I always thought that Mombasa or South Coast’s Diani were awesome places to spend a beach vacation, but things changed when I travelled to Lamu Island and specifically, Kijani Hotel. The hotel is situated in the village of Shela in this relaxed island with a calm environment and friendly people. I loved the fact that it is direct to the sea front, making it easier to find.
It feels so breathtaking to watch the dhows swaying gently with the kaskazi winds and the Bajuni fishermen trying to make a catch. Quite literally, there are no cars on the island; donkeys and boats are the only means of transport, should you desire to visit the other islands or go to town. While all that is happening on the outside, I was surprised to find a different world inside.
It was like stepping into an Alice in Wonderland adventure, if you all could remember that childhood cartoon series. A lush oasis of a green garden was before me after the small entrance. Clusters of bougainvillea flowers as well as frangipani offer a cool shade and green shadows in the hotel.
They have two aquamarine swimming pools with small tables and chairs that lie in the shade of various species of palm trees. Despite the fact that I am still a learner when it comes to matters swimming, my heart was bubbling with joy just thinking about chilling with a glass of tropical juice, sun-kissed.
Kijani, a Kiswahili word meaning green, lives true to its name, as new life and growth oozes out in every corner of the hotel. There are 10 rooms spread throughout the garden into three small separate traditional Swahili buildings, which I later on learnt were formerly private homes.
As Lemmy Mwalwala, the attentive manager assisted me to my room, which had a private a veranda with a view of the ocean, I could not help, but wish to have the powers of Joshua, the man in the Bible who froze time.
The rooms are private and spacious with a cool breeze of the ocean finding its way in for the cooling. An ancient Swahili canopied Swahili bed stands beside antique cupboards and tables coloured with hand-painted Indian tiles and painted glass. Dinner and lunch here is à la carte. A wide range of options from crabs, lobsters, fresh prawns as well as lobsters are available.
I opted to beat down my fear for seafood and sampled, for the first time, the delicious oyster curry for my first night. I have no words to describe it. You can try out their barrito (a stuffed Mexican chapati), which is an awesome dish served with fries. The hotel was first owned by Pierre Oberson, who designed it to revive the tradition of stone Swahili houses.
As Lemmy explained, it was created to be authentic retreat for travellers seeking to experience Lamu’s rich history. For more than 10 years, Pierrre rebuilt the hotel from the ruins of three old houses, employing only traditional materials and methods to restore it. Unfortunately he sold the hotel, and it is currently under a new management.
Kijani has a small farm where their eggs, honey and a selection of homemade yoghurt and marmalade come from. “We bake our own bread, produce marmalade and yoghurt with the fresh product from our small farm on the island, which also provides eggs and honey,” said Lemmy, as he joined me for breakfast.
Dhow sailing, wind surfing, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and yoga are some of the activities you can enjoy while here. If you have some extra cash to spare, a sunset cruise to several days visiting nearby islands will make you come back to this wowing island.