Lamu Old Town is one of the best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa, retaining its original functions. Different European, Arabic and Indian cultures have come together here over several hundred years and, using traditional Swahili techniques, created an exceptional culture. You can book an extra few days here at one of the various beach resorts in the area.
Lamu Island isn't equipped with all the luxuries that a spoilt tourist might expect, yet this doesn't detract from the value of a visit to this island. Where else would you find such a well preserved Swahili settlement? The port of Lamu was founded in the 14th century by Arab traders and the simple buildings were built using coral stone and mangrove wood, and enriched with inner courts, verandas and exquisitely carved wooden doors. Most of the buildings date from the 18th century. There are no cars to be found in these narrow streets (down which open sewers run) since the Arab-African population travels by bike or donkey. A consequence of this, however, is that you really have to watch where you're walking. In another Kenyan city of Limuru, the smell of donkey dung is so bad that the donkeys' owners have to put nappies on their beloved animals! A guided tour in Lamu Old Town is an absolute must.
The Islamic influence is very visible in Lamu and you'll find yourself feeling like you've awoken in one of the tales from One Thousand and One Nights; it was with good reason that UNESCO made this old city a World Heritage Site in 2001. You can buy all kinds of delicious fruit from the market, as well as new and secondhand clothing, such as T-Shirts displaying curious English texts.
After you have visited Lamu Old Town you will have the opportunity to spend a few extra days relaxing at the beach in the Lamu Archipelago. The most beautiful beaches on Lamu Island are to be found at Shela, which is gradually becoming a high society hangout. You don't necessarily have to be a sovereign or star to come here however, and there are stunning, unspoilt beaches all over Lamu that yield a profusion of shells and calm waters. You can also rent a boat for next to nothing to go and explore the coast, or catch a few fish. We also recommend taking several days out to experience a canal trip aboard a fully equipped dhow that will take you to places that you otherwise wouldn't reach. You will also enjoy delicious food on board and be able to take advantage of the slow pace by taking a dip every now and then.
Kiwayu Island is a quarter of an hour flight in a light aircraft from Lamu Island, but for those who like to pace themselves, the journey can also be made by dhow within seven hours, or by motorboat within 2 hours. Tidal pools can be found on Kiwayu Island and there are diving and snorkelling pools on the Indian Ocean side (the east side).