Destination Kenya – Golf, Game and so much more


(Posted 09th March 2015 from the Vipingo Ridge)

Readers may be forgiven if they never heard about Vipingo Ridge, which was until now primarily a golfing resort built for local fans of the game and ready to own a residential property on the estate to give them a permanent base from where to tee off from. Located along the Kenya coast between Mtwapa and Kilifi, north of Mombasa is it but an hour and a bit’s drive from the international airport in Mombasa or about the same time from the airport in Malindi.

However, after reading this article there is no more claiming ignorance about ‘The Ridge’ where the slogan is ‘Live | Life | Play | Golf ‘.

The 2.500 acre property sits pretty on an elevated position with sweeping views across the surrounding sisal estate and the Indian Ocean. Only last week did Vipingo host a group of the ten most influential editors and staff writers of the world’s leading golf magazines who were brought to Kenya by the Tourist Board to see what the country has to offer in terms of championship but also safari golf courses.

(View from the club house terrace over the course with the 9th hole on the left and the 18th hole on the right, lining the water hazard which is placed right in the middle)

Jim McCann, Editor of ‘100 Top Golf Courses’ did after his visit to Vipingo almost immediately revise his rankings for the Kenyan top 10 and lifted Vipingo into the top spot, beating such more established rivals like Sigona and Muthaiga into second and third spot respectively. Designed by David Jones does the Baobab course meet the tough standards of the USGA and the planned second 18 hole course will no doubt be as good if not better when completed. Golf, and residential properties, were no doubt at the onset at the core of the developers’ intentions and plans for the resort, where some 230 plots have been set aside for development. 200+ of them are already sold and many of those seen with complete houses, occupied either permanently or periodically by the owners. And the good thing here is, when the owners are not in situ can the resort use the villas for paying clients, earning a fair bundle and no doubt helping to offset the annual service charges levied on the properties for a range of services, from security to maintenance to staffing.

From several talks with the managers, General Manager (and decades long friend) Mike Round-Turner and Gail Conway who is in charge of hospitality, it soon became clear that the focus had started to shift to tap into other market segments. A new state of the art conference centre with four board rooms and a main hall has opened just a few weeks ago and Vipingo’s sales and marketing team is now busy to get the message out that there is a new kid on the MICE block. Perfectly suited for team building sessions but also to bring the top corporate echelons into a room for strategy brainstorming, does the resort offer much in terms of leisure options for the afterhours including an own beach, only a few kilometres away, where in an entirely secure environment guests can frolic in the sand, enjoy a BBQ or curry lunch and enjoy a never ending supply of cold drinks right up to sundowner time.

A dedicated leisure area close to the club house offers guests the option to play tennis on the two courts, use a communal swimming-pool or have the kids’ spend their surplus energy on the playground. With Mike’s background, he was General Manager for several years at one of Nairobi’s main private MICE venues, the Safari Park Hotel, will he no doubt use his experience to tell corporate clients, NGO’s and other organizations that conferencing at Vipingo Ridge now is the in thing to do when opting for a location away from the capital.

(Residential villas on the left and the new conference centre, helipad in front, on the right)

A 1.5 kilometre long airstrip on the grounds allows for larger turboprops like the Dash 8 or ATR’s to land and at least one of the Wilson based airlines, Safarilink, is said to be considering including Vipingo in their scheduled services to Lamu as an optional stopover point. From my own knowledge of the coast this could lift Vipingo to the level of Ukunda as it was say 10 years years ago and which today is the major link to Nairobi for local residents of the wider Diani / Ukunda area who loath to travel by road to Mombasa’s international airport. The same will no doubt apply for the residents between Shanzu, Mtwapa and all the way to Kilifi, should regular air services to and from Nairobi’s Wilson airport become available. In fact did Mike Round-Turner say that should a reputable airline like Safarilink make Vipingo Ridge a regular stopover point, will the resort immediately put up a passenger shelter and restrooms so that those coming from outside the estate to fly from there to Nairobi, can get a decent cup of coffee and are shielded from the elements, come rain or shine.

Presently is the airstrip largely used for private charters – the resort’s heliport is located near the main club house – and by guests flying in from Nairobi on their own planes.

(The Vipingo Ridge Beach Club – a prime piece of beach real estate as good as it comes)

My own purpose to come to Vipingo, and stay for the better part of a week, was to celebrate my daughter’s wedding which took place at the ‘Vipingo Beach Cathedral’ as I dubbed the venue at the resort’s private beach club. The extended stay allowed for a full family reunion and taking up adjoining villas, all with a small pool on the rooftops, made for a perfect mini vacation, together when we wanted and yet with enough privacy. Much of the pressure of the wedding planning was taken care of by the resort’s staff and Gail did a perfect job leaving us and our guests to enjoy the stay, apart from the daily briefings on progress, preparations and a decision here or there about options.

There was of course time to meet Damon, the resort’s green keeper, who took pride to take me across the sprawling estate, showing off ‘his’ course and more, including a little dammed lake from where the water is being pumped up to irrigate the fairways and the greens. Cycling across the estate is another option to stay fit, apart from playing a regular 18 holes a day and for horse enthusiasts can riding with a guide be arranged. The paved roads and tracks across the resort also allow for ‘power walks’ or just some ordinary jogging, best in the morning or late afternoon hours of course to avoid the heat of the day.

The welcome cocktail party for the guests, when they had all arrived on the eve of the wedding, was held on the rooftop of the club house and with the sun setting in a blaze in the west and the full moon rising from the Indian Ocean in the east at the same time it made a perfect setting and got everyone in the mood. Finger food that night, as was the food for the dinner after the wedding ceremony, was excellent, well presented and well prepared with the sailfish pate becoming an instant favourite for my own palate. Snacks and full meals are available at the pool side or at the club house all day long and the villas do have their own kitchens and dining rooms. This gives visitors the option to stock up on food items they fancy and either cook themselves or have Gail or one of her staff organize for a chef to do the work. And no, there isn’t any washing up to be done either as the staff assigned to each villa take care of that too.

If there is but one element I found missing, and I am sure that Mike Round-Turner has already got that on his development agenda, it is a Spa so that Vipingo can start tapping into that growing market of ‘Wellness Vacations’ and bring not just the locals but also tourists from overseas to the resort. Beauty treatments, massages, workout sessions and of course the largely organic fare offered at the club house restaurant will no doubt be acting a magnets to bring in additional guests seeking a getaway at the coast but amid the cooler settings on the ridge which combines the best of a coastal holiday.

The Vipingo Ridge as it is definitely must be ranked as Kenya’s number one golf resort and the permanent summer weather, perhaps apart from a few weeks during the rainy season, makes it a picture perfect location, for golfers, for conferences, meetings, not to mention weddings and even just those who want to come to the Kenya coast to relax but do perhaps prefer to be off beach in an elevated location to enjoy a couple of degrees of lower temps.

(This correspondent seen here with Richard Kyalo, Manager Customer Experience of Kenya Airways and the lounge supervisor in the domestic lounge of Kenya Airways in Terminal 1D, formerly Unit 3)

(Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background as seen from an Embraer E190 cruising at 30.000+ ft enroute from Nairobi to Mombasa)

I flew to the coast from Entebbe with Kenya Airways, which offers many daily connections from the entire region to Nairobi from where the airline operates multiple daily services to Mombasa and a daily flight to Malindi. Given this experience it is hard to understand how several key Western countries cling on to their anti-travel advisories. Security along the coast has for months now significantly improved under a new top echelon security team and such posh resorts deserve to be full of clients. In places like Vipingo it is in fact a given that the ‘wagenis’ from overseas can freely mix with the local visitors which for now make up the bulk of the clients staying. Kenya is keen to repair her somewhat dented image abroad and the just concluded ITB2015 saw dozens of Kenyan resorts and DMC’s hard sell the destination. Beds need to be filled, aircraft seats need to be occupied and last but not least, do Kenyan’s who work in the hospitality industry at the coast deserve an opportunity to keep their jobs or see themselves recalled when their resorts, closed as a result of the prohibitive and crippling anti-travel advisories, finally reopen.

I have been saying it for a while now, and have the visiting experience to back it up, that Kenya very much still got what it takes to give visitors that holiday of a life time. And on a very personal note did my daughter have the dream wedding she always wanted to have, on one of Kenya’s snow white beaches on a picture perfect day in picture perfect surroundings.

Live Life, Play Golf and in fact play and do a whole lot more along the coastal strip of Kenya. It is time the anti-travel advisories are binned or shredded so that visitors can again return here in large numbers and experience the ‘Hakuna Matata’ Kenya has been known for decades.

Kenya still got what it takes and Kenya is open for business, 24 / 7 and 365 days a year, unless it is a leap year when visitors are gifted a bonus day.

For added information about Vipingo click on Kenya Airways’ global regional and domestic flight schedules can be found via and more destination information can be accessed via or

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