beautiful gardens.
At Le Pristine Hotel, the garden blooms with red, purple, yellow, white and pink flowers all year round. King’ori has planted bougainvillea, roses, golden wattle, lantana, bonsai trees, bamboo, pine and neem trees. He also has Purple Heart, hydrangea, begonia and plantain lilies.
“What you are seeing at this hotel is fruits of extensive research and huge financial investment. I have handpicked every single shrub, flower and tree in these gardens,” he says.
King’ori is on a mission to preserve endangered plant species. He has planted over 200 indigenous flowers and trees. Besides the garden, the hotel is in the middle of expansive coffee plantations and Nyena hills.
Every furniture at the hotel is made of wood blending with the environment and giving it a rustic feel.
At the front of the house, is a porch that offers a spectacular view of Mt Kenya. The big windows open out to the lush lawns and the picture perfect landscape.
There is a Club House, Black Bar, Lounge, and two dining rooms. The Club House, characteristic of the Victorian design, has hipped roofline, multiple bay windows that peer at you.
“People enjoy a fireside chat at the Lounge on a cool highland night,” says King’ori.
For indoor events, the Le Patio that is skilfully built around overgrown trees provides an unmatched experience for nature lovers.
The two trees give the impression of a tree house. There is also an arboretum with indigenous and exotic trees planted to form small quarters that offer privacy.
During his travels, King’ori is always on the lookout for beautiful and scented flowers to bring back to his garden. And he knows all the plants by name and how they were used in the Agikuyu community.
Another separate garden with well-manicured lawns attracts paying customers hosting weddings, birthday parties, bridal showers, and corporate parties.