“I turned my house into a hotel”

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Personal finance

‘I turned my house into a hotel’


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Pikidi Gardens Hotel in Sakwa, Bondo. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • The main house is very spacious with three bedrooms, two living rooms, a dining area, a kitchen and a rooftop terrace, perfect for watching the sunrise.
  • Rural areas are changing. There has been a lot of real estate growth.
  • Building a hotel in Sakwa, about six to eight hours by road from Nairobi, would have seemed like a far-fetched investment idea a few years ago.

About 40 minutes from the town of Bondo, I was introduced to this beautiful house in Sakwa, right on the shores of Lake Victoria. Pikidi Gardens, near Liunda Beach, was once a family home, but Dorothy Achieng turned it into a hotel, although that wasn’t exactly the plan.

“When we bought this land around 2015, it was to build our family home,” says Dorothy.

“Because we did the construction and felt like we were living here, we thought the location was too beautiful to keep just for our family of five. We started building the main house in February 2017 and moved in August 2018. At that time it was habitable but not finished, “he adds.

When designing the house, Dorothy didn’t have to look around for an architect because there were three in the family.

“After visiting the site, seeing its splendid view of the lake, we asked all the architects of the family to come up with a sketch that also took into account environmental challenges such as heat {because Bondo is known to be a hot region}”, Dorothy explains.

Two architects came up with sketches. His eldest son, Ted, was in his senior year of college at the time and his idea won. Its architectural design was airy and there was cross ventilation throughout the house design.

“I had an office and we polished the plan there, then we got the county government approved and I took it there and I had to ‘babysit’ the project to the end, and now we have the house,” he says. .

Nestled in a bush

Designing and building the house, he says, was very easy because the builders followed the plan. Landscape design, however, was not easy because the land was nothing more than a dense bush.

“You couldn’t even walk to the water because it was so bushy. Bringing the landscape to a point where you could even have terraces leading to the lake was a tall order. I had to work every day directly with the funds, laying every stone, step, planter … everything. It was exciting but really boring, “he says.

For building materials, they brought terracotta tiles from CTM to Nairobi, and the rubble stone exterior walls came from the site itself and the neighboring village. They asked the villagers to collect what they had on their farms, and when the pile was big enough to be transported, the family bought it.

The main house is very spacious with three bedrooms, two living rooms, a dining area, kitchen and roof terrace, perfect for watching the sunrise on their typical fried tilapia soaked in ghee, brown ugali and traditionally prepared vegetables.

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Stay at Pikidi Gardens. PHOTO | POOL

“First we set up a campsite and we have tents. Right now we have 12 tents that can accommodate 24 people, “he says.

A year ago, just before opening his house to guests, he built three more housing units; two bedroom cottage and a family cottage which can accommodate up to five people.

“My family still lives in Nairobi and I have been in the field to ensure everything ran smoothly. I’ve been here permanently since the pandemic and they {family members} come to visit us, “he says.

A new face in rural areas

Rural areas are changing. There has been a lot of real estate growth: beautiful houses and condos where previously there were mud and grass thatched houses and small bungalows. In rural areas, the main attraction for families is pristine greenery which is becoming increasingly scarce in cities as trees are removed to pave the way for more and more construction.

In Sakwa, the incredible sunsets over the lake, a plethora of birds that fill the air with songs at dawn, and the water where guests can also swim or fish, are a plus.

Building a hotel in Sakwa, about six to eight hours by road from Nairobi, would have seemed like a far-fetched investment idea a few years ago.

“We started out as a home, so it works either way,” says Dorothy.

“After we decided to turn it into a hotel, we knew it would take a lot of marketing. What encourages us is that we get a lot of referrals and repeat customers. People get curious when they see it online. They think, “this place can’t be in Sakwa” … so they come to confirm that it exists and that we actually built it in the middle of nowhere, “he says, adding that most of his guests are former Sakwa residents who now they live in Nairobi and come to Pikidi when on vacation, while others come from the Rift Valley, notably Eldoret and Kericho.

Dorothy also organizes excursions to Ndede Island, a small fishing village. Hotel rates range from Sh3,000 to Sh20,000 per night.

In Luo, the name of the hotel, Pikidi means water and rocks, which speaks to the beautiful topography of the area.

The décor of the house is decidedly African and the family plans to turn it into a small museum. In the living room are fishermen’s oars, brooms, pumpkins as wall art, a Nyatite musical instrument resting under a window, traditional drums and other distinct items from this part of Kenya.

He turned the house into a hotel a year and a half ago, but bookings were very low during the pandemic and still are. To keep his staff of seven workers busy, he engages them in other activities such as agriculture.

“As soon as people know there are such places in rural areas, then others can come and experience the wild beauty of our little lakeside spot,” says Dorothy.

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