All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
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    Diamond Beach Village Hotel Lamu Island Kenya Africa & Lamu Beach Hotels, Resorts, Cottages, Villas, House

    Diamond Beach Village is situated on the island of Manda, which is the sister island of Lamu island witch is said to be the oldest town in east Africa. The dominant Arabic influence is evident in the town's architecture with beautifully carved doors and some notable mosques. Lamu town has recently been granted World Heritage status and the local museum has a fine collection of artifacts. There are no cars on Lamu Island or Manda Island and the only form of transport is donkey or boat, both of which are an experience in themselves, the pace of life in Lamu Island is inevitably slow and relaxed. The island is located roughly three degrees south of the equator therefore you can guarantee that perfect island vacation getaway, whether it is lazing in your airy banda, on the beach or exploring the surroundings, Lamu Island is the perfect place to come and relax on a beach holiday for days or weeks, away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, Diamond Beach Village provides a wonderful base from which to explore the local scenery and also take in the colorful Lamu culture and people.

     

    Or if you'd prefer, simply sit back, relax and luxuriate for days on end and let our friendly staff look after your every need, whether it’s breakfast in bed or drinks on the swing bed. Diamond Beach Village offers an alternative to the concrete beach hotel accommodation, more of a rustic Robinson Crusoe experience, we work very closely with the local Swahili people taking into account their culture and only using local methods and materials to create a refreshing, eco-friendly, alternative style holiday. The Diamond Beach Village lodge is located on the beach front with amazing views of the open ocean, Lamu Island, Shela village and dhows sailing past. At Diamond Beach Village we have 6 beach huts called bandas and a Tree house, It sleeps between two and six people, with wooden floors, branches coming through the walls and a large veranda on the first floor stretching right around the tree, where drinks can be brought to you. It is an amazing experience to be lying in bed in a baobab tree watching the birds fly by with a view across the village over to the dunes of Lamu Island. They are traditionally designed with high windows – the sea breeze flows through making them the ideal retreat from the African sunshine.

     

    We have 2 x single bandas, each with a double bed 4ft x 6ft. We have 4 x double bandas, each with a double 6ft x 6ft bed. The large ‘family’ banda is divided into 2 rooms, each en suite and can accommodate up to 5 people. Each banda at Diamond Beach Village Hotel is en suiet and has a front porch, which is furnished with tables and chairs so that you can relax in privacy. All bandas are provided with sheets, mosquito nets and towels. Each banda has solar powered lighting and for charging cameras etc there is a main charging point in the library. Our very friendly room boy Mwalimu cleans daily and we offer a laundry service. If eating, drinking, swimming, reading and sleeping are not enough to satisfy the soul then there is plenty more to do. We have a boat, ‘Diamond’, which does airport transfers. She is also available for hire to go to Shela and Lamu. We also have two dhows “Renaldo” and “Angalia” for local sailing and safari trips. Shela village is only a 5 minute boat ride away across the channel, Peponi Hotel, with its bustling bar and five star restaurant is an interesting alternative to the tranquillity of Diamond… There are also a variety of shops selling local gifts. It takes 30 minutes to get to Lamu town on “Diamond” or you can hire a speed boat and get there in five minutes. If you want to be in the Lamu area, but not in Lamu town, nor in the increasingly over-developed and over-the-top atmosphere of Shela, then staying just across the creek, in this rustic little beach resort, is an affordable way to do it.

     

    Diamond Beach Hotel is on the southern arm of Manda island (the island where Lamu's airstrip is located), and it's the nicest of many small hotels developments. Tuned into the local mood and utterly relaxing – all sandy toes, wooden boards and horizontal living – it has simple self-contained bandas with good nets and decent bathrooms, and a delightfully wacky treehouse in a baobab. Ecological principles and a superb beachfront location, just 10 minutes in their boat from Lamu town, add up to a very fine place to stay. Diamond Beach Hotel has evening electricity and prides it’s self on really good food. Overwhelmed by the beauty of a tiny island off the east coast of Africa, gallery owner, Helen Feiler ended up buying a plot of land. Now known as Diamond Beach Village you can also have the chance to touch paradise. Helen Feiler - owner of the Helen Feiler Gallery in Newlyn, Penzance – toured an island named Manda Island off the coast of Kenya, Africa in 2002. Little did she know that after the trip she would fall in love with the place so much so that she would end up buying some land. Helen fell in love with the beauty of the people and the surrounding landscape and thought it would be a fantastic place to come and paint in the winter months. Iin 2002 that dream turned into buying the 1 acre beach front plot on Manda, building local huts, banda's, a restaurant - if people were to come and stay - and finally, because of having a massive Baobab tree on the land it seemed appropriate to build a treehouse.

     

    Once all of that was in place Helen's daughter Rachael and her partner Aaron flew out straight after she finished her degree in Cultural Studies to open the Diamond Beach Village Resort. They hired Kahindi their trusty room boy and a chef named charo. During the first year Rachael and Aaron were mainly sorting out all the legal documents which come with opening any business, especially in a foreign African country. They then left the island of Manda and returned to the UK in order to market and advertise the new venture. They explained, "It was fantastic coming back to the Diamond Beach Village after so long and seeing it again, it felt much bigger and the trees and flowers were looking beautiful. We had a lot of work to do, many repairs, setting up the kitchen, sorting out the garden, building more huts and we had to put in flush toilets for every Banda. But it was all worth it, as the health officers came and approved us for our licenses." "We now employ over 10 staff, waiters, gardeners, sailor, chefs and watchmen. We have a great team and always have a laugh. High season is upon us - December, New Year - and it is very exciting to think that Diamond Beach Village will soon be full of clients enjoying the sunsets, the empty white beach, the amazing snorkelling, sailing to Lamu - Manda's sister island - and eating fantastic local food and drinking cocktails in the hammocks". My aim for the future is to put a percentage of our profits into the Manda community, ideally to supply water to the farmers so that we can buy their produce". "I am also arranging a "clean the beach day" next month which will be an annual event. I feel so lucky to be living on Manda island therefore I think it necessary to try and give something back to the small community".

     

    Over the years Diamond Beach Hotel has been host to a variety of retreats and group safari bookings. Our largest and most prestigious to date has been Sundance Theatre Institute. In 2010 and 2011 Diamond hosted 24 artists, playwrights, musicians, actors and mentors from America United Kingdom Canada and East Africa for 3 weeks. Catering for breakfast, morning snacks, lunch, afternoon tea and cake and a 2 course dinner. Diamond has also hosted a yoga retreat run by John Scott in 2007; the library area was built especially for this purpose. Take away the furniture and you have a large, cool, private space to use for any event. In 2008 and 2009 we hosted a Pilate’s group with 10 students and 2 teachers. Diamond Hotel also organized a wedding in 2010, with 26 in house guests and catered for a 4 course sit down wedding dinner for 50 people. Later in 2013 Diamond resort was booked for a 40th birthday, we will organize the boat transfers, day trips sailing, catering and a large party in the bar. With fast wi-fi, an empty beach, fantastic food and everything taken care of for you it is the ideal place to plan a retreat or group booking. Bring your ipods, invent your own cocktails, change the menu if you like, the place is yours for the day, week or even month and we will take care of it all.

     

    Diamond Beach Village Accommodation

     

    There are six beach huts called Bandas that are traditionally designed with high windows to allow the sea breeze to flow through making them the ideal retreat from the African sunshine. There are two single bandas, each with a double bed 4’ x 6’ and four double bandas with a double 6’ x 6’ bed. The large “family” banda is divided into two rooms, each ensuite, and can accommodate up to five people. Each banda is ensuite and has a front porch, which is furnished with tables and chairs so that you can relax in privacy. All bandas are provided with sheets, mosquito nets and towels and has solar lighting. For charging cameras, etc there is a main charging point in the library. Our very friendly room boy, Mwalimu, cleans daily and we offer a laundry service. This truly is an eco-retreat. The floors and walls are made out of star palm which is woven locally, the roofs are a thatch of coconut palm. There is no fresh water on Manda Island so water is re-used from the sinks and showers to water the garden. The Village also features a Tree house built on three floors around a Baobab tree. It has a wooden veranda furnished with tables and chairs stretching around the tree. It can sleep up to six, has two bathrooms and a large, very private garden with sun beds and swing beds. It is often referred to as the honeymooners' paradise. The ‘yoga studio’, built for John Scott is now a chill out area for guests, with swinging chairs and beds, a library and games. It is very easy to spend the day reading, dozing off and drinking fresh fruit juices until it’s time for cocktails at the bar. Giant clam shells in the garden under the acacia trees act as bird baths and attract a colourful array of beautiful birds at both dawn and dusk. Sit and watch them play as you relax and enjoy your drinks. Or lie under the shade of the acacia trees on the swing beds and hammocks while listening to the lap of the Indian Ocean which is just a ten second walk away. At dusk, Diamond Beach enjoys the full view of some of the most breathtaking African sunsets. When night falls you can find your way back to your banda, lit by the shimmering light of a billion stars, over 180 degrees of perfectly clear sky. Or perhaps enjoy a moonlit swim where the shimmer of the phosphorescence is truly spectacular.

     

    Diamond Beach Village Meals

     

    The restaurant seating area is shaded from the sun with large palm thatched umbrellas, conveniently situated with a fantastic view of the Indian Ocean. Diamond Beach Village’s two experienced chefs prepare a variety of dishes from traditional Swahili cuisine to more conventional western and vegetarian foods. A must for breakfast is pancakes and fruit salad with fresh coffee or Chai tea made from local spices. Or, if you have worked up a real appetite with a morning swim or walk, then a basil and tomato omelet may take your fancy. Lamu’s best kept secret is its freshly caught sea food: Lobster, king prawns, crab, red snapper, tuna, squid, and much more are on the menu each day. Or perhaps try the traditional African barbecued goat or chicken. We do not have a large menu, the black board gets written up daily with catch of the day and a vegetarian option. Also starters and a dessert are offered. The Blue Moon bar is a new edition to Diamond Hotel Lamu and is a big hit. With a stone baked pizza oven serving probably the best pizza's in Kenya. The cocktails are a must and with the seating area overlooking the sunset it is a meeting point for local residents and guests after a hard day swimming and chilling. Diamond Beach Village is an eco lodge that tries its best to minimise the impact on the environment. For Energy consumption all rooms now have solar lights which is great for reducing petrol use and also means guests have lights all night, a charcoal cool room has been built for vegetables, water is supplied from a desalination plant on Manda, all grey water from the kitchen, showers, sinks and laundry water is re-used on the garden, there is an underwater rain water catchments which can hold 90,000 liters and is used for laundry, staff and the garden if needed. All waste is separated into 3 sections: Paper which gets burned daily, Compost: fruit and veg scraps which are collected by local people with donkeys, Plastic which gets sent to Lamu and taken to the local dump. Also all rooms have locally woven baskets for guests to take to Lamu so they don’t come back with plastic bags, all of the staff at Diamond are from the coast, the hotel is made out of local materials and built by local skilled builders.

     

    Diamond Beach Village Activities

     

    Relaxation: The giant clamshells erected around the lodge act as birdbaths and attract a colorful array of beautiful birds at both dawn and dusk. Sit and watch them play as you relax and enjoy your drinks. Or lie under the shade of the acacia trees on the swing beds and hammocks, while listening to the lap of the Indian Ocean, a ten second walk away. At dusk Diamond Beach enjoys the full view of some of the most breathtaking African sunsets. When night falls you can find your way back to your banda, lit by the shimmering light of a billion stars, over 180 degrees of perfectly clear sky. Or perhaps enjoy a moonlight swim where the shimmer of the phosphorescence is truly spectacular. Snorkeling: Diamond Beach Village has a coral reef conveniently situated stones throw from the beach. It is a safe and easy way for kids of all ages to view the underwater world. There is a vast array of colorful fish that inhabit this reef and everyday there is something new to see. Snorkeling trips can also be arranged to a larger reef, which is an hours boat ride away. If you are lucky you will see schools of dolphins playing around the boat. Walking: A 10 minute walk along the shore line leads you to the point of Manda where the open sea meets the island. Along the way it is possible to see the colonial history of Lamu district evident in the ruins with rusty cannons inside. Dhows sail past but it is unlikely you will meet another person on this rugged stretch of coast. The resident dog, Mambo, will keep you company and amused as she chases crabs along the way. You can also take a guided walk to the ruins of an old Swahili settlement, Takwa, which was built in the 16th century. This walk takes you through the heart of the island where dik dik (small deer) roam. You also pass the quarry where locals cut out the coral by hand for their traditional building blocks. The local guide, Hamid, has lived on Manda all his life and is the perfect person to quiz on Manda's history. Windsurfing: The channel that divides Lamu from Manda provides the ideal opportunity for windsurfing. You can guarantee the wind will pick up at midday (a blessing when lying on the beach) making perfect conditions for windsurfing. Lessons and equipment are available from Shella. Another sport that is becoming popular is kite surfing; the conditions are ideal and so bring your equipment, as there is none to hire, as yet, in Shella. Sailing: Sailing is the traditional mode of transport along the east African coast. The beautifully crafted dhows with their huge sails are a great way to get around. Sailing through the channel is a wonderful way to view the African sunset. Fishing: For those who like to pass the days fishing then this is the place to fish off the beach or from the back of the boat on the way to Lamu or Shella. For the more enthusiastic, trips can be arranged to the open ocean either on a dhow or on a modern speedboat with all the top of the range equipment. Anything caught can be cooked just the way you like it by the chefs.

     

    Lamu Island Information

     

    A cluster of desert islands tucked into Kenya’s north coast, Lamu and its neighbors have a special appeal that many visitors find irresistible. Together they form a separate spectrum of Swahili culture, a world apart from the beaches of Mombasa and Malindi. To a great extent the islands are anachronisms: there are still almost no motor vehicles, and life moves at the pace of a donkey or a dhow. Yet there have been considerable changes over the centuries and Lamu itself is now changing faster than ever. Because of its special status in the Islamic world as a much-respected centre of religious teaching, Saudi aid has poured into the island: the hospital, schools and religious centres are all supported by it. At the same time, Lamu’s tourist economy has opened up far beyond the budget travelers of the 1970s. Foreign investors are eagerly sought and new guesthouses and boutique hotels go up every year, especially in Shela, which has more space to expand than Lamu town. Islanders are ambivalent about the future. A new port is quite Likely, although it would contribute to the destruction of Lamu’s historic character. The damage that would be done goes further than spoiling the tranquillity. The Lamu archipelago is one of the most important sources for knowledge about pre-colonial Africa. Archeological sites indicate that towns have existed on these islands for at least 1200 years. The dunes behind Lamu beach, for example, are said to conceal the remains of long-deserted settlements. And somewhere close by on the mainland, perhaps just over the border in Somalia, archeologists expect one day to uncover the ruins of Shungwaya, the town that the nine tribes that comprise the Mijikenda people claim as their ancestral home. The whole region is an area where there is still real continuity between history and modern life. Lamu Island itself, most people’s single destination, still has plenty to recommend it, despite the inevitable sprouting of satellite dishes, cybercafés and souvenir shops. It has the archipelago’s best beach and its two main towns, Lamu and Shela. Manda island, directly opposite, is little visited except as Lamu’s gateway to the outside world (the airstrip), though its own beach is beautiful and there are several delightful places to stay. Pate island, accessible by dhow or motorboat, but completely off the tourism radar, makes a fascinating excursion if you have a week or more in the area. Perhaps best left until the end of your stay in Kenya, LAMU may otherwise precipitate a change in your plans as you’re lulled into a slow rhythm in which days and weeks pass by unheeded and objectives get forgotten. The deliciously lazy atmosphere is, for many people, the best worst-kept secret on the coast. All the senses get a full work-out here, so that actually doing anything is sometimes a problem. You can spend hours on a roof or veranda just watching the town go by, feeling its mood swing effortlessly through its well-worn cycles – from prayer call to prayer call, from tide to tide, and from dawn to dusk. If this doesn’t hit the right note for you, you might actually rather hate Lamu: hot, dirty and boring are adjectives that have been applied by sane and pleasant people. You can certainly improve your chances of liking Lamu by not coming here at the tail end of the dry season, when the town’s gutters are blocked with refuse, the courtyard gardens wilt under the sun and the heat is sapping. Lamu Island is something of a myth factory. Conventionally labelled an “Arab trading town”, it is actually one of the last viable remnants of the Swahili civilization that was the dominant cultural force along the coast until the arrival of the British. In the 1960s, Lamu’s unique blend of beaches, gentle Islamic ambience, funky old town and a host population well used to strangers was a recipe which took over where Marrakesh left off, and it acquired a reputation as Kenya’s Kathmandu; the end of the African hippie trail and a stopover on the way to India. Shaggy foreigners were only allowed to visit on condition they stayed in lodgings and didn’t camp on the beach. Not many people want to camp out these days. The proliferation of guesthouses in the heart of Lamu town encourages an ethos that is more interactive than hippie-escapist. Happily, visitors and locals cross paths enough to avoid any tedium – though for women travelling without men, this can itself become tedious (see Information). Having said that, there can hardly be another town in the world as utterly unthreatening as Lamu. Leave your room at midnight for a breath of air and you can stroll up a hushed Harambee Avenue, or tread up the darkest of alleys, and fear absolutely nothing. It’s an exhilarating experience. If you want to spend all your time on the beach, then staying in Shela is the obvious solution, and there’s an ever-growing range of quite stylish possibilities there, though hardly anywhere really inexpensive. Fewer people see the interior of Lamu island itself, which is a pity, as it’s a pretty, if rather inhospitable area. Much of it is patched into shambas with the herds of cattle, coconut palms, mango and citrus trees that still provide the bulk of Lamu’s wealth. The two villages you might head for here are Matondoni, on the north shore of the island, by the creek, and Kipungani, on the western side. The undeniably Arab flavour of Lamu is not nearly as old as the town itself. It derives from the later nineteenth century when the Omanis, and to some extent the Hadhramis from what is now Yemen, held sway in the town. The first British representatives in Lamu found themselves among pale-skinned, slave-owning Arab rulers, and the cultural and racial stereotypes that were propagated have never completely disappeared. Lamu was established on its present site by the fourteenth century, but there have been people living on the island for much longer than that. The fresh-water supplies beneath Shela made the island attractive to refugees from the mainland and people have been escaping here for two thousand years or more. It was also one of the earliest places on the coast to attract settlers from the Persian Gulf and there were almost certainly people here from Arabia and southwest Asia even before the foundation of Islam. In 1505, Lamu was visited by a heavily armed Portuguese man-of-war and the king of the town quickly agreed to pay the first of many cash tributes as protection money. For the next 180 years Lamu was nominally under Portuguese rule, though the Portuguese favoured Pate as a place to live. In the 1580s, the Turkish fleet of Amir Ali Bey threatened Portuguese dominance, but superior firepower and relentless savagery kept them out, and Lamu, with little in the way of an arsenal, had no choice but to bend with the wind – losing a king now and then to the Portuguese executioners – until the Omanis arrived with fast ships and a serious bid for lasting control. By the end of the seventeenth century, Lamu’s Portuguese predators were vanquished and for nearly 150 years it had a revitalizing breathing space. This was its Golden Age, when Lamu became a republic, ruled over by the Yumbe, a council of elders who deliberated in the palace (now a ruined plot in the centre of town), with only the loosest control imposed by their Omani overlords. This was the period when most of the big houses were built and when Lamu’s classic architectural style found its greatest expression. Arts and crafts flourished and business along the waterfront made the town a magnet throughout the Indian Ocean. Huge ocean-going dhows rested half the year in the harbour, taking on ivory, rhino horn, mangrove poles and cereals. There was time to compose long poems and argue about language, the Koran and local politics. Lamu became the northern coast’s literary and scholastic focus, a distinction inherited from Pate. For a brief time, Lamu’s star was in the ascendant in all fields. There was even a famous victory at the Battle of Shela in 1812. A combined Pate-Mazrui force landed at Shela with the simple plan of capturing Lamu – not known for its resolve in battle – and finishing the construction of the fort which the Nabahanis from Pate had begun a few years earlier. To everyone’s surprise, particularly the Lamu defenders, the tide had gone out and the invaders were massacred as they tried to push their boats off the beach. Appalled at the overkill and expecting a swift response from the Mazruis in Mombasa, Lamu sent to Oman itself for Busaidi protection and threw away independence forever. Had the eventual outcome of this panicky request been foreseen, the Lamu Yumbe might have reconsidered. Seyyid Said, Sultan of Oman, was more than happy to send a garrison to complete and occupy Lamu’s fort – and from this toehold in Africa, he went on to smash the Mazrui rebels in Mombasa, taking the entire coast and moving his own sultanate to Zanzibar. Lamu gradually sank into economic collapse towards the end of the nineteenth century as Zanzibar and Mombasa grew in importance. In a sense, it has been stagnating ever since. The building of the Uganda railway from Mombasa and the abolition of slavery did nothing to improve matters for Lamu in economic terms, and its decline has kept up with the shrinking population. However, the resettlement programme on the nearby mainland and – in recent years – a much safer road from Malindi has led to a revived upcountry commercialism taking root around the market square.

     

    Security in Lamu Island

     

    In 2011, two separate events sparked intense media attention questioning the safety of tourism in the Lamu archipelago. In September, bandits raided a British couple’s banda at Kiwayu Safari Village on a remote beach on the mainland facing the northern tip of Kiwaiyu Island. The man was shot dead and his wife kidnapped – she was released six months later after a ransom was paid. In October an elderly French expatriate was kidnapped from her home on the island of Manda. She died soon afterwards owing to her fragile state of health. Foreign governments issued travel advisories warning against travel in the area, and security measures in the archipelago were significantly heightened. In early 2013, British travel advice still warned against travel to Kiwaiyu island and the mainland areas north of Pate within 60km of the Somalian border. Pate, Manda and Lamu islands are not included in the warnings and, with greatly increased marine surveillance, are considered as safe as the rest of the coast. Diamond Beach is 40 minutes from Lamu Airport by boat and transfers are 1000ksh (7 pounds) per boat trip each way. There are weekly flights from Mombasa with Safari link and daily flights from Malindi with Fly540. You can also reach Lamu by road, it is 7 bumpy hours from Mombasa and 4 hours from Malindi, the best bus company to use is Tawakal and tickets should be booked a few days in advance.

     

    Lamu Island Festivals

     

    Maulidi, a week-long celebration of Muhammad’s birth, sees the entire town involved in processions and dances, and draws in pilgrims from all over East Africa and the Indian Ocean. For faithful participants, the Lamu Maulidi is so laden with baraka (blessings) that some say two trips to Lamu are worth one to Mecca in the eyes of God. If you can possibly arrange it, this is the occasion to be in Lamu, but unless you make bookings, you’ll need to arrive at least a week in advance to have any hope of getting a room. The other principal festival of the year is the Lamu Cultural Festival held in November to promote Swahili culture and heritage. With donkey and dhow racing, swimming, dancing and traditional craft displays, including carving, dhow-building, embroidery and henna decoration – all of it fairly competitive – the festival engages the town for the best part of a week. Lamu’s stone houses are perfect examples of architecture appropriate to its setting. The basic design is an open box shape enclosing a large courtyard, around the inner walls of which are set inward-facing rooms on two or three floors, the top floor forming an open roof terrace with a makuti roof. The rooms are thus long and narrow, their ceilings supported by close-set timbers or mangrove poles (boriti). Most had exquisite carved doors at one time, though in all but a few dozen homes these have been sold off to pay for upkeep. Many also had zidaka, plasterwork niches in the walls to give an illusion of extended space, which are now just as rare. Bathroom arrangements are ingenious, with fish kept in the large water storage cisterns to eat mosquito larvae. In parts of Lamu these old houses are built so close together you could step over the street from one roof to another. The private space inside Lamu’s houses is barely distinguishable from the public space outside. The noises of the town percolate into the interiors, encouraged by the constant flow of air created by the narrow coolness of the dark streets and the heat which accumulates on upper surfaces exposed to the sun.

     

    Lamu Island Museum

     

    A number of old photographs on display in the museum belie pronouncements about “unchanging Lamu”. The women’s cover-all black buibui, for example, turns out to be a fashion innovation introduced comparatively recently from southern Arabia. It wasn’t worn in Lamu much before the 1930s when, ironically, a degree of emancipation encouraged women of all classes to adopt the high-status styles of purdah. In earlier times, high-born women would appear in public entirely hidden inside a tent-like canopy called a shiraa, which had to be supported by slaves; the abolition of slavery at the beginning of the twentieth century marked the demise of this odd fashion. Outsiders have tended to get the wrong end of the stick about Swahili seclusion. While women are undoubtedly heavily restricted in their public lives, in private they have considerable freedom. The notion of romantic love runs deep in Swahili culture. Love affairs, divorces and remarriage are the norm, and the buibui is perhaps as useful to women in disguising their liaisons as it is to their husbands in preventing them. All this comes into focus a little when wandering through the alleys. You may even bump into some of Lamu’s transvestite community – cross-dressing men whose lifestyle, which derives from Oman, is accepted and long established. In fact, the more you explore, the more you realize that the town’s conventional image is like the walls of its houses – a severe facade concealing an unrestrained interior.

     

    Lamu Island Dhow Trips

     

    Where the hotel hustlers left off after you settled in, the dhow-ride men take up the challenge. You’ll be persistently hassled until you agree to go on a trip and then, as if the word’s gone out, you’ll be left alone. The fact is your face quickly becomes familiar to anyone whose livelihood depends upon tourists. Dhow trips are usually a lot of fun and, all things considered, very good value. The simplicity of Swahili sailing is delightful, using a single lateen sail that can be set in virtually any position and never seems to obstruct the view. Sloping past the mangroves, with their primeval-looking tangle of roots at eye level, hearing any number of squeaks and splashes from the small animals and birds that live among them is quite a serene pleasure. There are limitless possibilities for dhow trips, though only a short menu of possibilities is usually offered. The cheapest trip is a slow sail across Lamu harbour and up Takwa “river”, fishing as you go, followed by a barbecue on the beach at Manda Island, then back to town. This might commence with some squelching around in the mud under the mangroves, digging for huge bait-worms. If the trip is timed properly with the tides, you can include a visit to Takwa ruins, or, for rather more money, you can stay the night on the beach behind the ruins and come back the next day. This is usually done around full moon. Takwa has to be approached from the landward side up the creek, and this can only be done at high tide. A further variation has you sailing south through Lamu harbour, past the headland at Shela and out towards the ocean for some snorkelling over the reefs on the southwest corner of Manda around Kinyika rock. Snorkel and mask are normally provided, but bringing your own is obviously much better. Although all dhows should carry enough useable life jackets, this is particularly essential if you’re venturing beyond the reef, where the seas can be very rough and accidents happen all too often. The price you pay will depend on how many are in your party, where you want to go, for how long, and how much work it’s going to be for the crew. Agree on the price beforehand (a full day with lunch starts from around Ksh1200 per person) and pay up afterwards, although some captains may ask you for a small deposit to buy food. Be clear on who is supplying food and drink, apart from any fish you might catch. Cameras are easily damaged on dhow trips, so wrap them up well in a plastic bag. And take the clothes and drinks you’d need for a 24-hour spell in the Sahara – you’ll burn up and dry out otherwise. The Promise Ahadi Dhow Operators Collective (0724 348088), on the waterfront in Lamu Town, or Shela Marine (0722 461047) in Shela organize recommended dhow trips

     

    Kiwayu Island Lamu

     

    From Faza you’re within striking distance of the desert island retreat of Kiwaiyu (also spelt Kiwayu). The island is a long strip of sand dunes, held in place with low scrub and the odd tree and fronted on the ocean side by a superb beach. The village of Kiwaiyu, near the southern end of the island, has limited provisions at a couple of shops. Twenty minutes’ walk to the south, you reach a private fishing lodge on the high southern tip of the island. From here, the empty, ocean-facing beach, with the reef close offshore, is just a scramble down the sandy hillside. There are one or two first-class snorkelling spots off this southern tip of the island, with huge coral heads and a multitude of fish. Ask for precise directions, as it’s possible to spend hours looking and still miss them. For something a little different, ask your captain on the boat over about a fantastic little hut in a baobab tree where travellers can spend the night. Your captain will make you the most amazing fresh fish, grilled on the back of the dhow over charcoal. Prices for the trip (including food) will vary according to each captain, but expect to pay a minimum of Ksh12, 000 per night for up to six guests. Since the tragic events of September 2011 (see Security in the Lamu archipelago) and the Kenyan military incursion into Somalia, Kiwaiyu Safari Village (the luxury beach lodge on the mainland facing the northern tip of the island that was the location of the first kidnapping) has been closed and tourism to the island has dropped off – check the latest security advice from our office before traveling here.

     

    Pate Island Kenya

     

    Only two hours by ferry from Lamu, totally unaffected by tourism and rarely visited, Pate island has some of the most impressive ruins anywhere on the coast and a clutch of old Swahili settlements which, at different times, have been as important as Lamu or more so. There are few places on the coast as memorable. Pate is mostly low-lying and almost surrounded by mangrove swamps; no two maps of it ever agree (ours shows only the permanent dry land, not the ever-changing mangrove forests that surround it in the shallow sea), so getting on and off the island requires deft awareness of the tides. Its remoteness, coupled with a lack of information and limited transport on the island, deters travellers. In truth, though, Pate is not a difficult destination, and is an easier island to walk around than Lamu, with none of that island’s exhausting soft sand. It’s wise to take water with you (five litres if possible), as Pate’s supplies are unpredictable and often very briny. Most islanders live on home-produced food and staples brought from Lamu and, although there are a few small shops on the island, it’s a good idea to have some emergency provisions (which also make useful gifts if required). Mosquitoes and flies are a serious menace on Pate, especially during the long rains. The shops sell mosquito coils but it’s also worth carrying some repellent for use during the day. According to its own history, the Pate Chronicle, Pate was founded in the early years of Islam with the arrival of Arabian immigrants. This mini-state is supposed to have lasted until the thirteenth century, when another group of dispossessed Arab rulers – the Nabahani – arrived. The story may have been embellished by time, but archeological evidence does support the existence of a flourishing port on the present site of Pate as early as the ninth century. Probably by the fifteenth century the town exerted a considerable influence on most of the quasi-autonomous settlements along the coast, including Lamu. The first Portuguese visitors were friendly, trading with the Pateans for the multicoloured silk cloth for which the town had become famous, and they also introduced gunpowder, which enabled wells to be easily excavated, a fact which must have played a part in Pate’s rising fortunes. During the sixteenth century, a number of Portuguese merchants settled and married in the town, but as Portugal tightened its grip and imposed taxes, relations quickly deteriorated. There were repeated uprisings and reprisals until, by the middle of the seventeenth century, the Portuguese had withdrawn to the security of Fort Jesus in Mombasa. Even today, though, several families in Pate are said to be Wa-reno (from the Portuguese reino, “kingdom”), meaning of Portuguese descent. During the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, having thrown out the old rulers and avoided domination by new invaders like the Omani Arabs, Pate underwent a cultural rebirth and experienced a flood of creative activity similar to Lamu’s. The two towns had a lively relationship, and were frequently in a state of war. At some time during the Portuguese period, Pate’s harbour had started to silt up and the town began to use Lamu’s, which must have caused great difficulties. In addition, Pate was ruled by a Nabahani king who considered Lamu part of his realm. The disastrous Battle of Shela of 1812 marked the end of Lamu’s political allegiance to Pate and the end of Pate as a city-state.

     

    Manda Island Lamu Island

     

    Practically within shouting distance of Lamu town, Manda – with next to no fresh water was only recently almost uninhabited but is now the site of several new luxury homes and a couple of boutique resorts. Aside from the allure of the pristine beach, it is also the site of the main airstrip on the islands, and the location of the old ruined town of Takwa (favourite destination of the dhow-trip operators). Significant archeologically for the ruins of Takwa and Manda, the north side of the island is also the location of the fabulous Manda Bay lodge. The rapidly changing face of Lamu Island accommodation scene, in which new and renovated establishments are coming on line regularly, is providing visitors with wider choice and greater options in their selection of holiday accommodation. A wide range of affordable, new and refurbished Lamu hotels, self-caterings and guesthouses are joining the ranks of existing 5-star hotels and exclusive island retreats to offer memorable stays,

     

    Lamu Accommodation Information

     

    The Lamu Island beachfront or more affectionately known by the locals as “Lamu by the Sea” has been the beach holiday destination of choice for many tourists for as long as the warm Indian Ocean has been rolling onto its magnificent beaches. If you have been fortunate enough to travel to Lamu beachfront before, it’s easy to understand why; the year round warm climate, the golden beaches and waves boasting world class surfing events as well as the regular beach festivals that take place throughout the year. Many travelers choose to travel in Lamu Beachfront Luxury Hotel as their preferred type of beach hotel and it’s easy to understand why, as Lamu luxury hotels are affordable. Five star hotels are many... but exceptional hotels are few, It is definitely the way to go if you are travelling on a budget but don’t want to lose out on any of the experiences, especially 5-Star comfort. The good news is that we offer 5 star Lamu luxury accommodations at very affordable prices. Step onto your private balcony and take in the breathtaking views of the Indian Ocean. Lamu beach coastline will be the backdrop for all the dining, shopping, relaxing and family fun you’ll enjoy during your time with Lamu beach vacation rentals. As owner and operator of ten premier hotels in Lamu, we provide an array of beach vacation experiences; our lamu beach resorts offer accommodations for every traveler. No matter if you are setting out on a romantic escape or family vacation our oceanfront hotels in Lamu offer the style, value and unparalleled comfort you deserve. Each of our resorts in Lamu offers a distinctive experience. With diverse onsite dining venues, multiple modern event spaces, customized design elements and a wide variety of suite layouts, every stay at one of our Lamu Beach vacation rentals is unique.

     

    Luxury hotels Lamu it is not just a dream! We do not offer the web’s largest selection of hotels in Lamu and does not feature simply every Lamu hotel that exists in the island. Instead, we are an exclusive selection crafted by a team of experts of the destination who have discovered for you only the best Lamu hotels and exclusive services that Lamu can offer when it comes to luxury experiences. This exclusive selection is for those travellers who want a relaxing holiday in Lamu and love charming locations away from the chaos of the everyday life. Our aim is to guarantee that every charming accommodation, every luxury hotel, Spa Resort or yacht charter that you will book through us will be a unique experience for you, also if you're not holidaying with children, then the chances are that you would prefer to be in a child-free environment where you can enjoy your well-earned time away in the company of other like-minded people. Travelling alone, as a couple, or with a group of friends, our Exclusively Adults hotels offer the best all-adult holidays from our vast range of resorts around Lamu, each with a minimum age limit for guests of 16 years and over. We have also endorsed a wide selection of hotels from our Exclusively Adults range, reassuring you of true 4 & 5 star quality. Each of these Lamu resorts has been chosen for a reason be it reassuring quality, great service, exceptional facilities, the choice of dining, beautiful swimming pools, great entertainment or a combination of them all.

     

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