This is the most pristine place I’ve ever been. I can confidently say its not overrated. If you love yourself you should visit Lamu at least once in your lifetime. At least once.
Unlike Mombasa or Malindi, its very homely. Everyone greets you on the streets, especially in Lamu town. Before I came here, terms like Shela town and Lamu confused me. Besides being the name of a county, Lamu is an island. People pay less than 200 shillings to get here from the mainland. The old town, where people built houses over 600 years ago, is a UNESCO Heritage site.
The island has a beach on one side. Like an hours walking distance from the town, or you can pay a 100bob from the town. Shela is part of Lamu island. Its just where the beach is at. Because of this, most hotels in Shela are pricier than those in Lamu town.
Speaking of accommodation, I have totally loved Lamu as a tourist destination. It caters for everyone. You can find a place to sleep in regardless of your budget. Made even more affordable by platforms like airbnb, and Jumia travel. A millionaire will fit in perfectly and feel at home as well as that solo traveller who has saved the few pennies she had to treat herself.
Speaking of Solo travellers, I think its always cheaper to travel as a group or even two. Things like accommodation reduce significantly in price when you sleep in a double room and cost share compared to sleeping in your room, or even boat rides you can negotiate as a group.
But this is pure heaven for a solo traveller. Its safe. Extremely safe. I know most people don’t associate Lamu with safety, but it is. I don’t think anyone has attacked the island itself so far, all said attacks have been on the mainland, which is Lamu County. So when the media keeps on saying bandits or alshabaab in Lamu, its not the tourist destination they are referring to, it’s inland towns like mpeketoni.
Plus I think the small population makes it more safe. Its like everyone know each other. Even in our deras, people could still spot that we were visitors. And due to the small population, when you travel during the low season, the beach is almost empty. You can even walk nude for a few minutes without encountering anyone from afar. Which is a heaven on earth for solo travellers concerned with their safety. You can just swim in the ocean and no one will touch or even get near your things unlike other coastal towns.
Which makes this place pristine. Everything about it has a way of making you feel as though it was just like that a millennium ago. Its so untouched. Everything from the sand dunes to the houses to the dhows.
On activities, I think that will depend on you. I think you should go to Mombasa or Malindi if you feel energetic, Lamu is so laid back that i think it would be wasted on you if you came and didn’t sit still and just take in this serenity. For the adventurous, activities like snorkelling exist. For the laid back, take a tour in the old town, eat their food, swim in Manda, and relax. You won’t have missed much.
But by all means, take the sunset cruise, that is a must do. Its just as the word describes, a cruise around the waters during sunset. I don’t even know how to explain it. Its so damn heavenly.
Otherwise, even if its the last thing you’ll do before your die, visit lamu. It’ll give you a glimpse of the heaven you are headed to.