I have been here severally and l have to say “the old town of Lamu is quite a discovery” It is small, quaint, quiet, steeped in history and quite an attraction for many American tourists looking for an opportunity to get away from it all. Did you know that Lamu's history dates as far back as the late 13th Century? Now you know!
Mostly, guests come for the sun, and the warm sand, not to forget the hospitality of the Swahili people of the Kenyan Coast. Swimming, surfing, dhow riding, you know, the traditional dhow that the Arabs used to sail from Saudi Arabia to Mombasa for trade and so many more. While at it, you can also explore the natural underwater wonders. Start with the Watamu Marine Park where you will see turtles, salt water fish and other animals.
If you get lucky, or you can time your visit to coincide with some of the festivals. For example, there is the dhow race and the donkey race. Yes, you heard me right. Lamu holds donkey races. You see, the narrow cobbled streets of ancient Lamu can only fit a donkey, and you riding on its back.
Lamu town has authentic appeal full of lovely and hospitable people you just enjoy going around the streets. Children on the streets playing while women will be doing their house chores wearing garments with catchy colors. Men will mostly be adorned in their colorful Swahili regalia waiting for the muezzin to call for prayers, or drinking bitter-sweet African coffee on verandas.
There is no vehicle traffic so transport is by donkey. The locals live together in harmony ready to assist those in need. Once you get there, treat yourself with a donkey ride and do make sure you take pictures. Otherwise, how will people back home believe that you visited a town that has no vehicle traffic at all?
Want to shop? The open-air marketplace is opened daily full of fresh product and trade. Food here is amazing as it whets your appetite as you pass the hotels and the spices tempt your taste buds to no end. Try the local Swahili fare, you know, things like wali, biryani, pilau, coconut rice and others. You will love it. You can also try the local vegetables, packed with nutrients and grown organically.
Food is always prepared by vendors or you can choose to go to a restaurant and treat yourself with a Swahili dish. Try some madafu too as you relax on the beach. This is a coconut that is not yet matured and the husk is not formed completely. It is chopped off on one end and you sip the coconut water with a special straw that filters any impurities. This water is packed with electrolytes. It is very refreshing.
Visit the Lamu Museum
The Lamu Museum is absolutely charming and very well designed. It portrays the history of Mombasa and the local Swahili people who are actually a crossbreed of the Arabs and the Bantus. The historic side of Lamu and other coastal towns is captured in old walls, exhibitions, carvings and other artifacts that are lovingly displayed.
It was a prison once!
Lamu Museum under the National Museums of Kenya was a prison, which was established by the British colonial power in 1910. It served this purpose until 1984 when it was “rehabilitated”… fancy that, to a museum.
Guests from America, Europe, Canada and other places come to Lamu with the notion that this is just another African coastal village, but they are shocked flat out of their wits at the history in this place. Around, you can see the wonderful Arabic architecture adorning the doors and some of the old buildings. The beautiful mosques and above all, the warm and welcoming Indian ocean makes you to just want to laze around and kick sand.
Beach camping, swimming, hiking and other activities are available for tourist. If you are a nocturnal animal and would like some nightlife, you will not be disappointed for indeed Lamu has something for everyone. Peponi’s Bar and Petley’s Inn are just two of the awesome places where you can go for drinking.
What is the best time to visit Lamu? This is where you hit the jackpot. You can go anytime of the year, and you will not be any worse for it. The weather is wonderful,. But the humidity can peak in January to March. That is not the time that you want to heft your hiking backpack on to you back and hit the trails.
Other things to do
Do not let your tour to Kenya end in Lamu. There are thousands of other places to see, and many things to do. You can visit the Masai Mara and see the big five beasts of Africa, lion, elephant, buffalo, rhinoceros and leopard in their natural habitat.
Visit Siyu Fort in Pate Island. Pate is one of the islands in the Lamu archipelago. This fort looks a bit, but only a bit, like the famous Fort Jesus. You can shoot a few photos to wow the people back home.
For hiking and trekking, go to Mount Kenya National Park. You can also visit the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Solio Ranch wildlife sanctuaries to see the endangered Northern and Southern white rhinos. The diversity of flora and fauna in this country is not something that you would be likely to see in the Zion National Park, Acadia or any other popular national park in the USA.
We could go on and on about the things to do in Kenya and in the Lamu archipelago in particular. However, one thing is for sure; you will not see everything in one, two, or three visits. You have to come back.
You will see why tourists who go to Kenya say hakuna matata (loosely translated to mean there is nothing to worry about) as they down heaps of ugali and nyama choma and the wash it down with the popular Tusker beer.
This is fun. Just watch this YouTube Video and see just how much fun it is to travel with your family. Surrounded by love, the sightseeing becomes many times better.
Of course, junior will not agree to be left behind when you grownups go out to have fun. well, and there is no reason why you should not go hiking with him. In the Shenandoah National Park, in the Shasta and Trinity parks, you have seen families hiking, even with kids as young as three years old! You too can have great fun outdoors with your children.
Hiking with your children is one of the best ways to keep them in touch with the outdoors while still bonding with your children. However, hiking with your children can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you have a successful hiking trip with your children:
Make it sweet, fun and interesting!
Choose hikes that are short and easy for children. Pick a trail that will be exciting for the children; one with features that will keep the kids occupied and fascinated. You can even let the children help in choosing the place; this way they will get excited about it. A wide variety of flora and fauna on the trails you have chosen is welcome. Carry a pair of binoculars too for bird watching. Make it simple and fun.
Do not be in a hurry
They are children and they take their time. You should be ready to have time for kids when they decide to stop, stare and touch things. In an adventure outdoors, kids will be interested in sniffing flowers and touching new things along the way.
Stay alert - anything can happen
Being flexible and ready to tackle situation goes for any hike with or without children. Have a firstaid kit with kid-friendly items in it since some drugs might be too strong for the children. You should also carry extra clothes for the children in case the kids make their clothes too dirty, splash in the water or for when the weather changes suddenly.
Dress the kids in layers of clothes to avoid getting chilled during the hike. The clothes can also make good wind breaking items. Make sure that everyone has hats and gloves. You should get the appropriate hiking shoes depending on where you are going hiking.
Have many energy stops
You could choose to use the landmarks on your trail as points for energy stops. These stops could not only be for giving the children snacks for their energy but can also be used to motivate the kids to get to the places you promised them that they would energy stops. They will hurry to get to the energy stops and after enjoying their snacks they would be rejuvenated and ready to go on with the hike.
Bring their friends for good company
At some time in their life, kids like to spend a lot of their time with their friends. You could choose to get their friends to tag along with their parents’ permission of course, in order to make it more fun for them. They will even challenge one another and keep each other going for a very long time.
Make it fun - spot wildlife
You choose to sing camp songs with children to keep them engaged during the hike. You could play games with them that would allow you to keep them distracted and still moving, for example, the children can play a spotting game, where they can search for wildlife.
Do not reprimand your children for being slow. Instead, praise them and even give them gifts. Even if they are being slow, you should appreciate their every effort. This will keep them motivated and they could even try to be better.
Teach them about environmental conservation
You should not leave any litter on your trail; in fact, you should encourage the children to collect any litter they see on the way. This way you teach them the importance of the environment.
Go for many hikes
The more hikes you go with kids the easier it is going to be for them as they continue. Make sure your child's restless foot keeps walking. You can schedule a hike for every weekend.
With these tips, you are bound to have a successful hike full of fun.