Things you should know about Lamu Island
Language: Most people speak Swahili in Lamu Island, but since it’s a tourist attraction, you will find that English is widely spoken.
Currency: The Kenyan shilling
Debit/Credit cards/Mpesa: Most places will accept cards/mpesa although you will need cash at hand in other places.
About Lamu Island
Lamu Island is part of the Lamu archipelago. Other major islands that form this include Pate and Manda. Lamu Island is the largest. Lamu old town is chaos, from characters trying to make a buck off tourists by convincing them to buy souvenirs to others trying to act as tour guides. A walk through the town will make you forget traffic, well, not really because theirs is a different kind, I am talking about donkeys. There are all types of donkeys: jacks, jennets, foals, skinny and even fat ones. By the way, a fat donkey can be referred to as a fat ass, no? As you can imagine, their road marks are donkey shit. They say each town has a distinct welcoming scent. Lamu’s old town smell is donkey shit. I didn’t see a single vehicle in Lamu, just a couple of Lorries that were transporting construction materials. Their main means of transport are boats and donkeys.
Lamu beaches are hands down the most beautiful, serene and magical ones I have visited in Kenya. The Indian Ocean for some reason looks extra blue. It’s like Zanzibar without the tourists.
Lamu has Zanzibar vibes from the architecture, to the Swahili, the people and even the cuisine.
Arriving by air: You will land at Manda Airport. You can arrange to be picked up or get in one of the boats to take your accommodation. Be sure to find out the prices in advance. Lat minute flight tickets will cost you about 220 USD. However, if you use sky scanner to check deals or even book early enough, you can a return ticket for as low as 100 USD!
Arriving by road: There are buses that from Nairobi and from Mombasa. I hear the road to Lamu Island is terrible but my friends mentioned it was dusty and they were stopped at various security checks and got escorts from the police. However, you can get buses from Nairobi, Malindi or Mombasa. The journey from Nairobi to Lamu may take you 15 hours!
Tip: With the introduction of the standard gauge railway(SGR). You can opt to travel with the SGR to Mombasa then get a flight from Mombasa to Lamu. It will save you some cash.
There are no matatus on the island. The main means of transport is by boat or by donkey.
Where to Stay
Lamu Island can accommodate everyone from the budget to the luxury traveller. Use booking.com to find the accommodation that best suits you. If you are on a tight budget, try using Airbnb. You will get rooms for as low as 20 USD. Always read how other travellers rate the place to avoid any surprises.
Things to do
Lamu Old Town and the Museums: Walk around Lamu town. While you are at it, check out the donkey sanctuary, ride the donkeys if you may. I rode the donkey for a good 20 minutes. A few more minutes I would have started feeling like Khaleesi, surrounded by the unsullied (by the unsullied, I mean a single donkey owner).
Visit the museums. See the history of Lamu Island. See the town. The architecture is a mixture of Indian and Portuguese. I highly doubt this will ever change, I believe the architecture is one of the factors that make Lamu old town a UNESCO heritage town.
A day trip to Manda Island: This a full day trip on a hired boat. You may want to carry your own drinks. Hand lines are offered to those who would wish to fish. Cooking happens on board. You may have lunch in transit or on one of the beautiful beaches like kizingoni beach.
Manda Toto is surrounded by beautiful, lush green mangrove trees and the ocean is oh so perfect for snorkelling.
Notice how round my cheeks are? Look, I usually have pregnant cheeks but they get rounder when I get in contact with salty water.
Water Surfing: The Majlis resort offers this activity. It was a first for me and my arms were on fire after. It was a hilarious experience. First of all, I had no clue what I was doing. Secondly, standing on the surfboard was difficult and once I managed to at least try, my body was arched in a twerking position. See how chics stand when they are about to twerk? I looked like I was about to drop it like its hot only that I ended up dropping in the cold ocean. Now, when I realized I was in the water, I panicked. The Jet Ski was a couple of meters away. Of course, I had a life jacket on but I’m also black. I cannot possibly trust not to drown. I started swimming towards the Jet Ski when I realized I couldn’t make it that far and that is when the thought of drowning set in. Si I yelled? No the correct word in this situation is Scream.The captain tells me in simple slow Swahili “Mrembo, tulia , huwezi zama, ukishtuka ndio utazama.” I’m there like I will, I’m freaking terrified. Ever tried crying with water on your face? DON’T!
Where to Eat
There is a cool floating restaurant. It’s surrounded by water and like many parts on the island, it can only be accessed by boat.
The Majlis resort has amazing seafood. Literally, the
only thing I ate when I was there. Their cocktails are also out of this world. Majlis resort is a must visit for anyone going to Lamu. You do not have to stay there to visit.
Have you been to Lamu?
If you haven’t, tembea Kenya! It is definitely worth it