Lamu Island, part of the Lamu Archipelago, is located just off the northern coast of Kenya. This Unesco World Heritage site, Lamu Old Town, is the oldest and well-preserved example of a Swahili settlement in East Africa. Lamu Island with its white beaches fabulous food and people and variety of accommodation are for those that want to get away from the rat race and relax. Lamu Archipelago is made up of several large and small islands – the largest being; Lamu, Manda, Pate and Kiwayu Islands.The town is characterized by narrow streets and magnificent stone buildings with impressive carved doors, influenced by unique fusion of Swahili, Arabic, Persian, Indian and European building styles.
The buildings on the seafront with their arcades and open verandas provide a unified visual impression of the town when approaching it from the sea. The buildings are well preserved and carry a long history that represents the development of Swahili building technology, based on coral, lime and mangrove poles.
Once a center for the slave trade, the population of Lamu is ethnically diverse. Lamu was on the main Arabian trading routes, and as a result, the population is largely Muslim. From respect to the Muslim inhabitants, tourists in town are expected to wear more than shorts or bikinis. Explorers can snorkel, take part in sailing trips with a sail around the island being a top activity and partake in walks along the beach. Guided tours through the town visiting the Lamu Museum and Siyu Fort will make you look forward to sundowners or meals at different spectacular
Lamu is a place like no other, a peaceful tropical island where life is lived at it’s own relaxed rhythm, but a place whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of it’s medieval stone town.
The island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters.
But Lamu’s real attraction is its Old town. The town of Lamu began life as a 14th century Swahili settlement, but the island has seen many visitors and influences, including Portuguese explorers, Turkish traders and the Omani Arabs.
All left their mark, but Lamu developed its own particular culture, which has ultimately endured.
Lamu’s narrow streets remain unchanged, and in the markets and squares around the fort life moves at the same pace as it always has. There are no vehicles on this island, and the donkey and the dhow remain the dominant form of transport.
The people of Lamu are great believers in tradition and custom, and this is a strong society built on a respect for the past.
For the traveller, Lamu is a hypnotically exotic experience, made even more enjoyable by the relaxed and welcoming attitudes of the locals.
To visit Lamu Island is to enter another world, and the visitor finds themselves becoming a part of this world. Life slows down, and long days are spent strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town or relaxing on the beaches.
Dhow safaris can take you beyond Lamu into the surrounding archipelago, where isolated villages, ancient ruins and a few luxurious and exclusive resorts lie hidden among the islands of Manda, Siyu, Pate and Kiwayu.
This idyllic island speaks to the heart and soul, and a trip to Lamu island is a romantic experience that can become a life long affair.
Most visitors to Lamu come to experience the unique culture and history of the island. But there are also opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to explore.
The Palm forests and wetland areas of the island are excellent spots for finding coastal waterfowl and other birds. On the stretches of beach around the shore, populations of crabs can be seen, often swarming the sand in large number.
On the arid mainland opposite Lamu, there is a surprising abundance of wildlife in the Dodori Reserve, including Buffalo, Lion and Leopard.
The mangrove channels here are also good for birding and spotting the occasional crocodile. Trips to this region can be organized from Kipungani on Lamu.
Lamu – Accommodation
Lamu has a varied range of accommodation, both within town and out, and on neighbouring Manda and Kiwaayu islands. There are modern hotels, beautifully decorated old Swahili guesthouses, basic inns, isolated resorts and private homes to rent.