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Lamu House: Our full report Rooms10 roomsChildrenBest for 12+OpenAll year Lamu House is a fine, Belgian-owned conversion on the waterfront in Lamu town, based on two traditional houses, Salama and Azania. The house is located towards the northern, less busy end of the waterfront, and its front faces out across Lamu creeek towards Manda island, while the back of the house is on Lamu's main street. On the ground floor, they have an excellent à la carte terrace restaurant and bar, the Moonrise, allowing you to absorb the passing scene. It’s lightly screened from the street itself by a low wall and foliage, make you feel part of Lamu without putting you too much on display. Arriving at the hotel’s dock (if it’s low tide you’ll have to wade ashore), staff will greet you and carry your bags a few metres to the hotel’s entrance. There’s a small atrium just off the waterfront, with the reception desk to one side. Then through a short passage you emerge into the central courtyard which is open to the sky, somewhat after the manner of a Moroccan riad. To the right there’s a small plunge pool and quiet lounge area; to the left a full-size swimming pool, a large lounge area and an inside dining area. The owner’s quirky and interesting paintings embellish many of the walls around the house and it’s a pleasure to see work that, while it may not be to every guest’s taste, is full of personal expression and curiosity. Lamu House has 10 ensuite rooms, on three floors. Most have private terraces, and all have comfortable beds and excellent bathrooms. Five of the rooms are doubles, and the five twin rooms can be set up as doubles if required. Two of the rooms can be set up as triples. Good mosquito nets hang over every bed and pulling them down is part of the hotel’s useful turndown service. Mosquitoes aren’t very often a serious problem in Lamu, but the nets guarantee a comfortable night. Verandas and terrace areas are furnished with recliners, daybeds or swing beds The rooms are furnished with traditional (and traditional-style) Swahili and other local furniture. The beds have bedside lights and tables; there are room safes; each room has a mini-fridge and clothes-hanging space. There is no air-conditioning, but the combination of sea breeze and traditional, air-cooled architecture (the Swahili box-style of building, with a courtyard and rooms around the walls, draws cool air from the narrow streets up to the hot rooftop surfaces) keeps things comfortable for most of the year, and the electric floor fan in every room is always an option. As is another tepid shower. You’re likely to take several showers every day in Lamu, and the bathrooms at Lamu House seem designed with that fact in mind – large spaces, with walls decorated with softly sculpted plasterwork and niches (zidaka) and really attractive use of lighting and windows. Some of the rooms downstairs can be a little dark: ideally get one upstairs at the front, or for maximum town atmosphere, take a room overlooking Harambee Avenue, the narrow alley that serves as Lamu's high street. The rooms at the back of Lamu House are Juu at the top (good for families, with a large roof terrace, big bed and bath tub) Katikati, Kulia, Kushoto, Dodori and Chini (right behind the swimming pool). Rooms at the front are Ndau and Kizingitini on the first floor and Siyu and Kiwaiyu on the second floor. These top floor rooms are ideal for families or larger groups as they join together. Bed and breakfast rates at Lamu House include: transfers from/to the airport jetty on Manda island; daily set-time transfers across Lamu Channel to Lamu House Beach Club on Manda island; free Wi-fi; a guided tour of Lamu town: and a free kikoi sarong to keep as a souvenir. The main activity if you’re staying in town is probably going to be exploring this ancient, UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t imagine all of Lamu town is beautifully preserved or easy to uncover: you need to be prepared for some smelly drains, collapsed buildings treated as garbage dumps and a certain amount of shoulder-shrugging among the townspeople. But if you’re equipped with a good guidebook (and ideally a good human guide as well) you’ll find it gently rewarding and not physically taxing or a relentless hustle as some of the world’s old cities can be. Lamu museum and Lamu Fort can happily absorb a couple of hours, and there are interesting wood carving and crafts shops, silversmiths and old groceries – not to mention local cafés, a donkey sanctuary and no less than 23 mosques – on which to focus your sightseeing and consumer interests. Despite the narrow alleys, the town is safe, and easy to navigate. Up on the top floor of the house, co-owner Maryane Feremans and two local women run yoga and massage sessions most mornings. If you’re staying at Lamu House for more than a day, you’ll certainly want to make use of their Lamu House Beach Club over on Manda island. This is a simple base for swimming and sunbathing and has a restaurant and bar providing similar fare to what is on offer at the main hotel. If you want more active activities, the hotel can provide excursions by sea all around Lamu island and further afield, in their Mozambique dhow or by speedboat. Excursions include: Full-day speedboat trip to Pate and Siyu (US$230, up to 5 people); 2-hour speedboat trip to Takwa ruins (US$60 for up to 6 people); 3-hour walk along Lamu Beach and speedboat back to the hotel (US$115 for up to 6 people); Sunset dhow cruise and starlight dinner (US$55 per person); Dhow trip and snorkeling with lunch (US$210 for up to 4 people); And when we were there, the owner had planned at trip to take a group of friends to the mainland, to visit the Kipini Wildife Conservancy - a home for very rare hirola antelope, wild dogs and lions, giraffe and lesser kudu, and perhaps 100 elephants. Our view This is our favourite hotel in town, a no-brainer when it comes to choosing a hotel with character that also delivers on comforts and location. We've stayed here twice, most recently in December 2013, and we like almost everything about it - the building itself, the no-nonsense, can-do owners, the food and service, and the frosty beers. The rooms are perhaps a wee bit small, but they're traditionally scaled, so that is to be expected. If you see Lamu town as a destination to be explored and enjoyed in its own right, rather than simply as a place for a brief visit, then staying at Lamu House gives you the perfect base. Full review | Geographics | Personnel | Food & drink | Children | Comms | Health & safety | Extras Geographics Location: Kenya Coast, Kenya Ideal length of stay: 3 days-plus to allow the atmosphere of Lamu to sink in and to rest up from the exertions of a safari. Directions: Lamu House meets guests at the Lamu airport jetty, approximately a 5-10 minute boat journey across the Lamu Channel. Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

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