By County Press Reporter
Kimana town, touted as the fastest growing urban centre in Kajiado South will soar into new heights when a multi-billion shilling five star hotel opens its doors to tourists.
There is a lot of excitement among the bubbly people of Kimana because of the opportunities brought by the project owned by Big Life Foundation.
They have teamed up with an American group, Olive Branch to build the hotel at Kimana on a leased 6,447 acres of land from Kimana/Tikondo group ranch.
The hotel will partner with the picturesque Kimana Sanctuary which lies only 3 km from the busy Kimama Township, to increase number of tourism driven investments in the area.
Like all other towns with booming business, night life at Kimana has drastically changed from the quiet urban centre to a 24 hour buzzing township.
The investors have refurbished and reconstructed cottages at Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary that was abandoned by African Safari Club following disagreement with the local land owners.
The African Safari Club hotel chain in Kenya, reportedly fell on hard times after Swiss investor Karl Jacob Ruedin died at his Shanzu home in Mombasa six years ago.
For more than 40 years, he enjoyed direct access to the highest levels of the Kenya political establishment. He is said to have acquired property in prime areas like beach fronts and game reserves among them the Kimana Sanctuary.
Big Life Foundation which was co-founded by photographer Nick Brandt and award-winning conservationist Richard Bonham in September 2010 has now employed local Maasai rangers in the Amboseli Tsavo West wildlife corridor for conservancy purposes.
The two are now destined to take over the Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary that was abandoned in 2013 by African Safari Club after protracted legal battles with the members of Kimana Tikondo group ranch over reportedly unpaid lease money and staff salaries.
The National Assembly Labour and Social Services Committee took up the unpaid salaries issue for all the 707 redundant African Safari Club staff across the country and vowed to ensure they are compensated.
Early this year, the Olive Branch Director, John Parit, told the County Press in Kimana that they have joined hands with Bonham to take up Kimana Sanctuary.
Apart from protecting two million acres of wilderness in the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem of East Africa, they will put up quality cottages and a modern airstrip for tourists to land.
Big Life Foundation employs hundreds of Maasai rangers with more than 40 permanent outposts and tent-based field units, 13 vehicles, tracker dogs, and aerial surveillance protecting the two million acres of wilderness in Kajiado South and parts of Tanzania.
It was the first organisation in East Africa to establish co-ordinated cross-border anti-poaching operations, while Olive Branch was the first to have interest in Kimana sanctuary and in 2014 leased the land at Sh340, 000 per month.
Each of the 844 members of Kimana Tikondo group ranch gets Sh6, 844 when they share dividends at the end of the year.
A local group Sidai Oleng’is manages the funds received by the tenants on behalf of the group ranch members.
Fencing of the Kimana Community Wildlife Sanctuary, a community tourism project is almost complete.
The new group knocked down all the old structures put up by African Safari Club to pave way for new ones.
All the newly refurbished cottages will be leased out to new investors to manage the business.
Bonham said they have contacted several investors who had shown interest in the investment.
Although Kimana’s rapid growth can be attributed to tourism and business, much of its development is owed to agricultural activities around it.
The region is a settlement block dotted with furrow irrigated farms that depend on water from the many springs that flow from Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Located 15 km from Loitokitok, it is also strategically positioned along the Emali-Loitokitok highway that also crosses into Tanzania through Illasit and later Tarakea town across the border.
The town boasts of the largest livestock market that is managed by the county government, and which serves the local traders and those from Tanzania.
Driven by booming trade in livestock and agricultural goods, Kimana is chocked by investors looking for commercial plots and other property to buy.
Kajiado South Sub County administrator, Japheth Saruni says the town has been growing steadily in the last five years, and attributed its growth to the main agricultural activity and the supply of tomatoes and onions to other regions across the country.
The fertile land, abundant land and water have made people seeking to grow food troop to Kimana.
Farmlands with ripe tomatoes, onions, water melons, sukuma wiki (collard greens) and beans are a joy to the eye.
Most of the plots are owned by individual small-holder farmers who either own or lease the land for as little as Sh5, 000, half-acre.
Interviewed recently, Kimana MCA, Peter Parsen, was upbeat about the County government’s commitment to providing street lighting for security reasons and opening up of feeder roads to local farms.
Most tourists travelling to Amboseli National Park pass through Kimana and most hotels in the game reserve buy their food rations from the town.
A spot check revealed that rooms at Kimana are always fully booked; hotels chargeSh1000 to Sh3000 per night.