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12th Lamu Cultural Festival (15-18 November 2012)
This November 15-18, Lamu Island will come alive in a colourful showcase of culture, dance and song. Thousands of visitors from around Kenya and many foreign tourists are expected to witness the historic annual festival held to promote Lamu rich cultural heritage.
Organized by the Lamu Cultural Promotion Group, the three day festival is a showcase of traditional dances, displays of handicraft and competitions on water and land (Swahili poetry, donkey races, dhow races, henna painting), Swahili bridal ceremony and musical performances.
Health & Happiness Course in Lamu (9-11 November 2012)
Always wanted to come and see Lamu? Always wanted to learn how to reduce your stress and be more energetic? Combine the two beautiful events and do the Health & Happiness Course in Lamu at Banana House & Wellness Centre.
We are situated in Shela, surrounded by large tropical gardens, with nice sea views, all open air spaces, no cars, healthy vegetarian food, 12 km beach for beautiful walks, and visit Lamu Town, the oldest Swahili Town in East Africa! For sure your weekend will be unforgettable!
Easter Art Weekend (5-8 April 2012)
Baitil Aman Hotel Exhibition by Lili & Jesko Willert:
April 5th - 9th (9am to 10pm)
Shela Schoolyard Canvases:
Displayed in public spaces in Shela Village
Peponi Hotel Exhibition: 3 European Realist Painters
Feb 25th - April 15th (9am to 10pm)
Building Blocks: Discovering Maweni Through Sculpture
At Maweni Harbour in Manda
Shela Hat Contest (11 February 2012)
After the successful launch of the Shela Hat Contest 2010 the event will be repeated this 11th of February 2012. The participants are to design funny hats from used materials picked up from anywhere such as paper from cement bags, pipes, bones, shells, plastic, wires, palmleaves, fabrics, coral etc.
The jury will estimate the artistic talents and artisan quality of the participants shown in their hats. Approx. 200 locals from all over Lamu will compete and we expect a bright and amazing Saturday at Shela beach with lots of crowds.
Maulidi Festival (13-17 February 2012)
Held during the 3rd month of the muslim calendar to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammed, the 5-day festival attracts thousands of islamic poets, scholars and celebrants from around East Africa and the middle east, as well as tourists from all over.
Activities for this year's celebration include donkey, dhow and boat races, swimming and football competitions and special forums by prominent people and Muslim scholars. The events are organised by Riyadha Mosque and Islamic Centre.
Read More on the Maulid Celebration.
New Year's 2011-2012 Celebration at Manda Beach Club
December 31st bring in the New Year at the biggest beach party of the year!
In a colourful showcase of Kenyan cultures, dance and song, the event changed the landscape of Lamu’s sea front and Mkunguni hall where the bulk of the festival activities took place. A retinue of dignitaries from the French and Spanish embassies, the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), the European Union, among others, were in attendance led by Tourism Minister, Najib Balala. More Details
Art of Living Holiday at Banana House (13-19 November 2011)
Health, Energy & Happiness are only a breath away! Learn breathing techniques to eliminate stress and tension. Skills for improving relationships at home & work. Tools to handle your mind & negative emotions. Meditation and low impact Yoga. Participate in the Art of Living Part 1 Course. More Details
1st Annual Lamu Painters Festival (1-15 February 2011)
Lamu's 1st Annual Painters Festival was held from the 1st - 15th of February, 2011. Some of the finest painters from Germany, the Netherlands and East Africa were invited to Kenya to celebrate Lamu's traditional culture and the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape through their artwork.
Throughout the festival the paintings were exhibited in Baitil Aman Hotel.
10th Annual Lamu Island Cultural Festival (November 2010)
The annual Lamu Cultural Festival ran from the 25th – 28th of November. Those who visited were immersed in Swahili culture and history on the Island of Lamu.
This year's festival featured the time honored competitions on water and land: dhow races, donkey races, traditional dancing, Swahili bridal ceremony and Swahili poetry. There was also swimming, canoe races and a football tournament.
Musical highlights featured performances by "Ensemble Andalusi de Tetuan" from Spain with Sufi music and mystic singing from Andalusia, as well as the popular "Praful Kumar" and party with Bollywood specials.
- New Year's, 1 January 2011
- Maulid Celebration, 2-6 March 2011
- Dhow Race, 14-20 August (annually)
- Eid (Ramadan), ~10 September 2011
Yoga in Lamu
Swim with Dolphins
Lamu Archipelago is home to at least two species of dolphins, which can be spotted from the beaches or from under the sail of the dhows. While there are dolphins in the seas all year round it is especially when the winds are calmer from November to April that you will have the best chance of spotting the beautiful animals. February and March are particularly great and those who have a little patience are almost guaranteed to see plenty if going out Lamu Bay, heading south toward Kinyika. The more adventurous traveller can ask the local captains in Shela to arrange a boat to go and snorkel with the dolphins. However, it is strongly recommended that you go with a reliable captain who knows the animals well and can guide you through the experience so both you and the animals enjoy the experience. A safe bet is always to book a boat through Peponi Hotel, though a more private experience can be preferred by arranging with one of the local captains on your own.
Pizza & Movie Nights on Manda Island [closed until July 2012]
Snorkeling at the Reefs
When the water is clear from September to April, Lamu can be a great place to snorkel. The coral reefs around Shela and Manda offer an explosion of underwater colors and lobsters, rays, barracudas, turtles, and hundreds of small colorful fishes are almost a guaranteed experience. The more experience snorkeler might want to explore the off-shore reefs of Kinyika, which offer a wealth of underwater life. Any captain will be able to arrange for snorkeling equipment for rent within reasonable time and will be able to tell you where it is nice to go on your particular day. Lamu has strong tides and normally the best time to go is at low tide during neap tides. Be careful when swimming. The tides are very strong and when the tide goes out it can rush like a river. Again, Salim and Jina from Peponi Hotel are great people to go Kinyika with.
Sunset Cruise through the Mangroves
An absolute must when visiting Lamu. Friendly captains will for KSH 3,000-4,000 take you through the mangroves at sunset. Few things are better in Lamu than gliding silently through the calm waters toward the sun setting over the minarets and makutis of Lamu. It is also possible for about KSH 7000-10,000/day to go for longer trips up north through the archipelago. If you have the time this is highly recommended. The Lamu archipelago is a maze of unspoiled beaches, shallow clear waters, mangroves as far as the eye can see, only interrupted by the occasional dhow, an outcrop of a sleepy fisherman's village or a majestic coral island, raising tall and red from the blue waters. On Kiwayu Island there is a fantastic little hut in a Baobab tree where travelers can spend the nights and the captains can make you the most amazing fresh fish, grilled on the back of the dhow over charcoal.
Watersports are becoming more and more popular in Lamu. Shela Marine Watersports organizes scuba trips, parasailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing through the mangroves and along the beaches and a host of other trips. At Peponi Hotel in Shela one can rent windsurfers and get lessons from the friendly captain. Ask for Nawaf at Bahari in Shela if you are more interested in Banana boats or supertubes. Sand Dollar Expeditions, a small local initiative, rents out kayaks (single and double) and arranges trips to suit any mood and ability.
Massage and Estheticians
Spa and beauty services are available throughout Lamu, Shela and Manda. Most hotels can refer you or you may contact Lamu Holiday Solutions for more details or to make appointments.
Deep Sea fishing
Niels Korschen at Peponi Hotel is the man to ask. For USD 400 you can go on a professional deep sea fishing boat and head into the Indian Ocean to catch marlin, tuna, dorado, and more.
Hire a camel and ride either toward the setting sun and 12 kilometer of empty beach, or wake up early and ride through to Kipungani. The guys who take care of the camels and their visitors are as friendly and helpful as the camels themselves. Keep an eye out for the camels strolling along Shela beach.
While there is much to be learned from talking to the friendly old people in the streets of Lamu, visitors with a deeper interest in the Swahili people and the Swahili culture should visit the museum. Although small, the Museum offers a great display of artifacts, arts and crafts. Visiting some of the old restored Swahili mansions in Lamu also offers a great insight into how the culture flourished in centuries past.
Photos Courtesy of Roland Klemp
The Sand Dunes of Shela Beach
The white sands that line the 12km-long Shela beach and its breathtaking sand dunes make-up the ideal setting for a morning, afternoon or sunset walk or run. The pools of warm water and sand banks that surface during low tide are a sight to soothe and relax.
For those who are ready to put aside comfort there is a great experience to be had on Pate Island. Just far enough away from Lamu town to be secluded from tourism, Pate is a hidden treasure tucked away behind Manda. Walking through Pate, one can get a chance to walk through magnificent ruins of settlements of coral buildings that date back to the 8th century. Out of the wild growing mangroves rise majestic old houses and if you make it all the way to Siyu there is an abandoned Portuguese fort with the canons still in place awaiting. It is very hot and the walks are long, but the rewards are incredible as you feel like stepping out of this world and into another world in another time. The now abandoned villages used to house grand civilizations and cities of 20,000+ inhabitants only a few hundred years ago.
A small dhow making village. A place to get unique insight into the century-old tradition of dhow making in Lamu.
Kinyika Rock and Tinewe Island
A few kilometers off the coast, south of Lamu Island, this outcrop of a lonely rock offers a rare and untouched paradise of marine life. In February-April this is one of the best places to go snorkeling on the entire coast and probably one of the best places in the world to watch dolphins.
This twenty metre rock off Pate Island offers plenty of shelter, a superb reef and plenty of bird life.
One of the old towns from the golden ages of the Swahili culture. This traditional town on Pate Island offers a wealth of history. In this historical town that used to house sultans and princes you will find a sleepy village in the midst of century old ruins.