4 Tycoons Who Own Private Islands in Kenya

  • Actor Hassan Papi who runs a restaurant at Kinazini Island (left) and Kisumu West MP John Olago Aluoch
    Actor Hassan Papi who runs a restaurant at Kinazini Island (left) and Kisumu West MP John Olago Aluoch.
  • For decades now, Kenya has held enviable spots on the global map's most preferred lists due to its extensive safari as well as exotic coastal destinations.

    As a result, tourism remains a leading source of foreign exchange earner for the government and a source of income for many. However, for some four tycoons, renting nightly hotels for a few days was just not enough.

    Instead, they amassed millions of shillings and acquired or leased entire islands for development onto which they constructed exotic resorts.

    Here are the four tycoons who own and run private islands in Kenya.

    1. Carol Otieno - Kigamboni

    An aerial view of Funzi Island
    An aerial view of Funzi Island.
    The Standard

    For Carol Otieno, her journey to caring for the mangrove on the private Kigamboni Island started with her numerous vacation trips to Funzi Island.

    In a past interview, she admitted that she fell in love with the Islands and decided to acquire the property at a price of Ksh6 million.

    Otieno then built a five-bedroom luxurious lodge on the property.

    ‘‘The land cost Sh6 million. There is no place like this place. Funzi is like heaven on earth... and the villa offers unbroken views of the sea," she noted.

    She also noted that she committed to conservation of the mangrove found on the island that offer the much desired tranquility and serene ambience.

    2. Alessandro Torriani - Funzi Islands

    A picture of a resort at Funzi island
    A picture of a resort at Funzi island

    Alessandro Torriani, a tycoon from Italy, has over the years been a controversial figure in the land ownership at the Coastal region.

    Initially, he settled in the South Coast where he owned a cluster of Funzi Island, where his Funzi Keys resort once stood. He clashed with the locals after cutting down the indigenous mangrove trees found on some of the islands.

    Court cases, with the government, have since made him lose some of the Islands due to reckless destruction of the forest.

    In July 2021, the Supreme Court upheld a verdict by the Court of Appeal to repossess the land where his resort stood on the basis that it was a forest reserve. The land was valued at over Ksh200 million.

    3. MP Olago Aluoch - Maboko island

    Kisumu West MP John Olago Aluoch.
    Kisumu West MP John Olago Aluoch.

    Kisumu West MP John Olago Aluoch is one of the silent but moneyed politicians in the country owing to his ownership of the Ksh500 million Maboko Island in Lake Victoria.

    The Island measures around 5 acres and is located offshore the Seme area. It is also referred to as Camp Tom Island.

    At the center of Maboko is a helipad for the helicopters ferrying guests and tourists to and from the island.

    He has been spotted on numerous occasions steering the powerboat himself as he heads to the island, which has a main block that is made up of three self-contained suites, with his friends or family.

    4. Hassan Shapi - Kinazini Island

    Actor Hassan Papi at his restaurant at Kinazini Island
    Actor Hassan Papi at his restaurant at Kinazini Island.

    Known for his minor roles in major movies such as Star Wars and James Bond, Hassan Shapi, who runs the Kinazini Island, found success in Kenya's tourism industry.

    Shapi rents the entire island, which has been leased to him by the government, in the coastal region where his restaurant stands. He also founded Funzi Kinazini Day Safari  which organises tours to his island and the neighbouring Funzi.

    His restaurant, which spots a traditional makuti-thatch roofs and built from locally sourced stones, is the only property on the island.

    "We don’t interfere with the environment, we do not touch the mangrove forests. We also make sure that all non-bio-degradable waste is taken back to the mainland," he noted.