A Morning at The Kampong
I have always wondered what was behind the intriguing gates of The Kampong, located in Coconut Grove, Florida. About four years ago, it became possible to visit the site, which was the home of David Fairchild and his wife Marian Bell (daughter of Alexander Graham Bell).
For a glimpse into the storied life of this famous botanist and explorer, a visit to The Kampong offers a lovely way to spend a morning. You can combine appreciation of tropical plants, history or architecture with an easy hour-long tour of the grounds and home. After the tour, you are free to wander the multi-acre oasis on your own, and continue exploring the indigenous hammock, man-made boat slip or just sit at “The Point” and contemplate beautiful Biscayne Bay.
Your guide will explain the many plants, show you the mini-museum, located where Dr. Fairchild worked and wrote many of his books, and take you through the beautifully designed Indonesian-themed home. For those familiar with his namesake Fairchild Tropical Gardens, you will feel like you are in a mini-version of that paradise.
Dr. Fairchild introduced more than 30,000 plants to the US, including flowering cherries (famous in Washington DC), mangos, soybeans, bamboos and more. He worked for the USDA (Department of Agriculture) as head of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction and was active with the National Geographic Society.
The Kampong is the only mainland member of The National Tropical Botanical Garden and depends on donations to perpetuate the site and its many scientific and educational programs.
Tips to Enhance Your Visit
Open for guided tours September through June, Wednesdays and Saturdays, with tours at 10:30 and 12:30 ($20 per person). I found the on-line registration impossible to complete (seemed to be a glitch in the system) and finalized arrangements by phone. When we arrived, we were not on the list, but the gracious docent was unfazed and allowed us to join the group.
Plan to arrive a few minutes early, when you do, staff will direct you to nearby parking. You are free to bring a picnic and extend your enjoyment of the grounds. In any case, wear comfortable walking shoes and bring your own water. Walking is easy and the tour is fine for children and mobile elderly.
The Kampong is located at 4013 S. Douglas Road in Coconut Grove