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Mikoko Cove ups ecotourism game

Harriet James @PeopleDailyKe

Located among the beautiful mangroves of Funzi Island on the South Coast of Kenya, Mikoko Cove Ecolodge provides tranquil, affordable lodging in a serene setting. The resort employs the permaculture principles to find an ideal balance with nature.

Being a permaculture designer, the lodge’s managing director Sophia Murage strives to work with the natural environment by utilising patterns and features found in nearby ecosystems. Sophie says permaculture is a philosophy of working with, instead of against nature; of looking at plants and animals in all their roles instead of treating them as a single-product system.

“It’s all about going to the past and discovering how people connected with nature. People would build things and connect them with fire, wind, noise and water which are the four pillars of permaculture,” says Sophie as she takes me round the lodge compound. Her grandmother’s abundant harvest using kitchen waste at her kitchen garden was inspiration enough for her to change her view on nature.

“Learning permaculture was for me a way to connect with the past, connect with my grandmother and the natural ways through which I can cooperate with nature to create things,” says Sophie. The Coast is usually hot and humid most of the year and getting fresh water is a challenge. Ecolodge recycles almost everything; the water is filtered and guests are encouraged to carry water bottles instead of using the plastic bottles.

The hotel also uses solar energy and guests are encouraged to use electricity consciously. If you are not conversant with permaculture, the wild feel of the lodge could scare you as this is all part of observation and learning each day how it will be better.

For instance, natural grasses, plants and trees are allowed to grow within certain areas. “Slashing grass everywhere could also chop away many positive plants and tree species yet each plays a specific role in the natural environment.

This could be to protect the soil from the sun and water erosion, to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies or to provide food for a wide variety of living species here,” adds Sophia. She says people in the past were more connected to nature than currently.

A permaculture design takes into account the prevailing wind direction, fire threats and water management, among many other factors. Formerly known as Funzi Mangrove Resort, this Ecolodge is nestled in nine acres of oceanfront tropical forest, encapsulated by mangroves.

The lodge has over 160 indigenous tree species— a playground for bush babies, Columbus family and Sykes monkeys. The lodge also participates in the conservation of mangroves (mikoko), which play an important role in protecting the coastline, providing a sheltered habitat for an abundance of sea life. Mikoko Cove recently began to cultivate a permaculture garden to be providing the restaurant with fresh organic vegetables.

“The challenge is teaching everyone here about this culture and making people understand what we have in mind,” says Sophie. The lodge offers three spacious private bandas that are perfect for couples, families or groups of friends. They also have a large dormitory banda with seven beds. For camping groups, there is ample space for overland vehicles, roof top tents and numerous camping spots.

Private bandas cost Sh5,000 per person per night, which rises by Sh1,000 shillings per extra head. The dormitory costs Sh1,500 and camping Sh600 per person per night. The a la carte meals are paid for separately.

Funzi consists of four mangrove-covered islands where Funzi is the main and the only island with permanent inhabitants. The only village on the island hosts 1,500 members of the Shirazi Tribe, the majority being Muslims who subsist on fishing and agriculture. The archipelago is less known to tourists than the nearby Diani Beach.

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