Nairobi to Lamu by Rail and Road.

Travelling to any part of your country shouldn’t be an extreme sport. That’s what I was thinking as that guy described his trip to Lamu. But knowing how my soul is attracted to extreme sports, i knew that a flight was out of question now, I would go to Lamu and ensure I got the police escort this guy was describing.

And as my dream came to pass yesterday and today, I think that guy exaggerated a bit. But seeing that he attracted four local tourists to Lamu, maybe the tourism ministry should hire him.

From Nairobi to Mombasa we traveled using the Standard Gauge Railway. And though patriotic to my country, i think the only good thing with it, is the time it takes. Which i’m still disappointed with anyway. I remember the first time I saw the maximum speed being 120km/hr and I was shook. Buses on Mombasa road cruise at higher speeds than that, which is dangerous anyway, and here is our world class train trailing itself at the same speed. But seeing that there is no jam or potholes on the railway line, it ends up being an hour or two faster than the buses.

And then there is the scenery. It gives you a glimpse into the savannah grassland, something not many Kenyans are familiar with. And if you are lucky, you’ll get to see elephants and giraffes when you pass through Tsavo park. For the introspective ones at heart, a window seat in the SGR is definitely a treat.

Once in Mombasa the heat catches up with you. But luckily we arrived at night, so we weren’t that toasted by the heat. Though we still had to sleep with the fans on.

For the bus to Lamu, we chose Tawakal. From the online reviews we had googled, the fare was 800 or so, but we found it at 1300. The distance is 320 kilometres from Mombasa to Lamu. It’s not that far, but the roads are quite rough thus the bus takes 8 or so hours, plus the various stops on the way compound matters.

What surprised me was the vegetation along the way. In my head, I expected tall palm trees all along the way. Like its hot, but there is also water and humidity from the ocean being nearby.

Right after Malindi, the vegetation changes from green leafy trees to short green shrubs. It’s like a wet desert. The plants have characteristics of desert plants, from thorny shrubs to spiky short dense acacia looking like shrubs. But they are green. Like the way plants in dry places look like immediately after the rains. That shocked me tremendously. It was the opposite of what I expected. Plus how is it so yet I don’t think water is such a problem huku?

Anyway, you know you are in Lamu County when you start seeing patches of water everywhere. And the palm trees return. Looking all sexy in their tallness and shapes.

And yes, at some point we were escorted by the police, it just wasn’t as dramatic as that guy had made it seem. We had left with the 7am bus. It had picked us up at mtwapa. By around 9.30 am we had a stopover at Malindi. There are various police checks after that where everyone lines up with their National Identification cards.

Mokowe is like the last town the buses reach before dropping people going to the islands at the dock where people take a boat to Lamu. It was such a sweet relief getting to Lamu town. The people are so friendly (duh!)

I haven’t given you a scary story like that guy did, but I hope you now realise how easy it is to cross over from your routine place to Lamu.


  1. Clyde says:

    Why were the police inspecting/checking guys?


    1. mwende says:

      Because we pass by Boni Forest, which is a hide out for Al Shabaab


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s