90 – The Little Island Paradise that is Lamu

Wed 24th Feb Lamu Castle Lodge, Lamu, Kenya

The bus from Mombasa to Lamu took all of 8 hours, most of it on good but unsealed (read:bumpy) road. By now the incessant long distance bus travel all over East Africa was really starting to take its toll on me. I was looking forward to a long break on Lamu. The bus journey ended at the coast, where public ferries (50 KSH) meet the bus and bring them across the channel to Lamu town.

Lamu town is located in the Lamu archipelago, a bunch of islands just off the Kenyan coast. Here, as in Zanzibar, the Swahili culture predominates. However, where Zanzibar is very well developed, with hotels proclaiming expensive honeymoon suits amidst other amenities, here in Lamu it is more understated. The same culture seen in Zanzibar’s old Stone Town is here, but there remains a fisherman village feel to it, despite there being hotels and lodges and restaurants along the seafront road. You can still see locals, elderly men sitting on the benches overlooking the sea, or playing bao, or carrom, or dominos. Kids play on the streets, and the local people are genuinely friendly.

I found myself a room right in the central area, in the Lamu Castle Lodge, located right behind the market (500 KSH/night, most places cheaper if you stay more than 3 nights). Next was to just get some dinner by a seaside place and soak the sea breeze.

Again, the features of the people here are different from the mainland. There are those that are strikingly arab, others who would not look out of place in Singapore, and many others who have distinctly “mixed” features. Everyone however, spoke Swahili and were friendly. My plan on Lamu was just to spend the remaining time of the long trip by treating myself to a relaxing few days. No big activities, just chill.

The occupants of the lodge were all kenyans, since i avoided the more conspicuous hotels on the seafront. They were nice though, i sat on the upstairs balcony with them and had a bit of a chat, with them chewing their miraa. Everything from home, to their complaints about the big foregin resorts taking in big money in Lamu while locals do not benefit, to their origins (from Yemen etc).

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