Some 265km from Mombasa just off Kenya’s northern coast, Lamu is a tropical archipelago that comprises a string of enchanting Indian Ocean islands such as Lamu, Pate, Manda and Kiwayu. Lamu, a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2001, is the largest town in the archipelago. The area contains several sites of historical and archaeological significance including Shanga, Manda and Takwa. These sites make for great Lamu safari that offers intriguing insight into the Swahili culture that dates back 700 years.
Compared to the busier and crowded southern and central parts of the Kenyan coast, Lamu offers more restful holidays away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Great beaches, blazing coral reefs, outstanding cuisine and a fascinating culture are some of the highlights of Lamu. The town that was founded in the 14th Century as a Swahili trading centre and settlement has a rich history and cultural heritage that is commemorated during the Annual Lamu Cultural Festival held every November.
The absence of vehicles on the streets of Lamu and the presence of donkeys within the town are some of the things that will strike you during your trip to Lamu. Donkeys are the main mode of transport within the town as the streets of Lamu are not wide enough to accommodate vehicles. The narrow streets block sun rays thereby keeping the town cool.
Scuba diving, snorkelling (best undertaken between November and March) are among the major attractions of Lamu safari. The archipelago is particularly popular globally for its deep sea-fishing, with Kiwayu Island featuring among the world’s 10 best diving sites.
Deep-sea fishing is quickly giving Lamu a reputation as one of the top destinations for African sports safaris. Deep-sea fishing is best undertaken from October through April and some of the fish caught include Kingfish, Wahoo, Tuna, Sailfish, Barracuda and Marlin. Lamu is also gaining popularity as a destination for African Sports Safaris thanks to the annual dhow and donkey racing events. The donkey race, which is held every June, attracts many competitors each eyeing a much coveted title. The race is an important event for both local and international supporters.
The annual dhow race, held every New Year Day, is an important event and great honour for dhow captains who are considered the finest on the Kenyan coast.
Like the donkey race, dhow races attract many local and international fans.
The best time to visit Lamu is between January and March when snorkeling is ideal.
The archipelago is best reached by air from Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi and Diani Beach. There are daily scheduled flights to and from these destinations. An airstrip located on Manda Island serves Lamu town and can also service private charters.