Louise from our Africa team recently visited Lamu on Kenya’s coast and uncovered a surprisingly welcome and laid-back destination – but don’t tell anyone, she wants to keep it all for herself.
It was one of the most incredible trips I have ever been on. From the jaw-droppingly beautiful views in the north to the frankly unparalleled amounts of game in the Maasai Mara, Kenya really does have everything you could wish for. It wasn’t either of these that were my favorite places though. For me, the best and most surprising was Lamu; I could have spent two weeks in Lamu alone.
From the moment I arrived and walked down the little jetty to my boat transfer, I knew I was going to like it.
There’s a totally different atmosphere here from the rest of Kenya. Fishermen are cooking lunch on their large wooden dhows with enormous sails and the smell of burning wood is now synonymous with Lamu for me. There is so much going on as we wonder down the channel to our hotel, The Majlis.
Lamu Town is a hub of activity and with no cars, donkeys are used to transport everything through the small and winding dusty back-streets. The architecture is beautiful with heavy carved wooden doors and Arabic style shutters.
The locals are shouting out to each other in the markets and the boats in the makeshift harbor are filled with goods and ferrying people around.
As we slowly pass by Lamu Town we come round the headland and I can see Shela Town in the distance. As it grows, it reminds me more and more of those classic Italian towns that seem to appear from nowhere on the sides of cliffs. Buildings seem built on top of each other and there’s a more established feel to it than Lamu Town.
It’s a bit more stylish here, but only a bit – Shela Town has caught on to the idea of tourism without losing any of its natural charm. Peponi is one of the best places to sit and have a long, leisurely lunch whilst watching all of the locals go about their daily lives.
It’s not the most classic of beach destinations, the accommodation is simpler and comes with less frills, but it’s got something a little bit more than the usual Zanzibar or Mauritius. It’s also still relatively undiscovered at the moment which just adds to the innocent charm of it all.