An idiot’s guide to Lamu Island, Kenya

Part Two –

The captain repeatedly ignored Omar’s pleas to get on the boat, issuing a stern (stupid #no 3 – poor boat puns) word or three to deter our kind friend from joining the most miserable boat party of all time. With a bag of mangoes busting at the seams in one hand and a walking cane not seemingly required until this very voyage in the other (stupid #4 – red flag, red flag, red flag), Ali arrived to what was an all-out war of words between Omar and his captain.

Pausing only for a moment to throw us a mango, Ali joined in the early morning domestic, creating quite the spectacle. Cue a touch of push and shove between Ali and Omar resulting in me getting pushed (cry for me Susan, cry) and we finally, FINALLY decided it might be a good idea to call time on our outing.

Omar, our sweet but troubled friend let slip that Ali and his captain had intentions of taking us somewhere remote, robbing us and baby cheesus knows what else. We made a run for our sweet, sweet little lives and were aided by some lovely locals who helped us hide out in the Lamu Museum while the men continued arguing. We made contact with Omar before we scooted from the island and he apologised sincerely, gave us a hug and generously handed us each a wooden Star of Lamu token to remember our wild ride.

We fight hard but love harder

Moral of my exasperatingly irritating story trust your gut and if something doesn’t feel tip top, it’ll probably end up taking you on a boat and trying to steal your valuables.

We were fortunate enough that this was our only run in with any kind of impure motives, as the entire island is comprised of kind, hard-working and religious folk who want you so desperately to enjoy your stay with them.

Bad boys, bad toys

We adored so many aspects of island life from visits to the city market for breakfast mangoes and baby bananas, to boat rides to Shela beach for a quick dip. A mere hop, skip or a 45 minute stroll in the sun, Shela boats a quieter, slightly more touristy feel with a tonne more shops selling the most beautiful local artisan commodities and some seriously up-market, swish accommodation options.


A big draw card is the private beach front accessible for ocean dips, just score a shady nook under a palm tree, bring a book and watch your skin turn to leather. We were lucky enough to stumble across a local man selling his ladies freshly made, still warm tuna and potato samosas – stick a fork in me.


One word for any traveller looking for a cheat’s ride around town, I would encourage you not to get a donkey ride. While they are the islands primary mode of land transport, we encountered so many of the beauties in serious distress, decay and ill health. Offering to buy some food for the Donkey sanctuary located on the main street is something I desperatley wish I had thought to do at the time.


There were some serious culinary moments to be had in Lamu, with an abundance of dainty, ocean side restaurants for you to sit your butts down in. The Bush Gardens café has the greatest mango and mixed fruit smoothies known to sweet mankind, not to mention some serious seafood offerings. Our greedy pescatarian selves gorged on a lobster platter, octopus biryani and grilled fish regularly. This was one of our favourite lunch haunts.


With a little extra cash to spend on our last evening and located just in front of our groovy digs, Lamu House is fancy pants deliciousness. We nibbled on fresh crab – the best meal, like, ever – and mango mousse to satisfy our inner chubbers, this place was the business.


Located on the wharf, a one-man Swahili sweets stall provides all of the locals with their traditional breakfasts. With an array of donuts, pastries and sweet breads, I recommend trying a little bit of everything to get a proper taste of a Kenyan am meal. As always, pay generously.


Considered a UNESCO World heritage site, old Lamu town just oozes history and gives you a taste of a world untouched by technology. With wonderful (and maybe just two, not so pure-hearted) souls at every turn, the population of Lamu are some of the most diligent and industrious people. Forced partly by a Government that does little to counteract the poverty and hardship experienced by the everyday man and a remoteness that is such a big part in Lamu’s beauty and pain, this wonderful corner is so worth exploring.