There are so many things I can write about the year 2020. It has been a year of struggle and massive job losses. On April 2020, I wrote an article on Covid-19 and what it meant for tourism business. To date, the content of that article remains true. My personal travels were halted mid-March. I never envisioned travelling to any of my bucket list destination in 2020. I had cancelled everything in my mind. When Nairobi re-opened in August, I was skeptical and not sure if I was ready to leave home for any destination. My adventurous spirit coupled with clients’ pressure (for a holiday) gave me confidence to explore destinations that were ready for travel. In October, I made my first major road trip to the North covering Marsabit, Lake Paradise, Chalbi desert, North Horr, Loiyangalani, Turkana Wind farm and Ngurunit. I had done a similar trip in 2019, but it was shorter. It also did not cover Loiyangalani and Ngurunit. This trip was a realization that people together with destinations were ready for travel. For that reason, I went back the same route at the beginning of November. The route is scenic, adventurers and full of cultural experiences. I was so happy to be back on the road.
I thought that was it for this year. Little did I know that Stellamaris, a proprietor at Stejos Tours and Travel had good plans for me. Stella mentioned Lamu and my heart almost stopped. This is a destination I have been longing to set my feet in. It has been in the bucket list for ages. I had no idea that it could be ticked off in 2020. I engaged Stella and to make it more interesting, I decided to tag along Safiri Nasi clients. November 18th was the date and I have never been that ready for a destination. My mind and my soul opened up to Lamu Island. Ladies and Gentleman, Travel With Eliud to Lamu Island.
Our flight departed from Wilson airport few minutes past 1400hrs.
It was a smooth ride that took us one hour and 15 minutes. It was a direct flight and before we knew it, we were at Manda Airport. (I feel the urge to talk about this airport. Honestly, KAA -Kenya Airports Authority- has slept on their job. The airport if full of patches and filled pot holes. Planes cannot have a smooth landing and I really fear for their wheels. It could be disappointing given that this is the first thing you experience when you get to Lamu. The airport’s terminal has nothing to write home about). Sorry for that rant, it needed to get out of my system :)
After collecting our bags, the boat guys were in waiting. They helped us carry the luggage to the boat. When you land at Manda Airport, transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Lamu Island) is by boat. At the boat, we met Captain Nassir. He is happy with his job. This you can tell from the way he welcomed us and made us comfortable. His sailing was steady and gave us a much needed body adjustment to the coastal weather. Nassir sailed us along the shores of Lamu while answering every curious questions that we had. The famous ancient coastal town was here with us.
We got to Shela and immediately the boat docked, three neatly uniformed gentlemen stood there with all smiles. I knew we had arrived home away from home. They took our luggage and led the way. A three minutes leisure walk and we were at the house.
Jaha house was now our home. After entering the door, the first thing you see is an indoor swimming pool. What a relief?
This house has 4 bedrooms. The ground floor has a main kitchen, a bedroom, a swimming pool and relaxing swimming pool seats.
The first floor has 3 bedrooms while the second floor has a dining area, a library, a lounge with comfortable couches and a kitchen.
The third floor has a rooftop lounge with a comfortable custom-made bed (with no door or washrooms) and sunbeds. The rooftop has a spectacular view of the ocean and the neighborhood. Believe it or not, this became my bedroom.
Jaha house is a dream holiday home.
We spent the evening swimming and did not even realize darkness settling in. The good thing with a home stay is that you decide what to eat. We would give the chef our preferred menu, he would advise on what’s available and what’s not and he would throw in surprises there in.
We had dinner, catch up stories while relaxing at the lounge and later called it a night.
Day two of our stay in Lamu was full of activities. I was so ready to explore the Island. Nassir was already waiting at the beach with lady Gaga.
A short sail and we were at Lamu town. The first thing you notice here is government buildings such as Huduma Centre, KRA, County commissioner’s office, etc.
Ali Sultan was our guide. We started the old town tour with Lamu Museum, which is rich in history of the Swahili people. This Museum was a prison from 1910 to 1984 for both the British colonial regime and the Kenyan Government before it was handed over to the National Museums of Kenya.
According to Ali, Lamu town came into existence in the 14th century as a Swahili settlement. The Omani Arabs, Portuguese explorers and Turkish traders were the early visitors to the island. They influenced and left a mark. Some of the buildings in this town are 400 years old. However, Lamu developed its own culture, which they have maintained to date.
A very symbolic sighting is the narrow streets emanating from the ancient architecture. This is the reason why there are no vehicles in the island. The mode of transport here is donkeys. However, there is a steady influx of motorbikes and no matter which angle you look at it, this might interfere with the Lamu virgin experience.
The Lamu fort is another symbolic place you should visit when on an old town tour. This ancient building was constructed between 1813 and 1821 by Omani Arabs. It provided a base where the Omanis controlled the East African Coast from. It later lost its economic importance during the British and Kenyan government rules and it was turned into a prison. In present times, it is a library and an environmental museum. It is also used as a venue for community events.
Donkeys are the backbone of Lamu’s economy. There is a Swahili proverb that says, ‘A man without a donkey is a donkey’ This Island has a donkey Sanctuary that was established in 1987. It has an inpatient and outpatient services and the only specialized healthcare facility for donkeys in Kenya. It also provides relevant information to donkey owners as far as animal rights are concerned.
Close to the Lamu Jetty is a sign of the UNESCO World heritage site.
This very informative walking tour of old town ended at 2pm. We entered a local restaurant and treated ourselves with Swahili delicacies.
Nassir took us back to Shela. We had 2 hours of cooling off at the swimming pool. Some decided to lounge while others spend time at the library.
Since the day had a beautiful weather, we decided to do the sunset dhow cruise. We got to the dhows close to 5pm. My friend, when you get to Lamu, make sure the sunset cruise is one of the activities. The dhow offered a quiet and slow sail towards Manda Island.
Shela and Lamu town looked scenic and different from this side. We watched the sun go down majestically. It blessed us with golden rays, which got to us with soothing strikes.
It was a breathtaking moment seeing the big round orange ball sinking in the horizon. This is the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.
The sun seemed closer than usual. I was in love. What a beautiful way to end the day.
We woke up early on day three to catch the sunrise. ‘If the sunset was that magnificent, then sunrise had to be magical’ I thought to myself. I was not wrong. On reaching the beach, close to Forodhani house, the sun was already peeping. Steadily, the large orange ball smiled at us.
It splashed us with its glory and best wishes for the day. We literary sat down to take it in. It was an emotional moment for me.
After the emotional session, no one wanted to go back to the house. We took a beach walk. It was low tide and we regretted not carrying our swimming costumes.
After a short walk-and as if the sunrise moment was not enough-the sand dunes popped up.
From the sand dune of North Horr in Marsabit County to the Sand dunes of Lamu in the extreme North Coast.
I am one lucky bustard!
We enjoyed the dunes, played and posed for the camera. The beach was empty with nobody else apart from us. What a beautiful Island experience. The last time I had a closer experience to this one was at the sands at chale Island.
At 9am, we went back to the house for breakfast. Being the 3rd day and the only full day left at the Island, we decided to relax and lazy around. We called in a Swahili beautician and a Masseuse to offer henna and massage services respectively. Some of us went swimming. We had lunch at the house. As others were relaxing, I went around Shela to view several accommodation options and was back by 3pm.
On returning to the house, everyone was geared up and wanted to visit the floating restaurant. Who was I to say no?
Nassir took us to the floating restaurant where we stayed till they closed at 9pm. Interesting thing about the restaurant is that they sell both food and alcohol. You get drunk at your own peril. If you stagger outside or if you are the kind of people who get overhyped by alcohol, drowning is your portion.
We sailed back to Jaha house for dinner and overnight.
The morning was calm, the sun was bright and the Lamu breeze was whispering on the rooftop. It then hit me; my time in Lamu was up. We had an early flight at 11am.
After breakfast, there was nothing much to do apart from packing and saying goodbye to the house staff.
This was an exotic experience. The welcoming and hospitable locals made the stay even more enjoyable. This is another trip within Kenya that spoke to my heart and soul.
I will be back, Lamu; I promise….
Until next time, keep travelling…..............
Click on ‘comments’ below to comment