“The whole principle of permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments,” said Tenzing Okemwa, permaculture manager at Distant Relatives Ecolodge in Kilifi county while taking us round the hotel.
We were at the poultry house observing the manager pick the eggs. I had previously visited a similar hotel in Funzi Island in South Coast also called Ecolodge which also had the same permaculture principles (no relationships between the two). “We rely on the chicken for meat and eggs and their droppings make great manure for our organic shamba,” Okemwa said, letting us into the coop.
I normally shy away from poultry work at home, so picking eggs was impressive. I took a photo to encourage my mum that her hopes were not lost on me.
At Distant Relatives, guests are taken through orientation to assist them understanding what the entire permaculture thing is all about. One thing that shocked me was the use of an eco toilet that had no flushing system. Once inside a loo, only two scoops of sawdust are required to decompose the waste and also ensure that there is no foul smell.
These toilets use sawdust and at first it was uncomfortable having to walk a long distance just to respond to nature’s call. Later on, the waste decomposes and is used to rehabilitate the soil.
Another surprise was their bamboo shower, where water is harvested and groves surrounded by bamboo ideal for a private space, submerged in nature.
Despite it being an interesting experience, I had a hard time adjusting to the whole economic stuff because I am used to showering under a lot of water. Outside the loo, banana trees absorb the water from the shower and sink to ensure that all water is reused and not wasted.
The rooms (bandas) are constructed with mud and makuti without windowpanes, grills or frames just to ensure that the guests connect with nature. I loved my banda because it was spacious and private. I had a chance to sleep in one of their safari tents, a cheaper option.
The lodge also has a beautiful, comfy and spacious dormitory for backpackers, constructed around the base of a 20-year-old tree, making it a unique place to spend a vacation. The dorm-a-tree accommodates eight people at rates ranging from Sh1,000 in low season to Sh2,400 in peak season.
After the short orientation, I had an eye-opening ride round Kilifi with Mohammed Chengwa on a motorbike. Part of the whole permaculture experience also involves empowering locals, something the lodge is passionate about.
It was my first time to go round a town on a motorbike and I began to feel like the famous Renegade
TV character I watched when young.
I used to admire how his hair would be blown away from his face by the wind as he rode off to his many adventures, solving crime. We rode on dirt roads, past spiky fields of sisal and giant baobab trees towering above maize farms.
One delightful way to view the amazing Kilifi Creek is to take a “sundowner” boat ride and being with Captain Issa was amazing. I loved the soft, untouched white sandy beaches, not crowded like Mombasa or Diani and a great place for families seeking a private vacation.
We toured Mnarani Ruins, the archaeological remains of a centuries-old Swahili settlement, which comprise two mosques and several tombs. Next to Mnarani Museum is the Cobra village, an attractive park where one can see various kinds of reptiles from poisonous vipers to the friendly ones.
I loved visiting the Takaungu kijiji (village), thought of by many as one of the most spectacular parts of the Kenyan coast. The village is situated along a beautiful and pristine creek amongst cliffs and baobab trees.
If you walk down further, you’ll see the spectacular Vuma Cliffs, scenery of huge waves crashing against wild rough cliffs. Not to be missed too is the famous Mijikenda culture. I had an awesome time enjoying a live band at dinner. Ecolodge is renowned for hosting one of Kenya’s largest New Year’s Eve parties.