For the fifth time, I went back to the Peponi hotel, in Shela, Island of Lamu. This time, it was during the Lamu Cultural Festival. This was my first visit after the kidnapping of a French resident in the adjacent Manda Island, which generated bad publicity to Lamu and negative travel advice which has brought tourism in the Island to a stand-still. The local population, famous for their warm welcome of foreigners, has shown their best hospitality to all visitors, particularly foreigners, who came to participate in the swahili festivities. I have spotted the Ambassadors of France and Spain, as well as the Director of Alliance Française, walking calmly amidst the crowd or on their way to the beach, contradicting alarmist warnings against travelling to the region. The Kenyan government has boosted security measures by patrolling the waters around the island with police boats and spreading armed policeman to surveil the beachfront. Given that these are muslim communities, the local leaders (sheikhs) seem also to have increased their vigilance, sharing information with adjacent communities.
As for the Peponi Hotel, it was as pleasant as ever. The rooms are spacious and very well appointed, using swahili furniture and local handcraft (all rooms have mosquito nets and fans over the beds, and the ones I recommend have a small fridge where guests may keep their choice of cold drinks). Breakfast is a-la-carte, ranging from a normal English breakfast to bircher-muesli and tropical fruits. I normally enjoy having lunch by the pool, under the shade of three huge baobab trees ,or on the roof-top terrace, where a gentle breeze is always blowing. Dinner is more pleasant in the restaurant area, particularly in the candle-lit terrace, under the stars. The cuisine is mostly with local ingredients, particularly their delicious mangrove crabs and other seafood, prepared with a swahili flavour of exotic spices or in Thai or Oriental styles. A nice walk to the sand dunes behind the Peponi at sunset or the refreshing experience of watching the dhows sail by while lounging in the shallow part of the salted-water swimming pool are my favourite ways to pass time, while in Shela.
A half-an-hour boat ride takes us to Lamu village, which is a World Heritage site. One particular feature of this place is that there are no cars, so, all transportation is either by boat or on donkeys. Dead coral reefs are used as bricks for the typical houses, and the narrow alleys are bustling with life: merchants carrying goods on donkeys, women covered in black veils, children playing as in any other village in the world. I recommend dinner in Lamu house or a drink in one of the roof-top terraces to catch a breeze. Don't be surprised with the lack of appropriate sanitation (open-air gutters are everywhere), given that this adds to the local atmosphere, like time-travel. I also recommend a dhow trip to the ruins of Takwa, at the end of a channel into the mangroves - particularly at sunset, with sparkling wine kept chilling in an ice-box for a toast just before dusk (arranged by the kind manager of Peponi hotel).
- Also Known As:
- Peponi Hotel Lamu