on November 4, 2000
Upon arriving in Lamu, your first challenge will be to take a dhow (boat) across the bay to Lamu. From there, you have your choice of staying in Lamu or making your way toward the ocean to the even quieter Shela. As a group of four travellers, we decided that we would find accommodations upon arrival. Our boat operator was an absolute professional and guided us toward a perfect place to stay. We decided that we would stay in the quieter area of Shela at the end of the island. Most visitors stay in Lamu but I strongly encourage others to consider Shela after having stayed there myself.
Our operator, who called himself 'The Chief,' talked with a few people and showed us two houses that we could rent for a few nights. With the four of us, the cost ended up being about $20 per person per night. The house rental even included the services of the house caretaker who made us breakfast and was an unbelievably nice man. We also received our own keys with which we had the ability to lock our rooms, as well as the outside access door.
My only advice would be to tell someone what you're looking for, discuss price negotiations fairly (as with everything in Kenya, everything is open for discussion), and you'll get something you want.
Our house was 3 levels tall with the third level being completely open air with a mesh covered bed in bedroom and a large lounge area with a view of the vibrant flowers down the alley and the bay even further. Because the house was a privately owned rental residence, it had no name so I can't offer it here.
Our house was about 200 yards from the water, just up some beautiful textured-stone alleys accented with bright shades of bougainvillea blossoms. Dhows make regular stops to Shela so it is easy to ride into Lamu or you can walk the shore path and take in the scenery. Additionally, there was a small, wonderful open air restaurant on the water, just down the alley from the house where we stayed.
The house rental was basic but contained facilities like a regular toilet, sink, and standing shower. Beds included mesh for mosquito prevention. It was really the basic quality to it that made it so memorable. When the power went off for the scheduled outages on the island, we were there in candlelight, with the wind lightly blowing through the lounge area, sipping on black currant Fantas, admiring the stars above, and just talking the evening away. Quiet, simple moments like that can be as memorable as planned activity.
I would encourage anyone travelling to the Lamu area to take a look at Shela instead of staying in Lamu. With a little bargaining and a little luck, you might just have some of the best memories of your entire Kenya holiday.
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