KENYA Part IV: The ultimate guide for Lamu Island

In my previous posts I wrote about what to see and do in Nairobi and its surroundings. What to eat, where to find it and of course, where to dance.

This new post is a recommendation about how to end your trip to Kenya. After you have done your sightseeing plan in Nairobi and the surroundings, and you have seen the Big5 during your safari at the Masai Mara National Park, what else can you do in Kenya?… Go to the beach! Kenya has some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa, especially in the Mombasa area. I think it’s a good way to end your trip, as I said in my previous posts. I have never been to Mombasa itself but it’s on my plan. I have also heard a lot about Diani beach but I have only visited Lamu beach. So… here are my recommendations if you decide to go to Lamu.

How to reach Lamu:

You can take a short 1 hour 10 minute flight from Nairobi to Lamu Island, arriving at midday. Prices vary depending on when you book. On average, it will be between 10.000 Ksh – 17.000 Ksh for a return flight. I paid about 12.000 Ksh for my flight and I booked it like 2 weeks in advance. Then you take a 15 min boat from the airport to the main island to Lamu town. (FYI: 1€ = ca. 110 Ksh in january 2016)

You could go by bus if you wanna save money but there is no direct bus. You have to go to Mombasa or Malindi first and then connect with another bus. From Nairobi to Lamu by bus you will pay in total between 1.800 and 2.400 Ksh depending on the bus company and the type of seats.

arriving to Manda airport in Lamu island
arriving to Manda airport in Lamu island
Arriving to Lamu town
Arriving to Lamu town

Day 1 in Lamu:

On your first day you can just relax at Shela beach. It’s like a 20 minute walk from the city and it’s a quiet place with white sand and not many people… perfect for relaxing and working on your tan ;-). But be careful on the way back to the city. If it’s late you might not be able to walk the same way back. When I was there the sea level rose so high that the original path was flooded. The water wouldn‘t allow us to walk and it becomes dangerous. You can either take a boat or walk a different and longer way back.

You could also enjoy the city on your first day just walking around, eating, drinking, looking at the sea and riding donkeys.

Lamu is a nice old city with Arabic architecture and influence. Donkeys are everywhere.

Riding a donkey while fotobombed by my friend, haha
Riding a donkey while fotobombed by my friend, haha
Walking around Lamu island
Walking around Lamu island
Walking around Lamu island
Walking around Lamu island

You can get lost walking through a lot of its small streets where they sell local food and play local music. There is a big TV screen showing the news for the locals at the main square at night.

Walking around in Lamu island
Walking around in Lamu island
The braided team walking around Lamu island
The braided team walking around Lamu island
I was impressed by the quantity of people watching the news in the main square
I was impressed by the quantity of people watching the news in the main square

Day 2 in Lamu:

You will be enchanted by the beautiful sunrise if you wake up early.

 

Beautiful sunrise in Lamu island
Beautiful sunrise in Lamu island

On your second day you can sail to Manda Island. Make sure that you arrange the price with any local boat owner the night before. Once you are at Manda Island, you can visit the Takwa ruins. They are a reflection of a small ancient Swahili walled city abandoned in the 16th Century. You can also see the baobab trees and try to hug one, haha. Check my picture…

Trying to hug a baobab tree with my friends
Trying to hug a baobab tree with my friends

Reaching the ruins is also a good exercise for trek lovers. You will have to walk about 2 hours to the ruins. On the way back to the beach you can take a boda boda (motorbike) if you don’t wanna walk. Make sure one of the workers at the ruins calls one for you. We took one with 4 people including the driver. Haha! Because this is Africa 🙂

Takwa ruins in Manda island
Takwa ruins in Manda island
I´m sure we can fit more people here, haha
I´m sure we can fit more people here, haha

After the ruins I would recommend to relax at the beach. The view is simply amazing. Wowww! Check my picture taken at the Hotel Diamond Beach Village. This hotel is run by a British girl who decided to stay there with her daughter rather than live in England.

At the Hotel Diamond Beach Village
At the Hotel Diamond Beach Village

You can sail back to Lamu Island in the afternoon or stay there on Manda Island overnight.

Day 3 in Lamu:

On your third day you can sail from Lamu to Manda Toto Island for snorkeling. Note that it’s not the same as Manda Island from the day before. Make sure that you arrange the price again the night before. It takes a while to arrive there and, trust me as I tell you that, it was one of those crazy African adventures where you ask yourself what the hell are you doing there. Haha! I thought the boat was gonna sink. Losing balance all the time and water coming inside ?… I was dizzy. Hmmm. Definitely crazy! But it is interesting to see how Africans manage all situations. In this moment I was glad that I insisted in the morning on taking a lifejacket before leaving the main island.

Sailing to Manda Toto island in my african Titanic
Sailing to Manda Toto island in my african Titanic
Sailing to Manda Toto island in my african Titanic
Sailing to Manda Toto island in my african Titanic
The African way of sailing
The African way of sailing
My friends making fun of me on the way back, when I was completely dizzy, haha
My friends making fun of me on the way back, when I was completely dizzy, haha

You can definitely have a wonderful afternoon on a completely empty beach if you decide to do this tour. Only for you and your friends. How cool is that!

Beach in Manda Toto island
Beach in Manda Toto island

Day 4:

You fly back from Lamu to Nairobi in the morning or take a bus.

But don’t miss the mango-papaya natural juices for breakfast before you leave (also for lunch and dinner at any place you go). You can add avocado, pineapple, whatever you want. 😉 It tastes like Glory! Haha!

My special mango-papaya fresh juice
My special mango-papaya fresh juice

Where to stay in Lamu:

There are many BnB (Bed & Breakfasts) in Lamu city and on Shela Beach for about $10 – $25 per person per night, if you are traveling on a budget. If you can spend more money, I would recommend the Hotel Diamond Beach Village located on the beach front on Manda Island (not far from Lamu island) with amazing views of the open ocean. They have beach huts, treehouses and a block house. Prices start from around 55€ per person per night.

If it is not high season you can most probably book your accommodation in Lamu on arrival, but if you prefer to book in advance you can do so also. The advantage of booking on arrival is that you can still negotiate the price with the owner of the Bed & Breakfast. The disadvantage is that some places could be fully booked. So… It´s up to you!

What to do in Lamu at night?:

There are plenty of restaurants where you can have a good dinner and play some dominoes.

Some local food in Lamu
Some local food in Lamu

If you ask the owner or someone at the restaurant, he will most likely have a brother with a boat that can arrange all sailing excursions for you and maybe also have a sister or a wife who can do a beautiful henna painting for you for $3. We asked at two different restaurants and this happened each time.

My henna painting in Lamu
My henna painting in Lamu

When I was there, they were opening a new place that I really liked. It was a cafeteria in a treehouse! It´s called Tamarind Tree Cafe. They were giving tea for free but we also ordered some fresh mango juice and finger food. Nice place with a beautiful view. Check it if you are there!

Tamarind Tree Cafe
Tamarind Tree Cafe
View from the Tamarind Tree Cafe drinking my tea
View from the Tamarind Tree Cafe drinking my tea

There is also a floating bar where you can go at night to have some drinks. It’s open every night.

There are, of course, many other places to visit around the Mombasa area. I’ll definitely come back to discover more of this country. Mombasa and Diani beach are on my bucket list. Check the list at the end of my post KENYA Part I for possible places to visit on my next trip to this beautiful country.

I hope my recommendations can help you with your traveling plans in Kenya 🙂

Enjoy it and stay tuned!!! 🙂

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