A sign of the times at Kenya Forest Service
We live in a time where the pressure on natural resources is second to none with the pressure ever increasing as our population bursts. Natural space and forests always appear to be under increased threat as they sit on government land, owned by the people of Kenya, though the powers have their own interpretation of the term “government” and add to that pressure by grabbing pieces of land in areas they feel people are not watching, do not visit or have turned a blind eye to. It is upon the custodians appointed to protect our natural resources not only to do their job in protecting those resources but also to be ingenious in their methods and engage the population in participating to protect those resources.
Kenya Forest Service (KFS) have the mandate and privilege of protecting and managing various forests around Kenya, which not only entails managing the various forests but also in engaging people to visit and explore the forests to generate some welcome revenue that allows them to continue being custodians of the forests. Some KFS managed forests have build accommodation and guest houses available to rent for people visiting those forests, as visiting a forest is always a great way to spend a weekend or escape the daily routine for a few days. As is the case with accommodation, standards will always vary.
Hombe Forest is located on the north-eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya, a pleasant 2-hour drive from Nairobi. There are plenty of activities available in the forest, hiking, one of the routes to climb Mt. Kenya, fly-fishing… There is also plenty of game to see, though the thick forest makes spotting animals challenging but rewarding. After a day of activity in the forest, you always want a warm dwelling to return to and escape from the cool mountain air.
KFS have been advertising their ‘newly refurbished’ Hombe Forest Guest House that underwent supposed renovations in early 2016, however, what is advertised as an ideal retreat is far from the reality of what the Guest House actually is. Though there has been mention of renovation, the only evidence of renovation is a coat of paint on the corrugated iron roof and the purchase of some incredibly hard, green (in colour) sofas. The rest of the Guest House is a total mess, barely fit for human consumption. The toilets are in a terrible, dirty state; frogs lay in corners of every room; the kitchen is not in use (luckily we brought a Cookswell Jiko oven and some oven meals for dinner) and the house in general, is dirty. (I wonder what happened to funds allocated for the refurbishment???).
There is a caretaker on duty, however she did not appear to be very interested in the upkeep of the Guest House, and sent a clear message of what she thought of her visitors when what appeared to be her boyfriend (a KDF soldier) turned up at the house in the early hours of the morning blaring music from his vehicle. Morning could not come soon enough! And when morning did arrive, we made a swift departure back up the mountain for some fishing before the short drive back to Nairobi.
Visiting the KFS Hombe Guest House is just an example of the mismanagement of funds and neglect of resources that such government bodies display, in your face on a daily basis. They do not attract, but rather detract from the conservation of our forests and certainly do not appear to make any effort whatsoever to engage with visitors to their forests and the services they provide.
When staying in KWS or KFS accommodation, the standards are usually basic, but clean, well equipped, well furnished and pleasant. That is not the case with Hombe Forest Guest House. It is by the far the worst accommodation of its kind I have come across in Kenya! Look for an alternative if you intend to visit that part of Kenya.