Lamu is a traditional Islamic community with over twenty active mosques in the town and most women veiled in public. Visitors are welcome but they are asked to observe and respect local custom. Foreign women are not expected to put on a bui-bui, however, beach attire should not be consumed in the street. Topless or nude bathing is considered an affront. Alcoholics drinks can be purchased in hotels but they should not be consumed in the street, on the seafront, or any other public place. Whether you travel overland or by air, the final leg of your journey to Lamu will be by ferry boat. Various private airlines fly scheduled services from Nairobi, Mombasa and Malindi toLamu small airport on Manda Island. The bus from Mombasa takes about seven hours, a long and dusty ride as the road north of Malindi is not paved. Also during the rainy seasons, November, May and June, the road may become impassable.
Any tour of Lamu is best begun at the Lamu Museum which provides an excellent introduction to the town and the region, both past and present. The exhibits include the material culture of the archipelago, ethnographic tableaux of neighbouring coastal peoples, as well as a collection of maritime artefacts and model dhows. After this orientation you are ready to amble through the streets, set sail for nearby ruins, or just go fishing.
Shela is a fourty-five minute walk south along the beach. Once around the point beyond the village and Kijani House, the dunes and the beach stretch for seven desert miles. There are interesting ruins at the back of the village, though Shela’s most prominent landmark is its Friday Mosque built with a conical shaped minaret in 1829.
The ruined town of Takwa lies across the channel and up a narrow mangrove creek on a Manda Island. It can be approached only by boat and only on a rising tide. You can hear the ocean over the dunes in this lovely place as you wander among fabled baobab trees and the remains of a 16th century Swahili town. Visitors who do not wish to spend the night will have to take a quick (approx. 45 minutes) tour so as not to miss the outgoing tide. Be sure to see the Mosque with a pillar over its fine qibla, and also the pillar tomb. Takwa is a national monument administred by the National Museums of Kenya. A camping site is provided.