News report | | 18/06/2021 | ±4 minutes reading time

The Lamu archipelago is known for its beautiful sandy beaches, thatched cottages and friendly, laid-back culture. This lovely archipelago in northern Kenya is one of the countryʼs most popular beach holiday destinations. Once your Kenya visa has been approved, hop on a plane to Manda and start island hopping.

Lamu archipelago

The Lamu Archipelago is an archipelago of islands located off the coast of Kenya in the Indian Ocean, close to the border of Somalia. The largest islands that make up the Lamu Archipelago are Pate Island, Manda Island and Lamu Island. Smaller islands are Kiwayu Island and Manda Toto. Thanks to centuries of trade with Arab and Portuguese merchants, the archipelago has a rich history and a fascinating Swahili culture with vibrant traditions.

The Lamu archipelago lies just south of the equator. Therefore, the number of sun hours throughout the year is around 9 hours per day and the average temperature is 24 degrees Celsius. The water temperature averages around 28 degrees Celsius.

The Lamu archipelago is not yet a very popular holiday destination. The tourists who visit the island group usually choose to stay in the old city of Lamu, in the fishing village Shela or on the island Manda in beach houses or beautiful Swahili houses.

Transport

Arrival by plane

Most visitors travel by plane to Lamu. Flights to Manda Island depart from Nairobi and Malindi airports in Kenya. Once you arrive, you cross the channel to Lamu by boat or dhow, the same way traders, explorers and adventurers travelled to the island for centuries. Another option to reach Lamu is by boat from Mokowe.

A requirement of the Kenya visa is that you must arrive at one of the designated arrival locations. However, this does not apply to domestic flights. When you land in Kenya on an international flight and then use a domestic flight, you can land at other airports.

The dhow

To island hop on the Lamu archipelago, you can use a so-called dhow, a wooden sailing ship originally built to transport goods along the trade routes of the Indian Ocean. Nowadays, dhows are used for day excursions or multi-day safari adventures to hop from one island to another.

Car-free Lamu

The islands of the Lamu archipelago are car-free, with the exception of the commissionerʼs car, the fire engine and the ambulance. Goods and people are transported by boat or donkey. Transport by donkey costs about £2 per day.

Most popular islands of the Lamu archipelago

Lamu

Lamu, which is only 300 metres from the Kenyan mainland, is a flat sandy island measuring about 12 by 6 kilometres. The island has many mangrove forests, beautiful beaches with clear water and unusual fish. Water sports enthusiasts can also indulge themselves here.

On Lamu Island lies the old city of the same name, which was added to the World Heritage List in 2001 as one of the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa. It is a typical Swahili town dating from the 14th century, whose population has more than doubled in 20 years. Nowadays, the city has about 26,000 inhabitants. 80% of the population of Lamu is Muslim. There are many mosques in the city, and you will have to cover your shoulders and knees. When you are on Lamu, a visit to the ruins should not be missed. Here you can learn more about the rich history of the archipelago.

You will also find the fishing villages Shela, Matondoni and Kipungani on the island. Shela is the most popular among tourists because of its traditional houses that have been converted into holiday accommodation. In Shela, there is a large sandy beach that is 12 kilometres long. There are no wild animals here, but there are enormous populations of cats, because the Islamic inhabitants consider dogs to be unclean, and they are therefore not allowed here.

Lamu archipelago in KenyaLamu archipelago in Kenya

Manda

After a quiet stay on Lamu, you can take an excursion by small dhow to the mangroves near the ruined city of Takwa, for snorkelling or fishing. In contrast to Lamu, you may encounter a monkey, buffalo, leopard, giraffe or lion on the neighbouring island of Manda.

Kenya visa application

Would you like to learn more about the Swahili culture while island-hopping in Kenya? Then you need a Kenya visa. Since 2021, tourists can only use the online e-visa Kenya. The Kenya visa can be applied for easily and quickly via this website.

All you have to do is fill in the online application form, pay the fees and supply the requested documents. To apply for the visa, you need to upload a scan or photo of your passport and two booking confirmations: one for your return flight and one for your accommodation in Kenya (hotel, resort, etc.). Your application is then processed and assessed by the Kenya immigration service. The visa will be sent by email after being granted.