As the year finally draws to a close, people are rushing to enjoy what is left of it and drag any good memories they can into 2021.
And the coast of Kenya, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, is opening its doors to an expected flood of visitors desperate to salvage a lost year.
At Vipingo in Kilifi, Silvano Inyangala is welcoming visitors to Superior Homes’ Pazuri and watching their excitement with pride as they walk around newly-built houses in the establishment.
Some are making reservations for the holidays while others are looking to buy, and Pazuri at Vipingo now sees activity almost round the clock.
It is a good turnaround in a year that has seen little of note happening in the property sector, with a global pandemic sweeping across every segment of the economy and slamming the brakes on activity for the better part of the year.
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In Kilifi County, fishing and tourism have always been the key economic activities. The county, with a population of around 1.5 million, is one of Kenya’s best holiday getaways.
Now Vipingo is turning into a haven for rich aspiring house owners, with a collection of new and upcoming high-end residential buildings.
Pazuri at Vipingo is adjacent to the luxurious Vipingo Ridge golf and leisure complex. It sits on 105 acres and is expected to finally host 372 units, with nine already completed and five currently under construction.
“We are building two- and three-bedroom bungalows and four-bedroom villas. There are no walls within Pazuri Vipingo and garden areas are separated from each other by soft landscaping features,” says Mr Inyangala, the project manager, pointing at the elaborate site plan.
“A total of 45 quarter-acre self-build plots have been selected from an elevated prime location within the Vipingo site and all plots have unimpeded views of the ocean.”
In Kilifi, those that are not in the tourism industry or fishing are deep into sisal farming.
But from resorts to beach clubs, it is the tourism industry that does best here. In the quiet plantations, the affluent are finding refuge in houses built for prestige and class.
Real estate developers are changing Kilifi into a haven, shifting it from being just a tourist destination for the end of year holidays to a place where people can invest and call home.
You could well be on holiday every day of your life.
The houses at Pazuri, for example, are designed in contemporary Swahili style, with expansive open flat roof terraces ideal for relaxing with the blue of the ocean shimmering in the distance.
On the other side of Pazuri is Vipingo Ridge, a luxurious setting with an internationally-recognised golf course, a clubhouse and offerings such as horse riding.
An agreement between Superior Homes and Vipingo Ridge means that residents of Pazuri are able to enjoy the exquisite facilities of the Vipingo Ridge.
In the hallowed establishments of Vipingo, some of the wealthiest people in the North Coast seek a getaway, and some even have permanent residences there.
And as Christmas swings into view, the first tranche of 30 houses at Pazuri has been released to the market, with Superior Homes optimistic on sales.
“This is a selection of Mangrove two-bedroom bungalows, Sycamore three-bedroom bungalows and Baobab four-bedroom villa,” says Inyangala.
For investors who wish to make returns on their house purchases, they have an option of marketing them as holiday homes.
Inyangala says Kilifi was an ideal choice for Superior Homes due to the arrival of the Standard Gauge Railway, and the relative ease of access to Mombasa’s Moi International Airport.
Local airline Safarilink also operates daily scheduled flights to Vipingo Ridge from Wilson Airport in Nairobi, making it easy for Pazuri residents to shuttle into and out of their homes.
Kilifi, especially Malindi, has for a while been the abode for the super rich.
Vipingo is located some 35 kilometres north of Mombasa on the Malindi highway, and with the road expected to be upgraded into a dual carriageway, access is expected to be easy.
Superior Homes, also the developers of Greenpark Estate and Lake Elementaita Mountain Lodge, say they were pushed into a slowdown by Covid-19, a period in which activity stopped.
Their houses, jutting out of sloping land, offer striking white façades and boast spacious bedrooms, with combined living and dining kitchen areas.
They have sliding doors leading outside, and into shower rooms, with each house accessible externally to allow different rooms to be accessed independently where the owner wants “to maximise investment income,” the developer says.
Nearby, Centum’s Vipingo Development has constructed Awali, an exclusive gated residential estate.
The estate is already complete, says Managing Director Kenneth Mbae.
The family-oriented estate comprises 152 units with 90 bungalows and 62 maisonettes spread on 30 acres.
Centum also has the 1,255-Palm Ridge, whose construction is ongoing, an exclusive residential address with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments set on 20 acres.
They will also have KingsWood Park, a gated and development controlled community, Vipingo Investment Park and Vipingo Leisure Centre.
The strategic location of Vipingo influenced the development, Mr Mbae says, with the other coastal towns well accessible on road from there. Nairobi is also an hour away on air.
“People can buy houses for investment if they do not intend to settle. They could use the houses as Airbnb, or could get tenants who work around Kilifi or Mombasa,” he says.
Superior Homes are selling the two-bedroom bungalows for Sh12.98 million, with the three-bedroom bungalows going for Sh16.98 million. The four-bed villa is priced at Sh20.98 million.
But for those looking for the holidays, the charges are Sh5,000 per head for bed and breakfast, Sh6,000 half-board and Sh7,000 full board per head.
Inyangala says the demand in the past few months has been agonisingly low.
But as visitors make stops to see the beauty of Kenya’s Coast and Kilifi, Superior Homes will be aiming to convert them into buyers.
“We did not want to be left behind in this development of Mombasa and Kilifi. A lot of developers are coming into Kilifi,” says Inyangala.
“We did not have master-planned developments here in Kilifi, so we moved in to occupy the gap.”
What would be dismissed as another establishment in the middle of sprawling farmlands is finally creating a resplendent getaway that, enthusiasts believe, will change the face of Kilifi forever.
And the rich, persuaded that Kilifi is the place to be, are hovering over Vipingo, which could morph into the most affluent Coastal settlement.