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Champali Camp, Kiwaiyu Archipelago, Lamu

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And now for something completely different: As an add-on to your stay in Lamu or as a magical escape from the 21st Century consider a trip to Champali Camp in the Kiwaiyu Archipelago north of Lamu. Robinson Crusoe never had it so good!

Established with the permission of Kenya Wildlife Service and the local community in 1998, Champali Camp originated as a rustic base-camp for wildlife and ethnological film-makers Etienne Oliff and Lucy Bateman. Filming complete, the camp has been re-built to offer a higher level of comfort, and is today run and managed by Kiwaiyu community members.

The Kiunga Marine National Reserve (KMNR) is situated on the northern limit of the Kenyan coast and incorporates 22 miles of pristine coastline, 51 islands and a total area of 2000km square. The waters and islands within its boundaries were gazetted in 1979 to primarily safeguard the nesting colonies of marine birds, the highly endangered Dugong and turtle nesting beaches.

In 1980 the KMNR and the adjoining Boni and Dodori National Reserves were together designated as a United Nations Man and Biosphere Reserve, in recognition of rare ecological and cultural diversity. Today the Kiunga Marine Reserve stands as the last vestige of the disappearing wilderness of the East African coast. Not only unique for its ecological diversity, it also incorporates the ancestral land of the Bajun people of the Swahili Coast whose vibrant culture is deeply engrained in the area.

Bordered to the east by wild mainland Africa and to the west by the rich Indian Ocean, it is an ecological jigsaw; a mosaic of tropical marine life, tidal creeks, flourishing mangrove forests, sand dunes, coral atolls and pristine beaches.

The camp’s ethos is one committed to community-driven conservation of the Kiunga Marine Reserve and to the support of Kenya Wildlife Service, WWF, KIBODO Trust and the Kiwaiyu Island Welfare Association (KIWA). 15% of every Champali guest's payment goes directly to latter two of these community groups to support their projects which struggle for funding.


The three bedroom bandas each have a wonderful view across the water and mangroves beyond, with plenty of space to sit and take it all in. Two of the rooms can easily sleep two children, and the bed configuration can be altered to suit your needs. Each has a dressing room area, and a practical bucket-shower with a long-drop toilet.

The main mess is spacious, comfortable and friendly with a fully furnished kitchen with gas stove & oven, fridge and drinks cooler. There are ceiling fans for the hot mid-days, but in the evening nothing beats sitting under the fantastic starry skies, or eating out on the beach with a fire.
Water on the island comes by donkey from one central well, a long walk away, so guests are asked to use water sparingly - though not at the cost of comfort! The camp is powered completely by wind and solar power, so providing light in all rooms, with sockets for stereos or charging in main mess and two of the bedrooms.

Getting There:

Getting to the remote Kiunga Marine Reserve is quite a safari …hence its allure. We recommend travelling via LAMU, which not only has its own attractions, but also means you can pick up your supplies There is basically no shopping in Kiwaiyu, so you will need to get the majority of your supplies in Lamu on your way up. Or we can help you arrange to pre-order your supplies from a shop in Lamu and have these ready to take up with you when you get there.

Flying to Lamu:
There are daily flights with Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Fly 540 or Safarilink. These flights, and places to stay in Lamu or Shela, can all be booked.

From Lamu to Kiwaiyu:
Whilst there are a number of ways to make the trip, for reasons of simplicity and economy, we recommend and can assist in arranging the following options:

If you are five adults or more you should, in true Swahili style, come up by Dhow, together with your luggage, and supplies. Comfortable and reliable dhows with engine & sail, providing shade, cushions and refreshments can be arranged and the voyage northwards to Kiwaiyu through the archipelago takes about 5 hours.

As most commercial flights arrive in Lamu in the afternoon, we recommend that the first night is spent in Lamu or Shela, permitting enough time the next day to buy supplies and enjoy a leisurely trip northwards to Kiwaiyu, arriving mid-late afternoon.

At the end of your stay, the dhow can return to collect you, or you could return by speed-boat, which, without supplies, can take up to 6 adults and 4 children plus personal luggage.

If you are less than five adults you could if preferred, travel with all your luggage and supplies in a speed-boat, which takes about 1.5 hours. ‘Flopsam’- the camp’s 25 ft speed-boat can be chartered to collect you from Lamu or the airstrip.

By Private aircraft:
For those of you wishing to fly in by private aircraft, there is a small, un-registered bush strip on the island, right next to the camp, which can be tricky depending on winds and not suitable for anything bigger than a Cessna 210. Be sure to let the Champali staff know ahead of time, and buzz a couple of times to make sure all is clear of wildlife and children.


Swimming and waters-ports gear:
Depending on your interests, you need to bring beach toys, snorkelling gear, fishing gear, surfboards, boogie boards, windsurfers, kites etc.

Sun-protection: Essential, as are adequate hats etc.

First Aid: No First Aid is available in camp, so this is an essential item for you to assemble and bring.
Emergency evacuation: Given the remoteness of Kiwaiyu, you would also be advised to get Flying Doctor’s emergency evacuation membership ( or your own Medevac Insurance, as there is no adequate medical facility nearby. Faza, on Pate Island, and Lamu are the nearest hospitals, and very basic.

Mobile phones: There is Safaricom mobile reception on Kiwaiyu. Purchasing a Safaricom broadband dongle at the airport in Nairobi on arrival will allow you internet access and email if you take your own laptop. Radio link to other camps in the archipelago is available in camp.

Music player: You may want to bring your own stereo/ipod etc. There is plenty of electricity for music. There will be more local information upon your arrival - or do not hesitate to get in touch with any specific concerns or questions.


Champali camp is ideally situated to explore the mangrove creeks, the many sandy beaches and the greater Marine Reserve beyond. From simply spending days reading in the shade of the trees, to adventuring in unchartered territory, there is something for everyone, children and adults alike.

The 5 mile long ‘Big Beach’ on the eastern side of the island is fantastic for kite flying, long walks, and early morning sunrise yoga …whilst the small beach in-front of the camp from mid-tide onwards is your very own pool of contentment.

Snorkelling is fantastic from Nov-March, on both sides of the island. The Champali team can show you when and where is best.

There are two kayaks available; ideal vessels to quietly explore the mangrove creeks, do a little fishing from, or even to brave out in the open waters. Endless fun for kids too.

For windsurfers, kite-surfers and sailors, enthusiasts have both creek and ocean to choose from with fantastic conditions and reliable wind. Bring your own gear!

A well-powered 25ft boat, ‘Flopsam’, complete with life-jackets, 2 snorkelling sets and a knowledgeable captain is available for hire and is perfect for family explorations - day trips and picnics to other islands, bays or mangrove channels, as well for snorkelling, creek fishing and…. Sun-downers.

Champali Camp Photos

Nairobi Serena Lounge
Nairobi Serena - Dining
Nairobi Serena Hotel - Garden Suite
Nairobi Serena Hotel - Suite
Nairobi Serena Hotel - Conference
Nairobi Serena Hotel - Pool Side

Nairobi Serena                          Hotel


Feedback From Clients

Alexander Leonard

Dear Davies, We had an amazing trip to Africa and can't thank you enough for everything you did! There were no problems anywhere whatsoever, the Orient Express camps were incredible, the wildlife was breathtaking and all 10 travelers were thrilled. Thanks again for putting together such a great trip. I will be sending anyone I know your way when it comes to booking travel to Africa!

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