You have a nicer choice of accommodations at the fishing village of Shela, a short dhow ride from Lamu town, and the site of its closest swimming beach. Although Shela Beach is good for swimming and some water sports, there has been danger from thieves and thugs.
1. Peponi Hotel For many years people visiting Lamu have passed the word: “Peponi is the place to stay”
The hotel is right at the water’s edge in Shela Village, a few kilometres walk, or a pleasant 20-minute dhow ride away from Lamu Town. This privately owned hotel has been in the hands of a Danish family, the Korschens, for 25 years.
Part of the appeal of staying at Peponi is arriving by water. Most guests take Flights to Lamu Kenya into the airstrip on Manda Island and then board the hotel’s large wooden dhow. Immediately you are transported back to a slower, more peaceful time. You chug past Lamu Town, then by beautiful gardens and villas. After landing, you walk along a sandy beach to reach the hotel.
You are dazzled by white-washed terraces, blazing bougainvillea, and tall waving palm fronds. There is a color and life in the busy open-air public bar, the riot of exotic flowering shrubs, and the bustling boating activity in front of the hotel. On the other hand, peace and relaxation are found in the residents’ section of the hotels with its quiet and established air.
There is a solid, timeless feel about Peponi-nothing slick or nouveau. It invites indolence: reading, sitting on deck chairs admiring the view, sipping a drink on the terrace, just watching boats…it lives up to its Swahili name. Peponi means place where there is coolness, rest and relief from trouble…
Ambience and décor at the Lamu beach hotel
There are only 25 rooms at Peponi Hotel, and the atmosphere is intimate and low key-no sense of bustling, mass tourism. There is an interesting layout of the Lamu hotel rooms. On one side of the main building, a row of rooms faces a lawn with tall palm trees and a low stone sea wall clothed with bougainvillea. There is a more unusual arrangement on the other side of the hotel, where rooms are at different levels and reached by meandering paths between flowering trees.
Some rooms are up narrow flights of open-air stairs; others are tucked below, overlooking sand and water. All rooms have a private veranda with comfortable chairs and pleasant views. The newer Peponi Lamu hotel rooms have been attractively decorated with bright carpets, modern art, and cane furniture. The older rooms are simply and solidly furnished, dim and cool with high ceilings and “Casablanca” fans-echoes of a colonial time.
The dining room is simple and elegant-predominantly white with dark wood furniture. Colourful Old Dutch plates and bowls brighten the white stucco walls, and there are attractive Lamu chairs with woven string backs. A wall-size painting of an intricate Swahili arch adds an exotic touch. Along one entire side of the rooms are windows with French doors leading out to a comfortable terrace overlooking the water.
In addition to the formal dining room, there is an outdoor grill restaurant with raked sand underfoot and a tangle of bougainvillea overhead. The hotel specializes in seafood and has both a table d’hote as well as a’ la carte menu. The drunken prawns are a treat.
After a day’s sight-seeing in Lamu Town climbing up narrow and pungent streets in the heat, peering into dark shops, squeezing past donkeys and absorbing a sense of history and the exotic, it is a pleasant relief to return to the tranquility, beauty and security of Peponi… and a cold drink-the lime juice is wonderful.
Accommodations at the Lamu Kenya Peponi Hotel
The 25 rooms vary somewhat in size. There are high Lamu-Style beds (king, double or twin), ensuite bathrooms, 24 hour electricity, mosquito netting, and ceiling fans. The four newest rooms are nearer the water and seem brighter with more colorful interior décor. The favourite, new wing #24, #25. Old wing: #19, #20. Also check out the view from the room called “top”
Lamu Island Beach
A short walk around the rocks from Peponi leads to a long beach backed by dunes. This is the closest bathing beach to Lamu Town and dhows bring visitors here. Hotel guests are warned not to take anything valuable to the beach.
Lamu tour guides and boat men
Local residents are always available for hire at the hotel’s outdoor bar to guide you through Shela and Lamu Town or to take you where you want to go by boat. Their knowledge is worth it, and so is their protection from others wanting you to hire them.
Hotel Lamu Dhow service to Lamu Town
Free 9 a. m. shuttle with return at noon. Takes about 15 minutes.
Lamu Beach, town Walks & tour
Transportation on Lamu Island is by foot, by donkey, or by boat. The walk to Lamu town takes about 40 minutes with interesting views of water traffic and villas along the way. Walk along the beach. Explore Lamu town or Shela
Lamu Water sports & activities
Through the hotel, you can arrange to go snorkeling, waterskiing, or Lamu deep-sea fishing. For a specific treat, enjoy lobster feast on a Lamu dhow trip by day or moon light. There is a windsurfing concession at the Lamu bay beach hotel.
Robert is a Kenya travel agent and consultant with Landmark safaris- Your Lamu Kenya vacation link and fixer: http://www.landmarksafaris.com