PHOTOS Georgina Goodwin WORDS Amelia Brown
Angama Mara’s Shamba is a magical vegetable garden within the unfenced Maasai Mara.
Angama Mara is a Kenyan safari lodge that overlooks the Maasai Mara National Reserve. Owner Nicky Fitzgerald commissioned former architect Ian Dommisse, project manager at Dommisse Landscapes, to create a shamba (a vegetable garden in Swahili) that had some of the magic of Babylonstoren.
As well as an experience for guests, the intention with the garden is to provide fresh organic greens for fine dining and to showcase the lodge’s zero-waste practices (composting, worm farming and recycling activities, including Ecobricking their nonrecyclables).
Ian felt that a formal grid arrangement wouldn’t belong in the wild Mara. Instead, he decided to allow curvy waterways and collection dams that simultaneously prepare the garden for the dry season and divide it into five organically shaped zones, each with a unique and interesting feature. Visitors can take the direct path linking the areas in the most efficient manner, or they can embark on a meandering journey of mazes and labyrinths. One zone features 12 raised calabash beds – Ian’s favourite element of the garden. Each bed has a predominant vegetable in addition to companion herbs and flowers. Every three months the produce is harvested and new plants are planted one bed to the right, so it takes three years before the same plant grows in a particular spot.
“It’s a really slow vegetable clock,” says Ian. In addition to perma culture practices such as companion planting, crop rotation, water catchment, working with topography and biomimicry, Kenyan approaches like organic pest control remedies and medicinal trees and herbs were incorporated. But the pests can be a little bigger in Kenya!
“The main challenge has been to keep the destructive wild animals out,” says Ian. “In the dry season the elephants climb up the escarpment and walk right past the garden. Other potential invaders are porcupines, antelope and baboons. Rather than using electric fencing, we tried more natural solutions: beehives and sharp rocks to deter elephants, a sunken stone wall to stop the porcupines, and wait-a-bit thorn to create a thick, spiky barrier,” he explains. One of the Shamba keepers sleeps in a manyatta (house) on the boundary of the garden, as human scent is a strong repellent, too.
The garden installation took just over a year to complete, and its secret pathways and fruit trees will continue to develop over the next few years. The Angama Mara team has swelled to tend the shamba and it is thriving. Guests can have a picnic in the garden overlooking the Mara, enjoying fresh produce that they picked themselves.
For more information about Angama Mara, visit angama.com.