Detailed Information about Lamu
Lamu is one of Kenya's oldest towns on an island that is part of
the Lamu Archipelago, off the Indian Ocean coast. Formed in the
fourteenth century by Arab traders, Lamu Town's ancient culture
is drawn from many sources. Its long exotic tale can be read in
every step down the narrow streets, in the rich carvings of the
heavy wooden doors, and in the markets where life continues
unchanged since it's formation!
A magical place of great natural beauty from its rolling sand
dunes to the depths of the Indian Ocean's sparkling waters,
tranquil white beaches and simple culture, Lamu is steeped in
history. The three villages of Shela, Kipungani and Matondoni
are hubs of timeless customs - from fishing, traditional dhow
building - the only mode of transport between the islands - and
For the full, white-sand experience you need to go to Shela
Beach, Kipungani Island, here you are guaranteed a private
stretch of beach. The island holds two incredible spectacles -
the century old Maulid Festival, and more recently, the Lamu
Cultural Festival which takes place annually. They incorporate
cultural and sporting activities, including boat races and the
main highlight, donkey races.
Must do activities include dhow trips, swimming, snorkelling
with dolphins at Kinyika, kayaking, romantic beach excursions,
sailing with toppers and wind sailing. The white, endless
coastlines are also ideal for romantic beach weddings.
Airkenya flies daily to Lamu, landing at Manda Island's
Airstrip, from where you are transferred by speed boat to the
Lamu Island, or your preferred destination.
Attractions in Lamu are an awesome mix of sights from age long
era - the ancient Old Town, donkeys, dhows, ruins, several
museums as well as endless endless secluded beaches.
For easy reading, these attractions are grouped by each of the
Lamu archipelago islands.
Anyone seeking a romantic getaway will love Lamu's
infinitely long and secluded beaches. The 12 km (7 mile)
stretch of the Shela beach, which is a 45 minute walk or a
10 minute dhow sail from Lamu town offers a long pristine
white sandy beach. Shela beach stand's out from all the
other beaches across the world because it isn't just long
and private, but it is bordered by sand-dunes that are
punctuated by tufts of vegetation.
Lamu is also great for water sports such as snorkeling,
windsurfing and diving as well as dhow sailing and fishing.
Dhows are elementary wooden boats and can be found in large
numbers at the Lamu's main harbor. If you love fishing, plan
to go on a fishing expedition with a local fisherman. The
common fish types in Lamu are tuna, red snapper, kingfisher
The Donkey sanctuary provides free veterinary services to
the Lamu's 3000+ beasts of burden. It caters for the sick
and injured and even runs an ambulance service to quickly
cart away these animals in emergency situations.
It is fitting that every ancient town boasts a raft of
museums and so these are some of the popular tourist
attractions of Lamu.
The best of these is probably Lamu Museum which exhibits
various Swahili culture artifacts such as boats and the
Lamu Fort Environment Museum, built by the Sultan of Paté in
the early nineteenth century to defend the then prized
trading town's waterfront, displays some subdued historical
and environmental artifacts and houses the town's library.
It is still worth a visit though, if only to take in some
breathtaking panoramic views of the town.
The German Post Office Museum, a monument to Germany's
failure to conquer Kenya, exhibits photographs and
memorabilia from the colonial period.
The Swahili House Museum in Mkomani is a delightfully
restored eighteenth century house which showcases Lamu's
famous stone and "box" architecture.
Lamu is home to no less than 23 mosques, the oldest of which
is Pwani Mosque which dates back to the fourteenth century.
The newest and largest is Riyadha Mosque built at the
beginning of the twentieth century. Riyadha Mosque also
hosts the annual Maulidi celebrations that commemorate the
birth of Prophet Mohammed.
Because Paté is surrounded by a mangrove swamp, it can only
be reached during high tides. Not surprisingly, Paté is a
trading town with the characteristic Lamu winding alleys and
double-storied box houses.
And, there are many attractions in Paté Island such as the
Faza settlement and a couple of mosque ruins. The Siyu fort
ruins are the most impressive of these attractions though.
Manda, which is just a narrow channel away from the main
island, is home to the local airstrip where virtually all
the aircraft land. Manda's most visited tourist attraction
is the Takwa ruins which are remnants of a Swahili
settlement which was abandoned in the eighteenth century,
probably due to lack of fresh water.
The uninhabited Kiwaiyu is as pristine as it is picturesque.
This charming island also offers plenty of coral reef and
mangrove swamps to maneuver though.
Dodori National Reserve is another of the stunning Lamu
attractions in Kiwaiyu. The game reserve's inhabitants
include lions, giraffes, hippos, kudus and topis.
Dodori also offers an array of birdlife which includes the
pelican, honey buzzard, palmut vulture, brown breasted
barbet, violet breasted sunbird, Southern branded harrier
eagle, brown hooded kingfisher as well the European and