Lamu Town Visit
A visit to Lamu, Kenya’s oldest living town dating back to the 14th century, is highly recommended. The old town is inscribed on the World Heritage List as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa”. The population of Lamu is ethnically diverse, resulting in a mix known as Swahili.
Due to the narrowness of the streets there are few cars and the town is easily explored by foot. We can organise a local resident guide who will show you around the town, its fort, the mosques and other points of interest. He can also point out jewellery and carving shops. Allow yourselves a couple of hours in the little museum that is dedicated to Swahili culture, plus there is an authentic 18th century Swahili house to visit. You can have lunch in town but bear in mind all the shops close for lunch and around prayer times.
Guide tip Ksh 1,000
Shela Village Visit
Shela Village is about 2 miles from Lamu Town, making it easy to combine both in one trip. According to history, it was settled by the people from nearby Takwa on Manda Island, after their wells turned salty. There are a few colourful local shops and some more expensive boutiques and galleries run by expatriates. You can enjoy lunch or a drink at the Peponi hotel or at the local seafront juice bars. Your boat captain can take you there and he will wait for you while you shop or have lunch.
Takwa Ruins Visit
Takwa is an ancient Swahili village on Manda Island, which was abandoned in the 17th century. The ruins are very atmospheric and surrounded by ancient baobabs. Highly recommended.
The channel is only accessible at high tide, so check with your boat captain on the best time to go.
Kipungani Village Visit
Kipungani village is just 2 kilometres from The Cabanas. The people of the village are mainly fishermen, some of who still build the traditional dhow fishing boats. Kilindini, our own luxury dhow, was built under a tree right on the beachfront, using only traditional hand tools and local woods. The women weave the coconut mats, makeka and thatching makuti for the Kizingoni houses and grow coconuts and mangoes on their shambas. Many of our staff come from the village or now live there.
We have used funds from the sale of each Kizingoni House to assist the villagers start initiatives that can spur economic development. For the Young Men’s Group we have helped purchase engines for their fishing boats and have provided them with legal fishing nets. For the Women’s Group we bought land and built guesthouses that can be rented out to our staff, plus we helped establish a small business that sells fresh eggs to the houses.
The villagers are friendly and hospitable and the village itself is very attractive — an unspoilt example of coastal rural life. We can arrange visits for you, guided by one of our staff. It will take you approximately 35 minutes to walk there, or you can take the boat.
Walking to Shela
The 12 kilometres long sandy beach to Shela is about a 3-hour walk. It is best to start very early (6am) to beat the sun and on a receding high tide, so you have firm sand. You will arrive in Shela in time for breakfast. If you let us know before hand, we can book your breakfast at Peponis (payable direct).
Your boat captain can meet you in Shela with the boat to take you home.
Restaurants & Bars
Kizingo Lodge, next door to The Cabanas, has a good bar for a social drink and meet other visitors.
Whispers Coffee Shop is along the northern end of Lamu high street. This long-established gift shop and coffee bar is a favourite meeting place for Lamu expatriates.
Peponi Hotel is a major social centre in Shela. The hotel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to non-guests. However, bookings must be made in advance. It also has a sociable bar overlooking the water.
Manda Bay is a luxury resort hotel on the northern side of Manda Island. It is open to non-guests for lunch. Bookings need to be made in advance.
We recommend you try your hand with the traditional hand lines – they can be the most successful method of creek fishing. Our boat captain will take you through the mangrove channels and hopefully you will return with your own catch, to be cooked at your request. On calm days you can go out beyond the reef and fish for tuna, snapper, kingfish and more.
Charter CHEZA from Manda Bay, a Lochin 33ft with twin 230hp new Holland Turbo Diesel Engines, or LITTLE TOOT from Peponi Hotel. Both offer a full days fishing which is anything up to 10 hours – i.e. leaving at 6.30 am and returning at 4.30 pm. You may return earlier, but if you are looking for big fish or bill fish it is not practical to go out for a half day as it takes too long to get out to the fishing. In the months when the fish are closer inshore (Nov -March) then it is possible to go out for just a half day. The captain’s recommendation will always be sought regarding weather and fishing conditions and time to depart. The crew do have a TAG &RELEASE policy for all billfish caught, however, in the event of a billfish dying or being damaged, the captain will make the decision as to whether to let the fish go or not. If you are not happy with this and would like to bring the fish in, then please make this clear at the beginning of the trip. Prices available on request. Please book in advance and note that you will have to take your house speedboat to Manda Bay (approx 40 minutes) or to Peponi Hotel (approx 30 minutes).
We have our own in-house beautician. Using a range of luxury massage oils made from local Kenyan herbs and fragrances, she offers the following treatments:
Manicure – 30 minute
Pedicure – 45 minute
Foot massage – 30 minutes
Reflexology – 45 minutes
Full Body Holistic Restorative massage – 1 hour
Kizingoni body scrub and massage – 90 minutes
Back massage – 30 minutes
Indian head massage – 30 minutes
Please ask your house staff to make an appointment for you.
There are six daily scheduled flights between Nairobi and Lamu. The flight takes between 1hr 40mins and 2 hrs, depending on the aircraft used and whether it stops in Mombasa or Malindi.
Some flights start at JKIA, others from Wilson Airport.
Mahmoud our meet and greet man will meet you at Manda Airport, help you collect your luggage and load it into The Cabanas cart. He will then trundle you down towards the Manda airport jetty and your private speedboat. You will see Lamu town straight ahead of you, with Shela village off to the left. The Cabanas are a 20 minute boat trip through the mangrove fringed channel. Your house staff will be on the beach to welcome you and escort you to your accommodation.
Lamu Island has no tar roads and the alleys in town are too narrow for cars. Therefore, there are very few vehicles on Lamu. Transport is by dhow, boat, donkey and foot.
Mobile phone coverage is good, for both Airtel and Safaricom.
Wifi internet is available
The Cabanas are eco-powered by solar panels and a windmill, connected via an inverter to a bank of batteries. It is reliable, but limited, so we would be very grateful if you could be careful with the power and not leave anything running unnecessarily, such as fans, lights, music and computers. There is a back up generator if required (by poor weather conditions), but it can be noisy. Please note that it is not possible to use heating elements such as hair driers or hair tongs.
Clean water for drinking and all domestic use is drawn from wells on the property. It is boiled for drinking and placed in the fridges.
Bottled water can be purchased on request.
WEATHER & SEASONS
The two monsoons “Kaskazi” from the North East and “Kusi” from the South East determine the Lamu weather: the Kusi blows from May through to November bring rain in May and June, while the KasKazi, a more gentle, warm wind arrives late November through to Easter. For ten months of the year The Cabanas enjoy spectacular sunshine. However, we do not shut in May and June when the storms pass over, as there are still many sunny days with huge skies and wild winds. It is our low season and very popular with guests looking for an empty beach.
MEDICAL & INSURANCE
The constant cool breezes at The Cabans result in few mosquitoes, but we advise all guests to take anti-malarial medication on their doctor’s recommendation.
We also recommend guests buy a temporary membership of the Flying Doctor Service on top of their normal travel insurance.
All initial bookings must be paid for by bank transfer, however, Mastercard and Visa are accepted for final expense payment before departure.