This was originally meant to be a review of Jambohouse, the guesthouse I stayed in while in Lamu for the cultural festival but I felt like it would be incomplete if I didn’t write a bit about my journey to and from Lamu.

I made the decision to take the bus because I hadn’t planned for the trip early enough and thanks to the festival, prices for air tickets were not exactly pocket friendly.

I booked my ticket to Lamu the morning I arrived in Mombasa, I asked around and was told to take Tawakal. I had planned on taking the 7 am bus but it was fully booked so I ended up on the 9:30 am bus. Come the next day I was at the bus terminal early enough.

There were 2 buses parked and thanks to one of the members of their staff I ended up on the wrong one and they had the audacity to blame me. Once we got to Malindi I was able to get on the correct bus, all buses headed to and from Lamu usually stop in Malindi for 30 minutes.

Road to Lamu

 

The journey to Lamu up until Garsen is smooth. It is after this point that the road becomes a muddy mess and the security checks start. There were 3 security checks in total; you have to alight the bus for every single one of them with your identification. For the first one we had to get out of the bus with all our luggage.

By this point all the buses that had left Mombasa for Lamu were travelling in a convoy since we had to have a security escort. It wasn’t the same vehicle escorting us from start to finish so at every security check we had to wait for the vehicle to show up then we leave, at some stops we ended up waiting for at least an hour.

Mpeketoni (2)

 

Mpeketoni4Mpeketoni

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Sunset mpeketoni1

 

Sunset Mpeketoni

 

After a 10 hour journey we finally got to Mokowe, the last stop I the mainland. It was 9pm and luckily for me Arnold (my host) had sent someone to meet me at the bus stop.

From Mokowe, you have get a boat to Lamu. Here you have 2 options; you can get a speedboat for ksh. 200 ($1.9) or the larger slower boats for ksh. 100 ($0.9). My advice would be to take a speedboat as its faster and you won’t end up being packed like sacks of maize.

After about a 20 minute journey we got off at the old jetty then walked to Jambohouse.

Old JettyThe old jetty

 

Arnold was still up as he had been waiting for me. He welcomed me with a glass of fresh juice and gave me some tips about getting around Lamu before showing me to my room.

I found Jambohouse on Sleepout.com but I made the booking directly. I was a bit skeptical because of the prices, everything seemed too good to be true but the 5 star reviews on Sleepout and Travel Advisor helped me make up my mind

It is a bed and breakfast and the prices for the rooms range from Kshs 1800- 2600 ($ 17.63 – 25.46). A single room is 400 KES ($ 3.92) / night less than a double room. All the rooms are named after the islands in the Lamu Archipelago. I stayed in Manda.

Jambo House Room1My Room

 

Jambohouse has 3 floors; I stayed on the ground floor. My room was not ensuite, the bathroom was only a few metres away and was exclusive to the room I was staying in. Room and bathroom are cleaned daily. Sheets and towels cleaned regularly. If you want to go to the beach just ask for a beach rowel and they will provide you with one.

I didn’t take any pictures of the bathroom as I was hardly ever at the guesthouse but the pictures on the site should give you an idea. There is a fan in the room so at least you can stay cool while you sleep.

There is a small safety deposit box in the room if you want a place to store your valuables. If you need a torch or an adapter you can pay a refundable deposit.

The rooftop terrace is the perfect place to relax, there are sunbeds you can lie on. It offers great views of Lamu plus there is free wi-fi .

Jambohouse rooftop

 

Jambohouse rooftop1

 

Jambohouse rooftop2

 

Jambohouse rooftop3

 

Jambohouse rooftop4

 

Jambohouse rooftop5

 

Breakfast is served at the rooftop terrace from 8am – 10 am . The options available are fresh juice, fruits, a choice of eggs / omelette / pancake / french toast or cereal, bread, jam and coffee / tea. I’m used to a heavier breakfast so even though the food was delicious I never felt like I had had enough. In the afternoon there is free coffee / tea available.

For the rest of your meals Lamu is chockful of restaurants where you can have affordable meals. You can get away with spending only Kshs 400 ($ 3.92) for a meal, drinks included.

JamboHouse Breakfast1

 

There is a cooler box containing water, soda and beer. It is accessible at all times of the day. Once you take a drink you just need to write what you took to a list right next to the box and the cost of it will be added to your bill.

The costs do add up if you have to buy water daily, I was buying about 3 1.5 litre bottles daily so to save money it is much better to buy a 5 litre bottle for Kshs120 ($1), have it stored in the fridge at Jambohouse then have a smaller bottle to refill.

Arnold is truly a great host. He goes out of his way to make sure guests are comfortable. Apart from the map he handed me (it had the basic layout of Lamu and he had mapped out all the best restaurants) I also found a printout the festival’s programme in my room. I would definitely stay at Jambohouse again and would recommend it to anyone. Plus for my next stay I’ll get Come-Back-Discount of 10% on their standard rates. If you want to stay at Jambohouse during the festival make sure you make your booking at least 2 weeks in advance, it was fully booked a week before the festival.

Lamu Streets1

 

Lamu StreetsTypical street in Lamu

 

Sea front Lamu

 

The guesthouse can organize excursions for you around Lamu if you choose to but I was able to get around by myself just fine. If you’re travelling in a group then you’re in luck, most of the excursions end up being cheaper. I’ll cover what you can do while in Lamu in another post.

I’ll try summarise my journey back which was my worst nightmare come true. First I found a lady seated in my seat and she didn’t want to move because she HAD to sit next to the window ‘juu ya pressure’. The English translation of this is because of pressure and I have no idea what she meant. Whatever it was I was having none of it and she ended up moving to her proper seat. She was travelling with 2 kids who she was sharing a seat with (why???!!). This meant that I was sharing a seat with them as wel, this made for a very uncomfortable journey. The poor children ended up throwing up twice and instead of letting them get off when we first stopped their mother bought them water to rinse out the vomit then let them spit on the floor. It was exactly as bad as it sounds.

I left on the 7am Tahmeed bus and the journey back took 10 hours as well, the only difference was that we did not have to travel with an escort.

In short DO NOT TAKE THE BUS TO LAMU. Save your coins and pay for a flight, had I planned my trip earlier this is exactly what I would have done.

If by any chance you feel brave enough to take the bus, stay away from Tawakal (bus was damp and the seats did not recline properly, not to mention the unhelpful staff) , TSS and Simba Coach. Stick to Tahmeed. Book the earliest bus (7am) and make sure you’re carrying identification i.e. ID, Passport or Birth Certificate.

What to do and where to stay http://lamutourism.org/

 

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21 Comments

  1. December 7, 2015 at 11:17 pm — Reply

    The bus rides sound horrible, pole sana. And that woman with the kids, she should have paid for an extra seat at least for the kids.
    10 hour bus ride! Yikes.
    Jambo house sounds lovely. I’ll consider it for the food festival, my air fare kitty is still empty but i’ll start saving soon.

    • December 8, 2015 at 10:50 am — Reply

      I wanted to experience how it would be to travel to Lamu by road and I learnt my lesson. Arnold is such a great host, I can’t recommend it enough.

  2. Wamuyu
    December 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm — Reply

    You did it and lived to tell the tale. I think I’ll do the festival next year. That road trip sounds hectic. Pole.

    • December 13, 2015 at 11:03 am — Reply

      You really need to go. It is definitely an experience.

  3. boyfulani
    December 8, 2015 at 4:30 pm — Reply

    Great pics and post! I like your blog layout and text very much. Sorry to belabor your point, but would it be helpful If I got one of your recommended bus services say I don’t mind a long journey?
    Pole for the experience back.

    • December 9, 2015 at 5:28 pm — Reply

      If you don’t mind the journey and are travelling from Nairobi you can take Dreamline or Tahmeed from Nrb-Msa price ranges from 1100-1400. Both bus companies have buses with adequate legroom and comfy seats. From Mombasa to Lamu I would say take Tahmeed and as plan B Tawakal. Prices range from 1000-1100.I hope that answers your question.

  4. December 9, 2015 at 8:08 am — Reply

    Hi Rachael, thank you for this write-up. I enjoyed reading it and I already read your story about your Lake Magadi Trip (and I will read the others also). I’m happy you enjoyed your stay at JamboHouse and also Lamu. Well, traveling by bus to Lamu (from Mombasa) takes around 10 hours currently but they are talking about to reduce/scrap the road blocks to make the journey faster. Maybe another suggestion, in case there are now cheap flights available from Nairobi, you can take a bus from Nairobi to Malindi and then connect by plane (20 minutes) from Malindi to Lamu. But check arrival time in Malindi in order to catch the flight to Lamu or, if this doesn’t work out so well, you can travel with the night bus from Nairobi to Mombasa and then connect with an Express Matatu to Malindi Airport (350 KES).
    If you want more information about JamboHouse Lamu, please check our website and our Facebook Page (https://web.facebook.com/jambohouse.lamu?fref=ts).

  5. Manesha
    December 9, 2015 at 4:01 pm — Reply

    Please don’t leave me home next time!! I will come plus 2 🙂

    • December 13, 2015 at 11:07 am — Reply

      We can start saving for airfare now.

  6. December 10, 2015 at 1:45 am — Reply

    Sorry to hear about the vomiting kids you sat next to on the bus ride home. Back in the day when I was young, I went to a Christian summer camp and one of the songs we learned was about a place called Lamu. Until a few years ago, I never realized that it’s a real place – lol! Looking forward to reading more about it.

    • December 13, 2015 at 11:02 am — Reply

      I think its a song by Michael.W.Smith. I only heard the song after I had gone to Lamu.

  7. December 21, 2015 at 9:45 pm — Reply

    I cant even imagine that bus ride.. pole sana.
    Thanks for the warning. I didn’t know Lamu was that far.. I’ve always wanted to go..

    xx Wangu
    http://pineconeshelf.com

    • February 2, 2016 at 11:52 am — Reply

      I used the think it is few hours drive from Mombasa, how wrong I was. You should visit, the food festival is coming up in April, maybe you could go for that.

  8. Wanjiku
    December 24, 2015 at 1:32 am — Reply

    I love the pictures here! Brings back fond memories. Although I highly recommend flying to Lamu (the views descending into the archipelago are also amazing) I had a good experience (2014) with Taweel bus and it’s usually cheaper than Tahmeed.

    • February 2, 2016 at 11:51 am — Reply

      I will definitely fly the next time I do go back to Lamu, no more buses for me.

  9. […] A more detailed account of getting there by road has been penned by Safari254. […]

  10. Manesha
    March 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm — Reply

    Rachael…Food festival.. are we going?

    • March 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm — Reply

      Sponsor me 🙂

  11. March 28, 2016 at 12:31 pm — Reply

    Wow. That bus ride was horrible, but at least you lived to write about it.
    I’m going for the food festival, street food and Lamu people!! ????
    Will definitely stay at Jambo House. ????

  12. March 30, 2016 at 11:11 am — Reply

    Have fun for two!I wish I was coming.
    Rachael recently posted…Stop over at Lake Ol’ Bolossat and the Samawati ConservancyMy Profile

  13. May 20, 2016 at 10:26 am — Reply

    Hey Rachel,

    This is a bit random just like how we came into contact. Lol. I followed you at the BAKE Awards secretly as I had no idea how to get to the place. Anyway just wanted to say Thank you for showing me the way, and you mentioning that you watch my channel too….never expected that:-)
    I loooove your blog though gooood job, I’ll definitely be keeping up with it. happy traveling:)

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