Discovering Lamu: A Jewel of Kenya’s Coastline




Discovering Lamu: A Jewel of Kenya's Coastline


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Lamu, an island off the northeastern coast of Kenya, is a destination that has captivated the hearts of many travelers. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a testament to the Swahili culture’s rich history and architectural prowess. The island is characterized by narrow winding streets, intricately carved wooden doors, and stone buildings that echo tales of centuries gone by.


Geographically, Lamu is part of the Lamu Archipelago, which comprises several islands.

The island is surrounded by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, offering pristine beaches and stunning coral reefs.

The mangrove forests that line parts of its coast play a crucial role in the marine ecosystem, acting as breeding grounds for various marine species.


One of the most notable attractions in Lamu is the Lamu Fort.

Built in the early 19th century, this fort stands as a symbol of the island’s historical significance.

It has served various purposes over the years, from a prison to a government office, and now functions as a museum.

Another point of interest is the Lamu Museum, which offers insights into the Swahili culture and the maritime history of the region.

The museum houses artifacts, traditional Swahili crafts, and exhibits that showcase the island’s rich past.


Popular activities for visitors include dhow sailing, a traditional mode of transport using wooden boats with large triangular sails.

These dhows have been used for centuries for fishing and trade along the East African coast.

Today, they offer a serene way to explore the waters around Lamu and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets.

The island is also home to several annual festivals that celebrate its unique culture and traditions.

These events provide an excellent opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the local way of life and witness the vibrant spirit of the community.


Lamu has a diverse population that primarily consists of Swahili-speaking people.

Over the years, the island has seen a mix of various ethnicities, including Arabs, Indians, and Europeans, which has contributed to its rich cultural tapestry.

When to Go

The best time to visit Lamu is during the cooler months between July and October.

This period offers pleasant weather, making it ideal for exploring the island and participating in outdoor activities.

How to Get There

Lamu is accessible by air, with daily flights from Nairobi to Manda Airport, located on a neighboring island.

From Manda, it’s a short boat ride to Lamu. Alternatively, visitors can take a bus from major Kenyan cities to the mainland coast and then a boat to the island.


Lamu Old Town: A well-preserved Swahili settlement with historic buildings and narrow alleys.

Shela Beach: A pristine white sandy beach perfect for relaxation and water activities.

Takwa Ruins: Remnants of an ancient Swahili town on Manda Island, showcasing the region’s archaeological significance.

What You Should Know

Dress modestly to respect the local customs, especially when visiting religious sites.

While Swahili is the primary language, English is widely spoken, especially in tourist areas.

Lamu is a pedestrian town with very few motorized vehicles. Donkeys are a common mode of transport, and walking is the best way to explore.

FAQs about Lamu

Is Lamu safe for tourists?

Yes, Lamu is generally safe for tourists. However, like any destination, it’s essential to stay informed about the current situation and exercise standard precautions.

Are there ATMs on the island?

There are a few ATMs in Lamu Town, but it’s advisable to carry enough cash for your trip as not all places accept cards.

Can I find vegetarian or vegan food in Lamu?

Yes, many restaurants offer vegetarian and vegan options, given the island’s diverse culinary influences.

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