Joseph Kung’u, a 73-year-old retired banker looks at his property built on 36 acres of land with admiration. This investment is a dream that many scoffed at.
His hotel, Enkasiti Plains Resort, is one the few properties that are changing the face of real estate in Kitengela, a dusty and populous town.
“I began thinking of the design of this resort as soon as I bought the land in 1997. I foresaw the need of having a resort away from the capital city. At first, many wondered where I would get guests interested to holiday in a bushy area outside Nairobi. I dared to actualise my dream regardless and in 2015, I opened this resort after several years of just having a picnic site for weddings,” he says.
The hotel, named after an ingenious tree where Maasai men used to sit under, has lots of greenery that draws bird watchers and lovers of nyama choma and kienyeji chicken.
To have a green space that is home to many bird species took a huge investment in an irrigation system to water the grass in the picnic site that accommodates over 2,000 guests and the hotel garden.
Kitengela has undergone major transformation with mushrooming residential and rental buildings.
Another property investor in Kitengela is 30-year-old Larry Nakudana Sinkeet. A few years ago, he moved from the cockpit into the hotel business.
It is 10am when I walk into his Creflo Hotel in Kitengela town.
The exotic grass and green lawns with morning dew is different from most homes in the area.
Larry left his career as a pilot to set up a hotel that sits on 40 acres of land, overlooking Lukenya Hills.
The high-roof bungalow-like hotel accommodates a restaurant, a bar and a lounge. Kitchens are adjacent to the bungalow and there are seven cubicles for visitors seeking privacy.
“After a short stint in employment I felt I was not cut out for employment. Flying to me was a routine career that restricted me. Many people I shared my vision with discouraged me but I was not deterred. I am now reaping the benefits in hospitality industry,” he says.
Larry says he used his savings and a loan as capital. At first, he wanted to set up a golf resort but changed his mind.
The hotel attracts clients coming for team building activities, conferences, weddings and parties. Those who want to use his well-manicured garden with a man-made river pay Sh50,000.
The two investors charge between Sh2,500 to Sh5,000 for accommodation, costs that are not as high as lodges in the city.
For Joseph, his hotel is a source of income during retirement and he says he does not want to die “helplessly back in the village” like his peers. His son Kibe Kung'u and his daughter manage the facility.
To cut construction costs, he used locally available materials. He opted for a fabricated wall which has a wire mesh, bulb wire, mortar, gypsum and cement, cutting costs by 25 per cent. And his bar ceiling is made from gunny bags.
“It is possible to set up a high quality structure using locally available materials,” he says, adding that it is also crucial to get a qualified architect.
His biggest challenge, just like Larry, is high electricity bills.
They say the power bills make it costly to run the hotels.
“Electricity cost has been a major setback,” says Larry, who is planning to turn to solar power and lure more domestic tourists.