Over a thousand years of East African, Omani, Chinese, Yemeni, Indian, Portuguese and Victorian British influences have all left their mark on Lamu Island, in the unique architecture and style, the language and the very essence of the place.
In bustling Lamu Town, winding alleys lead past the intricate carved doorways that Lamu is so famous for, you will discover an ancient town with all the colour and vibrancy of a bygone era. Life appears little changed since Lamu was a busy port town in the 14th century, donkeys remain
the preferred local mode of transport, and the streets are lit by lanterns after nightfall. Spices and the smell of grilled food scent the air around the markets, mosques, museums, fort and ancient houses, and exploring Lamu on foot or donkey is a treat for all the senses. Sitting at an open-air restaurant by the water and watching the world go by is an irresistible past time. Fishermen haul their catches ashore, locals walk or ride by, donkeys carry their cargo.
The other main town on Lamu Island, Shela, is a 10-minute boat ride from Lamu. Compared to Lamu, Shela is extremely beautiful; smaller, quieter and more elegant and distinctly more upmarket.
Lamu has a relaxed and sleepy atmosphere, making it a wonderful place to relax and enjoy island life, sweeping beaches, rolling sand dunes and warm Indian Ocean. The ocean continues to play a vital role in the life and livelihood of Lamu, and traditional wooden sailing dhows abound. A trip on a dhow is a highly relaxing way to explore the area, travelling to neighbouring islands and fishing villages. Snorkelling is excellent in the waters off Lamu and the surrounding archipelago, which teem with vibrant marine life. Take a day trip and swim with dolphins at the rocky outcrop Kinyika, snorkel amongst the turtles at Manda Toto.
With its huge baobab trees dominating the skyline, and the ruins of Takwa, a 16th-century Swahili settlement found after negotiating a thick mangrove swamp Manda Island is a fascnating alternative to Lamu. Directly opposite Lamu, this unspoilt island, which has been visited by Arab traders in their dhows for centuries, lies in calm inshore waters on a long protected beach of white sand. There are creeks and other tiny islands to explore, and big game fishing can be arranged.