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Lamu |© Jennifer wu / Flickr
Lamu |© Jennifer wu / Flickr
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A Guide to Kenya's Lamu Archipelago

Picture of Jean Wandimi
Updated: 11 May 2017
Lamu Island is a part of the Lamu Archipelago off the Kenyan Coast. The coastline of Kenya has some Arab and Portuguese influence, and this tells the history of the coast. It tells stories of the trade between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and Lamu Island is the best place to witness this.

How to Get There

The best way to access Lamu by air is through Nairobi, either via JKIA (Jomo Kenyatta International Airport) or Wilson Airport. Some affordable flights include Fly 540 and Jambo Jet. It can also be accessed through Mombasa Airport. People can also take an overnight bus from Nairobi. An example of a bus is Mash Bus Company on Accra Road which will take travelers to Mombasa, where they can then take another bus to Mokowe, which is the bus terminal nearest to Lamu. From Mokowe, a boat can take travelers to Lamu. Going by bus is a cheaper option, as a person will pay approximately 2,000ksh one way, but it will take longer. Budget flights to Lamu are between 10,000 Ksh and 15,000 Ksh depending on the airline. People can also access Lamu by air through Diani Beach and Malindi.

What to See

Lamu Island is a relaxed island and life is somewhat similar to that of Stone Town Zanzibar. The Island has many small villages amidst the coconut trees and it has the most beautiful beaches in Kenya and Africa. Old Town is the main attraction of Lamu. There are many narrow streets, and people cannot access them by cars. Visitors often walk or use donkeys to move from one point to another. The people in Lamu believe in their customs, and they have genial spirits. They are friendly towards visitors. It is hard not to be charmed by Lamu and the experiences of laughing with locals, strolling on the beach, and exploring Old Town stay with a person forever. Some small islands near Lamu that are accessible by dhows are Pate, Kiwayu, Manda, and Siyu.

Donkey Rides | © Jeniffer Wu /Flickr
Donkey Rides | © Jeniffer Wu /Flickr

Things to Do

Walking on the Beach

The beaches are so beautiful and strolling a few kilometers south of Lamu is a great experience. Shela beach is fantastic, and you can swim and attend one of the local yoga or cooking lessons.

Feet in the Water | © Jean Wandimi
Feet in the Water | © Jean Wandimi

Live in a Swahili Beach House

When you visit this island, be sure to check different accommodation options and try something in Shela Village. The houses have unique Swahili inspired décor that is such a breath of fresh air. The furniture is also fascinating. In Old Town, you will also get to see how people live. You will see children playing, locals doing their laundry and cooking, and residents will always be very welcoming.

Try Swahili Cuisine and Try Fruit

Make sure to try different Swahili food. Try pilau, biryani, curry, coconut rice, and seafood. Sip on some coconut water too. There are also many restaurants to try local food and fresh juices.

Visit Manda Island

Manda Island is a must visit and it is one of the best spots to watch the sunset while sipping on some cocktails.

Walk Along the Narrow Streets Exploring Old Town

Walking the labyrinth of narrow streets or riding a donkey is an unforgettable experience. The architecture of the place is also awe-inspiring, and the town is a UNESCO world heritage site. The houses have large wooden doors, balconies, and verandas.

Sailing

On the harbor, you will meet with many locals who ask to take people on dhows, and some of the activities are surfing and snorkeling. Sailing in a traditional dhow with incredible views on the horizon is a must do. You are sure to make new friends on the journey too.

Sail | © Jean Wandimi
Sail | © Jean Wandimi

Visit the Market Squares

Market squares are the best place to watch and learn about people and their traditions and way of life. You can observe what they eat, how they speak to each other, and their disposition. You also get to buy juicy fruits and vegetables.

Visit the Cultural Attractions

Visit the Lamu Museum if you want to delve deeper into culture and history. Other cultural attractions are the Lamu Fort, Donkey Sanctuary, and the Swahili House Museum. Lamu has some religious and cultural festivals too, so if you are around when they are happening, make sure to attend one.

How to Experience Lamu the Best Way

The best way to experience Lamu is to go with an open heart and mind. Prepare to get fascinated and intrigued. Mingle with the locals and learn where they eat, what they do, and the places they visit. Try their food, respect their traditions, but have an open mind. You will probably realize that the areas philosophy is “Pole Pole,” (Slowly Slowly) which means that everything that they do, they do in a slow, but sure way. You will find it refreshing to adopt this laid back lifestyle for some time.

Sunset | © Stefan Magdalinski / Flickr
Sunset | © Stefan Magdalinski / Flickr

Where to Stay

Some of the places to stay include Sunsail Hotel, Jannat House, Peponi Hotel, Lamu Palace Hotel, Kijani Hotel, and Red Pepper House Hotel. Here are more accommodation options.

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