Changing Gusii land hospitality landscape

Thursday, October 15th, 2020 00:00 |
A natural forest within Ufanisi resort. Photo/PD/AMOS ABUGA

The pleasant climatic condition that is as a result of the altitude of the rolling hills within Kisii county offers an opportunity for sports tourism.

The spectacular scenery of hills and the landscape makes the region one of the to-go-to places if you want to discover hidden gems and paths less known in the country.

While the region’s high population density means almost all land is put to maximum agricultural use, almost displacing wild animals, it has  beautiful sceneries nonetheless.

In essence, there are no registered game parks in the county, but some geological sites, such as Nyangweta, Ritumbe and Ibencho forests are attractive tourist destinations. 

However, development of the hotel industry to exploit the potential in the tourism sector within Kisii county has gone a long way to market the region to the world.

A recent visit to the region took me to Ufanisi Resort, located atop one of the many surrounding hills doting the county.

It is nestled within four acres of flashy landscaped terrains complete with a natural tropical rain forest to  boot.

Purest intent mix

Barely 500 metres from Kisii town, on the Nyamira-Getare bypass, Nyakongo Road, the resort takes pride as the only hospitality facility in the region with a forest possessing  over 100 different tree species.

It’s environment-friendly set up in a sublime hillside is a heaven where man, humanity and nature unite with purest intent. 

The 60-room resort in a forest setting makes it a perfect place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy life’s simple  pleasures.

The resort also features a swimming pool, an intimate spa house as well as a modern massage room where the masseuse and masseur tend to your specific needs.

Interestingly, from your bed, you can watch the sunset through the treetops, then fall asleep to a toucan serenade, all with your personal butler just a call away.

Depending on your preferences, be it executive, deluxe or standard rooms, the rates range from Sh5,500 to Sh15,000 a night, imclusive of bed and breakfast. They also have a top notch conference facility that can host up to 300 people at a go. 

Isabella Lumumba, a co-director at the resort discloses that despite being born in Kisii, she had not lived there and everytime she travelled home she would look for a facilty that would offer her and her children relaxation and a feeling of safety in vain.

“There was a huge need to come up with such a facility. Most of the facilities in Kisii town  six years ago were built as entertainment joints and were built within the city centre, targeting party lovers,” she recalls.

“Together with my partners we decided to build a small facility concentrating more on gardens and just to create a different concept. And to our amazement,  people responded positively.

They seemed to enjoy the the ambience our place provided and  that became our selling point,” adds an elated Isabella, who says they have been hosting corporate clients, national government officials, Non-governmental Organisations. 

Environmental conservation

The resort has capitalised on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by ensuring that over 70 per cent of its staff  are sourced from the region, giving them a sense of ownership.

“We are also big on environmental conservation, also as part of our CSR activities.

We partner with learning institutions within the region, especially primary and tertiary institutions whereby we donate tree seedlings  every year,” shares Isabella. 

Here you will be served with traditional kisii delicacies, such as Obokima bwo obori, matoke, chinsaga, rinagu  as well as modern cuisines.

”We basically cater for everyone; for clients who are particular about their meals, we have continental menus as well as Indian cuisine, which strangely is popular in the region and of course for the city folks, you will get pizzas, buggers and even chicken sandwiche,” she smiles.

In terms of promoting tourism in the region, Isabella says that the resort has been a regular layover place for visitors going to Serengeti National Park in Tanzania from Maasai Mara and vice versa with many visitors coming to enjoy the resort’s serene environment.

This has been made possible with contract agreement with Tour companies who bring customer to spend a few days at the resort before continuing with their journey.

In the surrounding, guests can explore the ancient civilisation of the Abagusii community, which still endures the sacred sites throughout the magical region. 

Ufanisi constantly organises visits to various attractive spots such as the Manga hills that offers a great view of the countryside from the top. It is usually a great attraction for light hikers and sightseers. 

Kisii region is also known for beautiful soapstone, and so the resort  organises rides to Tabaka soapstone mines where their clients are able to procure tailor  made ornaments from that part of the country.

Nyakwana water falls, Sameta hills and even Nyanchwa hills are othersites that excite tourists.

This year, however, the resort, just like many other players in hospitality were not spared by the Covid-19 economic shocks.

While there has been significant progress, they are trying to appeal to revellers with reassurances of safety, privacy and social distance from other guests.

With national Mashujaa Day celebrations scheduled for Gusii Stadium next week, the resort is hoping the occasion will inject the much-needed business in what has been a strange year.

More on Lifestyle