Lamu Island is part of the Lamu Archipelago on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline. The city of Lamu’s Old Town district dates back to the 14th century and is an exceptional example of Swahili life during the middle ages. Ancient structures constructed with coral and mangrove wood still line the district’s winding pathways. When it comes to accommodations on Lamu Island, guest houses that contribute part of their profits to community projects have the best reputation.
Intermixed with palm-tree-shaded courtyards are cafés that offer the traditional flatbread chapattis and tea. Visitors flock to Lamu Island to experience what life was like in Kenya centuries ago. The island has become an educational and spiritual center for the study of Kenya’s cultural heritage as well. Converted from a British Colonial structure, the Lamu Museum invites visitors to explore the Swahili culture, as does the Swahili House Museum that showcases an example of the interior of a traditional 18th century Swahili home. The exhibit includes separate quarters for men and women as well as a ceremonial death bed chamber.
Lamu Island has no paved roads and virtually no motor vehicles. Part of the fun in a visit to Lamu Island is the chance to travel like the locals: on donkeys. Dhow sailing vessels offer opportunities to explore other islands in the archipelago, including snorkeling and diving excursion near Manda, Pate and Kiwayu, the region’s most pristine island.
Lamu Island features multiple scenic beaches. Located at the northern end of the island, Shela Beach is the most popular. A short leisurely stroll from the town brings you to the white sandy beach where local vendors sell samosas from dawn to dusk. There is nothing quite like ending a day on Lamu Island sipping a samosa while enjoy a fish caught fresh on the beach.