Lamu isn’t a UNESCO world heritage city for no reason. I immersed deeply into its simplicity and adored the people’s warmth. I enjoyed its narrow streets, Swahili Food and boat rides among other things. You must go to magical Lamu – here’s why:
- Visit Lamu Museum
This as a must-do! The museum is situated right at the town centre right along Lamu’s main street. From cultural traits, costumes, dances and languages – the museum documents the culture of Lamu Island and that of Pate and Manda – other islands close by, and earlier influences like trade and tribes.
From the meticulous preparations for a traditional Swahili wedding to the history of Lamu and Zanzibar doors, and Swahili ornaments – the museum was so eye opening. You might also want to check out Gallery Baraka at the back of the main street. They stock some of Africa’s most unique artsy collections. We (Tomas and I) got some really nice Toureg male bracelets from West Africa for him 🙂 I also loved their Congolese pattern rags and mats.
2. Visit Matondoni Village
Matondoni is a small dhow-making town – about 2 hours by boat from Lamu town. It’s the only place in Kenya’s coast where I have seen dhows in construction. It’s a really beautiful phenomenon to see the humbling background behind the art of making a vessel that ideally becomes the protector of life. This is the only form of traveling for the people and fishermen – who end up providing food to the people.
While sailing to Matondoni, I remembered one of 1843’s Big Questions – what’s the best way to travel? After the experience I am assertive that they best way to travel is in a boat or dhow by sea. You can’t really speed up because your nautical miles per hour rely on the wind and waves. You can’t decide to get off at a stop like you would sometimes in a car or train – till you reach your final destination where the boat can dock safely. There isn’t any noise, music, pollution or distraction (unless if there is a storm) so you start to hear yourself, and the ocean and the nothingness of life. You start to imagine what would happen if you drowned and how long it would take for you to be discovered. Sailing changed my life. It was like a pilgrimage to self-belief. I can’t imagine how it would feel to sail the world or a couple of countries some time. Goals.
3. Sail to Kipungani Explorer
Kipungani is about 5 hours via boat from Lamu town, again depending on the wind. It’s situated towards the island’s southern tip. It’s really a dream destination. The beach is deserted and quite stunning. You want to sail to Kipungani in a dope dhow, dine and maybe sleep in there. There are also some resorts there you can camp at but we just sailed there to spend a few hours swimming and walking around the beach.
4. Eat Swahili Food
Swahili people treat every piece of meal and food like it’s the last, so you’ll discover that the process of having breakfast, lunch and dinner feels like a ritual or ceremony, more than anything. Traverse the streets of Lamu early morning to small cafés serving breakfast. While there make sure you have Katlesi, Kitumbua and their version of Kebabs (Kebabu)—the breakfasts we had at these tiny cafés were just so special.
Make sure you experiment all the available little delicacies. Have lunch and dinner at any Lamu restaurant – they were all exceptionally good and cheap. I loved The Seafront. Ask for their Fish Biryani or Samaki wa Kupakwa. In the early evening street food is everything. Just ask for Makate wa Mayai or Swahili Pizza.
5. Check out Floating Bar & Shela
These are the places where you meet high profile celebrities. “Last time we were here I met Jude Law sitting right here,” our friend Touko reenacts. It’s really beautiful to see the sunset from the floating bar and just a greet feeling to be in a floating bar. It’s the correlation of vulnerability and the idea of space. No club hopping. And then you kind of feel like you also can’t get too tipsy not to loose your step into the boat when returning to Lamu. It’s the only club where you must maintain balance.
If you want to experience luxury on an island – Shela it is. It is one of Lamu’s villages but probably the most modern village I’ve been to. Its fancy hotels and apartments are perfect hideaways if you’re traveling with a group of friends or family. It’s really beautiful and does feel like another world. While dining at Shela Peponi’s restaurant with Tomas and a group of our friends, I bump into two of my favourite photographers who aren’t even from Kenya – Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith. We even just got one of their books as a gift for family in Czech last Christmas. It was such riot when I discovered them, and they discovered a true fan!
I must go back to Lamu.