Lamu, Kenya. Get there while you still can

January 12, 2010 2 comments

Ever since we went on our honeymoon in East Africa and we heard about that spot off the coast in Kenya, I’ve been dreaming about the island of Lamu. Those 4 letters evoke remoteness, raw beauty, style and authenticity all at the same time. No wonder the Unesco has it on its World heritage List as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa”. But this morning I read that the Kenyan government has plans to turn it into the biggest seaport in East Africa!!!! Noooo…Wait!!!!

Somehow it reminds me that morning of January 11th 2003 (it was about 8am to be precise) when 1/ I quit smoking, 2/ I heard on the radio that Nina Simone had died & 3/ On that same program, I heard that Club Med was opening a family resort in Trancoso, Brazil. That did it for me. An era was gone and my careless backpacking days were definitely over. 4 months later, I actually got married. But I’m getting away from the point which is…Don’t postpone a trip to Lamu til too late.

This enclave on the Kenyan coast has been a Christmas hot spot for the rich & famous since the 90’s (think Prince of Hanover dancing with Kate Moss barefoot while Bill Gates is hanging out…read this). But the rest of the year, it’s supposed to be quite chill and cheaper. I imagine it as a tiny version of Zanzibar. There are only 10 cars on the island and most business is conducted on donkeys. There are 3 hotels to choose from, all done with a lot of taste and comfort. Plenty of crabs running on the beach, lots of day-trip sailing, dolphins swimming, yoga classes… Also, the weather calendar is good all year round, except May-June-July when the monsoon strikes. There are two daily-flights from Nairobi (with Air Kenya and Safari Link), an African low-cost airline also flies twice a week (truth or dare!!!). You land at Mamba island and take a 30-min boat trip to reach Lamu.

The long time favorite hotel is Peponi in Shela village (2 miles from Lamu town), which I think I would choose with our 2 young children because it’s right on the beach, with a good restaurant apparently and lots of activities – not necessarily targeted at families but i am sure it’s the type of place where there’s something to do for everyone. Inside Lamu town, there seems to be a wonderfully charming little hotel called Baytil Ajaib, in a 17th century Swahili townhouse. And on nearby Mamba island, there’s this very luxurious resort called Mamba Bay resort, very expensive though. Alternatively, renting a house via Lamu Retreats seems like a very family-friendly option.

Jambo Lamu. I hope we can make it on time.

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