KILIFI: Before Vipingo Ridge, the multi-billion-shilling exclusive estate in Kilifi County, came to be, there was a sisal plantation, mango trees and a bush. Any idea to construct what would become one of the most exclusive estates in Kenya would only have been a rumour. The area was synonymous with a sisal estate by the same name.
But Vipingo Ridge, comprising stately homes where Kenya’s rich find solace at weekends, happened. We might call it an accident of design.
A small group of like-minded people came together, inspired by their dream to create a small golf course near the beach on Kenya’s North Coast.
Their dream almost crumbled. First, the team, apart from their shared aspirations, had no prior experience in matters real estate. It was a gamble. Second, the piece of property that was available near the beach at Kuruwitu was inadequate for their intended forays into the high octane world of real estate development.
“We kept the dream alive,” Alastair Cavenagh, one of the directors, told us in a previous interview. “Then we were tipped that there were 2,500 acres on a hilly part of Kilifi that was up for sale.”
The piece of land was actually part of Vipingo Sisal Estate. Sisal occupied a large portion of the property while mango trees still stand on 350 acres.
What followed was a complete transformation of a desolate piece of land into the exclusive golf estate that is Vipingo Ridge. The sisal is gone and in its place is a world-class golf course designed by David Jones, one of the most decorated designers. Last October, Baobab Golf Course attained the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) status. It is a first for Africa.
To date, Vipingo Ridge has invested a total of Sh3.3 billion to develop the infrastructure, including the course and other facilities.
The golf course was the beacon around which palatial villas would coalesce. In fact, the price of property was, among other things, hinged on its proximity to the course. A front row plot, on a high elevation with uninterrupted views of the ocean, can go for more than $330,000 (prices here are quoted in dollars) or Sh33 million.
“I met one of the directors on site one morning in 2006. He told me this thing will become big. Buy into it,” recalls a homeowner who gave her name as Jane. “All I could see was an earth moving machine stuck in mud, and a lot of sisal. We stood on a hill and the director said that particular spot was for sale. Then he said, ‘We are bringing the whole of Africa here on two golf courses.’” Jane bought two pieces of property at $70,000 (Sh7 million). It was a bargain at the time.
The home designs are comparable to those found on glossy lifestyle magazines belonging to renowned celebrities around the globe. Some have rooftop swimming pools, others are equipped with mini home theatres.
Homeowners here have the option of either driving in or flying in through the private airstrip located on the lower elevation of the property. Currently, Safarilink, a local airline based at the Wilson Airport drops and picks up passengers visiting the ridge or surrounding areas.
And so like the desert rose, Vipingo Ridge thrives in the middle of an almost barren land. Vipingo’s is a story of hard work and determination whose final chapter is yet to be written.