All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
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    Kizingo Eco Lodge Lamu Island Kenya & Lamu Beach Hotels Resorts Africa

    Kizingo Eco Lodge is the ultimate secluded beach resort; a wonderful and tranquil escape from the modern world. The Kizingo Eco Lodge is situated at one end of a spectacular 12 km beach that stretches from Kizingo, which means 'the point’ in Swahili, to the fashionable remote village of Shela and like all the best resorts in Kenya, Kizingo Eco Lodge has a symbiotic relationship with the local village, an hour away on foot, and with farmers on the mainland who grow food and make furniture for the lodge. This is an eco-adventurer's getaway, with few signs of modernity and an escape-from-it-all vibe that's emphasized by its empty stretch of beach and abundance of crabs scuttling over the sand. At Kizingo Lodge prepare to lose all track of time and all sense of direction, if you can handle staying in a simple, eco-conscious beach banda with eco-flush toilet, solar-heated water, a natural breeze for ventilation, and minimal electricity, then you'll be thrilled here, waking up in your king-size bed to the sight of dhows sailing by. It's a tough call, deciding whether to venture out at all, when you can simply lounge about on your large veranda, swinging on your hammock. The area is still wild and untamed -- some dislike the unkempt, totally natural look, and a few are freaked out by the crabs, the rough sea, and the back-to-basics ethos -- so if you're squeamish, go elsewhere. Set among the dunes not far from the sea, all the palm-thatched bandas have ocean views, Take a sunset sailing trip on a dhow; try kayaking, deep-sea fishing, windsurfing, and snorkeling; or explore little-visited islands such as Pate Island. However, the big thrill at Kizingo Eco Lodge Lamu Island is the chance to swim with dolphins (Nov-Apr), which are more or less habituated to human interaction. Lodge owners Louis and Mary Jo van Aardt are real eco-warriors, the Kizingo Eco Lodge is built on land rented from Kipungani village, the power is solar, and shower water is recycled to grow plants and stabilize the dunes, and have done much to invest in the local community. Besides providing work for villagers, buying fish and vegetables from local farmers, and supporting two island schools and other community projects, they'll take you on a cycling excursion to visit the local village. “Kizingo Hotel is the ultimate 'no news, no shoes’ beach resort - a wonderful secluded and tranquil escape from the modern world, Kizingo Beach Resort welcomes you in style with an expansive coastline for an unprecedented Lamu vacation close to the Indian Ocean, This Kizingo Hotel occupies a remote edge of the coastline. Leave the world, your busy life and all the burdens behind because here, it is just you, a team of courteous staff and the 12km sandy shoreline. In just an hour and thirty minutes, your flight lands from Nairobi and a half hour later, the boat docks at the foot of the Kizingo Hotel Lamu Island, it is a private, intimate lodge with each element of the hospitality package tailored to suit your needs, stay in any of the immaculate chalets known as bandas, these cottages take an iconic design reflected by traditional coastal architecture, Palm trees form a thatched roof over your banda, during the day, you can spot activity on the beach right from the comfort of the poster bed. Light penetrates your chalet from the many large windows, relax on the hanging bed and listen to the sound of water rushing to the coastline. Do not get too comfortable because this bed-like-hammock can make you forget you have dozens of activities to undertake and places to explore. Fun in Kizingo Beach Resort is available both on land and in the Indian Ocean. Top on your list is sightseeing in Lamu Town, snorkeling, dhow trips, deep-sea fishing, swimming, kayaking and cycling, Dare to undertake all these and enjoy watching turtles as a bonus to your coastal excursions, Kizingo Resort offers barefoot luxury; a private and secluded lodge that provides peace and tranquility, this tiny 8 banda eco-lodge gives you a new meaning to the words “laid back”.


    Here the delightful owners and hosts have succeeded in creating a beach lodge that, in spite of its back-to-basics simplicity, consistently delights its guests and attracts rave reviews, to use their phrase, it’s been styled as the ultimate resort, a place where you can come to just chill out and recharge your batteries in an atmosphere of seclusion the hosts have put their experience as previous managers of the nearby Kipungani lodge to good use in creating their retreat – in fact, the close ties they had fostered with the local village led directly to them being offered this gorgeous stretch of beach to develop. The result is a lovely little beach lodge that perhaps lacks some of the luxuries and frills of other Kenyan beach lodges – but then again comes without those eye-watering prices either! The rooms of the Kizingo Resort Lamu Island lie scattered in the dunes on the southern tip of Lamu Island – a great position in terms of being able to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset which is very rare in this neck of the woods. With just 8 thatched bandas one of the things that you’re guaranteed of at Kizingo hotels is that you’re never going to feel overcrowded. They’re also well spaced apart to give an even greater degree of privacy and seclusion. Inside you’ll find large, comfortable double beds romantically draped with mosquito nets and with a solar powered fan. With the vegetation on the dunes being quite limited, relief from the heat of the sun also comes by way of the natural ventilation of the sea breezes through the open window apertures – if you’re concerned about protecting your modesty from prying eyes don’t worry, as handy bamboo blinds can be unfurled to give you privacy. To wash off the salt and sand after a day on the beach, head for the shower in the en-suite bedroom that also offers flushing-eco-loos, basin and dressing area. Eating here at Kizingo Beach Lodge is a wonderfully social occasion with everyone gathering in the main restaurant and tucking into some meals in an almost family atmosphere seated around a huge table. Don’t worry though if you feel like something more private – you can also opt to dine more romantically on the balcony of your banda for instance. After a tough day of snorkeling, fishing or just lazing in the sun there’s little better than gathering around the sociable bar and enjoying a ice-cold Tusker whilst comparing notes with your fellow guests – get Alex, the barman, to mix you a delicious (and deceptively potent!) dawa cocktail made using local fresh limes. With its conservation credentials such as using solar paneling to heat water, the Kizingo Beach Hotel ticks quite a few boxes in our view, the hosts are charming hosts and regale many an interesting tale about their years spent in Africa and the areas they have seen. With rooms larger than plenty of London flats, the feel inside is of an airy and calm space and are perfect to relax and forget about the rest of the world. At the price it is offered, this really is a bargain and, as such, will be difficult to get into. A perfect combination with a stay in the nearby Shela village.


    There’s definitely no shortage of activities on offer at Kizingo Beach Resort. Arguably the most special are the wonderful “swimming with dolphins” trips Louis runs between November and April to the nearby small coral island of Kinyika – truly a life affirming experience you’ll remember years after! Then there’s snorkelling on nearby coral reefs, again from November to April when the north east monsoon, the “Kaskasi”, results in crystal-clear waters perfect for observing the kaleidoscope of colour under water. Perhaps you’ll be lucky enough to observe the green turtles coming onto the beach to lay their eggs, or go on an expedition to protect the newly hatched turtles from dangers as they find their way to the ocean. Of course, there’s also the chance to enjoy some of the area’s legendary fishing – and what could be a better way to end the day then to have your catch expertly prepared and served up as dinner whilst you chat about the day’s exploits with your fellow guests! Bring your family along this holiday to Kisingo Lodge serenity is something you want to share with others. The spectacular views of the dawn to dusk amaze every person who stops for a Lamu vacation in this beach resort. Even for couples on honeymoon holiday and group safaris, this luxury beach lodge remains the same- a perfect travel destination for those who need excellent accommodation, exquisite food and adventure.


    Kizingo Lodge Accommodation


    Kizingo Lodge is a beach resort with a difference, it sits on a serene, secluded location on the shores of the Indian Ocean; it has intimate and luxurious accommodation units and a team of courteous, skilled and professional staff, most people visiting Lamu tend to stay within Lamu town or Shela village, but there is certainly something to be said for the location of this small property, Kizigo Lodge is a cracking little place - great value and simplicity incarnate. There is a little of the personal eclectic touch in the furniture and the atmosphere is very much that of being in the home of a good friend; relaxed, hospitable and informal to the last. The eight palm bandas are widely spread out, each with their own bit of beachfront. Don't expect too much in the way of frills but enjoy the "Robinson Crusoe on an upgrade" feel along with great food and ice cold beers in the fridge. Kizingo Eco Lodge offers beautifully appointed bandas, set well apart from each other. In the early morning you can enjoy tea in bed and watch fishing dhows tack south to Malindi. Guests can be as private or as social as they wish, opting to enjoy fine dining on the balcony of their banda or join other guests in the bar and the dining room with their magnificent views across the bay to mainland Kenya, where giant baobab trees spread into the brilliant blue sky. The eight very spacious bandas with high-pitched thatched roofs and shaded balconies right on the beach. Each has a large double bed romantically draped with mosquito netting and comfortable chairs for lounging. Bamboo screens unfurl to give complete privacy. The en suite bathroom is well appointed with a flushing toilet, hot water shower, wash basin and dressing area. This is a great island retreat and one of the few places where you can genuinely experience unspoilt beaches all to yourself. And don't be put off by the low price. In an era where quality is increasingly judged by how much you've paid your interior decorator, Kizingo is bucking that trend in a wonderfully refreshing way. Outstanding and it deserves to be supported. We love Kisigo Lodge Lamu as it is simple, great value and always delivers- 5 palms! Each banda has its own 12V solar power. Electricity is generated by a 50W photovoltaic panel supplying six low energy D.C. lights. The hot water in the banda's is also heated by the solar power. Bandas are equipped with flushing ‘eco-loos’ that use 1 liter of water per flush. This has reduced our water consumption dramatically. After experimenting with a composting loo, we will be introducing them to the staff bandas over the next two seasons.


    Kizingo Lodge Meals


    With such a reputation, coupled with the excellent meals served in its restaurant, your vacation to Lamu at the coast bears good tidings. Our chefs prepare delicious lunches and dinners in our restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean using only the freshest local produce. Fish and seafood are the specialties, red snapper, crab and lobster, all served with locally-grown vegetables and salads. We can also accommodate special diets and create interesting dishes for vegetarians, or carnivores. James and John our chefs, prepare delicious lunches and dinners in our restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean using only the freshest local produce, Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the room rates as well as afternoon tea with homemade cake. There are fine wines from South Africa, Chile and Italy. Ask our barman Alex to mix a Dawa using local fresh limes or a Lala Salama which guarantees a sound night’s sleep, Kizingo Hotel is situated two degrees south of the Equator on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya. It is reached by scheduled daily flights from Nairobi (90 minutes) or Mombasa (45 minutes) and a half-hour boat ride from the airport on Manda Island. Kizingo Lodge is strongly committed to conservation, ecologically sound practices and a symbiotic relationship with the local community. When we built Kizingo we used the knowledge and expertise of villagers to construct the bandas. We used locally produced materials such as mangrove poles, star palm leaves and coconut palms, to help the lodge blend into the landscape. Hot water and most of our electricity is provided by solar panels. Shower water and kitchen grey water is recycled to grow our plants and trees. While you can spend the whole of your stay with us simply relaxing and doing nothing but reading and sunbathing, we can arrange more energetic activities for you including kayaking, snorkelling on coral reefs, swimming with dolphins, fishing, guided cycle rides, bush walks, village visits, and sunset dhow trips. Water supply is from a fragile fresh water lens floating on a layer of salt water. To protect the lens from over pumping, our water is extracted from wells equipped with float switches. Water is then collected in header tanks before being gravity feed to the bandas. All water is metered and recorded. Waste water from showers, basins and the kitchen, excluding oil and fat, is collected daily and recycled in the garden. Kitchen waste is mixed with chicken manure and bedding then composted for use in the kitchen herb and salad garden. Plastic waste is incinerated at over 800ºC, breaking down the organic constituents of plastic into carbon dioxide and water.


    Kizingo Lodge Activities


    Whilst you can spend the whole of your stay with us just relaxing and doing nothing but reading and sunbathing (it has been known!), we can arrange more energetic activities for you:


    Kizingo Lodge Kayaking


    We have imported two double and two single Kayaks, and can now offer guided trips exploring around the lamu archipelago. We will be offering full and half day trips around the area and a gentler sunset paddle. A delightful way to spend some time on the water. One of a paddler's main concerns when surf kayaking is figuring out how to launch from the beach. Being able to get into your kayak and paddle through the waves en route to surfing they can be a daunting task. Before getting into your kayak survey the ocean. Find the best place to launch your kayak from the beach. Get into your kayak just past where the water washes onto the beach. Push out into the water and paddle out off the sand. Look for an opportunity to paddle between the waves, around them, or over them. Be patient.


    Kizingo Lodge Snorkel on coral reefs (Available from November to April)


    The unspoilt reefs surrounding the islets of Kinyika, Tenewa and Manda Toto are easily reached aboard our speedboat. Rich in different species of coral and shoals of rainbow-coloured tropical fish, they are also important nurseries for ocean-going fish. A trip to Lamu Island isn’t complete without an ocean adventure cruz off the coast of Kailua Kona to experience swimming, snorkeling and diving with wild Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins and Manta Rays and Humpback Whale watching (in the winter) all in their natural environment.


    Kizingo Lodge Swim with dolphins (Available from November to April)


    From November to April we offer guided snorkelling trips to a small coral island called Kinyika. Here is the chance of swimming with wild dolphins, entertaining and amusing them with our attempts to emulate them, one cannot fail to be enchanted at their obvious enjoyment with this mutually fascinating encounter. The coral island of Kinika is just half an hour from Kizingoni Beach in the open sea and has excellent coral heads. If the sea is rough the trip should be postponed until a calmer day. Although you can do this with your boat and captain, we also recommend you go with Louis from Kizingo, next door to Kizingoni Beach. Louis has befriended two schools of dolphins and there is a good chance you will be able to swim with them (seasonal). The Kizingo boat leaves at 9am and you need to book in advance with the Kizingo manager, as availability is limited. Kizingo fee Ksh5, 500 per person. Dolphin is rapidly becoming a recognized word in the English language, well certainly at Kizingo, where it is incorporated into our daily lives.


    DOLPHINING, otherwise known as swimming, entertaining and playing with wild groups of dolphins, quickly becomes an addictive pastime. The experience of delphinine creates an almost childlike sense of euphoria, the most unlikely guests suddenly find themselves transformed - foolishly smiling and giggling with glee, this sensation often refuses to rub off all day! The dolphin trips this season at Kizingo have been better than ever, with each expedition offering a new insight into the dolphins' highly sociable and friendly world. The most unusual aspect of Kizingo dolphin adventures, aside the fact that Louis knows the pods intimately, easily identifying characters in each group such as Nick and Lyra, is that these noble creatures actively seek us out and approach us, it is a mutual bond of respect. The more you come into contact with these fascinating mammals the greater the desire to understand and spend more time with them, hence the success of Louis' Dolphin trips.


    Kizingo Lodge Fishing


    Lamu Island is all about lazing on the beach and you won’t find too many water sports here. Having said that, some resorts offer water skiing and windsurfing which is pretty good along the unprotected eastern coast of Lamu Island, where the winds make for good surfing. Hiring a dhow and crew to go for a picnic cruise or deep sea fishing is good fun and there are plenty of willing boats owners ready to take you out. Snorkelling around Lamu is good but not excellent. Much of the reef was destroyed in the tsunami. Also be aware that the tides and currents can be very strong so it is best to stay close to shore if you are a beginner or are snorkelling with children. The best spot is just off the southern tip of Manda Island, although the best reefs are hard to find and you’re better off asking a local to help you locate them! We can arrange fishing trips in the mangrove channels and from the shore. Both fly and spinning rods are used to catch snapper, lady fish and travellis. Deep sea or reef fishing can also be arranged either with Louis or by chartering a deep-sea fishing boat. Yellow fin tuna, sailfish, and kingfish are the more common catches. Leaving in the morning after breakfast for a half day sailing, fishing and swimming at Manda beach. Most tourist prefer fishing along the Takwa channel because it is calm and relaxing but you can ask the captain to take you to the open sea where fish is plenty but a little bit rough for those who are not used to the sea. Fishing happens for about 2 hrs and then you have the rest of the time to swim and explore the Manda beach. On board the dhow is equipped with fishing lines, bait, fruits and lunch. Barbeque is done in the dhow while you swim and you have a choice to eat either from the dhow or on the sand at the beach. Our traditional barbeque lunch is “Catch of the day, Chapati or rice, vegetable salad and fresh fruits”. No drinks are included, A good opportunity to eat fresh sea food direct from the sea.


    Kizingo lodge Boat excursions


    Depending on weather, the trip around Lamu Island can be arranged clock wise from the open sea or by following the channel between the mainland and Lamu Island. The boat will stop on the beach of Kizingo point. On the way back, there is an option to visit the Matondoni or Kipungani villages. The trip is typically organized by speed boat. This is a half day trip and can take up to 3-4 hours. A barbeque lunch can also be arranged at your request.


    Kizingo Lodge Excursion around Manda Island by boat this is a half day trip on the other side of the island with stop-over in Manda Toto, a small island made up of sand off Manda Island. Access to the other side of Manda Island is possible by navigating into a narrow mangrove channel on the west coast of the island. The excursion can be organized with a speed boat or by dhow. This is a half day trip and can take 3-4 hours depending on the stops. A barbeque lunch can also be arranged at your request.


    Kizingo Lodge Excursion to Kiwayu Island by boat Kiwayu is a small island in the north eastern part of the Lamu Archipelago, situated in the Kiunga Marine Reserve. The main attraction on Kiwayu is the tidal pools and snorkeling/diving pools located on the eastern side of the island. This is a full day trip and it takes about 1 hour & 1/2 one way by boat. Fishing can also be organized on the way to Kiwayu.


    Kizingo Lodge Turtle watch


    Green turtles come up to the beach to lay their eggs between late October and June. When the eggs hatch, Louis will take guests to watch the newly-hatched turtles find their way to the ocean, protecting them from crabs and birds on the start of their journey. Several species of marine turtle lay their eggs on the beaches around Watamu and Watamu Turtle Watch, part of the Local Ocean Trust, has set up a series of initiatives with local people to protect these threatened animals. Female turtles lay thousands of eggs here between January and April. Contact the trust's Marine Information Centre if you're interested in seeing this incredible natural spectacle or volunteering with local projects.


    Historic Lamu Town


    A guided tour of historic Lamu Town, where donkeys are still the only form of transport, includes visits to former merchants’ homes with their ornate carved doors and plasterwork, the fort, the daily vegetable and fish markets, and encounters with some of the trades people, from woodcarvers to silver smiths. The reason why we promote Guided tours in Lamu is to preserve the old local knowledge of the town and its history as its passed from generation to generation. As promoters we want to train the new generation of tour Guides and keep them motivated to offer high standard services. Therefore by buying this service, you help us make it happen. There are numerous sights in and around Lamu worth exploring. The architecture of the houses and buildings is especially unique. Most buildings date back to the 18th century or before and are constructed out of local materials including coral-rag blocks for the walls, wooden floors supported by mangrove poles, makuti roofs, and intricately carved shutters for windows.Enjoy the friendly services offered by our tour guides; they are well trained to tell you the exciting history of Lamu from traditional times through recent modernization. The tour is to include: Lamu Fort, Swahili House Museum & Lamu Museum, Lamu Market, Germany post office (the first post office in Lamu), Furniture stores, Kikoy Stores, Art galleries and the Donkey Sanctuary.


    Historic Lamu Conservation


    Kizingo is strongly committed to conservation, ecologically sound practices and a symbiotic relationship with the local community. When we built Kizingo we used the knowledge and expertise of villagers to construct the bandas. We used locally produced materials such as mangrove poles, star palm leaves and coconut palms, to help the lodge blend into the landscape. Hot water and most of our electricity is provided by solar panels. Shower water and kitchen grey water is recycled to grow our plants and trees. Guests can visit the local village and its school. Having raised money for the renovation of Kipungani School, the Paint Pots nursery schools in London are funding the building of another two schools on the mainland across from Lamu in villages where we buy our fruit and vegetables. Children of all ages are most welcome at Kizingo. However, there are no specific child care facilities but babysitting can easily be arranged. It is possible to tailor food requirements to children's tastes and arrange for earlier meat times if required. Lamu and the coast of Kenya is a wonderful place for a family holiday with calm safe waters, endless activities and plenty of cultural interaction.


    The Kipungani Schools Trust


    Class at Kipangani village The KST Kipungani School Trust was founded in 1999 by John Seagrim, Georgina Hood and Cas Donald. The first School to be re built was the Kipungani Primary School. Since then the KST has gone on to build 12 more primary schools. Due to the increase in student numbers KST also supports extra teachers for most of the schools. KST also tries to help with as many scholarships as it can and to date there are over 40 children receiving these. KST and Kizingo work together in trying to help with schools in the area between Lamu and Malindi. They visit schools that require help and these usually have an affiliation with one of Kizingo's staff. In this way the Kizingo team is like the guardian to all our projects, and consequently we all feel proud of what the KST has achieved. All these schools are built with local craftsman so giving the community of that school a sense of achievement and pride, which can encourage small injections of money. Due to the regular visits, dedication and commitment of John, Georgina and Cas, the schools all feel they need to be on-going in achieving ever higher standards and better results as a mark of their appreciation and to ensure the Trust's continued interest and support. Their attention continues even when a project has been completed. All manage to come out at least twice a year at their own expense to visit all the schools and offer help and encouragement. A big thank you goes out to all those from afar and for those who have stayed at Kizingo and helped personally or by spreading the word. The KST success would not have been possible without you all.


    Message from Kizingo Lodge Management


    Little is known about the one kilometer-long and 30 metres wide paradise that keeps royals, renowned actors and actresses periodically jetting into Kenya for beach holidays. Yet much can be said about Kenya’s all-inclusive, exclusive private island resorts that are only accessible by boat or ferry. Kizingo resort owner on the same island is a happy woman, delighted to own a piece of jewel in Lamu. “We are very happy in Lamu,” says the owner. “It is a small island with hardly any crime where the people are gentle and welcoming to visitors.” It is the personalized service in these service establishments that makes the island resorts unmatched. And the owners want to keep them that way. “We are very happy to stay small and personal,” says the Kizingo resort owner. “Many tour operators book clients to Zanzibar or Seychelles because, according to them, the Kenyan coast doesn’t have many luxury hotels and they complain that the beaches are crowded with beach boys. "Realizing Lamu’s exclusivity, many travel agents have shifted a lot of business from foreign clientele to Lamu, which is still basically an undisturbed destination.” “There are few tourists, no cars, no traffic, only boats and donkeys. In addition, you get the cultural element. Staying in a beautiful island with nothing around it, can get boring while in Lamu, you have so many options: cultural visits, fishing, water sports, or you can simply lie back and relax if you wish.” Here Mary-Jo Van Aardt and her family have established a haven for worn-out visitors who, like me, have forgotten to pack anything other than walking boots and flip-flops. Kizingo is a little hamlet of bandas strung out along the beach. All built of local materials, with no glass in the windows and no doors. They are light, airy and naturally cooled by the breeze off the sea. Crabs scuttle along the beach, seabirds dive for fish, fishermen wave from their dhows. Over dinner (the ingredients for which were supplied by the local fishermen and Kizingo's vegetable garden) Mary-Jo's husband, Louis, told me about the coastal bottle-nose dolphins that are regularly seen just beyond the island's tip.


    Kizingo Lodge Swim the Channel


    Swimming the channel has become a regular event for many Kizingo householders and guests. It takes about 30 minutes one way, depending on how strong a swimmer you are, BUT has to be done just as the tide is turning. Otherwise you risk being swept out to sea, as currents are strong. It is possible to swim both ways, although most of our visitors are happy to be collected by their boat once their feet touch the mainland… Your boat and your captain will accompany you, on rescue duty. Don’t forget to take a pool towel and some WATER for the arrival celebration. Please do not attempt this on your own! NB: This is strictly at your own risk. There are large fish, occasional jellyfish and a few sea urchins out there. We take no responsibility for any incident or accident.


    Kizingo Lodge Guided cycle rides


    For a real taste of village life in Kenya, join us on a guided cycle ride on the mainland. We will introduce you to the farmers who grow food for Kizingo as well as cashew nuts, sim sim and cotton. They also brew delicious honey beer which has quite a punch. Keen cyclists will enjoy a trip to Lake Kenyatta known for its wonderful bird life and the rare chance to see hippos.


    Kizingo Lodge Bush walks


    Paths through the high dunes reveal a wealth of flora and fauna, a wonderful way to spend the late afternoon.


    Kizingo Lodge Village visits


    Kipungani village welcomes visitors. Here you can see how the Makeka mats are made, which are used here at Kizingo. You can also visit the school.


    Kizingo Lodge Sunset dhow trips


    A Dhow can be hired from the local village to sail round the bay. Watch the sun drop into the ocean from the deck of the dhow under full sail.


    Lamu Island Information


    There's a lackadaisical paradise off the coast of Kenya where Africa and Arabia, past and present blur. It has always attracted drifters and romantics, and now it's becoming one of Africa's most fashionable holiday destinations, was there ever a more romantic island than Lamu Island? It lies in the Indian Ocean, perched just two degrees above the equator. All that separates it from the Kenya mainland is a broad channel; a slither of midnight-blue water running through the mangroves. Yet Lamu Island exists in its own parallel world. Nowadays you can fly there from Nairobi in 80 minutes, but the moment you touch down on neighboring Manda Island, you are stepping back into the age of Sinbad. Here, on the burning rim of Africa, is a rickety wooden jetty, and at the end of it, a sailing dhow, waiting to take you on the ten-minute ride across the water. In the stern, as if too lazy to lift his hand, the skipper steers the tiller with his bare foot, heading out into the tideway towards Lamu's low-profile waterfront of coconut palms and flat-roofed houses. In many ways, Lamu Island is like a smaller version of Zanzibar Island, but with the added bonus of being simply the best known of a string of islands stretching north towards Kiwayu Safari Village and the Kiunga Marine National Reserve. This luminous world, half sea, half sky, is divided by low horizons of dunes and mangrove creeks, live turtles, pelicans, dugongs and whale sharks. From time to time, lions roam its lonely shores and sometimes elephants still wade across its sandy channels to next-door island Manda. A mile and a half beyond Lamu Town, where the channel curves to meet the open sea, the bone-white minaret at Shela village comes into view. This is where you are heading. As you come alongside the jetty at the Kizingo Lodge, small boys leap and dive into the clear water, back in the 1960s, Lamu was something of a hippy hangout with the same streetcred as Katmandu. Ever since, the island has attracted a colourful coterie of drifters and romantics, refugees from the outside world for whom its remoteness and laid-back attitude to life has made it an ideal sanctuary. As the years passed, its reputation spread. Lamu became an exotic bolt hole for discerning travellers who came to wash off the dust of Kenyan game-park safaris in the Indian Ocean. In 2001, Manda Island was designated a World Heritage Site. Even so, with its open drains and braying donkeys, Kenya's oldest inhabited town is an unlikely holiday choice for the A-list. There is only one car on the entire island and dhows are the only public transport. Besides, this corner of Africa follows the way of Islam, with a dress code that requires decorum and a score of mosques broadcasting the call to prayer five times a day. Nevertheless, the word is well and truly out. Lamu is the hottest new vacation destination in East Africa. Property prices are soaring as the jet set move in, snapping up crumbling coral houses and transforming them into palatial Swahili-style villas with poolside swing beds and rooftop dining rooms. Celebrities who have fallen under Lamu's spell include Princess Caroline of Monaco and her husband, Prince Ernst August of Hanover, who has three villas and a beach house at Shela. Then there's Gillian Anderson of The X-Files, Kim Cattrall of Sex and the City - and Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood has holidayed on next-door Manda. The town itself is an exotic mix of Africa and Arabia; a labyrinth of shoulder-wide alleys and peeling 18th-century houses, many with ornately carved wooden doors. Arriving at the market square, outside the 19th-century fort, you will see men dressed in ankle-length cotton kanzus and embroidered skullcaps, known as kofias. They sprawl across stone benches playing bao, the world's oldest board game. At dusk, when the coffee sellers emerge with their conical brass pots, veiled women drift down the streets in their buibuis, full-length black cloaks. At the town museum, prized exhibits include the island's famous siwa, a 6ft-long ceremonial horn made of polished brass, dating back to the 1700s, and another in carved ivory from Pate Island, north of Manda. Together these two mighty relics rank among the finest art treasures in Africa. Even before the birth of Islam, Arab dhows were venturing down the shores of the continent they called the Land of Zinj. In time, these early seafarers began to trade, and intermarry with the local Bantu-speaking inhabitants, giving rise to a whole new culture with its own language - Swahili. Until the 1970s, Lamu's lifeblood was the dhow trade. Those were the days when the great ocean-going dhows of Arabia came south with the monsoon, bringing dates, Persian carpets and brass-bound chests. Then, when the northbound trade winds began to blow in March, they would return home laden with all the cargoes of Africa: ivory; turtle shells; coffee and mangrove poles. Back in the 1990s, I found a retired dhow captain sitting under a tree on the waterfront. Looking out to sea with his thousand-mile stare he recalled how the journey from Lamu to India would take 30 days. But now it is tourism that keeps Lamu Island afloat, and the citizens of this dazzling archipelago are getting used to their new-found popularity. From Peponi's, the soft coral sands run unbroken for eight miles down the island's seaward-facing side, where herons and crab plovers stalk along pristine tidemarks among washed-up cowries and other treasures of the sea. If solitude and sea views appeal, you could stay here, at Kizingo, Lamu's latest barefoot beach lodge with six blissful bandas (palm-thatch cottages) tucked among the dunes. Or you could pitch up at Kipungani Explorer, a Crusoe-style hangout in a coconut plantation at the southwestern tip of the island. To get there you go by speedboat from Lamu Town, a half-hour trip, zooming down the channel past the mainland mangroves and Matondoni village, where dhows are still built with ancient tools. Should you wish, you could stay on Manda. This is where Africa's first barefoot beach lodge was established 35 years ago, among the palms of Ras Kilindini. It used be known as the Blue Safari Club.


    Now, given a complete makeover, it is Manda Bay, and offers seriously good seafood along with all kinds of water sports, from big game fishing to snorkelling in the pellucid waters off Manda Toto. It's also the only place I know where people are known to play croquet on the beach at low tide. October heralds the start of the snorkelling season. This is when the water becomes clear and blue now that the kusi - the southeast monsoon - has ceased to blow. The weather is calm, with an average daytime temperature of 27˚C. Out to sea, the sailfish are running and you may be lucky enough to see humpback whales and their young traveling down the coast on their annual migration. But whenever you go and wherever you stay - beware. It's only a matter of time before Lamu's insidious lethargy takes hold. Almost against my will, I find myself putting aside my watch. No more sightseeing visits to the lost-city ruins of Takwa on Manda Island. No more dhow trips to Kiwayu or swimming with dolphins at Kizingo. Instead, wrapped in my softest kikoi, I pad barefoot to the beach or relax on a swing bed, lulled by the wash of wavelets as they collapse on the sand and fall back with a gasp like the breathing of an untroubled sleeper. A few more days of this, I decide, and I could end up ensnared by Lamu life forever.


    How to get to Lamu Island


    Kizingo is situated two degrees south of the Equator on the island of Lamu off the coast of Kenya. The lodge is situated at one end of a spectacular 12-kilometre beach that stretches from Kizingo (which means 'the point’ in Swahili) to the fashionable village of Shela. 8 hour 30 minute hour flight to Nairobi, There is three daily scheduled flights between Nairobi and Lamu. The flight takes between 1hour 40minutes and 2 hours, depending on the aircraft used. Ali will meet you at Manda Airport, help to collect and load your luggage on to the Kizingoni Beach trolley. You will trundle down towards the Manda jetty and your private speedboat. You will see Lamu town straight ahead of you, with Shela village off to the left. Kizingoni Beach is a 20 minutes ride. The rainy season on the Kenyan Coast is generally May/June. So from July onward the weather is gradually getting hotter and dryer until March/April when it reaches the high 90's (over40 degrees C). Christmas/New Year is generally considered the peak season and the weather is lovely then with constant sunshine and gentle off shore breezes. If you want clear seas for diving then make your trip after August/Sept.


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