Even though Selous Safari Company was founded in 1988, the site of Ras Kutani began three years before in 1985. Charles Dobie, director of the company, initially leased land to the north of the fresh water lagoon, which is now the camp’s private airstrip because he wanted to try his hand at coconut farming but also because it was a site of exceeding beauty – the rare coastal forest and endless pristine beaches with such proximity to Dar es Salaam. Back then there was no other accommodation on the south coast; there was only one ferry across the estuary and from Kigamboni, then a small village, it was a deserted sand track down to Ras Kutani.
After the opening and success of the company’s debut camp in Selous Game Reserve, there was an amazing opportunity to become Tanzania’s first company to offer both a superlative bush and beach experience. So in 1989 the company began the process of leasing the southern side of the lagoon so the camp could straddle this stunning feature and by 1990 building began.
For this project Charles partnered with Marcus Misslinger and Wilhelm Meister, the latter’s architect designed the cottages, which are still there today. The idea behind the rooms was to deliver an authentic African beach experience using locally available building materials. Makuti, translated as palm thatch, is used for the roofs extensively in East Africa but no one on the south coast knew how to build with it, so Wilheim brought a team of Kenyan experts to Ras Kutani to teach members of the local community how to use this material – and to this day one of the students, Kinghese from Gomvu, still does the camp’s makuti.
In 1992, Ras Kutani was opened with 30 cottages and a new airstrip. To compliment the combined experience, the company’s aviation arm, began a scheduled flight from Selous to Ras Kutani to make travelling between camps easier.
Under the first management of Marcus, the camp was an instant success offering not only international guests a blissful beach retreat but also creating a haven for Dar residents to travel to for the weekend. At the beginning all water sports were offered by the camp from windsurfing and dhow trips to fishing, but the majority of guests simply came to relax; so the larger activities were phased out and Ras Kutani really took shape as the ideal tranquil destination to escape to.
Over the years Ras Kutani has slowly evolved to the more intimate camp it is today with only half the amount of accommodation. In 2006 the company built the swimming pool and developed different accommodation to appeal to a varied market including four glorious hillside suites with plunge pools, designed by Neil Rocher, and also Hill House, ideal for small families, which was originally the Dobie Family’s personal cottage. From there a new restaurant and bar was designed by Anthony Folkers to take full advantage of the stunning views and sea breezes.