If you follow me on instagram you will have seen my recent posts about my trip to Lamu. I spent a whirlwind three days with my friend Theodora Lee, whom I met in Los Angeles last year, a vlogger from South Africa who was a fellow Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards nominee. This trip was way overdue for me, especially because I live on the Kenyan coast. Everyone talks about how beautiful and peaceful this little island is – and they are right. Although we were only there for a few days, I am deeply in love with its rich culture, colourful history, beautiful sights, some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, kind hearted people full of life and always ready to welcome you. The little island boasts a small intimate community and rich culture that has made it one of the top tourist destinations on the East African coast.
Here is my Lamu travel guide which I hope will come in handy:
How to get there: Theo and I flew from Nairobi to Lamu via Malindi on a Fly540 flight. The whole trip took about an hour and a half. If you are flying on a smaller plane like we did, you should normally expect more turbulence than on a bigger plane. This was a bit distressing and actually very uncomfortable for me. But apart from that, it was an easy trip. We had previously booked a boat to pick us from the air strip which was a good idea. It was anchored not too far away from the airport and took us to our hotel in no time.
Where to stay; We stayed at the charming Lamarelle house. A beautiful Temple of relaxation and meditation at the beach of Manda Island at the shores of the Indian Ocean. The homely villa allows you to get offline and more in touch with the nature around you. It can comfortably accommodate 8 people but we had the whole house to ourselves. The sunsets were spectacular and the in-house chef ‘Mzungu’ made lovely meals for us. He also went above and beyond his duties in the kitchen to make sure we found our way around our daily activities and met us each night when we returned home. So many memories were created here and I would go back to this little gem in a heartbeat!
How to get around: Lamu in has no cars. The locals have maintained their age-old tradition of transportation via dhows, boats and donkeys within the city. The Lamarelle house management provides transportation for residents with its own boat – a wooden canoe named ‘Kinyika’, the captain of which, Shido, is also very knowledgeable, and he gave us some lovely insights of Lamu. Through him, we met out tour guide Mohamed who took us around. At each dock, there will be kind dhow riders with colourful boats waiting to take you around. But be sure to bargain to get the best price. It helps to be with a local/tourguide when discussing prices…
Where to eat: We had most of our meals at our house – Lamarelle, mostly fresh sea food, our incredible and seasoned chef cooked to perfection. We ate at the refurbished dhow which is now a lounge and dining area sitting on the beach right outside the Lamarelle House and boasts an incredible ocean view. We also had some lovely cheese Samosas and club sandwich at Peponi Hotel. But the highlight of our culinary experience was eating pilau at the home of a local family. Street food is also big in Lamu, and the evenings are bustling with women on the streets frying their meals for the walking crowds. It looked amazing! I love street food, however I never got to try any of it as the night when took our walk in the town, I had just come from a huge dinner!
What to see and do: Lamu is actually an archipelago made up of several islands including Manda Island where we stayed and Lamu Island which hosts the main old town plus newer settlements and hotels. Each island has its beautiful white sandy beaches lined by swaying palm trees and offering ample opportunities to swim in the crystal clear warm water or relax in the shade of a parasol with a cool drink. The beaches are safe to walk on even at night, and we explored some of the hotels close to Lamarelle House and had a few drinks at the beach bar of the Majlis Resort just a few hundred meters down the beach.
However, what sets Lamu apart from so many other beach resort destinations is its well preserved traditional town clustered around the three hundred years old Lamu Fort. The very narrow streets explain why there are no cans on the island, and make a leisurely walk around to admire the typical Arabic architecture such a pleasant and unique experience. I did find Shela (10min away from Lamu town) to be calmer and more picturesque than Lamu town. We hired Mohammed, an experienced tour guide to take us around, he introduced us to a local artist who gave both Theo and me some henna tattoos. If you are too tired to walk, you can easily get a ride on one of the many donkeys. On our second night, we enjoyed some drinks at the floating bar.
Sadly, Theo and I got a mild allergy from the black heena art also known as ‘Pico’. We were aware of this, but wanted to try something new – and honestly believed we would be among the lucky few who are not allergic. Next time I’ll go back to my usual natural brown henna. Luckily we are both okay and our tattoos look fine.
Let’s talk about the sunsets. I am not normally a morning person, so I rarely get to see the sunrises, but sunsets just come into my life so effortless and I have rarely seen such amazing sunsets as the ones on Lamu. Many beaches face west, like ours at Lamarelle House, and we enjoyed it from there on our first evening. But since the ocean is such an important part of a Lamu experience, I am prepared to argue that the perfect place to watch the sun set is the deck of a boat.
What to do on the water: If you move from island to island you will be on a boat quite often, and if you are into water sports Lamu offers you unlimited possibilities including swimming, snorkelling, diving, fishing, wind surfing, kite surfing – well, you name it…. We opted for an all-inclusive Dhow Safari, which was the highlight of the entire visit. The old dhow with its crew of four picked us up from our beach and gave us an amazing day-long experience organised by our guide Mohammed. It was magical to move quietly over the water in this traditional sail boat, which is so typical of the East African coast, only powered by the gentle breeze. It took us three hours to travel to the other side of Manda Island to the much smaller Manda Toto, which has no fresh water and therefore is uninhabited. We could have done some fishing for our lunch on the way but preferred to relax in the sun on the deck until we reached a good site for snorkelling among the colourful reef fishes. And then it was time for a delicious sea food lunch. A fisherman swam to the boat and sold us the fish and the lobster, which were then grilled onboard the dhow. It couldn’t have been fresher, and made a delicious meal with the sauce and other accompaniments which the crew had brought with them. We had the whole Island to ourselves. Before heading back home we also explored the totally deserted beach and enjoyed a large flock of birds.
It’s of course possible to go on a sun-downer cruise, but since it was already getting a bit late we accepted the suggestion to simply stay with our delightful crew, which did their best to entertain us with song and music and eventually enjoy the glorious sun set on our way back..
At the end of the day we had become such great friends with our four crew members that we went out to buy drinks for us all and returned to the dhow to enjoy the brilliant stars during the pitch black night away from the city lights. We could not have hoped for a better ending to our memorable stay at Lamu and left for the airstrip next morning feeling we had gotten the maximum out our short visit but still with a heavy heart, knowing we had to get back again soon.
Feel free to reach me on any of my contacts above for a tour of Lamu.
Red kikoy dress – Duka shop
Blue and floral dress – Shein
White maxi – gifted
I hoarded on the comfiest Bata sandals for this trip This KSH 999 pair was my fave! So comfy to walk around in