Lamu Island: part 1

My sister booked our entire East Africa trip. I want to get it out there early that I can take exactly zero credit for the great time we had! Andy and I literally just turned up and enjoyed the heck out of our five week vacation. So while I had an idea of what the safari and some of our destinations might be like, many places were a complete surprise.

The first big surprise was the island of Lamu in Kenya. Lamu Old Town is one of the oldest Swahili settlements in East Africa. The old port there was founded by Arab traders around the 14th century and so the place looks like something out of Aladdin.

We stayed in the most incredible AirBnb. It was all white washed walls, ornately carved wooden doors, heavy carpets (the non magical kind), traditional Swahili furniture and lush plants. To get there we had to wind through tiny alleyways, passing donkeys, women selling fruit, cats and kids playing in tiny courtyards. I don’t think I’ve ever been so enchanted by a place and I’m frustrated the photos don’t seem to do it justice.

Looking up from the courtyard in our AirBnb

The view from our bed into the room

The sitting room at our AirBnb

Breakfast

My sister Sarah and Andy at breakfast

The view from the roof

Sarah in the balcony area off our room

Sarah and I

The weather wasn’t great on our first day but that meant it wasn’t too hot as we set out to explore the alleyways.

Because we were there in the lead-up to the Kenyan election we were some of the very few tourists on the island. Elections and their associated protests can be an unstable time to visit.

The market place

We stayed in the Old Town but the main spot for tourists is Shela, so we rebuffed the thousands of boat ride offers and walked there along the foreshore.

Stopping to pose with bougainvillaea along the way

At one point we passed a group of women and children, one of the women proffered her young son and said “he’s for sale!” before bursting into hysterics as he screamed in terror as if the slave trade is still alive in Lamu. It was so funny! Travelling in a place where people speak English makes such a difference because of the availability of those tiny interactions; you can share a joke or chat about anything from the weather to politics and instantly feel more connected to those around you.

I loved all the doors

Shela was definitely fancier and cleaner, with many more accommodation options than the Old Town. We explored for a bit and then took a dip.

Shela beach

We got a tiny bit of blue sky and managed to run into a hotel restaurant before the rain came. The hotel happened to be the well known establishment of Peponi’s.

Amazing juice

There was alcohol on the menu but we didn’t actually drink on Lamu at all. It’s a Muslim island and none of the restaurants in the Old Town served it. Instead we had delicious and dirt cheap tropical juices every day.

Salad, dip and samosas

The ice cream was next level amazing.

We walked back, detouring inland at one point because the tide was in.

Shela

Photo bombed by a donkey

That night we played cards and feasted on fresh seafood on the waterfront. More to come…

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