Pinewood Village
Inquiries & Reservations
Call: 254 20 2080981/2/3 or Fax: 254 40 3300045

History

THE HISTORY OF Pinewood Beach Resort and Spa - by Alnoor Kanji.
The principal sponsor of Pinewood Beach Resort and Spa describes here how Pinewood was brought to fruition.

Upon my return to Kenya in 1981 after a ten year stay split between England and Canada I started the search for a beach-plot to build a ‘hut’ to enjoy as a weekend retreat. That is all I was looking for.

We searched North and South for several years before eventually finding this somewhat remote, over sized property … by accident … or was it ?!

A newspaper AD caught my eye. It read ‘serviced’ beach plot in Galu Kinondo. I knew very well that Galu was remote and did not have water or electricity. I called the agent out of curiosity and was informed that ‘yes indeed, it was serviced’. I requested a viewing. A few weeks later and after giving up hope - the agent never kept his promises, I was picked up by the owner of the property and driven to Diani. We stopped at the end of the main road (some 5km from Pinewood) and the owner produced a survey map. To my horror, I learnt that he had never seen this property himself, and was hoping that with my help he might be able to locate it. I asked if it was a serviced plot and was informed that it was certainly not! I requested that we go back to Mombasa but relented - the owner was very apologetic and begged my help. The problem was that the plots in this area were aerially surveyed and did not have physical beacons. These were put in as and when plots were developed. It took us about an hour to locate a beacon in the area – about 200 meters from Pinewood. We paced this distance on the beach and agreed that the plot was generally in this location. I sat down on a log to catch my breath and it was at this point that I became overwhelmed with this location. Ours were the only footprints on this exquisite unbelievable beach. And it seemed we had the whole world to ourselves. I experienced a strong sensation of peace and calm – an intoxicating serene tranquility. There was something very special here. I got home, informed my wife that I had seen the property and that I needed to get her there. I said no more. A few days later, we located the log on the beach and sat down. Her first remarks were ‘wow, this is a special place. I feel a lot of positive energy’. That was it. Within a few weeks we were the new owners of this property - not what we had been looking for, and still wondering what happened here !

People often ask me why we named the resort Pinewood Village. The answer is simple. On viewing the property for the first time the prime feature was an abundance of Casuarinas. It made both my wife and I think of an area along the shore north of Vancouver, Canada. After having chosen the name we were unlucky enough to experience very high tides one year that washed away more than 20 of these trees. However there are still a few left to the south of the property and you will see their roots exposed above the sand due to those tides.

We engaged a firm of prominent architects to design our 'hut' which we asked them to place so that we could develop the property further at a later stage. At our first meeting the architects suggested the addition of another house or two due to the remoteness of the plot. At the next meeting they suggested even more houses and eventually their drawings became the fully fledged commercial venture that is today Pinewood Village. At that time we thought that we would simply keep the drawings of the additional facilities and houses as something to dream about in the future, but never really expected to do anything this big.
The firm, Jaffer Construction, was owned by my uncle Jaffer Kanji and due to a lull in business at that time he offered to build the property on very favourable terms which made me decide to go ahead with the creation of Pinewood Village. Being in the hardware business myself I bought all of the materials and he provided the manpower and know how.

We broke ground in January 1990 and December 1990 was the expected date of opening for the Hotel. I become fully involved in every aspect of the construction and although the first couple of months went very smoothly it soon became apparent that there was no way work would be completed on schedule. Once we cleared the bush we discovered solid coral covering the entire plot, making the digging of foundations a nightmare. In some cases ancient work methods had to be employed. One such area was a marble like rock that spanned from where one now finds suite 160 down to the swimming pool. We built a fire against this rock each evening and poured cold water onto the hot rock the following morning. This helped crack the rock and the exercise started all over again that evening. In this way we managed to excavate the pool – an exercise that took seven months instead of the scheduled seven weeks!

Then followed a series of disasters. Our water system was designed by a Mr. Sangale, a young budding engineer fresh from university in England. His workings and drawings took him a long time to prepare. This was a challenge for him since we were not on the water grid and he had to come up with a system that would ensure a continuous water supply all year round. He had poured over numerous calculations in deciding the size of pipes and pumps to ensure a continuous water supply. We spent numerous evenings together, working undisturbed and feeding off each other’s enthusiasm. His intricate system makes use of well water from an underground stream as well as rain water collected for all the roofs at Pinewood. Just 2 days after presenting me with the final drawings, and begging me not to allow anybody to change anything, he died of a massive heart attack. At the same time Jaffer Kanji suffered a fatal stroke and I had a fall out with the architects who then walked off the job. It seemed that Pinewood Village would never be built.

Fortunately, Miss Firdos Kanji, daughter of Jaffer, assured me that she would keep her dad’s business going and would assist me in the finishing off of the job. Nafisa, my wife, decided that she would take over the task of interior design and finishes. ( a task that was intended to be part of the architect's workload ). The strain at this time was incredible. I spent many a sleepless night wondering how we would cope and what we had got ourselves into. Decisions could now only be made by one or the other of us - things like the height of banisters, the width of kitchen cupboards, the placement of the steps from the pool to the beach, the width of the road, etc.etc. Our big worry was that we were not building just a home for ourselves but ultimately for hundreds of different people - would they approve of our choices ? That is why we decided to keep decor minimal and simple. Our philosophy was that the simpler it was the less it would offend.

Against the wishes of the original architects I had decided that I wanted floors throughout the rooms painted white to give a feel of space and light. Now without them around I could indulge in that whim. Nafisa and I made many trips to Nairobi to have fabrics printed in her chosen colours. Artifacts were purchased from all over the country. And our home became a warehouse and an artist’s studio. Nafisa undertook the task of doing all the paintings herself – over one hundred boards were prepared, painted and eventually hung on the walls by her. The mosquito nets were an idea of hers and involved extra manpower and expense - what with the building of false ceilings from which to hang them and the extra timbers needed to dress them - but she got her way, and I have no regrets.

I asked Nafisa to put on her thinking cap and come up with an idea of how we could use up the mountains of mikoko (scaffolding) which were cluttering up the building site. She came back with the idea of using them for the balustrades on stairways and balconies and bases for coffee tables, indeed we ended up using them in so many ways that we eventually had to purchase extra ones! Landscaping was our next problem area. We both agreed that our knowledge on this subject was limited and put out a tender for professionals to do the job. The best proposal we received came from a joint team of Fleur Meleisi and Brian Perkins.

Although they often came asking for approval or direction I refused to offer any of my own ideas - wanting the end result to be totally professional. The exercise became a long, slow, laborious job. The enormity of it was overwhelming. Whilst Brian worked on the natural rock face in front of suites 190 and 200, Fleur supervised the digging of five hundred holes each either three feet cube or four feet cube depending on what was to be planted in it. Each hole was carved into the solid rock and the holes had to be perfect cubes. And to ensure that the holes were indeed perfect cubes, (rounded corners were unacceptable!) exact wooden frames were built. These were then placed into the holes and the workman only received his dues when Fleur was totally satisfied that the frame fit perfectly! Approximately one thousand truck loads of top soil were brought in to create the requisite nine inches of soil cover over the coral surface. Each truck was off loaded by hand shovel and taken to the required spot by wheel barrow ! The levels were rigidly enforced by Fleur using her ‘dip-stick’. I must confess that at the time I could not see the need for such a regimental approach – but am I glad that I did not interfere. We have one of the best gardens on the coast.

One evening, whilst sitting and pondering at the Restaurant/Lounge terrace, it seemed something was missing. The landscape was complete but did not seem right. After discussion with Fleur’s husband Len, we decided to dig it all up to create a water feature – what is now the fish pond. Len and Fleur hand picked large rocks at Bamburi Portland Cement Quarry, north of Mombasa to create the waterfall. These incredibly heavy stones were moved into place with chains and several pairs of strong arms.
After two long years we eventually opened our doors to the public in December 1991. A full year later than expected. The creation of this resort was not an easy one but a most fulfilling experience. We hope that you will enjoy staying at our "special place for special people" as much as we do.

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