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.
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.
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 ($0.9). My advice would be to take a speedboat as its faster and you won’t end up being packed like sacks of maize.
After about a 20 minute journey we got off at the old jetty then walked to Jambohouse.
Arnold was still up as he had been waiting for me. He welcomed me with a glass of fresh juice and gave me some tips about getting around Lamu before showing me to my room.
I found Jambohouse on Sleepout.com but I made the booking directly. I was a bit skeptical because of the prices, everything seemed too good to be true but the 5 star reviews on Sleepout and Travel Advisor helped me make up my mind
It is a bed and breakfast and the prices for the rooms range from Kshs 1800- 2600 ($ 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.
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 .
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.
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.
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/