Watamu is best known as a sleepy cove with perfect white sand, a secluded bay and a marine park full of exotic sea creatures. A few resorts and restaurants stand along the shore facing the striking Indian Ocean. Arabuko Sokoke Forest enfolds the town, while Mida Creek, an inlet fringed with mangroves, ﬂows along its south. The atmospheric Gede Ruins relax gently into the embrace of the forest, the last remaining evidence of the town's history as a port on the ancient trade routes
Enter Palm Exotjca. The team plans to build a 61-ﬂoor exclusive development offering, according to its website, 'chic residential suites, premium commercial space, eclectic restaurants and a vibrant casino'. The ﬁve-star amenities also include a shopping mall, business centre, theatre, cinema, nightclub, ﬁtness centre, wellness spa, children's play area and four swimming pools. The building, which at 370m will be the tallest in Africa, will be 'an impressive address'. Pictures of the building rising from Watamu's idyllic shores look impressive if incongruous.
But the plan raises questions. Watamu has a population of around 14,000; its economy depends predominantly on tourism and ﬁshing. Tourism here is low impact and high quality. Resorts are rarely full, and those that offer similar apartments have sold only a few. Beachfront houses and plots, on sale for months, remain unsold – and this new construction isn't on the beach. Who is to stay at Palm Exotjca?
We rang the only contact number on the website – a number in New York – but the call rang out unanswered.
Chairman Dr Giuseppe Moscarino – a veterinarian from Rome whose passions are art, architecture and Africa's extraordinary beauty – has over 20 years of management and investment experience. Managing Director Oliver Nepomuceno manages commercial and investment businesses around the world, oversees portfolio management for private clients, and heads several companies, joint ventures and public companies. Architect Lorenzo Pagnini – with a passion for forms – holds an MA in architecture and urban planning, and has over 18 years of architectural experience.
The team plans to pump 500 million dollars into the economy and to provide local employment – but who the investors are has yet to be announced.
That 61-storey skyscraper developed on a small plot in Watamu must not be built. If they want to build such a skyscraper, they should do it in Nairobi or Mombasa, not on the beach of Watamu.
- Najib Balala, Minister of Tourism.