Six years ago, Dilip Shah's garden was a bare field dominated by coral rocks. He transformed the three-acre piece of land into a mini-paradise.
At his Monsoon Gardens in Nyali, Mombasa, the five senses come alive as we marvel at its beauty.
The lawns are well manicured, there are tall trees with beautiful flowers lining the edges.
Birds chirp, the sweet smell of the flowers mixes with the ocean breeze as butterflies dance. Once we take shelter under a tree, we feel an overwhelming sense of peace.
Mr Shah, who is the founder of Umoja Rubber Products company, says his passion for a beautiful, green and clean environment pushed him to create this garden.
Gardening is an expensive hobby but he says it is worth it.
So far, he has invested about Sh30 million in the garden, though he says he did not intend to commercialise it.
However, its beauty wooed families and lovers.
“When I first started renovating this garden, it did not cross my mind to hire it out. Now I let people have events here but I prefer not to do it many times,” he says, adding that the money from renting the premise is used to maintain the garden.
Mr Shah wanted the garden to be a secondary place other than his home where he could enjoy the scenery, though he has a small garden in his compound and some indoor plants.
“Whenever I am free, I come to this garden with my family to enjoy. It’s an exquisite view,” says the 65-year-old as he looks out into the ocean.
When most people travel, they come back with key chains, perfumes or T-shirts as mementos to remind of the good time they had.
For Mr Shah, he travels with his garden at the back of his mind.
“I prefer to come back with flower seedlings. So far, I have collected flowers from South Africa, USA, Netherlands, Australia and India, which can thrive in the coastal soil. I also visit beautiful gardens in various parts of the world and borrow new ideas from them,” he says.
To top it all, the garden is located next to the Indian Ocean and his family gets to while away time watching the tides, dhows and boats cruising the sea and the iconic Old Town by the shores.
Despite the dry spell, the garden is blooming with red, purple, yellow, white and pink flowers. He has planted bougainvillea, Purple Heart, Queens’s Wreath, Ixora, oleander shrub, snake plant, elephant ears and yellow bell.
Also, there are bonsai trees, chandni, red ginger, pen winkle, and creeping daisy plants, in addition to bamboo, mango and neem trees.
He has employed four gardeners who prune, mow the lawns, planting more flowers and water it.
“Even though the garden is rather large, four people are able to maintain it,” he says, adding that he drilled a borehole to ensure his plants never lack water even during dry seasons.
The garden is enclosed with a perimeter wall and an electric fence.
Mr Shah’s car has a white sticker written, ‘Do Not Litter.’
“We have had instances where some guests dropped litter but I am glad it is not something that happens all the time. But there was a time when people used to come to the garden to relax and then they started abusing drugs here and also use my water for bathing, so I put security to keep them out,” he says.
Because the garden is slopy and prone to soil erosion when it rains, they have planted trees along the slopes and it is sectioned into three parts that can host about 1,000 guests.
Joseph Oyugi, a caretaker at the garden says that during peak months like December, they get about 20 wedding bookings.
“We get large numbers of bookings in April, August and December,” he says.
Others pay to do photoshoots and birthdays in the garden.
Since Mombasa has been experiencing high temperatures, Mr Oyugi says they water the grass more frequently so that it does not turn brown.
“We used to water the grass once a day but now we water it three times a day and at night we keep the sprinkler on until 8pm,” he says.