Ah Lamu: a place I’m always sad to leave and happy to return. Arriving on the tiny airstrip in the blissful heat of the afternoon it is good to see that nothing has changed.
Lamu is an exceptional place, like no other in the archipelago, where life is appreciated at its own relaxed rhythm; it is easy to see why royals and celebrities flock to escape their busy lives. As our suitcases are put into a traditional dhow, we sit up top and are cooled by the gentle breezes of the Kusi winds. The weather patterns have always been dictated by the monsoon winds, with the Kaskasi blowing from the Northeast between December and March and the Kusi from the southeast between July and October.
We pass Lamu town, the oldest Swahili settlement in East Africa with its unique stone townhouses, many of which date back to the early 18th Century. Within ten minutes we’re at the Peponi Hotel. Peponi (meaning paradise in Swahili) sits like a grand old lady, perfectly positioned on the edge of its unspoilt eight mile beach. We’re immediately whisked to the terrace to sip ‘Old Pals’ – the famous house cocktail while dhows to and fro along the estuary.
Before the sun sets we settle into our beautiful room: there are 29 individually designed bedrooms, all with fantastic sea views, and most have hammocks the ideal place for a siesta snooze lulled by the meditative momentum of the waves in the heat of the day.
Mornings take on the same pattern; up early for a glorious walk along Shela Beach, a beautiful eight-mile stretch of white sand and tiny sea shells, with no one as far as the eye can see bar the odd herd of donkeys transporting goods and materials towards Lamu’s narrow lanes.
With a ready appetite, we join other guests for Peponi’s breakfast feast and decide whether to spend the day lazing in the hammock with a good book, swimming and snorkelling, or exploring the tiny dukas (Swahili for shops) in the labyrinth of alleys behind the hotel, dodging donkeys as we go.
At the end of each visit we bid farewell with a sunset cruise, enjoying sundowners and fresh samosas as the dhow explores the extensive system of creeks, channels and mangrove forests. Ending our day dining under the stars with a feast of enormous mangrove crabs cooked the traditional Swahili way.
Tip – Generally speaking, the sea is calmer between October and March, when conditions for fishing, snorkelling, diving and kite surfing are at their best.