Distant Relatives Ecolodge: A Beacon of Sustainable Tourism and community Empowerment in Kilifi

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In an era where travellers increasingly seek meaningful experiences that benefit both the environment and the local community, Distant Relatives Ecolodge and Backpackers stands out as a shining example.

In a conversation with Kojo Bentum-William for the VA Tourism Podcast, which delved into the world of sustainable tourism, Mwanase Ahmed, the CEO and Co-owner of Distant Relatives Ecolodge and Backpackers, unveiled the lodge’s remarkable journey in uniting eco-conscious travellers and nurturing the local community as a driving force. With a passion for sustainable practices and a vision for responsible travel, Mwanase shared her insights on the lodge’s innovative approach and its potential to invigorate domestic tourism while promoting environmental stewardship.

Mwanase Ahmed’s extensive global background, spanning various continents and enriched by her qualifications in Sociology, International Studies, and Political Economy, has uniquely positioned her to champion sustainable tourism. Hailing from Lamu Island and having traversed the United States, France, Central America, and Senegal, Mwanase’s return to Kenya was accompanied by a deep-rooted commitment to fostering responsible and community-driven tourism.

Central to Distant Relatives Ecolodge’s ethos is its unswerving dedication to environmental preservation. Mwanase passionately affirmed, “Environmental conservation is really important because it has a lot of positive financial implications as well.” She emphasised the significance of freshwater, highlighting how its scarcity during extended dry periods can have dire consequences. “When we start to feel the effect of the pressure on our natural environment… it is extremely expensive,” she elaborated.

Mwanase’s interview also spotlighted the lodge’s proactive stance on sustainable water management. “Installing rainwater catchment gutter is something that is not only environmentally sustainable but also financially sustainable,” she noted. By anticipating climate challenges, Distant Relatives Ecolodge showcases a comprehensive strategy that harmonizes ecological and economic considerations.

In response to evolving traveller preferences, Mwanase stressed the allure of unique and authentic experiences. “Travellers are also looking for more unique memories rather than big-screen TVs and ACs,” she observed. The lodge has woven local community engagement into its fabric, co-creating distinctive experiences with community members, allowing guests to engage deeply with the local culture and lifestyle.

Mwanase’s call for ethical and innovative tourism practices resonated throughout the interview. “We need to grow and have a dynamic service, not keep the same activities and styles for 20, 30 years,” she asserted. She highlighted the dual impact of responsible tourism: “You are also teaching and educating those who come through – whether composting toilets actually save a lot of water instead of sewage.”

Established in 2010, Distant Relatives Ecolodge stands as a living testament to unity, sustainability, and community upliftment. Inspired by Nas and Damian Marley’s song, the name embodies the mission to foster connections among global citizens. Mwanase’s vision extends to families, with the lodge offering an array of family-friendly activities that celebrate togetherness and exploration.

The conversation with Mwanase Ahmed illuminated Distant Relatives Ecolodge’s pivotal role in advancing sustainable tourism and empowering local communities. Through its innovative model and holistic approach, the lodge sets an inspiring precedent for the industry, showcasing that responsible practices can drive positive change while enhancing the essence of travel.

This article was first published in the October 2023 edition of VoyagesAfriq Travel Magazine

Story by: Samuel Obeng Appah

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