Over one hundred kilometres north of Mombasa, the island of Lamu is undisturbed by the turmoil of modern times, and boasts a timeless serenity.Set in an archipelago of coral-fringed islands, Lamu town was a trading center for hundreds of years.Great lateen-rigged dhows sailed in from Arabia and India, buying and selling ivory and spices.The resultant blend of cultures has produced a vibrant people, the Swahili, who are rich in history and justifiably proud of their maritime tradition.To this day there are no cars on the island, and transport is by dhow, donkey or on foot.
Shela village is a tangle of narrow sandy lanes, tall stone houses, some smaller thatched dwellings, mosques, ruins and a spacious square ringed with a few market stalls, small shops and a telephone booth.Here in the cool evenings the elders gather to talk, while women come out to shop.Wandering through the village you might meet discreet women in bui-bui, young boys in gowns hurrying to the mosque, sleepy donkeys, weathered fishermen, the occasional beachboy or absorbed visitor and a collection of cats.The beach starts a five minute walk from the village and it is a reason why people return to Lamu again and again – seven miles of golden sands that are never crowded, with a sea clean and ideal for swimming, bodysurfing, diving, wind surfing, skiing, fishing or boating.
Situated next to the Arabic school and on the way to the Friday Mosque, Shela House is built on three floors around an open courtyard, the house well and a shady bougainvillea.An entrance hall leads into the courtyard, edged by a baraza sitting and eating area.Two staircases lead from the courtyard to the upper rooms and terraces.It is an old house of great character, with ample room for nine people or two families.
There are five ensuite bedrooms – three double bedrooms, another with two large four-poster single beds and a smaller single bedroom.There is also a nursery room with a cot and two beds adjoining the major suite.A spacious second floor dayroom and terrace provide additional lounging or games areas, with a small library of books for all ages.
Most time is spent on the two rooftops – here you can eat, sleep, play cards or just gaze out at the sea and surrounding islands.At night it is a perfect spot for stargazing.
The house has three staff – two stewards and a cook.There is a maid available to help with children and extra laundry staff.The resident manager will help to ensure you have everything you need, assist you with menus and also help organise local excursions.
On a full-board basis the house cook will do all your shopping and cooking.He will bake bread, suggest menus and cook excellent Swahili fish dishes.Basic foodstuffs, fresh seasonal vegetables and fruit are available in the local Lamu market, while other supplies are flown down from Nairobi.Fish, lobster, crab and fresh oysters come to the door or can be ordered.
On a self-catering basis the house cook will do all your shopping and keep a running account of expenditure.Luxury food items and condiments should be brought with you as coffee, cheese, olive oil and butter are difficult to find in Lamu.There is a small supply of these goods for sale in their store.
Dhows, speed boats, ski boats and deep sea fishing boats can be hired fro short and long trips.Deep-sea fishing can be arranged and scuba diving is available between November and March.
Dhow trips to the Takwa ruins, former home to the people of Shela village
Snorkel on the coral reefs off Manda Toto island
Catch fresh fish from a dhow, which your crew will grill for you on the beach
Windsurf, bodysurf, sail and waterski
Walk along deserted beaches with extraordinary driftwood and sightings of dolphins offshore
Visit Lamu's outdoor cinema
Watch a local football game
Explore the narrow streets of Lamu town with its ancient fort, its woodcarvers, juice bars and donkeys
Visit Kipungani Bay resort at the far end of Shela beach for lunch
Discover the island's history at the Lamu museum.