Distant Relatives, is an eco-lodge and backpackers found in the coastal town of Kiliﬁ, Kenya. The project started in 2010, by a group of friends travelling around Africa. Upon their ﬁrst visit, the group, in particular, Tom and Romain, fell in love with Kiliﬁ. Its nature, hospitality and that feeling of home. Both wanted to bring this to more people and went about starting Distant Relatives, named because of their love in bringing people together from all around the world. Nine years on and Distant Relatives is one of the most popular eco-lodge's in Kenya. It has grown beyond the owner's expectations and is only getting better.
So what makes Distant Relatives stand out? Well, the nature surrounding the lodge is certainly a huge factor. Vervet monkeys being regular guests, jumping along the roofs and bouncing from trees to buildings, and if you give them a chance they may even 'steal' your food. There are numerous of chameleons, although they may be hard to spot to the untrained eye. There are also numerous of endemic and native bird species and there is of course Mowgly, Distant Relatives lovely resident dog, who can be just a wild as the monkeys in the trees!
There is also another natural phenomenon down at the eco-lodges private beach, bioluminescent plankton. Romain, one of the owners, and also a marine biologist, explains how this bioluminescence is light produced by a chemical reaction in phytoplankton but can also happen in zooplankton. The plankton itself doesn't glow in the dark. Instead, they squirt globs of glowing chemicals into the water. Romain goes on to explain that whilst we know that much, scientists do not entirely agree on the reason for this. It is hard to predict when the phenomenon will be the strongest – while full darkness (no moon visible in the sky) helps see the bioluminescence, there is other factors which are not yet understood.
For example, one day it may be difﬁcult to spot but the following day the water could be glowing! There are some nights that there is so much, you can use it almost like body paint! Furthermore, it is almost impossible to photograph or to ﬁlm unless you have high end equipment, which just means you really do need to visit to experience, making it even more special.
Distant Relatives has grown to be one of the most popular lodges along the coast, yet, it has continued to preserve its charm and uniqueness, and continues to work with the community and surrounding area. They employ 35 staff members, many of which have been with them since day 1. They also support several organisations. This includes Talanta Kilifonia, a local initiative which provides talented youths in Kiliﬁ county with support and mentorship within the arts industry; Moving The Goalposts, a sport development initiative focusing on young women. They also support the Kiliﬁ Gold Triathlon, which raises funds for a charity each year, and the list goes on.
They also support several local businesses within the area, such as tour guides, local artisans and captains. On top of this, Distant Relatives has a small tree nursery. Although they have a variety of plants, they try and mainly keep 'mother' plants, plants that reproduce through their root systems, as these particular species help prevent erosion. These are often planted throughout the property but are also donated to groups who may be starting a new project or people who have recently moved to the area. Romain explains that the nursery also has a lot of Mbamba Koﬁ, an indigenous mahogany tree, which they give to anyone who wants them, recently donating hundreds to Greenworld Kenya.
But wait there is more, Distant Relatives has yet more to offer, with live music events regularly occurring, they also have one of the most popular new year parties in Kenya. Starting in 2012 with 300 guests, the event has since exploded, with 3000 people expected for the 2020 New Year celebrations. It certainly won't be possible to host this at their original venue, which was the beach volleyball court! To cater for such large numbers and to maintain the events charm the owners have setup a new project called Beneath the Baobabs. This is a beautiful 25-acre property which has been developed to host a variety of events, holding up to 5,000 people. This will be the new location for Kiliﬁ's New Year party, but will also hold several events throughout the year, as well as being available for hire to private/corporate parties, school camps and conferences. Romain explains that they try to welcome event organisers with a similar conscious mind frame, “our objective is to attract as many sustainably minded people to Kiliﬁ to make Kiliﬁ the Green Heart of Kenya!”.
So what should you expect when staying at Distant Relatives? Well part from both a friendly and knowledgeable team, the lodge offers a variety of accommodation, from camping, dormitories through to private rooms. A cozy bar and restaurant where you can order fresh ﬁsh and other yummy treats at affordable prices. A swimming pool, for guests to enjoy, private access to a beautiful beach, where you can observe the bioluminescence on most days. You will also notice that they use eco- friendly waterless toilets, and you can shower in their outdoor bamboo showers! Local live music occurs at least twice a month and there are planned activities every day, including yoga, volleyball, beach clean ups, sunset drinks, village tours and more! The perfect retreat, that caters for all.
So where does Distant Relatives see themselves in the next few years. Well, although the owners toyed with the idea of expanding outside of Kiliﬁ, they decided to stay put and focus on growing and improving Distant Relatives in Kiliﬁ. They want to continue improving their accommodation, atmosphere and food, so that it is both affordable and great! The place has surpassed way beyond Romain and Toms expectations, Romain explains that when they both started it was all rather spontaneous and scary. Neither had any hospitality or business experience and decided it was probably best to just jump straight in to it. It has not come without its challenges, which have come in all shapes and sizes, however in the end they pulled through, putting this down to Kenya being “like a big family, especially Kiliﬁ, so there's always someone to help within reach if you're out of your depth”
So make room in your travel plans to visit Distant Relatives, maybe for a peaceful holiday, or to enjoy their scrumptious food and drink or go and enjoy some live music.
Check out Distant Relatives on
If you're interested in seedlings, just email them at
And ﬁnally, check out their new project, Beneath the
Baobabs on www.beneaththebaobabs.com.