Across from the Kilifi bridge, as you head north towards Watamu, is an epic piece of property which is magical in its simplicity.
The floating house that Rene Faber and his co-directors at Kilifi Boatyard – Peter Bateman and his wife Siba, built in 2007 is an outstanding work of art that is also a self-catering rental cottage that can sleep six.
Built almost entirely using hardwood, the light-brown boat house is permanently anchored right inside the Indian Ocean waters, a few metres from the shore.
Inside, the simple house that has proved to be a major attraction for both local and foreign tourists – according to Bateman, offers an easy welcome for residents with generous common spaces, three bedrooms and a great deal of ocean breeze.
It is the open lounge covering half the upper deck that perhaps wins it all for this floating property, which provides an ideal space to enjoy near 360-degree views of the creek that extends about a mile into the mainland.
Bateman says the house was built to provide accommodation for tourists, which is complementary to the core business that Kilifi Boatyard provides; water sports facility, the sailing school and motor yacht repair.
“We needed to provide accommodation with a difference to complement the water sports and boat repairs service that we provide here,” he says of the floating house, the latest addition to the business started in 1976 to provide repair and storage of boats for sailors.
The highly-polished wooden floor, walls and stairway blend with ease, especially under the natural light from the translucent roofing to emphasise the strong attributes of the home’s interiors.
The location of the floating house on the heavily sheltered lagoon means that the waters will always be calm even when the waves in the open ocean are high, ensuring that even those prone to sea sickness because of the waves can cope.
Apart from the floating house, little else has changed in the boatyard whose ownership has changed three times in the past couple of years.
It first belonged to the late Dickie Mason then his son Philip Mason and later to Faber- one of the current directors.
“It was critical that we started providing accommodation if we were to attract local tourists because the dynamics have changed quite a lot that have discouraged sailing,” says Bateman, citing that among his clients are families from Nairobi.
The boathouse represents an alternative form of accommodation at the coast, where investors are rushing in to put up establishments that challenge the traditional tourist hotels.
Self-catering villas and apartments are perhaps the hottest class of property at the Kenyan coast, driven by shifting client demands.
Hoteliers have had to introduce flexible holiday packages that come at a discount compared to the contemporary tourist facilities.
In the floating house, for instance, residents can fix their own coffee using the installed appliances though there is a main restaurant that still provides catering for main meals throughout the day. Daily room service is available similar to your ordinary hotel room.
Basic amenities such as electricity and water are connected to the floating house from the mainland, linked through a suspended wooden wharf.
Bateman says that the history of the facility dates back more than 35 years when Dickie was operating the boat repair business under a palm tree while the restaurant was a small makuti shack.
Today, the restaurant on the mainland, where the sailors would stop over for a meal or drink while their boats were being repaired, is still a simple outdoor eatery right on the shoreline only that most of the patrons are not on the move but locals who appreciate a late lunch and a cold beer.