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You are here: Home Kenya Lamu Island,Kenya Mtende House Hotel Lamu

Mtende House Hotel Lamu

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Owners Buzz and Jax first stumbled on Lamu in 1978. They were living and working in Southern Sudan and went to Kenya for a well earned break. For many years they dreamt of having their own home there. Now that this dream has become a reality they are delighted to share their Retreat, Mtende House, with you.

Mtende house is situated in a very peaceful corner of Shela village next to sand dunes covered in bush and close to the ruins of an old mosque now a place were only monkeys play. The bird life is great, and occasionally a shy bushbuck is seen picking a discrete path through the dense dune vegetation.

The house consists of a ground floor with single bedroom and a small cloakroom. The main kitchen is situated here (but is complemented by a small kitchen way up on the roof terrace where you can also prepare hot drinks and snacks and raid the bar fridge without tackling any stairs!)

On the first floor there is a large airy double bedroom with a balcony and seating and extra barazas for sleeping. From here there are great peaceful views of the dunes and bush and the Friday Mosque. On this level there is a bathroom and spacious landing with balcony window.

A further flight of stairs leads to the second floor and another large airy bedroom with balcony and more dune views, a bathroom and landing with balcony window overlooking village. Simply but elegantly furnished with traditional kikoy and woven fabrics accented with richer textiles here and there, the rooms are all light and full of sunshine, but shuttered for shady afternoon siestas.

Finally there is a last flight of stairs to the roof top with its comfortable sofas, 'veg out' barazas and hammocks, the open plan dining area and the aforementioned small kitchen. You will spend much of every day in this penthouse haven in the gentle breeze, involving yourself in the politics of the birds feeding in the foliage nearby or the daily debate on whether to take the scenic route to the beach or the one which goes via the bar at Peponi? A knock on the front door below will require a peep over the wall to check if the fishermen have appeared with the promised oysters or if it's the guys selling mangrove crabs. Ho hum...another busy day!
By the time you get onto the roof you are almost level with the dunes and there is a great glimpse of the sea and Manda island past the Friday mosque.

None of our Retreats are far enough from the beach to make a difference of more than five minutes and there's nothing to choose between them on that basis, however Mtende House adds a different dimension to Shela sitting as it is nestled at the foot of the dunes and reminds one what a sleepy little place the village really is, and how much natural life inhabits the dunes at its fringes.

It's a lovely spot and ideal for one or two couples looking for a romantic hideaway and at a price that makes it more affordable than a hotel. The house has been lovingly built with great attention to artisanal skills and traditional detail. Many of the doors and windows are antiques and were collected over the years when Buzz and Jax were only Shela dreaming. Now Mtende is real and the doors are open wide in welcome.

Champali Camp

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.

Mtende House Hotel 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

Wendy Jones Eric Hamilton

My Family and I wanted to let you know how great everything was on our safari. You had recommended that at this time of year (June-August) the best game viewing would be in South Africa. We certainly can’t talk for other locations, but the Botswana-South Africa package you suggested was just what we were hoping for. We stayed in three places for three nights each. They included Mashatu in Botswana, Pafuri in Northern Kruger, and Mala Mala near Southern Kruger. Some of the highlights of Mashatu included watching wild dogs devour a wart hog, seeing four young cheetahs interact, and observing a newborn elephant breast feed. All in addition to sighting lots of giraffe, lions, leopard, elephant, zebra, etc. Our ranger, Jakes, was outstanding an...

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