Here’s What You Must Experience When Visiting Lamu Island

Planning to visit Lamu island? Then here is what you must experience when visiting this peaceful tropical island where life is lived at its own relaxed pace.

Lamu’s history is as mysterious and breathtaking as the winding streets of its medieval stone town. From rolling dunes, endless beautiful beaches, tiny villages, narrow streets, its old town and coconut plantations, this idyllic island speaks to the heart and soul and a trip to Lamu will be one you will never want to forget.

Here is what you must experience when visiting this amazing island.

1. Get Lost In Lamu Old Town’s Narrow Streets

Lamu old town is the oldest inhabited Swahili town in Kenya since it dates back to the 12th century. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite new and modern buildings cropping up on the edges of the town, many of the narrow streets remain unchanged.

Lamu Old Town has maintained its authenticity by maintaining its traditional style doors and buildings. It has also maintained its history and heritage in architecture and culture.

Photo ©Tripadvisor

2. Sail To The Sunset On a Traditional Dhow

The major forms of transport on this island are dhows and donkeys. So you got to try all of them to experience the local culture. There is no better way to experience the sunset other than having an uninterrupted view of the sun sinking to the horizon over crystal clear water which is painted orange by the sinking sun. This is one moment you will live to remember as it is overwhelmingly prepossessing. While on the cruise, you also get to explore the mangrove bushes and different types of birds from the dhow and have a clear view of Shela village and Lamu town from the Takwa channel. Rates for Sunset cruises from 5:00 PM – 6:30 PM is $40 for two people to $70 for 10 people.

Photo © Culturetrip.com

3. Take a Guided Tour 

You can liaise with a local to guide you around the town or get professional tour guides like the Shela Tour Guides or the Lamu Tour Guides. Professional guides can design a walking, donkey or sailing tour to fit your time schedule, your interests and your mood. You can tour the old Lamu Town by a donkey or on foot in under 2 hours, or visit Pate and Kikwayu island via a dhow or visit Matandoni. There are many other places you can tour with your guide on Lamu island and the only limit is your imagination.

Photo © Peponihotel

4. Visit Takwa Ruins

Takwa ruins are located on Manda Island which is a 30-minute boat ride from Lamu town. Here one gets to see the remains of a bubbly 16th-century Swahili trading town.  One of the most notable features at Takwa is the unique Mosque with a large pillar atop the Qibla wall; while the significance of the pillar is not known with certainty, some believe it to symbolise the burial of a Sheikh below the wall.

Photo © National Museum

5. Enjoy Authentic Swahili Dishes

This is like something that you must do. Immerse yourself into the Swahili culture by enjoying their meals from Biryani and curries, couscous and pasta, coconut rice with mango chutney, ukwaju, samaki wa kupaka, mahamri and mandazi, kachiri, mshikaki and most of all the varied seafood.

Photo © Capitalfm.co.ke

6. Go For a Donkey Ride

Lamu town’s original design included very narrow streets that are still in place. The narrow streets in this beautiful island cant allow one to travel in a car but donkeys. There are as many as 3000 donkeys on Lamu island. While on Lamu island, you should go for a donkey ride.

Photo © Whereisannie.net

7. Go For Snorkelling At The Reef

This is a bit pricy but if you feel your pockets are still loaded, you can go for snorkelling at the reef at a fee of $120 for two people and $165 for five people. You can visit Kinyika and Manda Toto reefs near Lamu. Kinyika reef is a long way and out in the open ocean hence Manda Toto reef is most preferred when going for snorkelling. Lunch is usually provided for free but snorkelling equipment are not included in the cost of the trip so will have to pay for them separately.

Photo © Shelatourguides

8. Plan Your Trip Around a Festival and Experience The Best Cultural Festivals In Lamu

Lamu has numerous festivals. The Lamu Cultural Festival includes activities such as donkey racing, dhow racing competition, traditional Swahili poetry, henna painting and bao competition. Lamu’s wealth of cultural attractions explains why you should plan your trip to the island around a festival so that you can experience these festivals. Lamu Cultural Festival is held in August. Other festivals held in Lamu include the religious Maulidi festival.

9. Take a Stroll and Dip on Lamu’s Beautiful Beaches

Lamu has the most beautiful beaches in the world. The beaches; still unspoiled by mass tourism offer the best environment to take a long walk while enjoying the ocean breeze. The best place to go for a beach stroll is a few kilometres south of Lamu town where channels open to the ocean or to Shela beach north of Lamu.

 

Tourists Walking down Shela Beach, Kenya | Photo © Erik (HASH) Hersman

 

  • Visit the floating bar 
  • Visit the Shela Sand Dunes