All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
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    Isabelle: Breathtaking sea views, unspoilt nature, welcoming locals and pristine white sand beaches: if you’ve been dreaming of a forgotten paradise... open your eyes, you’re here! And you will never forget it!
    -- Tinotenda Mungazi

     

     

    Forodhani House is a luxury beach house located in the old town of Lamu where it is said that time stands still!! While many travelers opt for an end to their Kenya safari in a private house in the blander Watamu, Mombasa or Malindi on Kenya’s southerly coast, there is nothing quite like Lamu Island. The most northerly outpost of the important Swahili people, whose geographical and cultural roots can be traced back thousands of years and across a third of the globe to China, Yemen, Oman and India, Lamu has a spirit, aesthetic and ethos that is unique. The Lamu island offers more than lovely water and beaches; it presents a vibrant people and their way of life and asks – no insists – that you engage. And so you come away from Lamu not just washed with sea water, sun, fresh crab, fragrant jasmine and the distant call to prayer, but you leave revived with new friendships and a mental slideshow of unforgettable images.

     

    If you know someone who’s been on a holiday to Lamu, they always say that they will return. The truth – the Island is irresistible, it’s the type of place you wouldn’t mind repeating your travel stories, no matter how many people ask. It’s the type of place you feel like taking your family and friends who think you’re exaggerating its beauty, actually, there’s a place that not only complements Lamu’s style and feel, but can fit 10 people! With the luxury and comfort of the perfect Holiday Home – Forodhani House. The Forodhani house is backed by the village, facing the beach and jetty at the very spot where decades ago stood a watch-post (Forodhani in Swahili) that controlled the ships and passengers entering and exiting the Lamu Archipelago. Its location is truly amazing! The Forodhani house commands 270° of superb views overlooking the arm of Indian Ocean that separates the islands of Lamu and Manda Island. It towers over the dhows and their crews sliding out to the ocean or returning to the quiet waters bordering Lamu town and Shela after a night of fishing in the deep ocean. Newly built in authentic Swahili style and exquisitely finished, Forodhani House sleeps comfortably 10 to 13 people, in 5 en-suite bedrooms (3 double and 2 triple), all with stunning sea-views. A spectacular new seafront house in perhaps the best position on the island, Forodhani sets new standards in comfort and style. 5 double bedrooms, 4 bathrooms 9 meter (30ft) freshwater Swimming Pool Exceptionally spacious accommodation, wonderful sea views direct access to Shela beach, waterfront and harbour Less than 100 meters from Peponi Hotel "So close to the Indian Ocean that when you look out from its terraces you could almost be on the deck of a ship, Forodhani means lookout post in Swahili and - with its sprawling panoramas and 7½-mile white sand beach - you can see why. Gather a group of friends and hang out here, swimming in the pool, watching dolphins and dhows or wandering the alleys of Lamu town" The Guardian newspaper, London “Yet another stay at Fabulous Forodhani – my third to date - we just can’t stay away from this wonderful house! Festus and co looked after us so well again- we leave Lamu relaxed and ready to face the world. See you again as soon as we can" Susan, London “What an incredible house – the design, the setting and the views really were unmatched on the island. Staying in Lamu and at Forodhani was the most incredible experience – and one that undoubtedly did me the world of good - indeed I feel mightily refreshed & invigorated. I look forward to bringing the rest of my family to be thoroughly Lamu-ised!" Neil, Scotland. One enters Lamu Forodhani House directly from the Shela beachfront path – through beautifully-carved teakwood double doors set into surrounding walls of fossilised coral stone, and up terrazzo steps to a grassy garden area shaded by a huge spreading acacia tree. Looking out onto the garden is the spacious dining room, with an entire wall of beautiful and intricate zidaka niches – traditional in Lamu houses in centuries gone by, and echoed in the attractive carved plasterwork ceiling friezes throughout the house. Cloistered terraces with traditional Moorish archways look out across the Lamu Channel and lead to the exceptionally large and airy living room. Also on the ground floor are a well-appointed, ‘eat-in’ kitchen with 4-seater table (ideal for children’s meals) and a double bedroom suite – its adjoining bathroom has a large hamman-style shower, and doors lead outside to the lower garden area, which features built in baraza sofas & tables and Egyptian masharabya screen windows looking down to the waterfront below.

     

    The 9m (30ft) freshwater swimming pool runs along the northern side of the house beside the living room, and is elevated 2.5 metres above the neighbouring seafront – it is 2.65 metres wide and 2 metres deep. Next to and overlooking the pool and lower garden is a spacious mvule hardwood deck under the sheltering branches of another mature acacia. On the First Floor there are three bedrooms – two of which share a spacious double bathroom with twin washbasins. These two rooms – one with two or three single beds and one with a large wooden ‘platform’ bed - provide very flexible accommodation. They can be arranged to sleep four adults or up to six children. To the front of the house, with views to north, east and south is another double bedroom with bathroom and adjoining covered and open terraces. To the rear of the house is an acacia-shaded sofa area and 4-seater dining table – another lovely, easy place to eat and relax outside, particularly in the evening. On the Second Floor is the expansive Master Bedroom suite – spacious bedroom with baraza sofa, roomy bathroom, and part open, part covered private terraces. Next door is a small lounge with single baraza bed, bar area and fridge. From the Third Floor walled rooftop (perfect for sunbathers) there are spectacular 360 degree views of Shela Village, Manda Island and the Lamu Channel. Forodani House is well thought-out - and furnished and appointed with style and attention to detail. There are ceiling fans inside the mosquito nets in every bedroom - not that you will probably need them as the house sits in a lovely breezy position, with louvered windows and jalousie shutters throughout. Room lights and fans can also be controlled from the comfort of your bed.

     

    Each bedroom has a writing desk or dressing table, together with ample wardrobe and storage space (including a small safe for valuables). Forodhani also has Wi-Fi internet access and plentiful solar-powered hot water for showers and bathrooms. While Forodhani is a wonderful place in which socialise or entertain, with expansive living and dining areas, gardens and terraces, there are also plenty of places in which to disappear and relax. Each of the bedrooms has its own secluded terrace or comfortable sitting & lounging area strewn with mattresses, cushions and pillows. And, while it sits in one of the nicest and most prominent positions in Shela, the house has few close neighbours and is private and undisturbed. Forodhani House sits on the very Eastern tip of Lamu Island – on the site of an old customs house from colonial times. Forodhani means ‘beside the jetty’ or ‘beside the port’ in Kiswahili (a name reflected in Zanzibar’s lovely seafront Forodhani Gardens) and the house looks out to the Peponi Hotel jetty and to Chapel Rock – itself the site of a Portuguese Catholic chapel several hundred years ago. Apart from the pleasures of the house itself, one of the chief delights of staying at Forodhani are the wonderful marine views from every floor. It is hard to tire of the ever-changing seascape, or of the sight of fishing boats and sailing dhows slipping past along the channel - often just a few metres away from the house. And at Forodhani one is also only seconds away from the other attractions of Shela village, including Peponi Hotel and the island’s fabulous beach. Rent Forodhani House for your lamu holiday, right on Shela beach in Lamu, off the east coast of Kenya. Even if it’s just chance that has brought you here, you will certainly find that this beach front home is far more than just a simple vacation villa. From the garden as well as from each floor of this holiday home, you have a 180° view of the sea.

     

    Interview with Isabelle owner Forodhani House Lamu Island

     

    Your beach house is located on Lamu Island, in the Indian Ocean. What was your inspiration to open a vacation home there? Answer Isabelle: “My husband and I have been dreaming about Africa from an early age — first separately, then together. When we met and found out that we share the same passion for the continent, we began to travel to several countries in East and West Africa — Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Botswana, Algeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Kenya, of course! — To find a place to renovate or build and be our ‘nyumba tamu nyumba’, home sweet home. It’s the Swahili culture and its rich cultural mix which have led us to Lamu. It was love at first sight — we fell for the Lamu Archipelago and its communities instantly! It was about three years ago when together with the inhabitants of Shella Village we decided to build our vacation house there.”

     

    The name of the house means ‘look-out post’ in Kiswahili. Why was it named like that? Isabelle: “The forodhani house is backed by the village, facing the beach and jetty at the very spot where decades ago stood a watch-post that controlled the ships and passengers entering and exiting the Lamu Archipelago. Its location is truly stunning! The house commands superb views of the arm of the Indian Ocean that separates the islands of Lamu and Manda. It towers over the dhows and their crews sliding out to the ocean or returning to the quiet waters after a night of fishing in Deep Ocean. You have 270 degrees of breathtaking but peaceful views of the to and fro of boats entering and leaving the archipelago!” Even if it’s just chance that has brought you here, you will certainly find that this beach front home is far more than just a simple vacation villa.

     

    What would you describe to be the spirit of your beach house and your philosophy?

     

    Isabelle: “We have done our best to let our guests relax and be lulled by the lapping waves of the ocean. The house is white, with round or Arabic arches which frame the sea views and the sky. I always find it magic! Palm trees, ylang-ylang trees and bougainvilleas add some wonderful colours and scents. And because of our spectacular location, there is always a show: you suddenly see a bunch of sardines jumping, trying to escape barracudas, or dolphins swimming up the channel, a friends’ dhow sliding from one arch to the other, or a fishermen boat coming from the open sea with a load of tunas. It’s both relaxing and so interesting! We also have 4 members of staff to pamper you; it’s really the ideal place to stay with family or a group of friends and relax.”

     

    How would you describe the style of the interior?

     

    Isabelle: “We built our beach house in authentic Swahili style with the best craftsmen on the island, Ali Skanda, Mr. Mbwara and his niru artists’ team... We wanted it as a joyful celebration of their ancestral talent. The architecture features zidaka plasterwork and niches, carved and painted beams, daka porch, Arab arches and carpentry work at its finest. The quality finishes make the house one of the finest modern architectural achievement on Lamu Island.” In authentic Swahili style, Forodhani House is a large whitewashed villa, whose truly stunning beach front location lets you constantly be lulled by the lapping waves, cooled by the gentle sea breeze, allayed by the to and fro of boats entering and leaving the Lamu archipelago. It is the ideal holiday home to rent with family or friends (10 to 13 people). You will love the dinners served by the side of the pool under the arcades, or in the garden, or on the terrace overlooking the beach, or perhaps you may prefer a romantic dinner on the roof terrace, where you only have to stretch out your hands to touch the stars in the African night.

     

    Please tell us a bit about the facilities and the rooms, as well as the services that you offer. Isabelle: “We can accommodate up to 12 people with all the necessary comforts. The four double bedrooms have their own handcrafted double/twin beds, huge mosquito nets, separate en suite bathrooms, a shaded terrace, and all have a view over the sea. A 5th bedroom — overlooking the Indian Ocean too — has 3 single beds, a terrace and, of course, a bathroom as well. On the top terrace, the view is just staggering: the makuti rooftops of the village at the back and the whole archipelago in front. On the ground floor, one big kitchen, a beautiful dining terrace, a large lounge alongside the pool, different areas to take it easy in, and the garden, all offer varied possibilities for dining and relaxing. You walk from room to room through arched galleries, watching the plasterwork, niches and friezes, which ornate the walls. Of course, we also have a pool, which stretches between the garden and the ocean.”

     

    How would you like your guests to remember their stay?

     

    Isabelle: “Even if it’s just chance that has brought you here, like many of us you’ll definitely find that this place is far more than just a simple tropical beach resort. Time has stopped here: the old town of Lamu still appears to be from the 17th century. There are no cars... you will quickly adjust to the pace of the donkeys. Enjoy the charm of getting lost in the maze of alleyways in the village, visit the fish market and stroll along the quay in the evening. Breathtaking sea views, unspoilt nature, welcoming locals and pristine white sand beaches: if you’ve been dreaming of a forgotten paradise... open your eyes, you're there! And you will never forget it!”

     

    Forodhani House Relax

     

    With lots of different areas to take it easy in (near the pool, in main lounge, in garden, dining room, or on baraza beds and seats, shaded or not, at ground, 1st or 2nd floors, in little lounge bar, or on top terrace), it is really the ideal place to stay with family or friends (10 adults or 3 families), to relax, be lulled by the lapping waves and cooled by the gentle sea breeze which is so refreshing at these latitudes. The house is white, with round or Arabic arches which frame sea views, sky at day or night, and sails sliding silently. Always magic! Palm trees, frangipanes, bougainvilleas add some colours and scents. There’s always a show from the house: picture having breakfast and you suddenly happen to see school of sardines jumping, trying to escape barracudas; or dolphins swimming up the Channel, or a friends’ dhow sliding from one arch to the other; or a fisherman’s boat coming from the open seas with load of tunas. It’s quite interesting!

     

    Here you will be able to relax (4 staff, among them a very good cook, to pamper you), enjoy the 12kms of Shela’s pristine white sand beach and its activities (sailing swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing, fishing…), discover Lamu Old Town and the other Islands in the Archipelago (the rich Swahili culture and its welcoming atmosphere)… and at the end of each day, enjoy an authentic sunset cruise and think of nothing else but the beauty of this country.

     

    Forodhani House Activities

     

    As Forodhani is settled directly on Shela Beach, you will easily enjoy all its activities: swimming, sailing, snorkelling, waterskiing, windsurfing, fishin, Nature is truly at its best here. Quite often, you can see turtle clutches and above all turtles babies, just across the channel on Manda Island — it is really worth it! Wildlife generally is amazing. From September to April you can swim with dolphins. From July to December it is the best time to watch humpback whales — awesome! There is also great fishing, from small-scale fishing in the channel right in front of the house, to deep sea fishing with tuna, kingfish and the legendary swordfish, a bit further out in the ocean. As the marine life is very rich, you should go snorkelling or diving on the coral reefs at Manda Toto or Kinika during your stay. And, at least once, you should get in a dhow, from Forodhani’s feet, for a wonderful sunset cruise around Manda or a day cruise around the whole Lamu Island. 4 times a year there are also very famous Dhow Races - at NYear, for Maulidi in Feb, in August, and for Lamu Cultural Festival in Nov - Great sailors and great shows!

     

    Visit Lamu Old Town By boat, or on foot along the beach, visiting the old city of Lamu is an absolute must, you must do it during these holidays. A bit like in Shela, you will be transported directly back into the 17th century. No cars, and the alleyways, each one narrower than the last, form a labyrinth from which the local children will easily show you the way out. Go shopping in Lamu Town, visit the market (early morning) and stroll along the quay in the evening, stopping off at Marianne and Franck at the Lamu House Hotel. Also visit the fort, dating from the 1800s, the Mnarani and Riyadha Mosques, and the Lamu Museum where you can trace the entire history of Lamu archipelago. Do not miss the Donkey Sanctuary either. This free veterinary centre is essential for the economic life of Lamu Island where, in the absence of cars, some 2 000 or 3 000 donkeys provide transport for heavy loads. The health of these animals is severely tested, and the veterinarians do a remarkable job.

     

    At Forodhani House Be Pampered

     

    Relax, be pampered, enjoy fully your holidays to Lamu! Four staff, among them a very good cook, are here to take care of all your needs, do your shopping, prepare your meals, assist you and help organize activities and local excursions, clean and straighten bedrooms and house. The sophisticated dining terrace, a large lounge alongside the pool, different areas to take it easy in, and the garden, all offer varied possibilities for relaxing. The Cook will suggest menus and cook very good international cuisine as well as fresh seafood, sushis or Swahili dishes. For breakfast, the staff makes everyday fresh home bread, prepares pancakes, bacon and eggs, served with juices of the day, fresh fruits, tea, coffee or chocolate as well, of course. After your swimming session or whenever you want, Mercy can come to the house to do perfect relaxing massages. For your entertainment and your kids, Forodhani is fitted with a DVD projector, Hi Fi and IPod docks. Several DVDs are already there but you can come with your owns. For music you will just have to plug your IPod in Hi Fi system in main lounge or dock it in the room of your choice. Books and games are also provided – see in the Library at 1st floor.

     

    Lamu Island Information

     

    The town dates back to the 14th century although most of the buildings are actually 18th century, built in Lamu's Golden Age. The streets are very narrow, and the buildings on each side are two or three storeys’s high and as the houses face inwards, privacy is carefully guarded. The streets are set in a rough grid pattern running off the main street called Harambee Avenue, which runs parallel to the waterfront and used to open out to the sea, although building from the mid-1800s onwards has cut it off from the quayside. The narrow waterfront stretches the length of the town where cannons still point seaward. Touts offer dhow rides and white billowing sails occupy every inch of shoreline. The smaller ones serve as local taxis for Manda or the nearby Shela Beach, and the large ocean-going vessels are stacked high with mangrove poles and sand. Muscled sailors with kikois hoisted around their waists heave wooden carts from the docks or slumber on deck amongst charcoal burners and grain sacks. Carved doors are one of the attractions for which Lamu has become known. This artesanal skill continues to be taught, and at the north end of the harbour you can see them being made in workshops by craftsmen and apprentices. There are over 20 mosques on the island, but they don't have minarets and mostly they are usually not very grand affairs and some are little different from other buildings. You can usually pick them out by the pile of sandals outside the doors during prayer time.

     

    You will need to seek permission before entering to look around. The oldest mosque in Lamu is believed to be the Pwani Mosque, near the fort, which dates back to 1370, and today is just a crumbling ruin though an Arabic inscription can still be seen on one of the walls. The Jumaa (or Friday) Mosque is at the north end of town and is the second oldest in Lamu, dating from 1511. Then comes the M'na Lalo Mosque (1753), more or less in the centre of town, just a little to the north of the museum and set back from Harambee Avenue. This mosque was built in Lamu's Golden Age, and it was followed by Muru Mosque (1821) on Harambee Avenue, Utukuni Mosque (1823), well into the interior part of the town, and Mpya Mosque (1845), in the town centre. Mwana Mshamu Mosque (1855) is in the northwest area of the town; Sheikh Mohamed bin Ali Mosque (1875), in the town centre, and the N'nayaye Mosque (1880) on the northwest fringe of town. Two mosques have been built in the 20th century, the Riyadha Mosque

     

    (1901), to the south of the town, which is the main centre for the Maulidi Festival , and the Bohora Mosque (1920), which is fairly central, just inland of Harambee Avenue. The

     

    Mwenye Alawi Mosque (1850) at the north end of Main Street was originally for women, but it has since been taken over by the men. The small Ismaili community did have their own Ismaili Mosque, on the Kenyatta Road at the south end of town, but this is now in ruins. Adjacent to the Riyadha Mosque is the Muslim Academy, funded by Saudi Arabia, and which attracts students from all over the world. The excellent Lamu Museum is run by the National Museums of Kenya and plays an important role in the conservation of old Lamu. It's set in a beautiful whitewashed house built in 1891, which was where the British colonial administrators lived before Independence. Before that, it had housed Queen Victoria's consul - one Captain Jack Haggard, brother of the more celebrated author of King Solomon's Mines. It has a fine carved wooden door inlaid with brass studs, the ground floor has a good bookshop and the entrance has some photographs of Lamu taken by French photographer Guillain in the period 1846-1849, as well as a large aerial photo of Lamu Town. In a lobby to the right is a Swahili kitchen with pestles and mortars and vermicelli presses. Also on the ground floor are examples of decorative 18th-century Kidaka plasterwork, carved Lamu throne chairs with wicker seats and elaborately carved Lamu headboards. To the rear are displays on the archaeological excavations of the Takwa Ruins on Manda Island, and at Siya and Shanga on Pate Island. On the first floor, the balcony has a display of large earthenware pottery. The balcony room has photographs and models of seagoing vessels, mostly dhows, and the various types and styles in use. Just behind the balcony room is a display of musical instruments used in festivals and celebrations, including drums, cymbals, rattles and leg rattles. The most celebrated exhibits are the two Siwa horns.

     

    These are in the shape of elephant tusks, with the mouthpiece on the side. The Lamu horn is made of brass, the horn from nearby Pate is of ivory. They date from the 17th century, are elaborately decorated, and were blown on special occasions such as enthronements or weddings. Local tribes are featured in a side room, and there are displays on the Oroma from around Witu, Garsen and southwest of Lamu; the Pokot from west of the Tana River, and the Boni from the north of Lamu. The jewellery includes nose rings, earrings, anklets and necklaces in bead designs and in silver. There are some illustrations of hand and feet painting, in henna, in black and red. The two end rooms are examples of typical Swahili bridal rooms with furniture and dresses on display. Swahili House Museum, This is a traditional and fully restored 18th-century Swahili house with period furniture and, although it's quite small, it is interesting and the guides are great. There are three areas on the main floor, and a centre aisle has beds off to the left and right. The beds are wooden with rope and raffia forming the base. The main room has a particularly fine kikanda plaster screen on the wall; at one time, all of Lamu's houses were plastered white with this limestone wash as it represented purity. Although historically, when people had slaves in the homes, the areas where the slaves slept weren't plastered. Furnishings include a clock with an octagonal frame and a pointed pendulum case, a style found all along the East African coast. In the kitchen is an

     

    Mbuzi (coconut grinder) and a fumbu a straw implement resembling a large sock, which is used for squeezing the coconut juice from the shredded fruit. There is also a large wooden pestle and mortar, a pasta maker, a water boiler and a flour-grinding stone, as well as other pots and pans. Outside are a well and a garden with frangipani. The construction of the Lamu Fort, began in 1813 shortly after Lamu's victory at the Battle of Shela and was completed in 1821. The battle was an attempt by the people of Pate, allied with the Mazrui clan from Oman in Mombasa, to subjugate Lamu, but the attempt failed totally, and victory at Shela signaled the rise of Lamu as the leading power in the archipelago. The fort used to sit on the water's edge, as did Harambee Avenue, but over time another row of houses was built on discarded rubbish, which put the fort 70 m

     

    back from the water and the waterfront at where it is today. The construction is of coral blocks, covered with mortar that has a yellowy-orange hue marked by black patches and inside is a central courtyard surrounded by internal walkways and awnings. It is possible to walk round the battlements, and they afford a good view of the nearby area. It initially served as a barracks for a garrison of soldiers sent by the Sultan of Oman to protect Lamu. Their presence must have been protective as merchants built houses nearby that date from the same period. Between 1910 and 1984 it served as a prison both under the colonial and Kenyan governments. Now it has a not very good exhibition on the environment, a shop and a library, plus a pleasant café overlooking the busy square at the entrance, which is the best vantage point to look at the fort given the hefty entrance fee for non-residents. It's generally used as a community hall for the local people.

     

    In the southwest part of town is a fluted Pillar Tomb, thought to date from the 14th century, though it's in danger of collapse. It can be reached by going south, turning inland just after the Halwa Shop, towards the Riyadha Mosque, and continuing on.

     

    Another tomb is the Mwana Hadie Famau Tomb a local woman believed to have lived here in the 15th or 16th century. This is situated a little inland from the museum. The tomb had four pillars at the corners with inset porcelain bowls and probably a central pillar as well. Legend has it a hermit took up residence in the hollow interior of the tomb, and became a nuisance by grabbing the ankles of passing women at night-time. The solution was to wall up the tomb while the hermit was not at home. Behind the fort is the

     

    House of Liwali Sud bin Hamad a fine example of Swahili architecture. A Liwali was a governor appointed by the Sultan of Zanzibar. It is still possible to appreciate how it looked when it was a single dwelling, though it is subdivided now. On Main Street, just next to the New Star restaurant, is the site of the offices of the German East Africa Company. Originally the Germans thought that Lamu would make a suitable secure base for their expansion into the interior (much in the same way as the British used Zanzibar). The agreement regarding British and German 'spheres of influence' in 1886 caused the Germans to turn their attention to Bagamoya, although they opened a post office in Lamu in 1888, which closed three years later. The site is now the missable German Post Office Museum which has a few faded photographs from the era and not much else. Towards the rear of the town is the whetstone for sharpening knives, said to have been imported from Oman as local stone was not suitable. Donkey Sanctuary in the northern part of the town close to the waterfront. This is run by the International Donkey Sanctuary, a charity concerned with the welfare of donkeys worldwide. In 2008 it celebrated its 21st anniversary in Lamu on 4 July - dubbed by one employee as Independence Day for the donkeys of Lamu. There are an estimated 2200 donkeys on the island, which are used in agriculture but also in carrying household provisions and building materials. They generally plod around town on their own and in theory each is owned by someone, although how donkey and owner stay connected is somewhat mystifying.

     

    The founder of the trust, Dr Elizabeth Svendsen, first visited Lamu in 1985 while on holiday, and after seeing the poor condition of the working donkeys, established the sanctuary and clinic here in 1987. There is a small enclosure that anyone can visit where sick donkeys receive free care, and the donkeys that roam the town can find fodder and water. It's rather endearing here to see a donkey with a cartoon-like criss-cross bandage somewhere on it covering a minor wound. The twice-yearly de-worming programme on Lamu and the surrounding islands has contributed hugely to the better health of the donkeys, and primitive practices of bleeding a donkey or burning them with hot irons to treat illness is thankfully much reduced. The donkey awards in March/April are organized by the Lamu Donkey Sanctuary in conjunction with the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA) to promote animal welfare. Prizes are given for the best-cared-for donkey, and a surprising number of local people turn out to proudly parade their well-groomed beasts of burden. Matondoni Village This is a village of mud and thatched huts of a few hundred people on the western side of the island, about 8 km from town, where you can see dhows being built and repaired on the beach. The easiest way to get there is to hire a dhow between a group - you will have to negotiate the price. Alternatively you can hire a donkey - ask at your hotel. A third option is to walk, although you should leave early as it gets very hot. The walk will take a couple of hours and is quite complicated. Shela sticking out on the southeastern tip of Lamu, this village is a smaller duplicate of Lamu town and is the upmarket end of the island. It is a tangle of narrow, sandy lanes, tall stone houses, some smaller thatched dwellings, and a spacious square ringed with a few market stalls and small shops. Here in the cool of the evenings the elders gather to talk and women come out to shop. Also look out for boys washing donkeys on the beach at low tide. In the town are a number of old buildings including several wonderfully restored houses that you can rent (at a price). The people of Shela were originally from the island of Manda and speak a dialect of Swahili that is quite different to that spoken in Lamu.

     

    The Friday Mosque was built in 1829 and is noted for its slender, conical minaret. The 12-km Shela Beach starts a five-minute walk from the village. Shela is just 3 km or a 40-minute walk from Lamu, go down to the end of the harbour and then along the beach. If you don't want to walk you can catch a dhow taxi. The southern shores have the best beach, which begins just to the south of Shela - 12 km of almost deserted white sand that backs onto the sand dunes. As there is no reef the waves get fairly big. Here you can stroll for miles along the deserted shoreline littered with pansy shells, otherwise known as sand dollars, where foamy waves sweep bare feet and cormorants attempt balancing acts on the sea breeze.

     

     

     

     

    How to Get to Lamu Island

     

    The Lamu Archipelago is located 470 km southeast of Nairobi, in the Indian Ocean. The easiest and fastest way to get there is by air. Several airlines serve Lamu/Manda airport, which is located on the island just opposite the house. From Nairobi the flight is only an hour, departing either from Jomo Kenyatta international airport Fly 540, or from the domestic Wilson Airport Air Kenya and Safari Link. There are several daily flights to Lamu. When you arrive at the airport, Nassir, the captain of the Laleti boat, will be there to meet you and take you across the channel, and within minutes you will be at the jetty at the beach foot of the Forodhani House. Of course, it is possible to travel by car as far as Mokowe, where we can arrange to pick you up from the pier to Forodhani House for one of your best holiday ever. A short distance from the Forodhani House, beyond Peponi Hotel towards the south of Lamu Island, Saadï will be happy to hire out surfboards, windsurfs, kite surfs, and water skis, and also to organize diving with the dolphins or an exploration of the most beautiful coral reefs in Lamu archipelago. If a dhow trip appeals to you, we recommend that you contact our neighbour Tawfiq at the Bahari Guest House. His brother Yusuf owns one of the most beautiful dhows on Shela beach, and with his kindness and sense of service you will certainly pass the best hours at sea of your holiday. The best time to leave is around 5pm. Yusuf will take you as far as the Takwas Ruins and on your return you will enjoy the sunset over Shela beach and Lamu Island. It is a moment of pure bliss as you glide gently over the sea, soothed by the rhythm of the soft breeze. The captain will take the opportunity to tell you the history of Lamu archipelago and its inhabitants. You will certainly want to repeat this experience again soon!

     

     

    Booking private Houses in Lamu Island

     

    We offer small houses as well as five star villas in Lamu Island, and a very simple way to book these online. The cheaper houses are ideal if you're staying weeks or months on the Lamu Island and the more exclusive alternatives are ideal for couples on honeymoon vacations and family holidays etc. Our rates are among the lowest available and the booking system. Many of the Lamu Island villas are very popular, especially during high seasons and December holidays. We recommend you to book early to be certain of getting your preferred Lamu villa, Lamu house or Lamu apartment. Renting a luxury Lamu villa or Lamu private home can be a great alternative to booking a Lamu hotel whether you are traveling to Lamu Island as a family or with a safari group, cherish the experience of immersing yourself in the local culture and community, or are looking for more privacy and autonomy than a Lamu resort can ever offer. If you're intrigued by the idea of a villa rental but a bit daunted by the process, heed this great advice from experts: Start your villa search with an approximate budget and a list of a few uncompromisable must-haves. "Unless you are looking super last-minute or during peak weeks such as Christmas, there are enough great villa rentals out there to satisfy any set of needs," Private Villa or beach house layout can be an important factor depending on who you are traveling with, so communicate that to your booking agent. Families with older travelers or toddlers might like single-level properties, for example, while couples would surely appreciate a villa with multiple "pods" for extra privacy, if traveling with another couple, ask if there are two equal master bedrooms. "You don't want to be flipping a coin to decide who gets the big bedroom with the spectacular view, or deciding who should pay how much extra for that privilege,” If you want to save money, consider booking a Lamu villa in shoulder season. Villa high season runs generally from Dec. 15 to April 15 and from 15 June to 30 September and you'll pay about half price during those "magic weeks" just before or after. If you are planning a holiday in Lamu Island, book early. Some travelers wait around expecting last-minute deals, but that can be risky because owners often use their villas themselves if they don't get a booking. Most renters secure their villas for the holidays by late summer. Don't let the price daunt you -- just do the math: Per night, beach houses in Lamu might seem pricey versus Lamu hotels, but remember that you get all the bedrooms for that one rate. Villa rent, meals and alcohol may turn out to be far less than hotel in Lamu or resort in Lamu costs, it often works out to a better deal than a resort, "plus you get the whole pool to yourself, also consider the privacy factor, one of the prime advantages of renting Lamu villas versus Lamu hotels. On vacation in Lamu with your family, nothing compares to having everyone under one roof, rather than spread out down the hall, "Parents love being able to put the kids to bed and still enjoy an evening by the pool or in the hot tub," how much that's worth to you, and budget your trip accordingly.

     

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