What you need to know:
- With introduction of direct flights, you should not miss the opportunity to experience a relaxed and less crowded Kenya beach experience
When people think about travelling to the coastal parts of Kenya, rarely does Lamu come in mind. This may be attributed to the fact that Lamu is an island that is only accessible by boats or because of the struggle of connecting flights and the rumours that it is unsafe. At least that was my line of thought before I visited the place. Prior to my travel, I was informed that I can’t travel by road because it was unsafe and I couldn’t get a direct flight from Nairobi. The only option I had was getting a connecting flight to Mombasa then get another one to Manda Airport which took roughly two hours. Luckily for anyone planning to travel there from 15 September, 2021 onwards, Jambojet is introducing direct flights from Nairobi for Sh7,100 and from Mombasa for Sh4,600. It will reduce the hassle.
Lamu is the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa and is also a UNESCO world heritage city. I found it way hotter than any other coastal part I have been to. Our transfer from Manda airport to the villa was via a boat and it cost just Sh100 per person. The streets are very narrow making them impassable by any other means of transport apart from walking or riding a donkey. We had a fun filled six-days’ stay exploring the island.
Our first day was spent at Amu House which was our accommodation of choice, enjoying sundowners and planning activities for the rest of our stay. The next morning, we had a tour to explore the town with our first stop being at the Lamu Museum to learn about the rich Swahili history and culture. The ticket to the museum also gives you access to Lamu Fort. From the Fort, we rode donkeys to visit the donkey sanctuary which was a weird but fun experience. They say, we only live once, so why not ride a donkey if you can’t get a horse. There are more than 3,000 donkeys in Lamu. To end the day, we took a boat ride to Shela to enjoy the sand dunes and catch the beautiful sunset behind the island.
On day three, we had a pre-planned traditional dhow cruise to Kipungani which has white sandy beaches and is a popular tourist attraction site. The dhow cruise cost us Sh15,000 for the whole day inclusive of meals (seafood platter). The area is less populated and is perfect for sundowners and evening walks. It is so dreamy!
By day four, we had known a few locals who were willing to show us around and even recommend places to visit. We had to try out the street food especially the viazi karai, mahamri, kaimati, mkate wa sinia and freshly made tamarind (ukwaju) juice. Our guide Ali, took us to Takwa ruins in Manda Island to view the well-kept ruins of the abandoned trading town that dates back to the 16th century. There is a slightly raised wooden bridge that connects you from the ocean to the ruins. The uniquely large-pillared Friday Mosque and the 200-year-old baobab tree were the things that really stood out. There is a picnic site on the other side of the ruins which gives a picturesque view of the Manda Island.
Another thing that was really fun to experience in Lamu was the floating restaurant and bar. Lamu being a conservative town, it means that there are very few places to go clubbing or hold parties. The floating bar is the main entertainment joint in the town and attracts large numbers of revelers who want to blow off some steam after a long day. It was really interesting being able to party in the floating bar though I can’t recommend it for aqua phobic people. Their meals and drinks are pretty affordable too comparing to other eateries in the town.
The visit to Lamu was a really worthwhile trip and a very relaxing one compared to the other trips I have had to the coastal parts of Kenya. It is suitable for the whole family and also quite affordable. Don’t forget to get authentic mabuyus, achari and get a henna tattoo.
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