In 2011 I took a boat to a small island near the northeastern coast of Kenya: Lamu. Lamu is famous for its rich Swahili culture and for its non-motorized streets. It is popular with backpackers. One of the enthusiast hotel managers who approached us upon arrival at the small Lamu harbor turned out to be from ‘Wildebeeste’. We decided to check it out.
At first Wildebeeste seemed like a cold and empty hotel with lots of stone, but soon we started to see all the rich details and the beautiful Swahili accents. Wildebeeste or ‘Wild beast’ is more an art gallery and a curiosity collection than a hotel. The authentic building is a maze with stairs, little hallways and more stairs. It has a number of apartments, each ensuite with a living room and with one or more bedrooms.
My bed in their open-air tower
My bed at Wildebeeste was all the way up in one of their open air towers (with only a thatched roof to protect me from the elements). I felt like a princess. No walls in the room, but I did have the most amazing 360 degrees view on the rooftops of Lamu town. The outside temperature was perfect for a good night rest. The whole time there was a lovely little sea breeze and you woke up by a beautiful sunrise and the sounds of the morning prayer. Lovely for an early morning yoga session and to do some reading in peace.
From Wildebeeste you can explore the small streets ruled by the donkeys and fishermen of the island. Lamu is a chilled-out place where it looks like time stands still. In Lamu you can visit the Lamu Museum or just enjoy the wonderfully decorated building. Dhow sailing in Lamu is a must-do. A dhow is a traditional Arab ‘boat’ and with a dhow you can easily visit the nearby islands for some sunbathing and fishing. Wildebeeste itself also offers a number of workshops (which we did not do unfortunately) in Swahili crafts like print-making, hand tapestry weaving, bookbinding etc. For the foodies, Lamu has some pretty good restaurants such as La Banda and the Seafront Cafe. In the evening travelers meet often up at Petleys, an irish pub.
Wildebeeste was clean, peaceful and all basic facilities were present. The location was also excellent and in a safe part of Lamu. Prices vary between Ksh 1500-6000 for an apartment. We loved the arty environment of Wildebeeste and highly recommend it!
For an extensive video walkthrough of the Wildebeeste apartment building check this excellent video below made by two fellow backpackers blogging at Honey Trek.
Also check out our other Kenya articles