All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
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    Mtende House Lamu Island Kenya Africa & Lamu Cheap Hotels, Villas, Cottages, Houses

    Mtende House is located in Shela Village on the island of Lamu on the north coast of Kenya, this private and exclusive beach house, in a lovely quiet setting by the dunes to the south end of the village, Mtende House is new build and quite modern, but stylish and sympathetic at the same time, managing to deliver a pretty authentic and comfortable Shela experience, Owners Buzz and Jax first stumbled on Lamu in 1978. They were living and working in Southern Sudan and went to Kenya for a well earned break. For many years they dreamt of having their own home there. Now that this dream has become a reality they are delighted to share their Retreat, Mtende House, with you.


    Mtende house is situated in a very peaceful corner of Shela village next to sand dunes covered in bush and close to the ruins of an old mosque now a place were only monkeys play. The bird life is great, and occasionally a shy bushbuck is seen picking a discrete path through the dense dune vegetation. The house consists of a ground floor with single bedroom and a small cloakroom. The main kitchen is situated here (but is complemented by a small kitchen way up on the roof terrace where you can also prepare hot drinks and snacks and raid the bar fridge without tackling any stairs!) On the first floor there is a large airy double bedroom with a balcony and seating and extra barazas for sleeping. From here there are great peaceful views of the dunes and bush and the Friday Mosque. On this level there is a bathroom and spacious landing with balcony window. A further flight of stairs leads to the second floor and another large airy bedroom with balcony and more dune views, a bathroom and landing with balcony window overlooking village. Simply but elegantly furnished with traditional kikoy and woven fabrics accented with richer textiles here and there, the rooms are all light and full of sunshine, but shuttered for shady afternoon siestas. Finally there is a last flight of stairs to the roof top with its comfortable sofas, 'veg out' barazas and hammocks, the open plan dining area and the aforementioned small kitchen. You will spend much of every day in this penthouse haven in the gentle breeze, involving yourself in the politics of the birds feeding in the foliage nearby or the daily debate on whether to take the scenic route to the beach or the one which goes via the bar at Peponi? A knock on the front door below will require a peep over the wall to check if the fishermen have appeared with the promised oysters or if it's the guys selling mangrove crabs. Ho hum......another busy day! By the time you get onto the roof you are almost level with the dunes and there is a great glimpse of the sea and Manda Island past the Friday mosque. None of our Retreats are far enough from the beach to make a difference of more than five minutes and there's nothing to choose between them on that basis, however Mtende House adds a different dimension to Shela sitting as it is nestled at the foot of the dunes and reminds one what a sleepy little place the village really is, and how much natural life inhabits the dunes at its fringes.


    It's a lovely spot and ideal for one or two couples looking for a romantic hideaway and at a price that makes it more affordable than a hotel. The house has been lovingly built with great attention to artisanal skills and traditional detail. Many of the doors and windows are antiques and were collected over the years when Buzz and Jax were only Shela dreaming. Now Mtende is real and the doors are open wide in welcome.


    Lamu Island Information


    Lamu is a place like no other, a peaceful tropical island where life is lived at its own relaxed rhythm, but a place whose history is as mysterious and fascinating as the winding streets of its medieval stone town. The Lamu Island itself is a beautiful place of rolling dunes and endless beaches, where tiny villages nestle among coconut and mango plantations and lateen sailed dhows ply the waters. But Lamu’s real attraction is its Lamu Old town. The town of Lamu began life as a 14th century Swahili settlement, but the island has seen many visitors and influences, including Portuguese explorers, Turkish traders and the Omani Arabs. All left their mark, but Lamu developed its own particular culture, which has ultimately endured. Lamu’s narrow streets remain unchanged, and in the markets and squares around the fort life moves at the same pace as it always has. There are no vehicles on this island, and the donkey and the dhow remain the dominant form of transport. The people of Lamu are great believers in tradition and custom, and this is a strong society built on a respect for the past. For the traveller, Lamu is a hypnotically exotic experience, made even more enjoyable by the relaxed and welcoming attitudes of the locals. To visit Lamu is to enter another world, and the visitor finds themselves becoming a part of this world. Life slows down, and long days are spent strolling along the waterfront, exploring the town or relaxing on the beaches. Dhow safaris can take you beyond Lamu into the surrounding archipelago, where isolated villages, ancient ruins and a few luxurious and exclusive resorts lie hidden among the islands of Manda, Siyu, Pate and Kiwayu. This idyllic island speaks to the heart and soul, and a trip to Lamu is a romantic experience that can become a life long affair. Most visitors to Lamu come to experience the unique culture and history of the island. But there are also opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to explore. The Palm forests and wetland areas of the island are excellent spots for finding coastal waterfowl and other birds. On the stretches of beach around the shore, populations of crabs can be seen, often swarming the sand in large number. On the arid mainland opposite Lamu, there is a surprising abundance of wildlife in the Dodori Reserve, including Buffalo, Lion and Leopard. The mangrove channels here are also good for birding and spotting the occasional crocodile. Trips to this region can be organized from Kipungani on Lamu.


    Lamu is the oldest living town in Kenya, and is situated on Lamu Island off the coast of Africa. Comparable to Kathmandu, it is a place of mystery, fantasy and medieval atmosphere. The most fascinating thing about Lamu town is the people; the men wear full length white robes and caps, whilst women cover themselves up in black. Festivals take place with wonderful regularity, utterly disregarding the presence of tourists, giving a unique experience of life in a 100% organic African coastal town. The town itself has narrow streets which are only wide enough to accommodate donkeys and people. The main type of transport is the dhow in the waters around the island, and this lack of fast transport gives the whole town an incredibly relaxed atmosphere. The beach is still largely unoccupied by people and tourists generally, and so is a wonderful place to go and relax. The buildings are beautifully preserved, with some dating back at least as far as the late 14th century with the construction of the Pwani Mosque. The close buildings create an intimate feeling, and the streets are cool and quiet, with the lower parts of the buildings being older, giving an interesting change in textures. The building materials are primarily coral-rag blocks with wooden floors and makuti roofs. The shutters for windows and doors are all intricately carved, and are famous; they are incredibly beautiful and no trip to Lamu will be complete without exploring them here are plenty of places to visit in the town too. The Lamu Museum is on the waterfront, and gives an introduction to the history and culture of the island. One of the most interesting museums in Kenya, it has a reconstruction of a traditional Swahili house, models of dhows, ivory instruments known as siwas, maps, charts and many other exhibitions which are well presented and fascinating. For those with an interest in the Swahili culture, the Swahili House Museum is a traditionally restored house which is perfectly presented, and a real insight into the culture. Lamu Fort is a huge building, with a walk-through display of the local environment and natural history that is colourful and informative, and is ideal for kids. The islands library is housed here, and many interesting books on the island can be found and perused at your leisure. Other interesting sights include the German Postal Museum which exhibits photographs and memorabilia of the late 1800’s, and a donkey sanctuary which takes care of sick and old animals once they are no longer fit for use on the streets. More lively activities to partake in include dhow trips which include fishing and snorkelling, and allow you to relax at a barbecue lunch on Manda Beach. For a bit of added luxury a full-moon dhow trip can be indulged in, which include drinks, wine and a lobster dinner. Of the festivals mentioned above, the most interesting is the Maudlid Festival which is a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohamed. This takes place in the middle of the year, and typically involves much singing, laughing and events such as donkey races, poetry readings, swimming galas and dhow races. This is a joyful time for the people and the happiness is infectious. Kick off your shoes. Grab your book. Apply the sun tan lotion. Make for your favourite hammock or spot on the beach and relax. That is what Lamu Island is all about – perfect, pristine, deserted beaches, vast expanses of pure white sand lapped by turquoise blue waters. It’s an archipelago of small, hot, almost desert-like islands just off the Kenyan coast in the Indian Ocean and together with the adjacent stretch of Kenyan coastline it offers some of the very best “get away from it all” holiday hideaways anywhere in the world. We recommend combining Lamu with one of our other Kenya safari experiences - what’s your choice? Lamu lies just 2 degrees south of the Equator and so day and night times are both approximately 12 hours long. There is also little difference between summer and winter. The European winter (November to March) is perhaps the best time to visit Lamu. The north east trade wind (kazkazi) blows at this time, bringing clear, calm waters. There can be some rain from mid-November to mid-December but this is light and patchy. The heavy rains arrive with the south east trade winds (kusi) which blow from May onwards. These bring strong gusty winds and boat movements can be restricted. Some places close between May and July and if you have a choice, it is probably best to avoid Lamu at this time. Between showers though the weather remains warm and sunny and some people like the islands at this time – they are even quieter than usual! July and August are the coolest months (Lamu cool, not UK cool) and March and April the hottest. From December to March the temperature rises to between 35°C and 40°C. Generally temperatures hover around 28°C to 30°C. Whichever time of year you go, there is very little shade from the relentless sun, so do take care when sunbathing, there are no direct flights from the UK to Lamu and all journeys require a connecting flight from Nairobi and a boat trip! The journey takes three stages. Firstly, the UK to Kenya: there are daily flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi with British Airways and Kenya Airways. The second stage is your connecting flight to Manda (there is no airstrip on Lamu Island itself). Connecting flights are with Air Kenya, SafariLink or Fly540 and may go via Malindi. If you’re final destination is not on Manda but on Lamu then the third stage of your journey is by boat. From Manda airstrip it is a short boat trip across to Lamu Island. If you are going to Kiwayu, there is an airstrip on the island itself, served by Air Kenya and SafariLink flights from Nairobi. Flight times are approximately 8½ hours to Nairobi, 1 hour from Nairobi to the coast. Our travel consultants are happy to help with your flights, Return flights to Nairobi cost from around £500 plus taxes but vary depending on what time of year you travel. Return flights from Nairobi to Manda cost around £200. There is a more romantic way to approach Lamu and that is by dhow (local boat). This can take several hours however and is not an option we recommend.


    Lamu's Swahili House Museum


    Lamu's Swahili House Museum is a renovated example of an 18th C Swahili house. The interior of the house features cookware, beds and other furniture that allow a glimpse of a classic working Swahili home. An onsite museum attendant provides an informative tour of Swahili life during the 18th and 19th C. The ceremonial deathbed is on display, it is where deceased family members would lay before burial. An echo chamber is another part of the house. This is where women could greet visitors when men were not around, without being seen. Close family members and friends were the only people to access the central courtyard. It was used for daytime activities such as washing. The kitchen, located on the second floor, has a large wooden pestle and mortar, a pasta maker, a water boiler and a flour-grinding stone on display as well as other common kitchen instruments.


    Lamu Donkey Sanctuary


    Donkeys are the main method of transport in Lamu, thus the Donkey Sanctuary was started to treat the working donkeys. The Donkey Sanctuary is located in northern Lamu, near the waterfront. An estimated 2,200 donkeys are used for agriculture as well as to carry household provisions and building materials. Regular treatment clinics have been established, including a worming program every six months that are offered free of charge. Courses and training are offered including harnessing and donkey care. Local donkeys that have been injured are also are brought to the stable for rehabilitation and rest. Animal welfare is promoted with an annual donkey competition that gives a prize for the donkey in the best condition.


    Kiwayu Island Lamu Kenya


    Kiwayu Island is in the northeast of the Lamu archipelago and part of the Kiunga Marine National Reserve. Many visitors to the island come to snorkel on the coral reefs, on the eastern side of the island. The Dodori and Boni Game Reserves are off to the west of Kiwayu. The wild areas protect the fauna and flora of eastern Kenya. The animals found on the reserves are often migratory such as elephant and buffalo. The permanent residents are lion, cheetah, serval, caracal, lesser kudu, monkeys and the rare African hunting dog.


    Kiwayu has gained a reputation as a retreat for the rich and famous but that is within a luxury resort found at the far end of the island.


    Shela Village


    Shela is a traditional Swahili village with tall stone houses, smaller thatched dwellings, mosques, ruins and it is located only 5-minutes from Shela Beach. Shela was settled in the 17th C by migrants of Takwa and still has the atmosphere of a medieval town. Shela Beach is a dune-backed beach that runs for 12 kilometers along the headland. From Lamu, it is a 40-minute walk or 10 minute trip by dhow. Located at the start of the beach is a mock fort built by an Italian entrepreneur. Shela is in the channel between Lamu and Manda Island, a perfect spot for windsurfing, sailing and water skiing. Manda Beach is located on Manda Island, about a 20-minute dhow ride from Lamu. It is smaller and less busy but still excellent for snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing. Manda Island provides the backdrop of mangrove forest, baobab tress and a variety of animals for a walking safari. Matondoni is located about 2 hours from Lamu. Take in the ancient art of dhow building or watch them being repaired by the shipwrights. Kipungani is a small village on the southwest tip of Lamu Island. The locals make straw baskets, hats and mats. Kipungani means "the place of fresh air" in Swahili and Kipungani Bay provides all the makings for desert island relaxation with lots of sun, sand and fresh air. Sand dunes are found at the north Coast of Lamu in Shella village and run through to the southern end of Lamu Island. They stretch about 12 km covering 958 hectares. The dunes rise to about 60 metres above sea level forming a continuous ridge along the Lamu Bay. Conservationists claim that the dunes have protected Lamu against strong winds from the open sea. For instance, it is believed they shielded the island from the deadly Tsunami in 2006. Apart from being a shield, the sand dunes have since 1950s been found to have hydrological attributes, leading to their gazettement as a water catchment area in March 2002. Reports indicate that the colonial government carried out an underground water study in 1953, leading to the sinking of 20 wells there. Between 1983 and 2002 technical and scientific studies conducted on the sand dunes recommended the preservation of the fresh water aquifers for the future survival of the settlements on the island.


    Manda Island


    Manda is an island of the Lamu Archipelago and well known for the towns of Manda and Takwa. Both towns were most likely abandoned due to lack of water.


    Manda Island is only accessible by boat or air; thus privacy and seclusion are reinforced on the sandy white beach lined with tropical vegetation. Manda Toto Island, just off the coast, is noted for its snorkeling opportunities. The town of Manda was established during the 9th and 10th C through trade relations with the Persian/Arabic Gulf. Excavations have uncovered Chinese ceramics dating from the 9th C onward, Islamic pottery and glass as well as local pottery. Manda was prosperous until about the 13th C and then finally abandoned in the early 19th C. The Takwa ruins on Manda Island were a flourishing town in the 16th and 17th C. It was abandoned in haste and no one knows why. Proof of its existence lie in the houses, mosque, pillar tomb and a city wall.


    Jamaa Mosque is the largest surviving structure, with a large pillar on top the qibla wall. It is among the most notable features, although the significance of the pillar is not known, some believe there is a Sheikh buried below the wall. It appears that Takwa was a holy city, as all doors faced Mecca. Some residents of Shela, who believe they are descendants of Takwa, still visit the ruins to pray. Even though the ruins of Takwa are overgrown, it is well worth visiting.


    Lamu Fort


    Lamu Fortis located in the island's main square. The Sultan of Oman reportedly commenced construction of this imposing structure in 1813. Upon its completion in 1821 the fort served as a garrison for Baluchi soldiers sent by the Sultan of Oman. Its protective presence encouraged new development around it and some Lamu merchants erected shopfront and buildings. Lamu Fort served as a prison from 1910 to 1984 for the British colonial regime and the Kenyan government. After a complete restoration, the Fort now houses the Lamu branch of the Department of Coastal Archaeology, the Lamu Old Town Conservation Office and the Public Library.


    Lamu Museum


    The Lamu Museum is on the waterfront, housed in a building once occupied by Jack Haggard, Queen Victoria's consul in this outpost. Displays on Swahili culture include a reconstructed Swahili house and relics from Takwa. Other exhibits include Lamu's nautical history, the Maulid Festival and tribes that lived along this part of the coast, including the Boni who were legendary elephant hunters. The nautical section of the Lamu museum features a variety of dhows Ceremonial horns, or siwa, are an important part of the collection. The Lamu siwa is made from engraved brass but the siwa from Paté was carved from a single elephant tusk.


    Lamu German Postal Museum


    Lamu's German Postal Museum was originally built as a private residence in the late 1800's. Later it was converted and used as the first German Post Office in East Africa, briefly from 1888 to 1891. Lamu was a major sea port with well-established links to the outside world. The building was restored and now houses a museum with photographic exhibits and memorabilia showing the long historical relationship between Germany and Kenya. It also depicts early industrial development through the form of communication via postal services in Kenya.


    Kiunga National Marine Reserve


    Kiunga National Marine Reserve is located in the precincts of Lamu County. The Reserve is near a remote village called Kiunga about 150 km east of Lamu town accessible by dhow or motor boat. The reserve occupies 270 km2. The marine ecosystem incorporates a chain of about 50 calcareous offshore islands and coral reefs in the Lamu Archipelago. It runs for about 60km parallel to the coastline and adjacent to Dodori and Boni National Reserves on the mainland. The larger and more sheltered inner islands are covered with tangled thorny vegetation including grass, aloes and creepers. The small outer islands provide nesting sites for migratory seabirds. The reserve conserves valuable coral reefs, sea grass and extensive mangrove forests and is also a refuge for sea turtles and dugongs. Major wildlife attractions include reptiles such as Sea turtles, Olive Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea), and Reef fish. Lobsters, Sea urchins, Sea star and also frequent sightings in the reserve. It is an important site for wind surfing, diving and snorkeling, water skiing and sunbathing. The Coast is humid with mean annual temperatures ranging from 22-34 C. rainfall is about 500mm pa. Other major attraction in Lamu includes the Coral reefs and Sand dunes


    Lamu Diving and Snorkeling


    Kiunga Marine National Reserve is situated along the Indian Ocean coast of Lamu District, Coast Province, Kenya. Major wildlife attractions include reptiles such as Sea turtles, Olive riley, and Reef fish. Lobsters, Sea urchins, Sea star. It is an important site for wind surfing, diving and snorkeling, water skiing and sunbathing.


    The park covers an area with approximately 50 islands and coral reefs in the Lamu Archipelago. It borders the Boni and Dodori National Reserves.


    Lamu Sailing


    To sail the archipelago is to discover beautiful beaches, glorious seascapes, ancient ruins, and fishing and scuba refuges. The largest of the islands are Pate Island, Manda Island and Lamu Island. Smaller islands include Kiwayu, which lies in the Kiunga Marine National Reserve, and Manda Toto. Today the largest town in the archipelago is Lamu Town, on Lamu Island. You can sail with one of the many dhows that Lamu is famous for.


    Lamu Walking


    Lamu town is a walker’s paradise it is both a healthy and historically important town being the only town in Kenya that has no vehicle it offers a walking luxury that is only shared with donkeys who are the main transportation used in the Town.


    The town was founded in the 14th century and it contains many fine examples of Swahili architecture. The old city is inscribed on the World Heritage List as "the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa". The architecture of the Swahili houses and building is unique. Most of them are constructed out of local materials such as coral-rag blocks for walls, wooden floors supported by mangrove poles and makuti roofs. The Swahili Houses were designed as an inward-looking, self-contained complex with a plan around a central courtyard.


    Lamu Beach Houses Booking


    Who does not yearn for a life living on a beach? You get to wake up with the sound of the wave hitting the shore and the leaves of the palm or coconut trees rustling on their branches. You get to sip the freshest fruit juices and you can enjoy a complete, yet inexpensive, massage. You can then cool off in the nice, clear seawater before capping off the night with some drinks with the hunkiest and sexiest young people around while gyrating to the latest rave beat. Now, if you can only find the cheapest accommodations available in order to maximize your stay in Lamu paradise! And, indeed, there are places available that are so inexpensive that you can prolong your stay to your heart’s desire. Travelling to Lamu Island does not have to break the bank. Cheap hotels in Lamu Islad, as well as cheap villas, hostels, guest rooms and cheap cottages are available; you just have to know where to find them. We have collated information on Lamu budget hotels, villas and apartments in Lamu for US$100 per night and under, based on 2 people sharing, for the summer rate for the property. We also specialize in budget & mid-range bed & breakfast hotel, self-catering cottages, private holiday homes and serviced apartment accommodation Lamu Island. Special rates for East Africa residents are available. Whether for an individual traveler, a couple, a family, social group or a corporate event, we make it possible for you to get holiday or business class accommodation at the Kenya coast at affordable rates. Obviously the cheaper a property is the more basic the amenities & facilities will be. Lamu Island beach accommodation is run by experts in the Lamu Island and surrounding areas to bring you holiday accommodation that fits your budget and requirements. Our listings comprise of beachfront villas, villas and cottages, bed and breakfasts, apartments, budget places, beach and boutique hotels. We have physically seen all the properties and have used our shell rating system to give you an idea of the standard of accommodation to expect when booking a particular property.


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