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Lamu..some trip feedback

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Lamu..some trip feedback

I've wanted to visit Lamu for years and finally had the opportunity to do so this September. Thought I'd share some reflections.

Firstly safety and security. Lamu is subject to the UK governments 'avoid all but essential travel' advisory. This poses problems with travel insurance, but there are companies that will insure against UK FCO advice, albeit at an additional premium. Not going to second guess why Lamu Island continues to carry a health warning with the UK and other western governments. Suffice to say that my trip was trouble free and Lamu felt as safe as just about anyhwere else. Probably a different matter if wanting to travel off the islands. I enquired about a couple fo trips to the near mainland but these couldn't be arranged without complex security arrangements, armed escorts etc, so I gave them a miss. Interestingly, and alarmingly, fear of corruption and informers within the Kenyan police service was cited as the main security threat to foreigners.

Costs. Doesn't need to be expensive. You can get a return fligh from the UK to Nairobi for $5-600 (Turkish Airlines) and a Jambojet rtn Nairobi to Lamu for $100-120. Lots of options on hotels as so few tourists; bargains to be had with minimum negotiation. Check out airbnb. Think $30-50 per night for en suite with fan (and pool.) Lots of great food for very modest sums.

Lamu Town. Dirty, smelly, captivating, unique, noisy, boisterous, bustling, challenging, beautiful. Yup Lamu lived up to expectations. Loved the narrow streets between high buildings,views over the Lamu skyline, the life lived on the streets, the sensuality scarcely hidden beneath the outward dispays of Islamic conservatism. Great for people watching, random meets, random chats I guess that many aspects of social and commercial life and their visual manifestations have not changed for hundreds of years. Can't think of a better place on the planet to sit in a cafe with a fruit juice and watch the world and his donkey go by. Despite so few foreign visitors not much in the way of hassle or hustle, and nothing that couldn;t be disarmed with a respectful 'no thanks'. A few words of Swahili go a long way.

Shela. The second settlement on the Island. The people of Shela sold their land and property to the wazungu some time ago, The proceeds funded relocation to Mombasa and realisation of dreams. Good luck to them. What they left behind is now a sanitised, polished and ethnically cleansed version of a Swahili village. Lovely beach undoubetdly. But otherwise this dollar fuelled, tropcal artifice left us cold. The consensus amongst the Lamu folk we spoke to about Shela was that they felt it no longer belonged to them. Enough said.

Other stuff. Weather was pretty cool during the evenings; think maybe it was unusually chilly for time of year. Days were hot. Mornings could be a little cloudy but always cleared after midday. Walked just about everwhere, including across the Island to the village of Matondoni. Start early and it's an interesting excursion through the bush and small farms. Varied birdlife. If you like to run or jog, there's an easy promenade and beach run to Shela and back.

Takwa ruins on Manda Island were atmospheric. Not as extensive or as well preserved as Gede, but very peaceful amidst the mangrove and bushy scrub. Big rollers for body surfing on the deserted beach nearby if that takes your fancy. You can walk the few miles to the Manda ruins from here and arrange to get picked up from the hotel at Manda Bay. Suprising amount of wildlife on Manda that you might see en route.

Lamu needs the income that comes from tourism. I hope my musings have at least inspired you to contemplate a visit. I will guarantee there is nowhere quite like it on the Kenyan coast and possibly the rest of East Africa. Happy to try and answer any questions...


12 replies to this topic
1. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

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Removed on: 26 September 2016, 19:05
Glasgow, United...
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2. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

Lamu town, shela, manda and its scenic shorelines are unforgettable,

I must make my fourth trip in near future.

Mombasa, Kenya
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3. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

is a island of history shela beach is awsome, very clean white sandy

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for Malindi, Ukunda, Kenya
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4. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

Great to read this brilliant, memories-inducing summary. What a wonderful place, there is (literally) nowhere else like it. Thank you!

Richard Trillo

The Rough Guide to Kenya

Kenya Programme Manager at Expert Africa

Nairobi, Kenya
Destination Expert
for Nairobi, Kenya
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5. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

Great stuff !!

Lamu is quite going back in time.

No cars, narrow alleys, ancient dhows, fuel lanterns, forts, wooden carved doors, donkeys, expresso coffee, sea breeze, fresh seafood from the ocean, humble & kind locals.

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6. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

Would love to travel there...however security constraints keep me back going there... Really hope that places like Lamu & Erta Ale/ Danakil will turn into safe places to travel one day..

Lamu Island, Kenya
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7. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

On Lamu Island itself were no problems since 2011. Problems were on Mainland but not on the island. We recommend our guest to travel by plane. Especially Jambojet has cheap fares from Nairobi and Malindi.

New York City
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8. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

thanks for sharing your experiences, I'm heading there soon and I'm looking forward to it!

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9. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

MariMari, if you fly in, there should be no safety/security concerns. Lamu itself cannot be compared to the troubles in the region of Erta Ale and the Danakil Depression.

Edited: 05 February 2018, 09:46
Windsor, Canada
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10. Re: Lamu..some trip feedback

Hey Chico, have you been to Zanzibar...if so how would you compare the two?

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