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“Magnificent house in the heart of Lamu Town”
Review of Subira House

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Subira House
Ranked #6 of 34 Lamu Island B&B and Inns
Reviewed 5 June 2012

I recently spent nine days on Lamu and had the absolute pleasure of staying in the immaculate Subira House. My decision to travel to Lamu was a hasty one. I left Nairobi in search of some peace and quiet on the coast and intended to stay only in Ukunda and Malindi before returning to Nairobi. Once on the coast however, I realized I was in search of something more and began to look into ways to get to Lamu.
Admittedly, I did have apprehensions about traveling to Lamu with the ban only recently lifted and being a white, single female traveling alone, but the idea of this island paradise with only 2 cars and 2000 donkeys enticed me too much to keep me away! I had some communication with both Paul and Christina (the owners of Subira House) voicing my concerns before I arrived and their patient, encouraging words assured me that a trip to Lamu would be exactly what I needed.
Subira House is stunning. I could not have asked for a more beautiful, peaceful and magical (for lack of a better word!) place to stay. It was an absolute joy and luxury to call my home for the nine days that I stayed there (it should be noted that my original plan was to stay for only 3 days!).
Paul and Christina are gracious and welcoming hosts and it is clear they have taken time in choosing the best staff (incredibly attentive and kind) and the best chef (the food is superbly fresh and superbly delicious).
Not once in Lamu did I feel threatened or uneasy. I was completely comfortable walking around the streets by myself and found people to be warm and welcoming. I visited during the low season (end of May) and was one of only a handful of tourists on the island. I was recognized and remembered wherever I walked, which in some circumstances would make me quite nervous, but in Lamu circumstances only made me feel safer and more at home.
I highly recommend visiting the island of Lamu and I highly recommend staying at Subira House if you do. You will not be disappointed.

  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled solo
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4  Thank Hannah K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
crilamu, Owner at Subira House, responded to this reviewResponded 20 June 2012

We are so happy that you help us spread the word that Lamu is the special and wonderful place in the world for visitors to enjoy in safety and peace. So many among the Lamu people still suffer from freigtening words by journalists from last autumn. Most of us who live here know these events are other interior problems not proper kidnappings. Nothing to worry about.
Thanks for helping us and all of Lamu to survive!
Christina Aarts, manager and owner of Subira House

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Write a ReviewReviews (69)
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40 - 46 of 69 reviews

Reviewed 26 January 2012

Shane on Lonely Planet for omitting this wonderful guesthouse in the heart of Lamu from their latest edition of Kenya. From their dhow pick-up at Manda Airport to their fabulous little restaurant, we have been captivated by the hospitality of Paul and Christina Aarts and their wonderful staff. We are almost at the end of a 2 week stay and have occupied the Top-Top Room where the cool sea breezes and water view have continued to enchant us.We have a lovely patio and lounging area outside our bedroom where we are served huge breakfasts of local fruit, homemade granola and homemade yoghurt, gorgeous omelets and freshly baked bread. If one wishes, they can dine in the small Karkadeh Restaurant on the premises by making a reservation in the morning. The chef, Michael, is an artist in the kitchen using freshly caught seafood and freshly picked vegetables and fruit to create the most amazing soups, salads, entrees and desserts. We have eaten 4 dinners here so far and have not found another place that even closely compares with Karkadeh. In the evening, our room has its own little star-gazing terrace to relax on.
In addition, the Aarts have restored the house to reflect the traditional architecture of Lamu and, at the same time, use an eco-friendly approach to the daily functioning of the house. They supply very, absorbent silk towels and use an eco-san waste system (Subira should be in Lonely Planet's "green" index). If you are coming to Lamu, go to Subira House, you will be enchanted.

Room Tip: The Top-Top Room catches all the breezes and has a water view.
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  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank Carolyn F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 January 2012

We spent too short a time in this beautiful guest house on our third trip to Lamu since 1994. We were not disappointed.

The traditional Swahili house behind the fort is tastefully renovated, its spacious rooms and terraces furnished with an eye for every detail and very clean. Exceptional kitchen, friendly service and very nice and helpful owners.

  • Stayed: January 2012, travelled with family
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1  Thank victormerten
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 December 2011

This is a beautiful, peaceful house, and we were lucky to stay in the top appartment which was private, with its own balcony, and great views - very special. The decor is simple and traditional - the eco waterless toilet has inspired me to see if I could use something similar with development projects elsewhere in Africa. If you want beach and tourist modernities, you will need to go elsewhere, but if you want an intimate experience of Swahili culture, this is for you.

Lamu people are not always the friendliest to outsiders - its a traditional society and that has to be borne in mind - and ask before taking photos, but please DO NOT be put off by the security warnings about Lamu and Kenya in general. I felt perfectly safe in Lamu - its a main town with lots going on. There have been problems in more isolated locations nearer to the Somali border, and these are maybe best avoided - but Lamu has unfortunately and unjustifiably found itself lumped in with some of the reporting.

There are no cars on Lamu, only camels and donkeys. Its a way of life that is fast disappearing - maybe only Massawa old town (Eritrea), Stone Town (Zanzibar) and a handful of other places still capture the east Africa coastal culture.

  • Stayed: August 2011, travelled as a couple
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1  Thank senti2comun
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 November 2011

...stay here! I'm not going to review Lamu, just go.

First of all, Kristina is a welcoming, knowledgable host with excellent taste. She has lived in Lamu for decades and is activelly trying to improve Lamu for everyone! If you get an offer for a night tour of the town, please don't pass it up!

She has created a wonderful oasis, with prepared local meals if you want to dine in. The rooms are spare and beautiful and she will organize airport pick up and drop off to the house, taking some of the egde of the process of haggling, standard fare that can feel threatening or just annoying if you're not used to it. The rates are reasonable even for locals. If you stay, ask for a day trip to Manda Toto. Babu and Bubu, our guides, we great too!

(They have ecologically sound Swedish toilets that don't pollute the water shed and are odorless!)

Room Tip: Top top if you wanna "splurge"
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  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank frida K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 October 2011

Me and my daugther Agnes spend almost a month in Subira House in May 2011.
We had a lifetime experience. Subira House is run in an unusual way, with ecology and beauty as focus. Everything around the place is genuine. Subira House is a rolemodel. Values and heart are obvious, everything is beautiful and the food is more than exotic, every raw material is from Lamu island and cooked with regards to the 30 year of experience of cooking most genuine, worldfood of Christina and Paul, today with their well inhouse-trained cooks. You can tell it is a mix of traditions from around the world. All most beautiful as we enjoyed so much. We felt so warmly taken care of, from inside and out. All the growth, fruits, flowers, the starry nights, sitting down at the dinnertable at Subira House in not an ordinary experience, but an extraordinar experience! Also, to tell the trues, as I see it, because of the hearts of Christina and Paul and their whole way of looking at life - Subira House is vistited by a lot of worldimprovers, people with big hearts who already are doing theimselves worldimporving things daily. We had a lot of exciting meetings while at Lamu, thanks to you! Both with inhabitants and great friends in the village and interesting people visiting Subira House.

Room Tip: Top floor appartments are wonderful.
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  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled with family
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1  Thank MatildaGregersdotter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 11 October 2011

Stayed in Subira in September 2011 and it was brilliant. Beautiful house and rooms, very well appointed and designed; great location, just off the main square back from the shore; lovely balconies and areas for relaxing; and excellent breakfasts and dinners. A lovely, calm and relaxing place to stay; I would strongly recommend it.

  • Stayed: September 2011
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1  Thank Andrew786
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Subira House

Address: Behind Lamu Fort | P.O. Box 341, Lamu Island 80500, Kenya
Region: Kenya > Coast Province > Lamu Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #6 of 34 B&Bs / Inns in Lamu Island
Price Range: £48 - £72 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 7
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The charming and comfortable seven-bedroom historic 200 years old home has two beautiful gardens and plenty of cool terraces to relax and enjoy the tropical breeze as you accustom yourself to Lamu's gentle pace. Right in the middle of Old Lamu Town.Meals on request.Wine licence.Subira House,a 200-year-old coral stone house was built by the governor under the Sultan of Zanzibar now carefully preserved by its Swedish/Dutch owners. ... more   less 
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