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“Magical Paradise”
Review of Mkoko House

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Mkoko House
Ranked #9 of 34 Lamu Island B&B and Inns
Brussels, Belgium
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Magical Paradise”
Reviewed 20 February 2013

When you arrive at Mkoko House on Manda island it is really like entering a safe haven from the world, from the moment you step off the boat onto the sandy beach across from the gorgeous Shela Village there is total calm.

There are many beautiful beaches and islands in the world, but there is something special about the mix of natural beauty, rich culture and the great people of this Lamu archipelago.

Somehow the week spent at Mkoko went by so quickly with trips to Lamu and Shela, a dhow trip to Manda Toto, boating through the mangroves to Takwa Ruins, drinks and dinner at Peponi and Franks, cinema/pizza night at Diamond's down the road, testing recipes with the amazing cook/housekeeper Idi and swimming on what seemed like a private swimming pool at high tide on Manda Beach.

There is plenty of space to relax and read or simply do nothing, but there is also choice if you want to keep busy and try all the things that the archipelago has to offer.

Am already missing spending the week in flip-flops and waking up to the sound of birds singing above the mangroves, if you are lucky you may even see a little monkey or two! The view from the house extends over the mangroves until you can see the sea and Lamu's bay from afar.

Idi's cooking is also hands down the best food in the area, breakfast in the garden or in the first floor dining area is a feast of fresh fruit - mangoes, papayas, passion fruit, oranges, bananas and whatever else you fancy. We had fresh fish in a myriad ways, octopus, Swahili food, clams with spaghetti and the delicious Swahili chai and cake every afternoon.

The house is eco-friendly, relying entirely on solar panels for electricity and a water tank which fills up during rainy season so you can take showers as normal. The house is built in traditional Swahili style with a big Makuti roof and decorated with furniture made by local artisans on every floor.

All in all, staying at Mkoko House was a wonderful experience and definitely one to repeat. Make sure you go to the first floor terrace at night to look at the stars, you won't be disappointed.

  • Stayed February 2013, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank Gabriella Z
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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38 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
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  • Sleep Quality
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Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (6)
Date | Rating
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English first
Mumbai (Bombay), India
Level 2 Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed 16 September 2012

Mkoko House is a gorgeous, airy house surrounded by a sea of green treetops, and the perfect getaway for those who make it across the channel from Shela. Idi, the house's caretaker, makes guests at Mkoko feel right at home and his food is, hands down, the BEST we had in one week in Lamu! Just have a brief conversation with Idi and Beka about the meals you'd like to have, and give Idi money to buy the ingredients.. Leave the rest to him and you'll be wishing his meals never ended!

We will never forget our stay in Mkoko and hope to come back one day very soon for more than just one night!

  • Stayed September 2012, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
2 Thank Priya P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 September 2012

Mkoko House is a fantastic place to stay! One of only 20 odd private residences on Manda island, it is well away from the hustle and bustle of the Old Town on Lamu and Shela. It offers 3 well appointed en suite bedrooms (Mkoko on the 1st floor is definitely the best) and a whole range of areas to sit and appreciate the peace and quiet. Idi, who manages the place for the owner, is on hand to cook for you and serves excellent Kenyan and European food.

Mkoko is 5 minutes walk from Manda beach which is beautiful and virtually deserted. There are a few bars and restaurants on the island and Shela and Lamu Old Town are both a short boat ride away.

  • Stayed August 2012, travelled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank GreyhoundRover
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level 4 Contributor
16 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
Reviewed 25 March 2012

Mkoko House was everything that I could have wished for and more.

Being the only guest, I had the whole property to myself for 5 nights. By day, I relaxed on the beautiful Manda Beach or caught up on my reading underneath the shade of the trees, while by night I looked up at the stars. For those 5 days, life suddenly became so simple and relaxing. The only decision I had to make every day was whether to explore the left or right hand side of the beach.

Mkoko House is just a short walk from the beach, but this for me was a bonus. It meant that you were surrounded by very little apart from mangroves and the local wildlife. The family of 10 monkeys coming to say goodbye on the final day was a particular highlight.

The house itself has everything you need for a 'getting away from it all' experience. Comfy beds, lots of airy spaces to relax, and a great cook and housekeeper in the shape of Idi. You will never want for anything, never miss any of the mod cons that you'd previously thought were mandatory, and it was very hard for me to tear myself away from this idyllic lifestyle.

In short, it was pretty much perfect. Book now.

Room Tip: The Mkoko room seemed to be the best room from what I could see. The lounge on the top floor was...
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  • Stayed March 2012, travelled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank pcuk1979
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Budapest, Hungary
Level 4 Contributor
30 reviews
16 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 50 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 October 2011

It's difficult to write about Mkoko House avoiding childish excitement. The world is big, and there are so much to see, so much to visit... yet, after staying just 4 nights, an irresistible urge developed in us to visit the place again.

I could write about the Swahili culture, the bustling small Lamu Old Town nearby, the long stretches of flour like sand (which broke my old camera, btw), the dhows, etc
But Mkoko House is about not doing anything. Just laying on one of the many mats in one corner of the house's intriguing Swahili architecture. Listening to the breeze from the Ocean and to the silence. Watching the green carpet of mangrove forest in the background of Shela's sand dunes, or the white sails of the dhows heading to Takwa ruins, like dorsal fins of sharks in the green sea of mangrove.
Eating one of Iddi's, the caretaker's fabolous dishes..

It's admirable, so I have to highlight that even if the house has three double rooms, it's Nicholas' (the owners) policy not to book additional guests to the period of your stay. (eg. we were just for three alone in the house)

Even if I'm not a typical 5star hotel visitor, I was a bit afraid of an eco-lodge, as I'd never been to one before:
- Water: There's no freshwater on Manda. But they're collecting well enough rainwater in reservoirs to give you plenty to shower in. Its temperature is cool which is just about right close to the Equator.
- Power is generated by PV-panels, and stored in batteries, so we always had enough to have lights for dinner or after dinner games.
- Eating: As mentioned above Iddi can prepare you just about anything, you just need to pay him for the cost of the ingredients. He's a great cook, and a very friendly host.

All-in-all we felt Mkoko the ultimate relaxing paradise.

Having said that there are dangers threatening this paradise:
1) Another similar house has been just built next to Mkoko - if it's hosting a different kind of clientele, their noise can spoil Mkoko's serenity.
2) On a bigger scale, Somalia is not far Lamu archipelago. We didn't have any problem, insecurity, bad feeling about it, but I can just hope that despite the proximity, the area's isolation to this failed state remains like it used to be.
3) There are immense plans to build a huge commercial port on Manda, bigger than the one in Mombasa, with oil refinery, etc. for a total of 22B$. That will be the end of Lamu, as we know it. So I can only recommend to visit this paradise till it's not destroyed.

  • Stayed August 2011, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank bgorboi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Edinburgh
Level 5 Contributor
50 reviews
23 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
Reviewed 24 August 2011

When we arrived at Mkoko House we had had a busy two weeks on Safari and elsewhere on the Swahili coast. Our plan was simply to chill out and relax for five days before returning home. We were not disappointed. We knew this was somewhere special when we waded ashore from the dhow onto the white sandy beach. The ten minute trek with our luggage was a bit of an effort but well worth it when we got there. I had booked the B&B expecting a room in a very nice house but we went one better with the whole place to ourselves - apart from Idi that is, who cooked our meals and kept the place spotless. This is this is the sort of place you go if you like lying in a hammock reading a book, swimming in the sea and walking on the beach. no beach sellers to hassle you, no shops, one bar close by and lots of birds in the trees. The only thing we had to think about was suggestions for dinner when Idi went across to Shela to buy provisions.

There are things to do - A walk or dhow trip to the Takwa ruins is a must as is a day in Lamu town. You travel everywhere by dhow. Idi would book one on his mobile although we could probably have picked one up on the beach. The cost of hiring Dhows does have to be factored into the cost of staying on the island (a few hundred ksh per trip for the boat depending on where you are going) but you can always try haggling it down a bit. There wasnot much to do in the evening - a trip to the local bar is about it but that's not what this place is about. There is plenty of buzz in Lamu town where most travellers stay and some upmarket hotels dotted around the archipeligo.

This was our first trip to Kenya and I was in two minds whether to stay in Mkoko house on Manda or in Lamu town. We were both in no doubt I made the right choice. If we had booked Mkoko House for the beginning or even the second week of our holiday, we might have been kicking our heels a bit with so much still to see and do but we could not have ended our stay in Kenya in a better place.

Room Tip: Just ask when you book - the main bedroom is the Mkoko room. You will probably have the house to you...
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  • Stayed July 2011, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank sharps19ud
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Nairobi, Kenya
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 August 2011

Mkoko house is a little gem of a place. i stayed here with my girlfriend and her parents, and it was just lovely from start to finish. Idi is fantastic - so helpful, sweet and kind, and he cooks some incredible food. I would particularly recommend his vegetable curry and his fresh crab dish.

The house is set back a bit off the beach, about a five minute walk, but the third floor reading area makes up for all of that. With a hammock, lounge couch and another swinging bed, that location will be in my memory forever. So relaxing, and the best place to read and lay back ever. I spent most of my time up there, and eventually decided to sleep up there as well. The breeze always comes through the area, and you can see the ocean and all across the mangroves on the island. All in all, a truly fantastic place, and Idi and hte manager were always happy to help arrange trips to Shela and Lamu. I highly recommend the restaurant at the Pepponi hotel too - easily some of the best food I have had in Kenya.

  • Stayed March 2011, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
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Helpful?
1 Thank africaforlife
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Mkoko House

Property: Mkoko House
Address: Ras Kitau, Lamu Island, Kenya
Region: Kenya > Coast Province > Lamu Island
Amenities:
Beach
Hotel Style:
Ranked #9 of 34 B&Bs / Inns in Lamu Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): £
Number of rooms: 3
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Enjoy the beaches, the warm coastal hospitality, the delicious Swahili cuisine, and the peaceful and quiet surroundings of the house. Fully indulge in everything the Lamu archipelago has to offer and you will be sure to fall in love with this little gem. ... more   less 

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