Lamu Island, girt by the sea, has been spared the disruption of its society which so often follows on the impact of western influences. It adheres to its old way of life, and the town itself is much as it was centuries ago. The narrow lanes of Lamu and Shela town are unpolluted by motor vehicles, so that social life flows out from the houses into the thoroughfares, fostering that sense of community which has been so singularly lost in many towns around the world.
Lamu and its surrounding islands of Manda, Kiwayu and Pate display the harmonious irregularity of coastal nature, a conjunction of varied planes and pristine beaches, which ultimately brings an intimate pleasure to the eye and the ultimate sense of beauty and relaxation.
Lamu is the name of one of the districts of Kenya’s Coastal Provinces; the name is also given to the archipelago, one of its islands and to the largest town on the island. The inhabitants of the town call it Amu and from this, the name of one of the three major Swahili dialects, Ki-Amu, is derived. The more popular version of the name, Lamu, may be a corruption of Al-Lamu.
The majority of the islands are uninhabited, but there are a number of settlements on the mainland along the coast.
The island of Lamu is the most important in the archipelago; it has an excellent natural harbour and is fringed along the west, north and north-east by mangrove forests. To the south of the island is a sandy beach rising to a height of twenty metres at the estuary of Lamu Bay. The sand dunes of Shela are formed by the north-east monsoon which blows between November and February.
As the largest and oldest settlement in the archipelago, the many winding narrow passageways of Lamu Town are rich in history and culture. The town, once a centre for the slave trade, has been indelibly marked by centuries of Arab, African, Asian and European influences. With no motor vehicles on the islands, you’re most likely to encounter bumper to bumper donkey traffic.
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A 25-minute seaside stroll or 10-minute boat ride from Lamu Town, Shela (or Shella) is now occupied by both locals and Europeans alike. The village is probably over five hundred years old and reached its zenith in the middle of the 19th century. You will find many exquisitely restored houses lining the charming narrow lanes of the seaside village.Kipungani and Matondoni Villages
On the other side of Lamu Island is the small village of Kipungani, from which a navigable channel runs parallel to the shore to the fishing village of Matondoni and continues in a southerly direction towards Lamu Town about two miles north of the open sea. Matandoni offers visitors unique insight into the century-old tradition of dhow making in Lamu. More Destinations and Activities
This island, with few inhabitants, but a growing number of beachfront luxury resorts and hotels was once the site of three towns including that of the oldest known Swahili settlement. Excavations have revealed a prosperous 9th-century civilization and evidence of 9th and 10th century trade with Iran.
The largest island in the archipelago, Faza has a number of townships and smaller settlements. The most important of them, Pate Town, dates back to the 14th century when the Nabahani, a clan of the Arab tribe that ruled Oman for two and a half centuries established their sultanate on the island.
Pate Island features magnificent ruins dating back to the 8th century. Out of the mangroves rise majestic old homes and if you make it all the way to Siyu there is an abandoned Portuguese fort with the canons still in place. It is very hot and the walks are long, but the rewards are incredible as you feel like stepping out of this world and into another world from another time. The now-abandoned villages used to house grand civilizations and cities of 20,000+ inhabitants only a few hundred years ago. More Destinations and Activities
This remote paradise location is at the eastern end of the Lamu archipelago within the Kiunga National Marine Reserve. An exclusive hideaway, Kiwayu features breathtaking beaches, stunning tidal pools and excellent snorkelling and diving.