The beach is always a good idea! Vitamin Sea is always welcome, giving one a well deserved dose of sun, sand and the ocean. Windswept salty hair, soft, golden sand squidging between your toes, tickled by the foam of the waves that ebb and flow playfully on the beach – I cannot think of anything sexier! Fellow Wanderlusters, I am indeed fortunate to live in a country where I can indulge in these fantasies and make them reality in a couple of hours. I am sure that you know by now that I am on a self-imposed quest of sorts to explore all the magical gems that my country Kenya has to offer. Travel and adventure doesn’t have to be about taking off to distant lands to be extraordinary and there is something magical in indulging in an escapade every couple of weeks.
Would you believe that in the many years that I have lived here, I had never been to Lamu? I know that this part of Kenya has got so much bad press recently, but that isn’t why it wasn’t on my radar. I have always associated a holiday by the coast to be on the white sandy beaches of Diani or Watamu, and so didn’t really consider travelling further afield. Well, all that changed a couple of months ago when I discovered The Majlis Resort, on Manda Island in Lamu. Come with me as I show you postcards from this gorgeous boutique hotel, on its own island in the Lamu Archipelago and show you snippets of Old Town Lamu.
Gliding over the beautiful blue hues of the Indian Ocean, we soon spot the tell-tale sign that we are approaching Lamu: the green mangrove forests rising out from the water like a cluster of emeralds set in a bejewelled sea of turquoise as we descend into Manda Airport. I must say that I am impressed with the efforts that Kenya Airports Authority have made because though tiny, this airport is better than the airport in the Maldives and the Seychelles! Our luggage makes its way from the plane on a “mkokoteni” : a traditional Kenyan hand cart and a few moments later, we are walking to the jetty where a private speedboat is waiting to whisk us away to the magical world of The Majlis. I can’t help but have a spring in my step for the sheer joy I am feeling, looking forward to just being a Wanderluster on the Kenyan coast for a few days!
Before I know it, the overwhelming heat of the coast is lifted away by a cool sea breeze and the spray of surf as we cruise past the Old Town of Lamu on Lamu Island and the island of Shela towards Manda Island, home to The Majlis. The sign of Lamu: the crescent moon and sole star surrounded by a red circle, which is also the signature sign of The Majlis appears from a distance as our captain expertly glides the boat towards the shore. The royal treatment starts right from here as the captain and his skipper decide that I don’t need to take my sandals off and so I am lifted from the boat and placed elegantly on the beach, from where we make our way up to the resort. If this is how the other half lives, then count me in!
Set amongst the mangrove swamps in the Lamu Archipelago, I feel like I have been whisked away to another world, and I could easily be in the Seychelles because everything is surrounded by the gorgeous blue waters of the Indian Ocean with bits of green thrown in for good measure. I know that I haven’t arrived at any ordinary beach resort the moment I set foot onto the property. It feels chic with cosy villas spread out on a sandy beach, fringed with palm trees and what is quite unusual for the coastal region, acacia trees. I cannot wait to lounge under the African Sun and drink cocktails and indulge in bougie cuisine while soaking in the view!
I am excited to see that we have been put up in an incredibly spacious Junior Suite in the main villa with a beautiful view of the Lamu Channel. I am an incredible fuss pot when it comes to bathrooms and so the most exciting thing about this suite isn’t the view or the luscious king size Lamu bed but, wait for it, his and hers bathrooms! Yaaaas! Dream come true right there: my very own boudoir within which to powder my nose all day long if I so wish! Only there’s too much beauty going on at The Majlis and in Lamu to spend too long in the bathroom and so, alas, the bathroom shenanigans have to be curbed!
A stroll around
The Majlis isn’t set out like your typical resort; it is built to feel like home away from home with rooms being clustered into villas rather than one large block that is typical of beach hotels. Each villa has its own common sitting area, decorated with unique pieces of art and in different styles, giving them the feel of a family home rather than an impersonal hotel.
The raison d’etre at the coast: the beach, ah the beach isn’t a disappointment in the least. It has gorgeous soft white powder sand and I am excited to see daybeds and hammocks dotted strategically around the periphery of the resort. I can see myself curling up on a daybed to journal, write, soak in the views of the surrounding vistas: Shela Island being right opposite, and Old Lamu Town in the distance. In the same vein I can picture myself lazing around swinging gently on the hammocks. Sigh. So much to enjoy, and just a few days within which to do all my soul wants to – where do I even begin?
As is typical of me, I find a favourite nook or two and then tend to spend time just steeping my whims and fancies in that area. Even though there is a chlorine pool and so many beautiful lounges to laze around in, I found peace around the salt water pool outside the main villa. I tend to think this area is THE masterpiece of The Majlis, with its postcard picture perfect wooden deck flanked with sun loungers under Acacia trees, and facing a single acacia tree framing the beautiful main bar building, built with the Swahili architectural flair that is common in this region. Here, I spent many an hour lazing under the sun and working on that signature holiday tan whilst indulging in amazing cuisine and imbibing the delicious Majlis Special Cocktail, perfect and refreshing in the dry Lamu heat.
M and I have severe Wanderlustitis and once we have had our share of down time and lazing around, the case of the itchy feet sets in. It isn’t long before we book ourselves a day trip to explore the Old Town on the main Lamu Island, after an indulgent breakfast of Eggs Benedict with all the trimmings, well fuelled up for our walk around the historic UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our boat drops us off at the main pier and one thing is apparent straightaway: there are no cars on this island and it is all about dodging donkeys and their droppings, even while weaving around the labyrinthine stone alleyways flanked with the Swahili Lamu Doors which are quite similar to the Zanzibar Doors in Stone Town. The donkeys are such an integral part of life in Old Town, so much so that they have their own hospital! Life goes on uninterrupted in this little town. Shops bustle with activity as vendors peddle their wares, while groups of people sit around the main square sheltering themselves under the trees from the unforgiving heat of the coastal sun. We couldn’t stand the heat come noon, and so had to seek refuge in the cool air conditioned interior of the Luo Tabassam Café and rehydrate with some ice cold freshly made lime juice, before making our way to Shela.
Shela is a five minute boat ride away from Old Town, and is where you will find all the beautiful homes like Forodhani House and hotels such as Msafini and the popular Peponi Hotel. We had read so much about the terrace and the food here that we had to indulge and we weren’t disappointed. Fresh seafood pasta, and freshly caught Tuna were the order of the day and so delicious that we made our way back to Peponi the next night to indulge again whilst meeting up with new found friends.
Like all good things in life, our time in Lamu and The Majlis came to an end all too quickly. Would we be back? In a heartbeat. Indeed, this area of Kenya, once a hidden gem has now being discovered and it is so nice to see that more and more people are choosing to do away with the negative press associated with the area to discover the beauty of this coastal region for themselves. The sun set on our adventures way too quickly out here and if anything, Lamu has left me wanting more escapades to add to my ever increasing repertoire! Thanks for coming to The Majlis with me dear readers, I hope that the postcards of the place have convinced you that you too, need to get here and experience the beauty for yourselves! Till next time, xoxo!
-On getting here
There are direct flights to Lamu from Nairobi on Fly 540 Aviation daily. Check their website https://www.fly540.com/ for more details.
-On exploring Old Town Lamu
The Majlis organised a half day trip for us at USD 50, which included boat hire to and from Old Town as well as a guide in Old Town. I would highly recommend a guide because the alleyways are intricate and it is easy to get lost.
-On the Resort
Check out the website https://themajlisresorts.com for more details on the resort and current pricing.