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Lamu and Malindi travel report

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I recently flew to Nairobi in order to visit some of the coastal communities of Kenya, specifically Lamu and Malindi. This is a brief trip report.
Lamu is an island among several islands on the north coast of Kenya. Its population, 26000 in the main center of Lamu Town, is predominantly Muslim. Much of the male population goes to pray in the mosques on Fridays (also wear white gowns and head caps) and many of the women dress in black and cover their faces. The influences of Arabian traders can be seen in the architecture of a Swahili culture.
The main trades are tourism and fishing. Transport is mainly by donkey carts. I saw a few bicycles and two wheelbarrows. Otherwise, people walked to and from the shops and waterfront. Our visit in May coincided with the tourism low season, when rains fall in a daily deluge. We lucked out and had no rains and few tourists. We stayed at the Lamu Palace, conveniently located a few blocks from the center of town and right on the waterfront. From the front veranda, we watched local fishermen unload baskets of fish from their boats, women in black wading out into the water to catch the local dhou to home, and boys sailing their handmade boats in the murky waters. Donkeys wandered the streets in the same laidback style that men sat on mosque steps. I felt entirely safe as I wandered through the narrow alleys and visited the daily market with my companions. Early evenings were the best times to be out and about because the humidity during the day was oppressive.
For snorkelers, I can recommend the coral grows on the far side of Manda Island. The dhou ride takes about 90 minutes and you can be dropped in right over the edge of the reef. There was much coral growth, although there seemed to be a growing cover of algae. Water clarity was not great but the water was calm.
Malindi is a 30 minute flight from Lamu. It also has the Swahili cultural influence although we did not experience it. Instead, we stayed out of town at the Coral Key Beach Resort which had its own sand beach and calm waters great for an easy snorkel. There we found crabs, a conch and several fish species among the grass beds. We also took a trip out to the marine park, which has been in existence since Kenya’s independence in 1963. We saw cowries, corals, a vast variety of reef fish and even an octopus.
The walk into town was about 2 miles, so we took a 3 wheeled taxi tour of downtown. It’s a much larger place than Lamu with many shops and stores. On our final day in Malindi, the rains came in torrents and we were glad to be returning to Nairobi.

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