Time seems to have stopped here – Lamu’s Old Town clock still shows the 17th century. There are no cars or motorbikes just people and donkeys moving about in a maze of alleyways where tall houses, built of coral stone and mangrove timber, overhang the narrow sand streets.

Lamu forms part of an archipelago including Manda, Pate and Kiwayu, located in the north of Kenya’s eastern coast (north of Mombasa and southeast of Nairobi). The northern coast is covered with mangroves, while Shela’s 12 km beach is lined with coconut trees, bougainvilleas and dunes of pristine white sand.

Isabelle Simon, the owner of stunning Lamu Beach House in Shela shares some of her personal Island favourites…

Lamu Beach House

Shela Marine Watersports – Take a ride on beautifully crafted mahogany Mozambique Dhow, go snorkeling or scuba diving and explore the coral reefs, go swimming with dolphins, kayaking in the mangroves, or wind and kite surfing. (Tel: +254 725003411)

Shela Beach, Lamu Island

Babu British – Join a guided tour with a knowledgeable native guide to explore Lamu Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, ancient Swahili and Islamic architecture and art and the remains of an ancient Swahili Settlement at Takwa Ruins. (Tel: +254 735802340)

Banana House – Join the Yoga sessions in Shela Village at Fatuma’s Tower (5pm) or at Banana House (9am) daily. They also regularly organize Yoga retreats and workshops. (Tel: +254 721 275538)

Shela Village Streets

Peponi Hotel Restaurant – Simply one of the best dining in East Africa and a very cool place and terrace as well. (Tel: +254 722 203083)

Kijani Restaurant – The kitchen offers all types of fish, lobsters, crabs and prawns fresh from the sea, along with meat and fresh vegetables, together with African and Italian specialities. (Tel: +254 20 2435700)

Find out more –  Explore Isabelle’s beautiful Lamu Beach House – part of Welcome Beyond’s luxury holiday homes. The house was built in authentic Swahili style by the best craftsmen on the island. It is a joyful celebration of their ancestral talent. The quality finishes make the house one of the finest modern architectural achievements on Lamu Island. 

The easiest and fastest way to get there is by air from Nairobi (both Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airport), Mombasa, and Malindi. There are several daily flights (Air Kenya, Safarilink or Fly 540) but note that the flights get booked well in advance — even out of season if you are unlucky. Planes land on Manda Island just across from Lamu town. Alternatively, there are several daily buses from Mombasa and Nairobi. The trips are a neat experience if you don’t mind the lack of luxury.