Updated: Oct 5
Lamu or Lamu Town is a small town on Lamu Island, which in turn is a part of the Lamu Archipelago in Kenya. Situated 341 kilometers by road northeast of Mombasa that ends at Mokowe Jetty, from where the sea channel has to be crossed to reach Lamu Island
A peaceful tropical island where life is lived at it's own rhythm, Lamu island is a place like no other. An island whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of its medieval stone town.
The town of Lamu which its existence dates back in the 14th century has seen many visitors and explorers . Portuguese explorers, Turkish traders and Omani Arabs, all left their mark but Lamu developed in its own particular culture, which has ultimately endured. The streets in the island remain unchanged, and in the market and squares around the fort life moves at the same pace as it always has.
Donkeys and shows remain the dominant means of transport in the island as there are less vehicles.
Lamu island is a hypnotically exotic experience, made even more enjoyable by the relaxed and welcoming attitude of the locals. The locals are great believers in tradition and culture , and this makes the society strong as it is built on respect for the past. It is another world which when you visit you become part of it. Life slows down and long days are spent strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town and relaxing on beaches. The island is home to ancient ruins, isolated villages and a number of luxurious and exclusive resorts.
The winding streets of Lamu are best explored on foot. The best spots for a beach stroll is a couple of kilometres south of Lamu town, on the eastern tip of the island where the channel opens to the ocean, around the Shela village. Not much more than a pretty
waterfront and a jumble of narrow sandy pathways, in Shela you are never far from the sand dunes and the deserted beach. The Shela village is popular with Western experts and even occasional celebrities who come to unwind. While in Shela, you will no doubt have to navigate the sand-lined maze of pathways of this tiny settlement. It's a tangle of donkey-wide alleys, winding among tall stone townhouses, small thatched huts, few mosques and ruins and a spacious square ringed with some market stalls.
The delicacies in the island are a must taste! They a bring a unique and sophisticated blend of the African and the Eastern world , more nuanced than the austere nomadic diet of mainland Africa. Biryanis and curries, couscous and pasta, coconut rice with mango chutney and most of all the varied seafood: it's a rich palate of flavors enhanced by cinnamon, clove, cumin seed and fresh coconut milk. The best thing about the Lamu island is the vibrant street food culture and traditional swahili cuisine. Enjoy beef mishkaki roasted over embers of charcoal or Madafu which is the coconut water in an unripe coconut which is a popular coastal drink for locals and foreigners alike. Madafu is what you need to cool off after a hot day in the island.
Dhow cruise is an adventure not to miss! There is always a crew ready to welcome you and after you get acquainted, you are set to sail. The mood is perfect as the dhow is smooth, very relaxing and one gets to feel the essence of Lamu island. Snacks will go in handy or some juice. With soft music playing and a breathtaking sunset, your dhow cruise will forever be etched in your memory . The experience guarantees you a front row, uninterrupted view of the Indian Ocean . It can be a good one for a romantic moment as the sunset blends seamlessly with the full moon's appearance on the horizon making it very special. A sunset cruise costs between 40 USD and 60 USD and the dhows are readily available anywhere on the island.
Festivals make the island a wealth of cultural attraction. Enjoy the famous Lamu cultural festival which is a jamboree of activities including traditional dancing, a donkey race, and a dhow competition. It goes without saying that you will need to book your flights and accommodation in advance. There’re daily flights to Lamu from Nairobi's Wilson Airport operated by Safarilink or Fly 540. The flight duration is about an hour and they cost between 83 USD to 126 USD. Travelling between the islands is also by boat which costs around 1 USD.
Most accommodation comprises of guest houses or tastefully furnished rentals. Hotels are also preferred due to their comfort and security. Hotels charge from 18 USD but some have great deals which can help you save money. The time slows down in the island and it's like a trip back in time. The idyllic island is a different planet on its own and a trip to the island is a romantic experience which becomes a life time affair.