The undisputed gem of the Kenyan coast is Lamu and her sister islands in the Lamu archipelago. Lamu town is the most perfect example of a historical Swahili city in the world. A warren of rounded houses, airy courtyards shaded by palm streets, cafes serving steaming chapattis and cups of milky tea, inhabited by women in rustling black full-length robes and men riding donkeys, all overlaid with an omnipresent smell of spice – Lamu is hard not to love.
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. 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.
Top things to do:
Visit to Manda Island
Manda is a quiet lattice of dune and mangroves a short hop and jump across from Shela. The appealing long beach facing Lamu is backed by a couple of places to stay and several huge private villas. Beyond the beach, traditional life continues unabated in a local fishing village, and a small Orma settlement looks after a Shela-based green turtle conservation project that visitors can take part in. And if you take a dhow or speedboat to the Takwa ruins, particularly atmospheric around sunset, you can visualise a once- great city that once dominated this peaceful backwater. Manda Island is a must visit and it is one of the best spots to watch the sunset while sipping on some cocktails.
Stay 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.
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.
Walking along the narrow streets exploring the 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.
Trying the authentic Swahili Cuisine
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.
Cultural visits to Lamu Museum, Lamu Fort, Donkey Sanctuary and the Swahili House Museum
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.
Sailing on a dhow
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.