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Subira House
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Reviewed 27 March 2013

We can only repeat the glowing descriptions of Subira House in previous posts. Our experience of this unique setting comes from having spent 8 weeks there, residing in the ground floor apartment available for people - such as ourselves - who require long-term accommodations. Subira House has the advantage of being centrally located in Lamu, right behind the Old Fort, which fronts on the main square, Mkunguni, and the new jetty. From the top of Subira House, you can see Manda Island and the Lamu Channel, and enjoy the beautiful sunrises.

We have nothing but praise for the proprietors, Paul and Christina Aarts, and their friendly, competent staff. One special feature of Subira House is its comfortable lounge areas accessible only to residents, and therefore quiet and private. The Aarts were very helpful in arranging explorations of the Lamu Archipelago that further enhanced our exposure to Swahili culture. We especially appreciated the substantial and nutritious breakfasts served every morning on the veranda.

An insider tip: Subira House features the Karkadeh Restaurant, which is open in the evening by reservation only. The Aarts ran a Slow Food restaurant in Sweden for many years, so their Lamu menu features delicious organically-grown local food from their garden and nearby farms. If you don’t stay at Subira House, you owe it to yourself to make reservations for the best restaurant in Lamu!

There is only one place we would consider staying, should we return to Lamu, and that is Subira House!

Room Tip: For long term - a month or more - the first floor apartment. For shorter stays, the top-top rooms catch the breeze off the water at night for more comfortable sleep in the warmth.
  • Stayed: January 2013, travelled as a couple
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4  Thank Rich G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 January 2013

This is our second stay at Subira House, having spent 2 weeks here last January, we decided to try a month. Lamu is magical and Subira House is the icing on the cake! Christina and Paul have continued to improve this beautiful structure. We are staying in the other Top-Top room which has a lovely lounge and courtyard and captures the wonderful breezes off the water. From here, we can see the sailboats moving by or look down in the alleyway and see the constant foot traffic of locals and their children, men playing a board game into the night and hear the call to prayer and the many voices singing. The perfume garden is much further along this year and the flowers and fragrances are amazing. Christina and Paul are a font of knowledge on local customs and activities and often include their guests in trips to other islands, special meals, a session of yoga or a dinner with a local Iman. The staff here is terrific. Everyone tries to please. Any problem is sorted out quickly. In addition, the Karkadeh restaurant which is part of Subira is far and away the best restaurant on the island. Michael, the chef, is a genius with local food introducing us to unimagineable flavors. Kennedy has become very proficient in his serving position (and in anything he is asked to do). Each meal seems better than the last. So, like love, Subira House is even lovelier the second time around!

Room Tip: If you can afford the little extra, choose one of the Top-Top rooms. The view and breezes are worth it!
  • Stayed: January 2013, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank Carolyn F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
crilamu, Manager at Subira House, responded to this reviewResponded 1 February 2013

All of us are very very happy to read these words! and is so wonderful to have you back here again with us! Soon we will experience the Maulidi Ceremonies, so much is happening here in Lamu Old Town.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 January 2013

Probably the nicest house in Lamu, it's an original Arab style house, built around the time of the fort, that has been painstakingly restored down to every detail and accent by the Christina and Paul, the amazing owners. It's better than the museum house. Check out the pictures for details.

What's really a hidden gem and what makes this amazing value for money is Christina and Paul and Jailani, their main tour guide and fixer for everything you need, who was born in Lamu. The couple who fixed up the house have been coming to Lamu for forty years. They are a fount of knowledge about everything and anything you could possibly want to do, and have the most amazing stories about Lamu, how it has changed over the years, and the ins and outs of local culture and politics. Jailani, who will show you around town after you arrive at the house and will probably meet you at the airport, helps get you oriented and can point out where to go for everything (and just as importantly, where not to go). He knows everyone, literally.

I was only in Lamu for two nights on a weekend trip from Nairobi. I was on my own, so when I arrived, Christina invited me and another couple staying at the house to go to Manda island, where we hung out on an empty beach, went for a walk, got great pizza at club on the Indian Ocean, and then watched an open air screening of Nairobi Halflife (an awesome film I'd been meaning to see in Nairobi). The location of this beach they showed me was so awesome (take a boat to Diamond Club beach-- the club has a great bar and rooms of its own), I spent the entire afternoon there the next day, reading and taking walks along the beach. I then met up with Christina and Paul for dinner at an amazing Swahili restaurant on the waterfront and listened for hours about the history of Lamu and what brought them there in the first place. An incredible evening with fantastic people.

Lamu was an fantastic weekend trip that exceeded expectations on all fronts, in large part due to the awesome people at Subira and the incredible peacefulness of the house. It's location, right at the center of town, can't be beat. The winding alleyways of Lamu are right there for you to explore. If you go to Lamu, definitely stay here!

  • Stayed: January 2013, travelled solo
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Thank Ryan S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 January 2013

It was an absolute pleasure to stay at Subira House. Christina and Paul are lovely hosts - so clearly passionate about Lamu, the environment and their guests. What I loved most was that you are not confined to your room - in this arab style house, there are beautiful courtyards, inner gardens, terraces to just relax or read a book. Great location just behind the old fort (Lamu can be a bit of a maze!). I look forward to staying here again next time I'm in Lamu.

  • Stayed: November 2012, travelled solo
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Thank Jeevika_M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 November 2012

This was an amazing place situated in a beautiful old stone house. You can feel that the owners have put their heart and soul into the place and they are very helpful looking after every detail of you stay. Each and every room is individually decorated and the boundaries between inside outside is blurred with the lovely galleries where you can have a sun down in the evening or just relax. With just a few rooms you will found the atmosphere in the house very calm and friendly and you will feel like home (or wish it was your actual home…).

The house is located only a five minutes walk from the jetty, where you will find the “taxis” (boats) taking you to the beach or wherever you want to go. You will also find many good restaurants and small shops within just a few walking minuets. I would strongly recommend having dinner at their restaurant, Karkadeh, at least one evening of your stay. Get ready for a real feast as Michael, their excellent chef, won’t let you down.

The eco-friendly concept strongly appeals to me and with eco-san toilets and the “law” of the three R’s, reduces, reuse, recycle, deeply rooted and advocated. Christina and Paul try really hard to reduce the hotels ecological footprint on Lamus’ fragile environment and hopefully their work will inspire other hotels to choose the same path.

  • Stayed: November 2012, travelled with family
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1  Thank CarlssonsMaria
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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