Lamu County

Discover Lamu County

Spatial Location of Lamu County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Lamu County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Lamu County

Everything about Lamu Island appears unique. Its natural beauty and laid back outlook attracts travellers eager to experience the charisma of its ancient ways. Its safe streets leads out to the beautiful beaches, to a tropical coastal, and at all times to the warm welcome and quiet hospitality of the natives of Lamu with their fascinating customs and rich culture. The customs of the natives appear to be the most amusing of it all. Not easily accessible, Lamu Island has remained relatively undisturbed by colonization, modernization and even mass tourism.  Travellers to Lamu Island can enjoy a lazy walk through the central street and through the spines of narrow alleys into various wards, which is akin to walking through a living museum.  From Lamu Town travellers may visit Shela Village, Pate and Manda Islands, and enjoy walks through the ancient hamlets, ancient ruins, historic monuments, museums, markets, spectacular beaches, and hotels.

Of a more recent development, the new and modern Port of Lamu (plying the 39 fathoms or 234 feet deep Lamu-Manda Channel) is inevitably set to change the face of Lamu Island and the surrounding areas. As you would expect, this has naturally being received with some angst and antipathy: that the on-going Lamu Port will destroy the history, heritage and cultures of Lamu. “The chronic trauma is characterised by grounded feelings of displacement, dispossession, and alienation.” – Ridwan Laher. A second significant development that’s more solicitously received is the construction of the C112 Garsen-Witu-Lamu Road, linking Lamu County with Tana River and Kilifi Counties, by 2020. The 225 kms drive from Malindi to Mokowe through Garsen is theoretically all-weather and the road is in fact in good state. However during rain season it is regularly breached by flood-water. Certainly, the 20th Century has indeed reached Lamu.

Much of the sickle-shaped Lamu County – bordered on the northeast, east and southeast by the Indian Ocean – at the southeast corner of Kenya, is generally flat, at between 0 to 50 ms asl, with a total land surface area of 6,273 km2. It is composed of the mainland, 65 Islands (Lamu Archipelago), 130 kms coastline and a marine territory spread over 308.5 km2. Lamu Town on Lamu Island, its largest, is the first target and center of interest of most visitors to Lamu County. Lamu Island itself, along the southeastern area, is reached via boat either from Mokowe Jetty (for those approaching it by road from Malindi), or from Manda Jetty (for those flying in to Manda Airport). Once in Lamu Town, you will find history unfolding round every corner. The little town consisted of a maze alleys and sombre grey-coral-rag houses sometimes enlivened with ornately carved door is recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, for its rich history.

Shela Beach overlooking Manda Channel and Manda Island.  iStock Images
Shela Beach overlooking Manda Channel and Manda Island. iStock Images

Salient Features of Lamu County

  • County Number 05
  • Area – 6273 km2
  • Altitude – 1010 ft
  • Major Towns – Lamu, Shela, Manda
  • Borders – Kilifi, Garissa, Tana-River
Lamu County Map

Brief History of Lamu County

The history and present-day life of Lamu Island are inextricably linked. The community of Lamu has learned the value of its history, and the importance of traditions and customs. The values, beliefs and way of life throughout lamu are all part of a rich culture that grew and expanded with the sprawling stone town at the heart of the archipelago. One of the earliest written accounts of Lamu was by Arab traveller Abu-al-Mahasini in 1441 – 56 years before Portuguese arrival. By the turn of the 11th Century, Lamu alongside Manda, Pate and Shanga were prosperous trading settlements, all involved in the long distance trade along the Swahili East African Coast and a major hub between Kismayu in the north and Zambezi River in the south. “The coral reefs, together with the large off-shore islands of Pemba, Mafia and Zanzibar gave good shelter from the open ocean” to Lamu. Around the 16th Century, Lamu flourished as a borough trading slaves with the Middle East. During the Portuguese Era, Lamu Archipelago was one of the most rebellious boroughs, and the Portuguese had to undertake a punitive expedition in 1636-7 to supress Lamu, Faza, Manda and Pate Islands. During the middle of the 19th Century, Lamu came under the political influence of the Sultan of Zanzibar. The Germans claimed Wituland in 1885. Lamu remained a haven of peace during the ‘Mau-Mau revolts’ that afflicted many parts of Kenya.

View of the sea-side street in Lamu Town, Lamu Island.  Photo Courtesy
View of the sea-side street in Lamu Town, Lamu Island. Image Courtesy
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50 Attractions in Lamu County, arranged as one would visit these - west, south, north then west - with aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart:

Delta Dunes Lodge, Witu Forest Reserve, Amu Ranch, Kipini Conservancy, Lake Kenyatta, Lamu (Manda Bay) Port, Lamu Island, Matondoni Dau Workshop, Matondoni Ruins, Tusitiri Dhow, Kipungani Ruins, Kizingoni Beach, Lamu Town, Lamu World Heritage Site, Lamu Museum, Swahili House Museum, German Post Office Museum, Lamu Fort, Masjid Riyadha, Mosque College of Lamu, Lamu Catholic Church, Lamu Market, Tamarind Tree Cafe, Lamu Donkey Sanctuary, Floating Bar and Restaurant, Lamu, Shela Village, Friday Mosque, Forodhani House, Peponi Hotel, Shela Beach, The Fort at Shela, The Maljis Resort, Takwa Ruins, Manda Island, Manda Toto Island, Nabahani Ruins, Pate Island, Shanga Ruins, Siyu Fort, Atui Ruins, Chundwa Ruins, Faza Village, Monuments in Lamu, Mangrove Forests, Dodori National Reserve, Kiunga Marine Reserve, Kiwayu Island, Ashuwei, Boni Forest, Ishakani Ruins, Festivals in Lamu

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate & National Monuments in Lamu County