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Lamu Island, North Coast, Kenya Coast, Kenya

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Lamu HotelLamu town is the oldest living Swahili town in Kenya and has a rich history and texture increasingly threatened by modern interventions and the loss of its traditional socio-economic base.

Lamu is comparable to others such as Zanzibar in Tanzania. It has managed to retain all its charm and character built up over centuries. The old city is inscribed on the World Heritage List as "the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa".

Lamu Town Docks

Lamu appears to be a region almost frozen in time. The physical appearance and the character of the town have changed very little over the centuries. Devoid of traffic and all the noise associated with it, Lamu Kenya is a most relaxing East Africa coastal destination that seems to somewhat be stuck in a time warp. That's just fine by most visitors, who really come to appreciate the fact that little has changed here since the 1800's.

Many consider Lamu to be one of the best kept secrets in all of Africa, and visitors will marvel, no doubt, at the period architecture found here. Lamu, which is actually an island in the Lamu Archipelago, has managed to maintain its old world charm and character due to the fact that it is dis-connected from the mainland. Tourists can only get here by way of boat, and there are scores of boat-runners that flood the town's narrow waterfront.

Donkeys  - Transportation in Lamu Island

Once you're on Lamu Island, the primary mode of transportation are the numerous donkeys, which can sometimes be seen wandering about town. It's an utter joy to tour the narrow streets during your Lamu vacation, and the Lamu beach experience is pretty much about as good as it gets. One of the best beaches in Kenya starts at Shela Village, which is basically a condensed version of Lamu, and much of Lamu Island is dominated by picturesque sand dunes. Lamu Africa will not disappoint, and much like the other top Kenyan coastal destinations, it's pretty easy to spend more time here than you may have originally planned.

Lamu Town is generally regarded as the oldest town in Kenya, and it is primarily a Swahili settlement. Founded in the 14th century by Arab merchants, Lamu soon became an East African base that began to really take shape in the 15th century.

Takwa Ruins - Manda Island

Wealthy Arab families from Oman and other Gulf States erected impressive mosques and homes in and around Lamu Island, and on nearby Manda Island, the 15th century Takwa Ruins are surely worth checking out on a day trip. The tomb and mosque at Takwa are evidence of the settlement that once thrived here roughly between 1500 and 1700 AD.

The Pwani Mosque, which is found on Lamu Island and dates back to the 14th century, is just another example of the prosperity that once typified this region. The slave trade in the Lamu Archipelago helped to bring prosperity to the ruling factions here, and by the 19th century, Lamu Island was quite the regional power. The British, who assumed control of Kenya in the 1800"s, put an end to the slave trade here in 1873, and as such, the island began to decline.

In 1890, Lamu Island fell into relative obscurity, becoming part of the Zanzibar Archipelago that is found in present-day Tanzania. Lamu Kenya would remain obscure until 1963, when Kenya finally declared independence from Great Britain. Lamu travel began to catch on as early as the 1970's, with most visitors coming not only to enjoy the Lamu beach experience, but also to see the glorious, 18th century Swahili architecture.

While many people who engage in Lamu travel come primarily to relax on a Lamu Beach, there are some cultural pursuits that you won't want to miss out on. The first recommended cultural stop for those on a Lamu vacation is the Lamu Museum, which is found in town on the waterfront. Though it is small in size, it is jam-packed with interesting cultural and historical exhibits and pieces, and you can easily spend an hour or more here.

If you want to arrange a day trip to Manda Island to see the Takwa Ruins, you can likely book a tour at one of the nicer Lamu hotels, and the numerous boat (dhow) operators will be happy to take you to all the main attractions in the archipelago. Those looking for fun and interesting Lamu travel pursuits will not want to pass on a visit to nearby Shela Village.

Lamu Market

Just 2 miles from the town of Lamu, Shela not only has the best beaches in the area, but also some very interesting mosques that date back to the 1800's. 5 of the 6 mosques that were built in Shela Village were erected between the years 1829 and 1857, which is generally regarded as Shela Village's golden age. The Shiathna-Asheri Mosque is the most renowned of the Shela Village mosques, and really, all the islands here offer vestiges from the past that are worth exploring.

Lamu Africa things to do largely revolve around enjoying the water although some might simply prefer to sun on a Lamu beach, others might take interest in experiencing the excellent scuba diving and snorkeling possibilities. You can even arrange a Kenya safari if you please. The Dodoni Game Reserve is found on the coast of the mainland, and it certainly is worth checking out. Curiously enough, the Lamu cats found in town draw plenty of attention from those enjoying a Lamu vacation.

Believed to be related to the breed of cats that the Egyptians domesticated thousands of years ago, these felines are really quite elegant looking, you might take a snapshot or more of these curious creatures. Should you want to photograph locals on Lamu Island, as well as in Kenya in general, it's a good idea to ask first and to offer a tip afterwards. Since Lamu is Islamic-based, you might pay attention to the way you dress in town.

Of course, when enjoying a Lamu beach, you can feel free to don your bathing suit, but back in town, it's generally advised that shorts and skirts at least reach the knee and that tops cover the shoulders. As a side note, there are several daily flights to Lamu (Manda Island) from Nairobi, so getting here from the capital is fairly easy. The architecture of Lamu is uniquely Swahili, with storied buildings, intricately carved wooden doors and numerous mosques.

Lamu is a dominant cultural centre reputable for its historic past and traditional socio-cultural traditions. As such visitors to Lamu can enjoy a large and diverse collection of heritage and cultural attractions. At the district level, Lamu has the remains of many heritage sites. These range from towns, like Shanga, Paté and Manda to hundreds of monuments. Some of these sites, such as Manda, are easily accessible, while others are located in thick vegetation making access difficult.

Due to the narrowness of the streets, automobiles are not allowed and the city is easily explored by foot, bicycle, or, as many locals favor donkey. Lamu also has world class hotel touts, who have the persistence of insurance salesmen, so be polite but firm in declining. Lamu is strictly Islamic, so visitors are advised to be sensitive in the way they dress.

Lamu is also unique in that it is host to three museums and a Fort with an impressive exhibition space, namely; Lamu Museum, Lamu Fort, German Post Office Museum, and Swahili House Museum. Lamu Museum can arrange guided tours to various archaeological and historical sites, whether to neighbouring Manda Island or further afield to Pate Island, where the ruins of the earliest known Swahili settlement of Shanga dated to the 8th century AD which can also be visited.

Lamu Island Resorts, Hotels & Lodges

The Majlis Hotel , Lamu Palace Hotel, Kipungani Explorer , Banana House, The Shela House , Peponi Hotel ,
Diamond Beach Village , Champali Camp, Madakani House, Kijani House, Mtende House Hotel, Baitil Guest House,
Lamu House Hotel


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Lynn Smithson

We had a FANTASTIC time in Botswana. We enjoyed our tour group (especially the crazy Italians), and the guides and staff were uniformly excellent. We particularly liked our head guide, Ronald (whose every story around the campfire late at night ended with the immortal words “….and all they found was his head….”), and the camp chef, Richard, who served us phenomenal gourmet dinners concocted in his primitive bush kitchen. The camping spots were lovely, the accommodations were very nice (2-person dome tents with shower/commode compartments), and our game drives were excellent -- we were able to see a huge variety of animals and birds. All in all, a great experience. Thanks for all of your assistance and we will definite refer any Afric...

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