Cultural Excursions

Lamu is an Indian Ocean destination with an important history and culture. We enclose the main highlights followed by a description of each excursion.

  • Lamu Archipelago
    tickLamu Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site
    tickOldest and best preserved “living” Swahili settlement in East Africa
    tickThere are more historical sites and monuments than the whole East Africa combined
  • Several museums to visit
  • On Manda island, you can visit the Takwa ruins
  • On Pate Island, you can visit Siyu Fort and the Shanga ruins

Trip to Lamu Town

Lamu Old Town was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre in December 2001. UNESCO describes it as: “The oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, retaining itstraditional functions. Built in coral stone and mangrove timber, theTownis characterized by the simplicity ofstructural forms enriched by such features as inner courtyards, verandas and elaborated carved woodendoors”. Most important attractions are the fishing and vegetable markets, Lamu Fort, Lamu Museum and the whole stone Town. This is a half day trip to be organized preferably in the morning when there is a lot of activity in the local markets. A guide will be available to show the Town and accompany our guests.

Trip to Matondoni village on Lamu Island

Matondoni is a local fishing village and dhow building site. The village is located on the western side of Lamu Island, about 8 kms from Lamu Town. The village is famous for traditional handicrafts such as weaving straw mats of palm leaves and making ropes of coconut. The excursion can be organized as a half day trip and it can be done by motor-boat or on our traditional Mozambique-style dhow sailing boat. This is a half day trip and it can be combined with a visit to Lamu Town.

Trip to Takwa Ruins on Manda Island

The Takwa settlement is situated on the south side of Manda Island, in the Lamu District. It was founded around year 1500, and abandoned around 1700. The Great Mosque at Takwa is relatively well preserved. The other structure remaining of importance is the Pillar Tomb, which has an inscription with the date of 1681-1682. It is reported that when Takwa was abandoned, its inhabitants settled just across the bay at Shela on Lamu Island. This is a half day trip and it can be organized by speed boat and by dhow (30 minutes), depending on the tide level. For those wishing to be more active and do some sports, we organize also a mountain bike trip to Takwa from the hotel (about 10 kms one-way) which takes about 30-40 minutes one way.

Trip to Pate Island

Pate Island is the largest island in the Lamu Archipelago and it lies between the island of Manda and Kiwayu. Main attractions in Pate Island are Faza Town, Pate Town, Siyu Fort and the archeological site of Shanga .

 

FazaTown, on the North coast, dates back to the 13th C, when it was almost destroyed by the Pate army. It was resettled and then dealt the same blow in 1587 by the Portuguese. Faza is now a modern Town and the central administrative center for Pate Island.

 

PateTown is situated on the South-West coast of the island. The Town of Pate was founded by refugees from Oman in the 8th century and re-founded by members of the Nabahani family, also from Oman, in 1204. The 18th century was known as the “Golden Age of Pate”, when the Town was at its height of powers and also prospered in fine arts. Builders constructed some of the finest houses on the East Africa coast, with extensive elaborate plaster works. The downfall of Pate Town came as a consequence of continuous quarreling/warring with its neighbors from the end of the 18th century. In 1813 the famous “Battle of Shela” took place at Shela. This was an attempt by Pate, allied with the Mazrui clan from Mombasa/Oman, to subject Lamu. The attempt completely failed and many were killed. Only a handful of people managed to return to Pate, and their losses were felt for years. By 1892 the number of inhabitants had fallen to only 300, down from 7000. Agriculture and fishing are the main economic activities of the day.

 

Siyu Fort is located on Pate Island, at a point opposite Siyu Town across the tidal channel, which bisects the island at high water. It lies some 25 km to the north east of Lamu Town and can be reached by boat from Lamu, up a long mangrove lined creek which is only navigable at high tide. Siyu is the only Town that built a fort of its own, unlike Mombasa and Lamu where the forts were erected by foreigners.

 

Shanga is an important archaeological site, situated on the South-East coast of the island. It was excavated during an eight year period, starting in 1980. The earliest settlement was dated to the eight century, and the conclusion drawn from archeological evidence (locally minted coins, burials) indicate that a small number of local inhabitants were Muslim, probably from the late eight century onwards, and at least from the early ninth. Shanga was abandoned between 1400-1425. This is a full day trip and must be planned at high tide. A cooler box with drinks and lunch will be organized.