REFURBISHMENT AND MODERNIZATION CATAPULTS HEMINGWAYS WATAMU BACK INTO 5 STAR STATUS
(Posted 26th August 2018)
(View across the Indian Ocean from the new rooms in the ‘North Wing’ of Hemingways Watamu)
Reaching the top in one’s field or profession is one thing, staying there an entirely different proposition of course.
When the old Seafarers Hotel in Watamu – admittedly decades ago – was closed and reopened two years later as Hemingways, did the resort promptly occupy the top of the podium for Watamu resorts and hotels and remained there for a long time.
Regular refurbishments saw the resort retain its status for well near three decades, even after TripAdvisor, Bookings.com and others came along, allotting it top spot in their area rankings.
Then came Medina Palms on the scene – the presently only officially 5 star ranked resort north of Mombasa and Hemingways had the gauntlet thrown down in front of them, or better said next door, as the two resorts are neighbours.
It was still a podium position for Hemingways since then but for the former market leader that was just not good enough as TripAdvisor named them as only the #3 Best Value of 87 places to stay in Watamu in a more recent survey.
Hemingways’ owners, at the time caught between a rock and a hard place – the Kenya coast suffered substantial challenges as a destination overall due to a number of factors explained elsewhere on this website in recent weeks – recognized the need to invest in the property and as demand for Kenya beach vacations started to rise again they eventually closed the resort for almost two years, allowing for not just a facelift but for a fundamental overhaul.
Earlier this year was the curtain then finally lifted to reveal the all new Hemingways Watamu, and it was crystal clear, following a recent visit, that the owners spared no expense to turn the resort back into the shining gem it once was.
(Hemingways’s newly rebuilt South Wing)
Formerly divided into two accommodation blocks, the South and the North Wing – the latter only refurbished to very high standards some 5 years ago – was the resort reshaped and new facilities added which includes a brand new Spa, more swimming pools and additional food and beverage outlets. The most important change though was the conversion of the South Wing into condominiums, i.e. apartments or better described as superior residences with one, two and four bedrooms, finished to the highest standards.
(Typical sitting room – and kitchenette – in a one and two bedroom residence)
3 one bedroom residences, 16 two bedroom residences and 2 four bedroom penthouse duplex residences with over 400 square metres of space give the owners, when they are in situ, and guests superior comfort levels including
(Contemporary new furnishings of the bedrooms in the residences)
- Separate living and dining areas with fully equipped kitchen
- En-suite bathrooms
- Air conditioning and ceiling fans
- Finest Egyptian cotton bed linen
- Mosquito nets
- Free WiFi internet access
- In-room safe
- Tea & coffee making facilities
- Fully stocked mini bar with complimentary mineral water
- Flat screen TVs in every bedroom and living room
(Glass, marble and wood bathrooms and a full toiletry kit await guests)
A significant number of the residences have been sold it was learned and when the owner are not present can the resort, needless to say, rent out the rooms and regularly does since demand for the new facilities has shot up.
Elsewhere in the resort was the North Wing completely refurbished too and more rooms added, brining the overall number of guestrooms – all ocean facing – there to 39, 13 of which are De Luxe rooms, located on the top floor.
(De Luxe bedrooms in the North Wing and the new bathroom layout)
Truth told, had it not been for Front Office Manager George Tsuma, I would have been lost in the resort because neither reception nor front office leave alone the restaurants were in the same place where I remembered them.
Two additional pools and as mentioned a brand new Spa and Gym further added to my confusion as I tried to find my way around.
(The new pool behind the North Wing and the Spa building, also close to the North Wing)
While the main restaurant underwent modernization, as did the adjoining main kitchen, did additional restaurants emerge after the rebuilding.
The ‘Hemingways’ bar got inhouse rivals through the Gede Coffee Bar – with both indoor and outdoor sitting – and a nearby al fresco set up offering snacks and more substantial food throughout the day, further complements the choices for guests where they want to have a meal.
The ‘new’ Hemingways will no doubt add competition to the top bracket in the Watamu hospitality industry and compete with their neighbours for supremacy, which right now, having seen both, stands at level par as there is space at the top for both while others will have to rethink their strategy if they want to stay in the game at that level.
Deep sea fishing remains a key activity for and by guests staying at Hemingways, just as Ernest himself did in his days when he came to Watamu to fish. A range of other activities is of course also available at the resort and the guest relations staff has the local service providers, Mida Creek dhow included, on speed dial.
Meanwhile has Hemingways Watamu – a sister property to the all suites Hemingways Nairobi in Karen and the Ol Seki Heminways in the Masai Mara – launched an eco awareness campaign.
As part of its commitment to preserving the Kenyan coastline and ecosystem within it, the hotel has partnered with a local non-governmental organization ‘EcoWorld Watamu,’ which employs underprivileged locals to collect plastic debris along the beach each week and reuse and recycle it for better purposes.
All plastic waste from Hemingways Watamu is directed to EcoWorld where it is separated according to weight and colour, before being shredded or melted, and recycled. The recycled waste is used in creating art works, furniture, fence posts, and trinkets – generating income and removing debris from the ocean.
Hemingways Watamu Operations Manager Melinda Rees told ATCNews that collaboration with the local community is an important step in raising environmental awareness adding that the hotel has begun to replace palm leaf roofs on some structures with recycled plastic roofing in addition to banning the use of plastic straws in the establishment.
Melinda noted that luxury that makes the world a better place is a trend that is on the increase with many travellers keen on the importance of sustainability.
“Guests can now spend a day learning about the Watamu Marine Association and EcoWorld Watamu, with an educational day joining in on the recycling process and learning about the impact that plastic waste is having on this fragile environment.” Hemingways Collection Group Operations Director Mr. Ross Evans further explained.
The hotel has created provision for guests to also have the opportunity to contribute to the effort on a more informal basis by picking up one of the hotel’s recycled plastic bags and collecting plastic waste as they take in their daily walk along Watamu beach Mr Evans further explained
The Watamu coastline is at the heart of the hotel’s community and offers guests a chance to view the Watamu big five Dolphins, Whales, Sea Turtles, Whale Shark and Shark. Protecting it ensures that populations of marine life such as the Humpback whale are sustained. The whales make their annual migration north from Antarctica to the warm tropical inner reefs for protection making the return 4000 km journey in October. The humpback whale migration can be experienced out in the sea or seen from land in Watamu this season of August to October.