The sound of wind whispering through tall coconut trees, shrubs and a white sandy beach as one approaches Barefoot Beach Camp in Magarini, Kilifi gives lovers of nature peace and a taste of a perfect holiday experience.
The hooting sounds of cars diminish as one diverts towards Ngomeni Junction and village life begins. Traditional Giriama huts and locals drinking ‘mnazi’ palm wine are mundane things that attract throngs of visitors eager for a slice of village life that the beach camp offers.
We found Edward Aniere, the owner and his wife Selma Mawani preparing lunch for about 20 holidaymakers. Most of them are well-to-do tourists looking for a different kind of luxury. The hotel's decor is laid-back as if you are in an African village; the makuti-thatched traditional huts have sisal-handwoven mini-walls and there are old-school chairs for outdoor lounging. Handwoven sisal daybeds face the ocean.
“The delicious seafood, sandy beach, sea and whispering sound of birds and trees make our guests yearn to stay longer,” says Mr Aniere.
The restaurant is designed like a bare foot, giving the impression of an African culture. Visitors walk around without shoes, sinking the feet everywhere in the sand.
“When you go to the beach, you go without shoes, so we do not allow people to eat while wearing shoes at the restaurant,” says the hotel owner who has been a chef for over 35 years. Mr Aniere, a Kenyan of British descent, set up the hotel eight years ago. What started as an idea has morphed into an attraction for international celebrities, authors and honeymooners seeking an escape away from the crowds.
Ms Mawani says they decided to keep the beach camp natural and small to maintain privacy and ensure that it is peaceful. Among the international guests who have visited the hotel includes Mauro Tavola, the partnership director of AC Milan football team in Italy. Mr Tavola stayed at the hotel for two days as part of his 10-day holiday in Kenya. “This is memorable, we sleep with the natural sound of the ocean at the bush and it is fantastic,” he said.
Mr Tavola promised to come back to Barefoot Beach Camp next holiday season and if possible, with members of AC Milan football team to enjoy the tranquillity and pristine beach.
Gio Benusilglio, another tourist from Italy said the resort is a wonderful, romantic and cool place to have fun.
The hotel is eco-friendly. Mr Aniere uses solar power to light the eco-camp and at night, he makes a bonfires with guests sitting in a circle to interact, just like the traditional times in Africa.
Being a family business, each member plays a role including the two young children and employees. His wife Ms Mawani who is a marketer also cooks from African, Indian, Italian to Spanish dishes.
What draws visitors to the beach camp is the homemade meals, the hospitality and the evenings by the campfire, watching the moon rise over the ocean while drinking beer. There is also no set time for meals. “You chill out, tell us what you want to eat any time and we make it,’’ Ms Mawani says.
Other visitors come back because of “Zero.”
Erastus Ziro is a barman and a waiter who has worked with the Anieres since 1986. He said he feels good to serve clients from different backgrounds who are always amazed by his name.
“Guests are happy with my services to an extent of wondering why I am called Zero,” he said.
In 2016, Barefoot Beach Camp was awarded a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor for the consistent achievement of high ratings from travellers. However, Mr Aniere said the biggest challenge is poor roads leading to the camp and lack of fresh piped water.