Now I know why they call it Lamu Tamu. It’s a magical archipelago of a magnificent group of Islands; Lamu, Pate, Manda, Manda toto, Kiwayu and probably other smaller islands that I am yet to explore. All these places have their amazement and magic that are similar yet very different. It has Portuguese, Turkish and the Omani influence. This place is a mix of narrow pathways, white sandy beaches; sand dunes, dhows, speedboats and donkeys. I know right….donkeys? Donkeys are the main means of transport.
How to get there: There are a number of flights from Nairobi, Diani and Mombasa. It takes about 40 minutes to 2 hours depending on the point departure or if there’s a stop-over. Then once you get to Manda Airport, you get either a public boat at 100KES or a private boat or dhow (the price solely depends on prior agreement). However, it is a minimum of 500KES. I remember the first time I saw Lamu old town from Manda Airport it was amazing and became more breathtaking as you approach Lamu with the boat, dhow or whichever transport that picked you. Nothing I had imagined. Not all the articles or the pictures that I had read or seen would have prepared me for this.
Where to stay: You have numerous choices. I have experience with Sun Sail Hotel – it’s an amazing simple sea front hotel with a roof top balcony. Then there is Janat House where a piece of my heart was left. Service, food and everything else was just amazing. The pool on those extreme hot days and the open barazas that are on each floor where you can just chill and watch Lamu, was the icing on the cake. We have Jamala House, what I loved most is the fact that they have hot water. Yes even in that heat it does get cold and that hot shower comes in handy. The rooms are huge, amazing service and the convenience is everything. It’s almost at the center of Lamu which makes exploring very easy.
Once you get settled in, the real adventure begins. I had almost no idea of what to do but I let things flow. These are the best adventures. That is the same time I learn there is so much to see and do way more than a week could handle.
Let’s learn the culture: This to me entails food, people, which is basically everything. The people are kind, friendly and ready to help. Wooohhhooo……. the old town tour which takes about 2 hours. Doing it with a guide is most advisable, as you will get to see the hidden gems of the town. In this tour, you will get to see the different restaurants to explore for breakfast (Mangrove stole my tummy’s heart), sea food (did you say Bush Garden or is Mwana Rafa), and best local dishes (new Mwana Rafa ask for their Biriani). Then the Swahili house tour of a typical Swahili house look which you can also see in the Museum. It takes less than hour in the museum which you should definitely combine with the Lamu fort as you will only pay once. A walk around the ‘Kenya Santorini’ in Shella as you explore the elegant royal owned houses in Shella and the sun dunes. The sun dunes are a must go in Shella then take a stroll on the beach.
Sea Time: This had to be where my best memories were created. The feeling of freedom the sea gives you is lovely. The sunsets are magical in all sense. Part of sea time includes dhow safari day trips which entails lunch in the dhow, fishing and finally snorkeling and swimming in the most beautiful untouched beaches of Manda. You can also have sunrise cruises that will lead to Takwa ruins. This is highly dependent on the tide.
The other things you might want to see and do:
Sun downers: My best sun downer was in Majlis Resort in Manda over an amazing conversation and the surreal view over old Town Lamu and Shella over the open sea. Then there is Peponi where a book and wine does the trick as you oversee Manda. The floating bar is also a good place to spent some sun downer time.
Aimlessly walking around: Hahaha yah I know how it sounds. This made me discover the town benches, just an amazing place to chill and be with your thoughts as you watch the sea activities. I also discovered sea side restaurants that sell the best tamarind juice in town. The ‘kahawa tungu’ which means bitter coffee, is served with the yummiest traditional sweet treats. This is also how you are met with random festivities. My favorite one was the sword fight/dance where young men fight to the beat of drums as part of welcoming the groom to the community. These festivities are random and communal, yes Lamu does love festivals. Also the people are really friendly they will always give you a plan. Like attending the launch of Flipflopi.
Get Tattooed: Lamu is the home of art; Heena will not be an exception.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are for yoga: Whispers Cafe is the place to be at 5pm with yogi Kelly who is also the trainer at the Banana house in Shella.