All inclusive beach holidays in Lamu, Kenya
Local Destinations
  • Never miss a deal
  • subscribe now

  • Thank you for your Subscription
    We will keep you updated with the latest Lamu deals

    Fort at Shela, Shela Village Lamu Island Kenya & Lamu luxury Beach House

    The Fort at Shela sits alone in the middle of the sand dunes and beyond the Fort at Shela are 12 km of deserted beach. Extremely private, it is the last house on the sea front before the next village on the island, Kipungani, a 4 hours walk down the beach. While very private, the landmark Shela Fort is but a short 10-minute walk to Shela's famous Peponi Hotel & Restaurant, where you can relax and enjoy the sunset. The Fort comes with a staff of 10 people to take care of all of your needs. The Fort at Shela is located on 14km Shella Beach on the Island of Lamu - off the Kenyan North Coast. You get here by travelling to Nairobi from where you take a connecting domestic flight to Lamu. The flight takes about 1.15 hours and you will land on neighboring Manda Island where one of our friendly local boat captains will be waiting for you to bring you over to Lamu and Shela. The Fort at Shela offers complete tranquility while it is just about 7 minutes beach walk away from the "hustle and bustle" of Shela Village and about a 20 minutes boat ride from Lamu Town. Lamu is a World Heritage Site and is famous for its well preserved Swahili Culture. Our means of transportation are speed boats - fast and slow ones, sailing dhows, donkeys and our feet. This is the place where time has stopped!


    The center piece of the Fort at Shela is the Court Yard and Pool. When entering the Fort you will find the Living Area and Kitchen on your left hand side and the downstairs Dining Area and Conference Room on your right hand side. On the 1st floor you will get to the upper Dining Area which overlooks the beach and the sea. From here you also reach 2 of the total of 9 bedrooms, which come all with ensuite bathrooms and their own stair cases. Hot water is provided by water heaters and electricity from Kenya Power. It still can happen in this part of the world that we have a power cut, but usually they don't take longer than 6 hours. We have a permanent staff of 6 that will pamper you and will look after your every need. Internet is available in some areas of the house. Due to the surrounding dunes phone reception varies and signal is caught best on the roof terrace and on the beach. There are plenty of "things to do" while staying at the Fort at Shela: take a day Dhow Trip for Snorkeling at "Kinikwa" or "Manda Toto" (little Manda), having lunch on the boat - visit one of the neighboring islands - take a Yoga class or pamper yourself with a Massage - visit the "Takwa Ruins" - see the Turtles hatch, either on Manda island or on Shela beach - have a day trip with Nils, captain of "Little Toot", for Deep Sea Fishing - do a Cultural Tour of Lamu Town with one of our guides, or simply visit for a shopping spree - walk through the narrow alleys of charming Shela village and visit it's lovely shops - take a day out for a Flying Safari to "Amu Ranch" with Nick, the pilot of the "Lamu Conservation Trust", the fees you are charged go directly to the animals! - walk the whole of Shela Beach up to Kipungani, have your lunch there and get back by boat - visit Frank's Beach Bar on Manda island - enjoy the famous Peponi Bar & Restaurant watching the Dhows sailing by while you are sipping your "Old Pal" - or simply Chill, Relax and Enjoy the Beauty of our Paradise! The Fort is the ideal venue for: Weddings & Honeymooners, Parties & Celebrations, all kinds of Reunions, Coporate Events & small Conferences, Film & Photo Shoots, or simply to enjoy a wonderfully relaxed Holiday! The shown rate is an average rate between Low, Standard & Summer Season and varies according to the applicable Season. Rates are based on occupancy of 6 persons and are self catering. They include the airport transfer, cleaning, laundry and cook's service (we are famous for our yummy cuisine!) and 1 complimentary magical sunset dhow trip. Room rentals on a non exclusive basis (host in house) are possible, but are subject to availability. Nestled along the sand dunes of Shela Beach, the Fort at Shela Lamu has been hailed as a monument to Omani architectural ingenuity. Built in 2001, the Lamu Island landmark is the epitome of privacy and seclusion. Its architecture is truly unique and occupies an unrivaled position overlooking the Indian Ocean on the deserted 14 kilometer Shela beach. Peaceful and tranquil in its setting, surrounded by natural dunes and breezy casuarinas’, The Fort is an elegant and unique sanctuary offering seclusion combined with personalized hospitality. Extremely private and secure, this oasis is just a ten minute walk along the beach to Shela Village.


    The Fort is constructed of local coral stone and is enclosed by an imposing 50-foot high sandstone wall. The Omani-style heavy wooden entrance, decorated with iron studs, opens onto the main floor of the property, where large arches surround the central courtyard. The living area, dining area and lounge look onto the picturesque pool and garden. From the upstairs formal dining area, guests can enjoy spectacular views of the Indian Ocean as traditional dhows sail-by and donkeys and camels cruise the beach. Peering out at the pristine Shela beach one is reminded that time here has stopped.


    The Fort comes with a full staff to take care of all of your needs and desires. We can arrange day excursions to Lamu Town, neighboring islands, as well as fishing, snorkeling and diving trips. The Fort at Shela was the dream of the late Dr. Antonio Ferro, an Italian aristocrat and a man of great vision, honor and strength. Originally built to welcome friends and family, Gabriella Ferro has kept his dream alive and now welcomes guests to her unique home. Their love story began in 2002 when Gabriella was visiting on holiday while Antonio, after having spent decades all over the African Continent, had eventually settled on Lamu Island, “his” gem in the Indian Ocean. After having moved to Lamu, Gabriella and Antonio’s love story and their dream to live in The Fort together continued. Your host Gabriella speaks English, German, Greek, as well as Italian and is available to ensure your every need throughout your stay. Built 9 years ago, The Fort at Shela is a private house constructed from local materials, and is enclosed by an imposing sandstone wall. The wall itself - 50 feet high and periodically broken by narrow openings, which serve to funnel the sea breeze into the house's interiors -ensures both a private and sand-free stay. The Fort at Shela Lamu Kenya entrance is marked by a heavy wooded Oman style door.


    Decorated with brass studs, it opens onto the main floor. This vast area, which consists of a courtyard bordered by a roofed exterior, echoes the islands natural elements. High ceilings, pillars and Swahili arches surround a pool, several lounging areas, a tropical garden and an active well. Tranquil, beautiful and full of surprises, it constitutes the house's main shared area. On the second floor are 10 en-suite bedrooms. At the time of writing, 7 are in use. Decorated in a style that is both authentic and luxurious, they remain true to the Fort's overall design: the beds are made from local woods, the fittings are of the highest standard, and the soft furnishings are Arabic chic. Allowing for constant interaction between floors, and reminiscent of Moorish city architectural designs, each room overlooks the courtyard, while, at the same time, affords spectacular views of the dunes, the ocean, of dhows, camels and passing donkeys. The Fort at Shela comes with a staff of 10. The house cooks do all the catering. They buy the food, cook it, and suggest menus. Basic vegetables, fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits are all available in the Lamu or Shela market. Other supplies - such as meat - are flown in from Nairobi or Malindi. The diet is mostly local fish and sea food, which are excellent and brought to the door every day. Chicken can also be found with advance notice. For a fee, a boat is available for snorkeling and fishing excursions, trips to Lamu town or other destinations. Pick up from the airport, and drop offs at Manda island, across the channel, are complimentary. On the second floor are 10 ensuite bedrooms with a balcony overlooking the inside courtyard, tropical garden and pool. From the lounging area, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Indian Ocean in front, with the dhows sailing by and the camels and donkeys passing in front, reminding you that time here has stopped. Self catering means you still have the services of our cook. You can choose to do your own shopping or opt to have our staff do the shopping and keep a record of the expenses. Fresh dairy products, meat and chicken are difficult to find in Lamu. Luxury foods and drinks should be brought with you or bought in Nairobi. Full board is also available meaning that the house cooks will do all the catering. They will buy and cook the food and suggest menus. Fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits are all available in the Lamu or Shela market. Other supplies are flown in from Nairobi or Malindi, such as the meats and cheeses. Entrees usually feature fish, lobster, crab, squid, etc... Which are brought fresh to the door everyday. Chicken can also be found with advance notice. Alcoholic beverages are not included.


    The Fort at Shela Accommodation


    The Fort at Shela has nine principle ensuite bedrooms of which seven overlook the courtyard. This outstanding beach property can accommodate 18 guests comfortably or as a private getaway. Arrangements can be made for groups of up to 24 guests. The Fort at Shela is also an ideal venue for corporate events or small conferences with the private tower conference room seating up to 22. Being privately-owned and operated, The Fort offers discreet, genuine hospitality with attention to every last detail. The Fort is renowned for its private parties, wedding receptions, special anniversaries and birthdays. Large-scale catering and event management services are available. The striking exterior and internal spaces of The Fort at Shela, combined with the remote and secure coastal setting, make it an ideal location for film, photo or television shoots. Individual rooms can be reserved subject to seasonal availability. Please inquire for rates and availability.


    The Fort at Shela Dinning


    The Fort at Shela boasts a state of the art kitchen serving up a variety of culinary delights. Guests can opt for full board or self-catering packages. Featuring the best in local produce and fresh seafood, our chefs tastefully combine local Swahili inspiration with Mediterranean influences. International ingredients can be flown in at your request and wine can be purchased from our exclusive wine list. Enjoy your evening in one of our two dining areas or choose sunset drinks on the beach followed by a private, romantic, candle lit dining experience under the stars.


    The Fort at Shela Lamu Beach Activities


    Lamu is a place of peace and tranquility as well as adventure and exploration. All activities and amenities can be arranged in house for private or group sessions. There are a variety of activities offered depending on your interests. The Fort at Shela is a paradise for kite surfers picking up the trade winds just in front of the property, a kite surfer’s dream! Yoga and meditation classes are available either in one of Shela’s private wellness centers or you can book private classes in The Fort. Massage and beauty therapy is available on request. Private charters and day trips can be arranged to any of the many exclusive destinations around the Kenyan coast or to any of the nearby game parks.


    Boat excursions can also be organized to explore the archipelago. A five minute boat ride takes you to Manda Island where you can order a private lunch of grilled seafood on the beach or try the Lamu House Beach Club, an exquisitely simple beach bar and restaurant. Visit Takwa Ruins on Manda Island, founded in 1500 A.D. and abandoned in 1700 A.D. The Great Mosque and Pillar Tomb is a short distance from a turtle reserve. Matandoni Village is a traditional dhow building site, located approximately thirty minutes away by boat. View the local traditional weavers who make unique straw mats from palm leaves and ropes from coconut. Diving, fishing and snorkeling excursions can be arranged. Tag a marlin or catch a tuna for dinner, swim with the dolphins followed by lunch at Kizingoni or opt for a private lunch on a secluded beach after viewing the coral reefs at Manda Toto. Hire a traditional sailing dhow and sail into the sunset or perhaps a romantic dinner sailing under the stars. Shela Village, situated on the edge of its 14 km pristine beach, is only a ten minute walk from The Fort. A maze of narrow, sandy alleyways, where the only oncoming traffic is likely to be a donkey or two, Shela hosts a number of restaurants including – the infamous Peponi Hotel Restaurant & Bar, the island’s meeting point. Here you can relax with a drink or meet with many of the international guests and residents of the island or mingle with the local fishermen and artists. Wandering the alleyways you will come across a variety of boutique shops carrying unique souvenirs, arts & crafts, fine clothing and jewellery.


    Fort at Shela Lamu Beach History


    In Lamu Island, a sleepy, blissful island off the Kenyan coast little has changed for decades. It sits languorously in the Indian Ocean on a once important trade route. There is still just the one Land Rover (for the district commissioner); the notion of fast food is quite absurd and nightlife almost nonexistent. Muezzins perform their duties from a dozen mosques five times daily. People of European descent (wazungu in Swahili) have always been drawn here in small numbers to build or own properties, but the overall fabric of the island remains thankfully unspoiled. Residents therefore—native and foreign alike—were alarmed and skeptical at the prospect of a private Beau Geste–style fort materializing on the sand dunes beyond the village of Shela at the entrance to the main sea channel. Lamu Island is low-key and discreet. The gossip was that it would be vulgar and out of place. During the two years of its construction, as its shape became apparent, there was a general mellowing toward it, and, since completion, the Fort at Shela has matured into somewhat of a landmark. Anxious objections have been rescinded. Now local pilots approaching the island fly low along the beach and dip their wings over it as a nod of approval. Its success is due totally to the collaboration of the Venetian owner and Italian-Swiss designer Claudio Modola, whose sympathetic understanding of the area and its history and culture and his desire for authenticity have joined forces to create a unique residence from a blank canvas. Visitors today—enlightened to the facts—can only exclaim, “It looks as though it’s been here forever!”


    Modola had been living in Kenya for some years, involved in different projects, when the owner contacted him to say that he had purchased a large plot of land on the beach beyond Shela. Would he make a proposal for the site? “It was an exciting challenge,” says Modola, “to conceive a structure that suited the client’s needs, fitted into the landscape and had some historical link with the region.” The client, a “Renaissance man,” as Modola describes him, had been visiting Lamu for several months each year since 1980, regarding it as a “refuge,” so when the designer suggested a residential fort, “he applauded the idea, and the project began,” says Modola. Before any drawings were made, Modola visited Oman, where the methods of fort building—both military and domestic—are an intrinsic part of the architectural heritage. Though Oman had a direct link with the island of Zanzibar to the south, Lamu was used as a supply depot, and many of the trading dhows that plied these waters were made in Oman, reinforcing the historical association. Omani merchants became extremely wealthy through this sea trade, building fortified mansions whose designs were the inspiration for Modola’s plans.


    “On my return,” says Modola, “I had a clear idea for the building—one round tower with three square corner ones—its position against the dunes and the methods of construction.” In all, there were to be 11 bedrooms, the owner’s in the round tower, with five on each side of the building above the arcaded courtyard, where a small swimming pool was positioned at the far end. The dining area was to face the ocean, directly above the main entrance. To maintain the illusion of a genuine fort and to make it work as a private house, the bedrooms overlooking the courtyard are open, with thick, white canvas draperies for privacy. “Installing 11 windows or balconies for the rooms would simply have ruined the effect,” says Modola. However, each does have its own staircase and individual bath—a comfortable contrast to many original Omani forts. Once Modola had his client’s approval for the design, the real work could begin. Organization bordering on the military and an acceptance of certain discomforts in living and working conditions would be essential.


    A friend put him in touch with a construction company in Mombasa that specializes in building roads and bridges in remote parts of Africa. “I knew a local Lamu company could do the job, but it would take four or five years, which was too long for the client. The right outfit had to have experience in those conditions.” But initial events were inauspicious. The first supply ship from Mombasa, carrying the 100-member workforce and towing a barge with 80 tons of lime, metal and cement, hit a ferocious storm. Fortunately, there were no casualties, but much of the cargo had to be dumped for the vessels to remain stable. On arrival they set up camp in the dunes. In time they created a small village, with security, accommodations and food tents. The first priority was to start making the building blocks. Machines were set up that produced seven of these blocks (each weighing 50 pounds) per day. They were composed of local topsoil mixed with lime and silicate. Each block then underwent a vibrating process to compact it. Thousands were made this way. After six months, when the 16-foot-deep foundation was finally completed—“There’s almost another fort underneath,” says Modola—the client was able to witness his fort rising above the ground for the first time. But local merchants were stretched to supply the required number of timbers for the ceilings. Ever one to overcome adversity, Modola eventually sourced mungati (dense, strong wood) in neighboring Tanzania and Congo and had it delivered overland in a matter of weeks.


    Logistics were paramount. “Most of our materials had to be brought onto the beach,” explains Modola, “and the approach to the fort had to be judged by the tide. We were continually battling with strong currents, and, on top of that, we had a long rainy season in the first year, when we were working without a roof over our heads.” Eighteen months later, with as many battles behind it, the fort finally opened its massive doors to its owner. Modola consulted with Ian Cameron, a local antiques dealer, on furniture, carpets, lamps and objects to fit the environment, and the owner’s bold and imaginative dream of a desert cathedral became a reality and an appropriate domain for these shores. And Modola’s brainchild had been triumphantly completed against formidable odds. In the end, though, his reward was simply found in the attitude of the workforce, “whose grit and dedication to seeing the project succeed was quite exceptional,” he says happily.


    Lamu Island Information


    Lamu Old Town on Lamu Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the town dates as far back as the 1300s, although one of the earliest records is of a Portuguese invasion in 1506 followed by the Omanis in 1800s. While new buildings are cropping up on the edges of the town, some narrow streets remain unchanged. Lamu was first established as a trading outpost. Its proximity to the deep waters, calm waters, and long accessible shoreline made it ideal as the hub of the East African stopover in the Northern sea trade route. Lamu is the smaller of the two most famous islands in the Lamu Archipelago, Lamu and Pate. The history of both islands dates back to the 7th Century, although only Lamu retains most of its relics. It experienced several growth spurts during Oman and British occupation, and used the famous Shela battle to subjugate its neighboring islands and dominate the East African side of the Northern Sea. Today, Lamu remains the most important Swahili settlement on the Kenyan coast. Its main attractions are its Old Town, Lamu Fort, and the Swahili architecture in different parts of the island. Lamu Fort, the main attraction in the town square, was built by the Sultan of Pate, Fumo Madi Abi Bakr. He died long before the fort was completed in 1825 or 1826.


    According the National Museum’s of Kenya website, the project was actually a diplomatic endeavour, where the Sultan of Oman, Seyyid Said, built the fort as part of his overtures on the island. Said’s Baluchi soldiers occupied the fort for a brief period before the arrival of the British. Shela Beach, now a picturesque shoreline littered with villas and large luxurious houses, was once the site of a great battle between Lamu and her neighbours, Pate and Manda. The Shela Battle marked a focal point in Lamu’s history because it allowed it an opportunity to subjugate the larger and previously more powerful Pate. But Pate faded because of other reasons. “Lamu’s advantage is not even its history but its conservation plan,” says Mohammed Ali Mwenje, a National Museums of Kenya Buildings Inspector in Lamu. “If Pate had a plan at the same scale as Lamu’s, it would have more to offer.” As Pate slowly faded into oblivion, Lamu used its main attributes to become the most attractive and famous Swahili heritage site on the East African coastline, away from Zanzibar.


    Lamu Old Town has maintained its authenticity. It has maintained its traditional style doors and buildings. Most of the Arabic and Indian doors are built of mangrove timber carved to provide stunning patterns. Its streets vary between the sections built during each occupation, with some Indian relics from a time when trade with India thrived on the Archipelago. Centuries after the first Swahili ancestors settled on the island, Lamu maintains its history and heritage in the architecture and culture.The original design of the town included very narrow streets that are still in place. Transport within the town is by donkeys. They number about 3000. Getting to Lamu is easy, but forcing yourself to leave can be harder… Lamu is served by up to four scheduled flights a day from Nairobi – on Kenya Airways, Air Kenya, Fly 540 and Safarilink – the quickest flights take just over an hour. There are also regular flights down the coast to Malindi and Mombasa. Flights arrive at the charming little airport on neighbouring Manda Island, from where it is just a few minutes ride by dhow or motorboat across the channel to Lamu. Nairobi is very well served by international flights to the UK, Europe and beyond. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Kenya Airways fly direct to and from London Heathrow daily. KLM, Emirates, Air France, Egypt Air and others all fly to Nairobi and have daily connecting flights to the UK.


    Lamu Museum


    Lamu Museum is run by the National Museums of Kenya and plays an important role in the conservation of old Lamu. It's set in a beautiful whitewashed house built in 1891, which was where the British colonial administrators lived before Independence. Before that, it had housed Queen Victoria's consul - one Captain Jack Haggard, brother of the more celebrated author of King Solomon's Mines. It has a fine carved wooden door inlaid with brass studs, the ground floor has a good bookshop and the entrance has some photographs of Lamu taken by French photographer Guillain in the period 1846-1849, as well as a large aerial photo of Lamu Town. In a lobby to the right is a Swahili kitchen with pestles and mortars and vermicelli presses. Also on the ground floor are examples of decorative 18th-century Kidaka plasterwork, carved Lamu throne chairs with wicker seats and elaborately carved Lamu headboards. To the rear are displays on the archaeological excavations of the Takwa Ruins on Manda Island, and at Siya and Shanga on Pate Island. On the first floor, the balcony has a display of large earthenware pottery. The balcony room has photographs and models of seagoing vessels, mostly


    Dhows and the various types and styles in use. Just behind the balcony room is a display of musical instruments used in festivals and celebrations, including drums, cymbals, rattles and leg rattles. The most celebrated exhibits are the two Siwa horns. These are in the shape of elephant tusks, with the mouthpiece on the side. The Lamu horn is made of brass, the horn from nearby Pate is of ivory. They date from the 17th century, are elaborately decorated, and were blown on special occasions such as enthronements or weddings. Local tribes are featured in a side room, and there are displays on the


    Oroma from around Witu, Garsen and southwest of Lamu; the Pokot from west of the Tana River, and the Boni from the north of Lamu. The jewellery includes nose rings, earrings, anklets and necklaces in bead designs and in silver. There are some illustrations of hand and feet painting, in henna, in black and red. The two end rooms are examples of typical Swahili bridal rooms with furniture and dresses on display.


    Swahili House Museum,


    This is a traditional and fully restored 18th-century Swahili house with period furniture and, although it's quite small, it is interesting and the guides are great. There are three areas on the main floor, and a centre aisle has beds off to the left and right. The beds are wooden with rope and raffia forming the base. The main room has a particularly fine


    kikanda plaster screen on the wall; at one time, all of Lamu's houses were plastered white with this limestone wash as it represented purity. Although historically, when people had slaves in the homes, the areas where the slaves slept weren't plastered. Furnishings include a clock with an octagonal frame and a pointed pendulum case, a style found all along the East African coast. In the kitchen is an mbuzi (coconut grinder) and a fumbu a straw implement resembling a large sock, which is used for squeezing the coconut juice from the shredded fruit. There is also a large wooden pestle and mortar, a pasta maker, a water boiler and a flour-grinding stone, as well as other pots and pans. Outside are a well and a garden with frangipani.


    Lamu Fort


    The construction of the Lamu Fort began in 1813 shortly after Lamu's victory at the Battle of Shela and was completed in 1821. The battle was an attempt by the people of Pate, allied with the Mazrui clan from Oman in Mombasa, to subjugate Lamu, but the attempt failed totally, and victory at Shela signaled the rise of Lamu as the leading power in the archipelago. The fort used to sit on the water's edge, as did Harambee Avenue, but over time another row of houses was built on discarded rubbish, which put the fort 70 m


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


    In the southwest part of town is a fluted Pillar Tomb thought to date from the 14th century, though it's in danger of collapse. It can be reached by going south, turning inland just after the Halwa Shop, towards the Riyadha Mosque, and continuing on. Another tomb is the Mwana Hadie Famau Tomb a local woman believed to have lived here in the 15th or 16th century. This is situated a little inland from the museum. The tomb had four pillars at the corners with inset porcelain bowls and probably a central pillar as well. Legend has it a hermit took up residence in the hollow interior of the tomb, and became a nuisance by grabbing the ankles of passing women at night-time. The solution was to wall up the tomb while the hermit was not at home. Behind the fort is the House of Liwali Sud bin Hamad a fine example of Swahili architecture. A Liwali was a governor appointed by the Sultan of Zanzibar. It is still possible to appreciate how it looked when it was a single dwelling, though it is subdivided now. On Main Street, just next to the


    New Star restaurant, is the site of the offices of the German East Africa Company. Originally the Germans thought that Lamu would make a suitable secure base for their expansion into the interior (much in the same way as the British used Zanzibar). The agreement regarding British and German 'spheres of influence' in 1886 caused the Germans to turn their attention to Bagamoya, although they opened a post office in Lamu in 1888, which closed three years later. The site is now the miss able German Post Office Museum which has a few faded photographs from the era and not much else. Towards the rear of the town is the whetstone for sharpening knives, said to have been imported from Oman as local stone was not suitable.


    Lamu Donkey Sanctuary


    Donkey Sanctuary in the northern part of the town close to the waterfront. This is run by the International Donkey Sanctuary, a charity concerned with the welfare of donkeys worldwide. In 2008 it celebrated its 21st anniversary in Lamu on 4 July - dubbed by one employee as Independence Day for the donkeys of Lamu. There are an estimated 2200 donkeys on the island, which are used in agriculture but also in carrying household provisions and building materials. They generally plod around town on their own and in theory each is owned by someone, although how donkey and owner stay connected is somewhat mystifying. The founder of the trust, Dr Elizabeth Svendsen, first visited Lamu in 1985 while on a beach holiday, and after seeing the poor condition of the working donkeys, established the sanctuary and clinic here in 1987. There is a small enclosure that anyone can visit where sick donkeys receive free care, and the donkeys that roam the town can find fodder and water. It's rather endearing here to see a donkey with a cartoon-like criss-cross bandage somewhere on it covering a minor wound. The twice-yearly de-worming programme on Lamu and the surrounding islands has contributed hugely to the better health of the donkeys, and primitive practices of bleeding a donkey or burning them with hot irons to treat illness is thankfully much reduced. The donkey awards in March/April are organized by the Lamu Donkey Sanctuary in conjunction with the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (KSPCA) to promote animal welfare. Prizes are given for the best-cared-for donkey, and a surprising number of local people turn out to proudly parade their well-groomed beasts of burden. During the Islamic Festival of Maulidi, held each year around the month of June, several special sporting events are held in Lamu. The main event is a donkey race along the waterfront, running the entire length of the old town. Lamu residents are accomplished Donkey jockeys, and victory in this annual race is a much coveted title. The race attracts most of the town’s people, who gather along the waterfront or anchor offshore in dhows to watch the action. Both riders and donkeys are well prepared for the event and the competition is always fierce, with each competitor attracting their own loyal local supporters. The race day is a major event in the Lamu calendar, and there are plenty of festivities and celebrations both before and after the big event. Often dhow races are held around the island during the same period.


    Lamu Dhow Racing


    On January 1st, the residents of Lamu celebrate the coming of the New Year with a Dhow Race. This event is an important annual event on the island. Lamu Dhow builders are considered some of the best on the coast, and this is a culture born of the sea and sailors. This makes the race the most important sporting event on the island. Winning the race is a great honour among Dhow captains, and the race attracts the best of the best. Like the annual Donkey race, this event brings the Island to life, and the shorelines throng with supporters. Individual Dhows are brightly decorated, and festivities on race day last well into the night. Boating - The waters of Lamu are plied by great numbers of traditional lateen sailed Dhows. These craft are an integral part of life on the island. A day spent at sea on a Dhow is a wonderful experience and a fantastic way to explore the area. The calm waters around Lamu make are perfect for sailing, and the neighbouring islands are well worth visiting for their small fishing villages, ancient ruins and deserted beaches. After a day on the water, you sail back to Lamu town as the setting sun turns the ocean to gold. Longer Dhow safaris throughout the entire Archipelago can also be arranged, the waters of Lamu are plied by great numbers of traditional lateen sailed Dhows. These craft are an integral part of life on the island. A day spent at sea on a Dhow is a wonderful experience and a fantastic way to explore the area. The calm waters around Lamu make are perfect for sailing, and the neighbouring islands are well worth visiting for their small fishing villages, ancient ruins and deserted beaches. After a day on the water, you sail back to Lamu town as the setting sun turns the ocean to gold. Longer Dhow safaris throughout the entire Archipelago can also be arranged. Most hotels and guesthouses, as well as private Dhow captains, can organize a day cruising on a dhow.



    Lamu Maulidi


    There is more to it than you expect coming to Lamu Island on a beach vacation holiday. The different festivals and events on Lamu Island will show you the diversity of the local culture. Islam plays an important role in Swahili culture and Lamu has a reputation for the yearly celebration of the Maulidi Festival. Celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, it is held during the third month of the Muslim calendar –between February and April. This version of the Maulidi, unique in East Africa, is believed to have been developed in Lamu by the Holy Habib Swaleh by the end of the 19th century. Swaleh was an Arab who reformed the religious rituals of the festival and became famous for the highly artistic performance of the verses of the Koran that has nowadays a certain influence on Swahili poetry. Since Habib Swaleh’s times, the importance of music as a constituent of the religious ritual has increased continually. Today, thousands of pilgrims from the Kenyan mainland and the Arabian world come to Lamu to listen to the religious recitals and attend the colourful performance of dancers and musicians from various ethnic groups. On the final day of the celebrations, a procession heads down to the tomb of Habib Swaleh.


    Big Game Fishing


    Big game fishing can also be arranged between December and March. Kenya's main coastal game fish include Sailfish and Marlin, Kingfish, Wahoo, Horse Mackerel and others. A tag and release program ensures eco-friendly fishing.


    Lamu Cultural Festival


    Another highlight in the cultural life of Lamu is the Cultural Festival, usually held in the last week of November. The purpose of this festival is to promote the Swahili heritage and preserve the local culture of the islands. Founded in 2001, it is supported by various international embassies and private sponsors. The festival is very popular and the agenda reflects the richness of Swahili culture. Readings and performances by storytellers express the old skills in Swahili poetry. On the main square, there are plenty of musical performances. All the traditional dances (ngoma) from the islands of the archipelago are put into one single venue in the streets of Lamu Town. During the festivities, the magic of the past turns alive. Traditional displays like dhow building, henna painting, fish trap making, palm weaving and bao games are shown. The donkey races along the Lamu seafront and the dhow races are thrilling and a feast for everyone. It’s fascinating to watch the various types of dhows: the bigger one Jahazi, the smaller Mashua or the fast and indeed most elegant Mozambique dhow. The dhow regattas are a big attraction and certainly the highlight of the festival.


    Shela Village


    The southern shores have the best beach, which begins just to the south of Shela - 12 km of almost deserted white sand that backs onto the sand dunes. As there is no reef the waves get fairly big. Here you can stroll for miles along the deserted shoreline littered with pansy shells, otherwise known as sand dollars, where foamy waves sweep bare feet and cormorants attempt balancing acts on the sea breeze. Sleepy yet sophisticated, Shela is probably the most relaxing and seductive place you will every visit. Sitting a mile or two south of Lamu Town, where the channel meets the ocean, Shela has a languid, undisturbed atmosphere all its own. Only a generation ago Shela was being described as something of a ghost town, but in the past decade many of the village’s historic Swahili houses have been beautifully renovated, and any number of ravishing holiday homes and guest houses built along the village’s pretty waterfront and jumble of narrow sandy streets. Beyond the charming Peponi Hotel, centre of Shela social life, the beach stretches almost as far as the eye can see – miles and miles of empty white sand facing the Indian Ocean and backed by magnificent dunes.


    Most visitors to Shela are lulled into a sense of blissful indolence, content to stroll along the beach, browse in one of the village’s boutiques, enjoy a cocktail or two at Peponi, or simply to subside on a shady rooftop with a book and enjoy the rhythms of the day. For the more energetic there is deep-sea fishing, scuba-diving, and sea-kayaking, windsurfing and waterskiing available. Shela has a thriving holiday rental market and many of the gorgeous private houses in the village are available to rent, celebrating New Year’s Eve in Shela Village is not exactly a festival, but it feels pretty much the same. The village is full of people and everywhere there is a party. The Muslims commemorate the end of the year with various and colorful weddings and visitors are warmly welcomed to join as guests. After the lively New Year’s Eve, the Peponi Hotel hosts a very popular dhow race on January 1st, which, under the tropical sky, is definitely a perfect start into your new year.


    Manda Island


    Manda Island is Lamu’s nearest neighbor - its dense, bushy interior quite different to Lamu’s more open landscape. Manda is known for its wonderful bird life and attracts wildlife from the mainland too - it is home to wide variety of animals, from monkeys, antelopes and anteaters to the occasional buffalo and elephant and even lion. Manda’s long sandy beach looks across the channel to Shela and is a popular place to swim and sunbathe, its simple little eco-lodge Diamond Beach Village is a lovely place to stay and unwind. Manda is also home to the beautiful Takwa Ruins – the ancient remains of a Swahili town deserted in the 17th Century – accessed along a tiny channel through the mangroves which fringe much of the island. The ruins are highly atmospheric, particularly in the late afternoon light and make a memorable dhow-excursion from Lamu or Shela. On the ocean side of Manda, through the narrow Mkanda channel, pretty little Manda Toto (‘baby Manda’) Island is a nice place to swim, snorkel and picnic. Nearby is the luxurious and exclusive resort of Manda Bay. Few miles north of Manda lies fascinating Pate Island – remote, inaccessible and archaic even by Lamu standards. A trip to Pate is a worthwhile adventure and gives an insight into how life was lived in the archipelago in centuries past. Once an important town in its own right and rival to Lamu, Pate Town was founded in the early days of Islam and settled by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century.


    On its outskirts are the Nabahani Ruins – the remains of an ancient Arab Town abandoned in the early 19th Century. Pate’s livelihood now relies on fishing and the cultivation of tobacco and bananas. At Siyu, in the centre of the island, once an important centre for Islamic scholarship, silk weaving and other crafts, there is an impressive Omani Fort, recently restored by the National Museums of Kenya, and some interesting domed tombs. Close to the south east coast of the island lie the extensive Shanga Ruins. The sleepy villages of Faza and Kisingitini on the island’s north coast are centres of dhow-building and lobster fishing. Further north still is the romantic Robinson Crusoe-style desert island of Kiwayu – home to the utterly laid-back and hedonistic Munira Island Camp.


    Lamu Accommodation Information


    Lamu Island is an exclusive exotic vacation destination with world class beach hotels, merging beautifully with its exceptional beaches and crystal clear lagoons. Today, Lamu Island has some of the best and most luxurious hotels and holiday villas which offer excellent service and facilities in a stunning, sun-drenched background. Moreover with our proposed Lamu Island hotels, Lamu Island beach resorts, Lamu Island luxury holiday villas, or stylish Lamu Island beach houses, you will always be sure to enjoy comfort, style, luxury and private atmosphere during your holidays in Lamu Island.


    As an individual, couple, family or group, Lamu Island has the right accommodation package for your exceptional stay in our beautiful island. We always make sure to cater for everyone by offering accommodation options - from cheap and affordable to luxury.


    We will be happy to assist advice and recommend on a selection accommodation solutions as per your preferences, requests and budget. For the convenience of all our customers and website visitors we have created a list of top recommended Lamu Island accommodation providers, consisting of top recommended hotels in Lamu Island and Recommended Self Catered Villas in Lamu Island. Here you will find useful information on selection of the most recommended hotels in Lamu Island and villas in Lamu Island for you to be able to choose your ideal accommodation package for your coming holiday Lamu Island. Over the past decades, the face of the holiday accommodation industry in Lamu Island changed drastically. Lamu Island has changed from being a secret paradise known to small number of travelers, to a popular holiday destination. Lamu Island has developed an extensive range of hotels networks, and many accommodation solutions. Visitors to Lamu Island can choose from a selection of hotels from Lamu Island budget hotels, to amazing 5 stars hotels of which some are considered the top in the world, as well as unique nature boutique hotels and business oriented hotels. Today, we keep witnessing the growth of the Lamu Island hotel industry with more professionalism in all aspects. The local hotels in Lamu Island offer a much wider range of services, leisure facilities, gourmet food, while providing quality personal service to all visitors of Lamu Island with warm welcoming hospitality. Most of the hotels in Lamu Island are focused on elegance, comfort and are particularly renowned for their high standards. Visitors to Lamu Island can choose from a selection of exclusive top class luxury resorts (5 star deluxe), to small family owned boutique hotels offering more intimate atmosphere.


    From designer chic luxury to all inclusive, each and every hotel has developed an individual, unique identity that will appeal to you. Lamu Island also has the privilege to offer wide range of holiday self catered villas all across Lamu Island for you to enjoy a perfect vacation in Lamu Island in your ideal holiday villa. From intimate luxury beach properties to larger holiday homes and mansions, all the villas have been handpicked for their location, views, facilities, comfort, style and character. From a self catering basis to all inclusive villas, all are available for you to choose for your accommodation in Lamu Island. Almost all the Lamu villas are provided with range of services such as: personal cook/chef, maid service, babysitters, 24/7 house butler and personal masseur. Accordingly, you have the freedom to choose your desired villa accommodation, as well as choose on which basis to rent the villa in Lamu Island and which of the additional villa services to include. Why to choose a Holiday Villa in Lamu Island? Whether as a family, a single, or a couple, when you rent one of our high-end holiday houses, luxury holiday villas, or stylish beach houses you will always be sure to enjoy comfort, style, luxury and private atmosphere during your vacation in Lamu Island.


    Reserve a Hotel

    Thank you for your Lamu Island Enquiry
    Our Travel Expert will Contact you soon!

    Why Choose us
    • Voted in Top 10 Luxury Beach Holiday Destination by Conde Nast Traveller
    • Get expert travel advice from our tour specialists, so you can tailor-make your holiday
    • An unbeatable portfolio of truly luxury beach houses in Lamu.
    • We offer real value and excellent customer service, but if you receive a better price or service elsewhere, please contact us.

    Lamu Island Virtual Tour

    All Inclusive Holidays

    Relax and unwind safe in the knowledge that everything is included
    Read More

    Family Holidays

    With offers you will not find anywhere else
    Read More

    Call us for expert advice

    Speak with our specialists for expert advice and to arrange your tailor-made vacations to Lamu.
    Call us on +254 731 999 999

    Lamu Weather

    Get the Latest Deals

    Thank you for your Subscription
    We will keep you updated with the latest Lamu deals

    Follow Us on Facebook
    © 20 18 All rights reserved All material on this Lamu website including any images, text and/or video is the property of Book & Travel.