Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Besotted Farmstay; Lecturer turns her retirement home into a luxurious tourist villa.

At the foothill of Mt. Kenya lies a hidden gem. The Besotted Farmstay, located at Gatune (Naromoru), off the Nyeri-Nanyuki highway is an environment to behold. The place was birthed by retired Catholic University Alternative Dispute Resolution and Administrative Law lecturer, Mumbi Mathangani.

When she set out to build the retirement home, the proprietor had long wished to return to home (Nyeri County) and to live and commune with nature in her ancestral home on the foothills of Mt. Kenya. She eagerly looked forward to the calming nature of the countryside after years of hustle and bustle in the city.

These are the qualities that have spawned her thriving homestay business out of her home. The Farmstay is quite distinctive for the following two reasons; it is off the grid and it is surrounded by beautiful nature. It faces Mt. Kenya and is surrounded by stunning views and gardens of fresh and organic vegetables as well as fruits such as apples and blueberries. In a warm friendly farming community, Besotted Farmstay is a rustic but not rough home away from home that is ‘guest-centric’

“I wanted to live upcountry, so I decided to build my home in Naromoru and when I started getting visitors they all talked about how beautiful it was and I could turn it into a Farmstay.” She recalls.

She turned the home into a countryside villa in 2019.

“People would come and stay here and enjoy the landscapes, as well as the mountain views and I thought why not because anyway I had to be close to Nairobi since my children were going to school so I couldn’t exactly come and live here (upcountry).” The single mother says.

When visitors go to the Besotted Farmstay, they are welcomed by well-manicured gardens with various types of trees and flowers, as well as animals such as ducks, sheep, and cows, creating a rural, homely feeling. It also offers the possibility of being still, adventurous, artistic ad conservationist as one would fancy. This is a place that many are willing to pay a premium for.

The Besotted Farmstay; Lecturer turns her retirement home into a luxurious tourist villa.

Besotted Farmstay offers the option of renting out the entire four-bedroom villa or paying per room. The charges range from KSHs. 25,000 per night to KSHs. 30,000 for the entire villa during the peak season for a maximum of eight people. Single room costs are as low as KSHs. 5,500. The charges are inclusive of bed and breakfast.

The house is a modern eco-friendly farmhouse inspired by a French Country villa she had seen online. It was built to fit in harmoniously with nature in a serene and exquisite setting. Constructed mostly from yellow stone and Cyprus wood, Besotted Farmstay has two suites upstairs with spectacular views of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Ranges. She designed the whole house including interior décor.

“You know there was really no architect because I just went to the internet and found what I wanted. Then I worked with a local engineer and foreman.”

“It is rustic, but not rough. So, everything is specifically designed and properly done. You still get a sense that you are in a luxurious environment. The whole idea is to enjoy nature in the countryside but at the same time a lovely place to sleep, relax and rest,” Says Ms. Mathangani.

She adds that she invested KSHs. 25Million from savings accumulated over years of work in various organizations including the UN, into the property.

With the demand the property has attracted, she plans to include a swimming pool and several cottages after investing in additional KSHs. 10Million to make her guests more comfortable and create unique and memorable experiences.

She is also very ardent about environmental conservation. Her Farmstay is operated in a way that minimizes its environmental footprint. She has sourced green energy for her countryside villa through wind and solar to run all her electrical appliances.

The solar generates about 25 Kilowatt per hour (KWH) each day and the wind system about 16KWH per day. Out of the 41KWH generated daily, the farm consumes about 33KWH which has seen her remarkably save electricity costs amounting to over KSHs. 20,000 in electricity bill monthly.

“It works for us, especially because when it is not windy it is sunny, when it is not sunny it is windy. Either way, we are somehow covered. Basically, that is one thing that a lot of people who visit us appreciate,” She says.

Being next to Mt. Kenya forest, visitors can take walks in the forest where they can view caves and natural waterfalls, hike or bike towards the mountain, fish in the nearby rivers, and also visit the various conservation parks that are within the area, including Aberdare, Ole Pajeta, Meru National Park, and Mt. Kenya National Park.

Currently, the Besotted Farmstay has received more than 500 visitors from Kenya and across the globe.

“Our first customer was a Belgian woman. She came to stay for one day but she ended up staying for three days. She was actually healing, recovering from cancer treatment, and said she just connected with nature.”

The Farmstay also receives groups (mainly repeat clientele) who give them referrals.

“We have had county governors come and stay (here), CEOs, judges, among others.”

“One group that we love and who are really seen to appreciate what Besotted Farmstay offers is the Asian community. They are really one of our biggest promoters as well as regular customers,” She says.

The Farmstay has two in-house chefs (who tailor-make cuisines to guests) as well as a housekeeper.

“We try to offer you the kind of meal that you would appreciate in a home setting. But one thing that our guests have appreciated has been our coffee and chapatis.”

The facility employs at least six workers, including local people who work on a casual basis depending on how busy they are. The Farmstay busiest period is during the weekends.

“We really work at building all manner of love whether you are coming with your wife, children, family, or friends. It is all centered on creating a community of love and memories that everybody can cherish from a love experience.”

Human Resources, as well as property maintenance costs and commissions charged on online booking platforms such as booking.com (18 percent) and Airbnb (3 percent), are the biggest expenses for the Besotted Farmstay.

“And then there was this technical challenge. It is hard to get qualified skills (competent fundis) for solar. So that was a long journey but eventually, we captured it.”

The other challenge is water shortages.

“In a couple of instances, we have had to purchase water.”

The proprietor, Ms. Mathangani, plans to expand the villa to increase the capacity and make it attractive to companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that may want to have retreats.

“We have also been doing that and we think that Besotted offers a fantastic environment for retreats because it is scientifically proven that when people are thinking outside in nature, they are more likely to come up with creative imaginative ideas and to be relaxed. So it gives you that environment as a company, as a group. You are really able to relax and chill.”

She is also a lover of art.

“Basically, I am a collector of art. So you will see a lot of art pieces from all over the world that I really treasure.”

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