Where to get away from it all? The Kenyan island of Lamu

Four tastemakers on beautiful beaches, snorkelling spots and floating bars – plus a delightful dhow to charter

The Peponi Hotel – a favourite of fashion designer Katie Hillier
The Peponi Hotel – a favourite of fashion designer Katie Hillier

Christina Zeller, artistic director of Delvaux

“I have a small house in Lamu, off the Kenyan coast. It’s where I go to detox – there are no cars and very little WiFi – and I never have to dress up; I just live in kikois. It’s beautiful there and the people have a very positive energy. I always come back revitalised.” 

Dhow sailing off the island
Dhow sailing off the island | Image: Getty Images

Katie Hillier, fashion designer

“I fell in love with Lamu on my first visit. The town is a piece of paradise and two places on the waterfront were particularly wonderful: Peponi Hotel for a morning iced coffee or afternoon cocktails, and Lamu House for dinner with Frank, the host.” lamuhouse.compeponihotel.com.

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Nicholas Logsdail, founder of Lisson Gallery

“Lamu Old Town is like a place that time has left behind, with narrow little streets and ancient, crumbly buildings. It’s like entering medieval times – but with cellphones. For breakfast, Seafront, a café at the harbour, serves Swahili dishes, while Whispers Coffee Shop adjoins a wonderful shop, Gallery Baraka, that’s full of things from all over Africa. You can ask for anything you want: an egg with soldiers, or a Swahili breakfast of chai tea and mahamri, a deep-fried dough bun that’s light like a croissant. 

Gallerist Nicholas Logsdail in Lamu
Gallerist Nicholas Logsdail in Lamu | Image: Will Swanson

“The best place to swim is at Diamond Beach; the water is so blue. It’s a unique sensual experience; there are days when everything – the air, the water, even your skin – feels like velvet. We stay until the sun goes down and they serve pizza on the beach, before going home by boat, stopping off at the Floating Bar, which is basically lashed-together oil barrels. There’s lots of dancing, mostly to Kenyan pop, which can be very good.” diamondbeachvillage.comgallerybarakalamu.comSeafront Café and Guesthouse, Corniche Path (+254728-711 832).

The island’s Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site
The island’s Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site | Image: Alamy

Wayne McGregor, choreographer/director

“Lamu is a Unesco World Heritage site for good reason: the beautiful Indian Ocean, the 18th-century Swahili architecture and the wandering donkeys make it a magical place. Mike’s Camp is an authentic place to stay with a Robinson Crusoe feel, while Manda Toto Island is the place to go for snorkelling. It can only be reached by dhow. For crafts made from local materials, Saba Studios offers ethically produced, minimalist pieces that preserve intergenerational crafts.” mikescampkiwayu.comsabastudios.co

The Tusitiri dhow has a charter circuit based around Lamu
The Tusitiri dhow has a charter circuit based around Lamu | Image: Paul Hicks

PLUS How To Spend It travel editor Maria Shollenbarger recommends TusitiriKenya’s prettiest and most thoughtfully provisioned dhow with a charter circuit based around Lamu. Life on board is pared back to the most elemental iteration of indulgence: guests roll out mats and sleep under the stars on deck, but on the finest linens; elegant jahazi sailing tenders bear them to and from deserted islets and white beaches; and there’s a warm open-air shower and a charming alfresco kitchen. It’s as close to timeless as boating life gets. journeysbydesign.com; from $4,761 per night.

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