Despite boasting a coastline that stretches for 26,000km and, in most parts, reliably balmy temperatures, Africa isn’t known for beach breaks. With the honourable exceptions of Zanzibar and the Red Sea, the continent is regarded as a safari-only type place: a big mistake when beaches as beautiful as those found on the Kenyan island of Lamu are factored in.
Lamu Town is Kenya’s oldest settlement and wandering around, you’d be forgiven for assuming that little has changed since it was first recorded in the 1400s. No cars are allowed onto the island, which means getting around is a choice of donkey cart or your own two feet. Luckily, Lamu is tiny enough for it not to matter. For the truly exercise-averse, there are dhows to ferry you from beach to beach or on an excursion to the picturesque Manda Islands. As in Zanzibar though, the real reason to go isn’t to see beaches, it’s to relax on them.
With crystal clear Indian Ocean water and expanses of sand so glistening white that they look like they’ve been whipped up from icing sugar, Lamu’s beaches are tropical sun traps to rival the Caribbean.
The most popular is the pristine Shela Beach, dotted with seashells and less than a mile from the centre of Lamu Town. With relatively few beach goers compared to busy Red Sea resorts, it’s a wonderful spot for children, who can run around and make as much noise as they like without ever having to worry about disturbing anyone else.
Although the wander down can be tiring for smaller children, for those who want to stay in situ, Shela Village is home to several guest houses and hotels, including the stunning 10-bedroom Fatuma’s Tower. Unlike the expensive likes of Barbados and St Lucia, staying on Lamu is relatively good value, with gorgeous beach huts and guest houses available for the cost per night of a British camping holiday.
How to get there: Flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi start at £707 return with British Airways. Onward flights from Nairobi are available through Safarilink for around £100. Note: Always travel to Lamu by air as the roads aren’t very safe to travel by car.
Travel time: London Heathrow to Nairobi takes approximately 8 hours 30 minutes and the onward flight to Lamu takes around 2 hours.
Best time to go: Perfect for a summer getaway. The best time to go is between July and September, out of the rainy season and before peak season when prices rocket around Christmas.
The hotel: Double rooms at Fatuma’s Tower start from €70 with an extra charge of €30 for a child’s bed. Alternatively you can get a four person suite from €150 per night. All rates include breakfast and return boat transfers.