Lamu Archipelago Destination Guide

Local man with donkey on Lamu Island.
Lamu Archipelago situated in the Indian Ocean off the North Coast of Kenya, epitomises the charm and longevity of Swahili culture and East African coastal history.

With its string of seven islands that are all shapes and sizes, it is an area of outstanding natural beauty, archeological finds and steeped in history. If you are looking for a beach holiday away from the masses, then Lamu Archipelago is where you can find tranquility and serenity.

Step back in time where the motor vehicle has no place; wander through the old town of Lamu through the maze like streets where the buildings are made from local materials; mangrove poles, limestone and coral stones graced with magnificent carved doors. This labyrinth street pattern has its origins in Arab traditions of land distribution and urban development. It is also defined by clusters of dwellings divided into a number of small wards (mitaa) each being a group of buildings where a number of closely related families live.

You can see the fusions of India, Persia and Europe permeating throughout the whole archipelago that has been created over the past 700 years influencing the Swahili culture.

There are sea front buildings with their wide verandas that make arrival from the sea inviting. The internal decorations with painted ceilings and pieces of Chinese porcelain all join to make a fascinating fusion. Lamu Archipelago is home to some lavishly luxurious accommodations in fantastic settings making this an ideal area for add on vacation post safari or as a stand alone beach with a difference type holiday.

Lamu Old Town is definitely worth exploring, either on your own or part of a guided tour. Barter for your finds of jewellery, beautiful cotton clothing and leather wares with the traders along the narrow streets.

You can experience, long white sandy beaches, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, palm trees gently wafting in the breeze next to an azure warm ocean, sipping on a cold cocktail, these are just some of the norms in this piece of paradise. For the more active there are various watersport activities including snorkeling and fishing at most of the resorts here.

Manda Island, which is closest to the mainland, but less developed than Lamu offers a more exclusive feel. Manda has the ruined towns of Takwa and Manda which harbour a plethora of historical finds of cultural significance; Chinese porcelain and Islamic pottery to name a few.

Getting there

The easiest way to get to Lamu is by plane. There are daily flights from Kenya's main airports to Manda Island. If you are staying on Lamu you would then take a ferry across the channel to the island.

Lamu Archipelago Highlights and Attractions

  • Dhow (traditional Swahili boat) excursions to the islands in the archipelago
  • Go on a walking tour of Lamu town
  • Shop for kangas and kikoys, silver jewellery and beautiful carved items
  • Snorkelling (best between November and March)
  • Visit the historic sites on Manda Island
  • Visit Lamu Fort
  • Lamu Museum

What to in the Lamu Archipelago - Relax on the beach or for the more active you can learn to windsurf or Kitesurfing, go on a Dhow sailing trip, snorkelling or deep sea fishing.

Lamu Archipelago Accommodation

Manda Bay Island Resort - Manda Bay is an intimate small hotel situated on the north-western tip of Manda Island. This barefoot luxury hotel offers accommodation in beachfront chalets cottages that are constructed out of local materials in traditional coastal style, with palm thatched roofs and woven matting covering the floors.

Delight in delicious gourmet food including an array of fresh hand selected seafood. The watersports centre is a watersports enthusiast's paradise and offers instruction for water skiing, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. With four ski boats and knee and wake boards plus bananas your days can be filled with activities. With so little night light pollution you can try to decode the mythology of the stars while star gazing. The fishing in the area is excellent. You can also explore the nearby Manda Ruins.

Climate

Due to its proximity to the equator, Lamu has a warm tropical climate. The sea breeze makes the temperature more bearable. It rarely falls below 26 C.

The trade winds should be factored into your vacation plans: Kusi winds occur May to October and generally bring in the wetter season with strong southeasterly winds,rougher seas and cooler temperatures. Great for sailing this time of year but not for snorkelling.

Kazkazi winds occur from November to April is generally the dry season with warm northeasterly winds, calmer seas and clear water visibility. Normally the weather consists of hot days and warm nights; humid but with a breeze.
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