25 years ago Selous Safari Company opened Ras Kutani's doors for the first time. Our beach retreat has been a peaceful haven for travellers, to escape the stress of everyday life since it opened in 1992. Situated on the Swahili Coast, the golden, palm fringed crescent of coastline that sweeps from Lamu in northern Kenya to Maputo in southern Mozambique. This three thousand kilometre stretch of coastline is steeped in history, with past visitors including Portuguese mariners, German and British colonials, Chinese traders and Omani sultans.
Ras Kutani was the vision of Charles Dobie, who had initially leased land to the north of the fresh water lagoon, which is now the camp’s private airstrip because he wanted to try his hand at coconut farming but also because it was a site of exceeding natural beauty – the rare coastal forest and endless pristine beaches with such proximity to Dar es Salaam.
For this project Charles partnered with Marcus Misslinger and Wilhelm Meister, the latter’s architect designed the cottages, which are still there today. The idea behind the rooms was to deliver an authentic African beach experience using locally available building materials. Makuti, translated as palm thatch, is used for the roofs extensively in East Africa but no one on the south coast knew how to build with it, so Wilheim brought a team of Kenyan experts to Ras Kutani to teach members of the local community how to use this material – and to this day one of the students, Kinghese from Gomvu, still does the camp’s makuti.
In 1992, Ras Kutani was opened with 30 cottages and a new airstrip. Under the first management of Marcus, the camp was an instant success offering not only international guests a blissful beach retreat but also creating a haven for Dar residents to travel to for the weekend. At the beginning all water sports were offered by the camp from windsurfing and dhow trips to fishing, but the majority of guests simply came to relax; so the larger activities were phased out and Ras Kutani really took shape as the ideal tranquil destination to escape to.
Over the years Ras Kutani has slowly evolved to the more intimate camp it is today with only half the amount of accommodation. In 2006 the company built the swimming pool and developed different accommodation to appeal to a varied market including four glorious hillside suites with plunge pools, designed by Neil Rocher, and also Hill House, ideal for small families, which was originally the Dobie Family’s personal cottage. From there a new restaurant and bar was designed by Anthony Folkers to take full advantage of the stunning views and sea breezes.
To read more about Ras Kutani and her history why not read this month's Safarian Magazine which features an indepth interview with Ricus Delport, our General Manager.
What is even more special about celebrating our beach retreat's 25th anniversary is we are also celebrating our staff's anniversaries; three of which have been with us since opening! Mwalimu Ally, Juma Mashaka and Salumu Divai all were born and raised in the local village and began in the team as casual workers to clear the site for building and from there were trained in their chosen field of cookery for Mwalimu and Juma and maintenance for Divai. Hongera sana to all three and we look forward to the next 25 years!