Lamu, North Kenya Coast
Banana House and Banana Wellness Centre in Shela Village, Lamu, comprise two private houses which have evolved into a friendly 'Bed & Breakfast' alternative to the range of accommodation in Shela. Banana House was designed and constructed by master builder Mohamed Ali Mbarak (alias Banana) a well known local figure, and his wife Monika Fauth. Monika is an ‘Art of Living' and Yoga instructor and runs various wellness courses in Lamu each year.
The house is the culmination of their combined imagination and craftsmanship. Cool and elegant with beautifully plastered and waxed neru walls the house is very spacious, and has numerous attractive sitting and lounging areas, hammocks, and day beds and a beautiful tropical garden within its walls. The atmosphere is homely and welcoming. The rooms and central areas are simply yet tastefully furnished in the classic Lamu Swahili style combining sumptuous Arabic elements with cool, clean surfaces and treasures combed from Lamu's beaches.
Accommodation is offered either on a room-by-room basis, or the house can be taken in its entirety. The house has great views of the Lamu Channel from first and top floors and is two minutes walk from the lively seafront where dhows and small boats are moored, and a further five minutes to the fabulous Shela Beach and Peponi Hotel.
Location and seasons
The house is on Lamu Island in the small village of Shela. Transfers to Lamu take around 10 minutes by boat from Manda Island. Kenya's north coast, one of her most popular beach holiday destinations, offers clear blue sea, marine parks, excellent water sports, coral reefs, monsoon winds, numerous hotels and beach resorts, family vacations, sun n sand, cultural and beach travel and more. Close to Mombasa, it is also within easy reach of Malindi, Diani and many other popular Kenya safari resort hotels.
Beach vacation facts
Hottest time is between November and March, rainy season is May and June (hotel closed 01 May to 15 June); sea weed on beach and strong winds May /August. September to November is cool and pleasant.
The Lamu archipelago is a cluster of hot low-lying desert islands, which runs for some 60 km parallel to the coastline of northern Kenya. The last survivor of a one thousand year-old civilization, Lamu was founded by the Arabs in the seventh century and traded for centuries thereafter in ivory, rhino horn and slaves. Today it offers a unique showcase for the traditional Swahili culture, a bustling historic town and some of the most pristine beaches in Africa. The most famous in the archipelago, measuring about 16 km by 7km, Lamu resembles a smaller version of Zanzibar. Here, however, transport is by foot, donkey or dhow - there are no cars on the island. A magnificent Swahili settlement and a World Heritage Site, Lamu Town is a maze of winding streets and intricately carved doorways, which lies to the north-east of the island.
The oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa, Lamu is a centre for the study of Swahili culture. Although founded in the 13th century, the majority of buildings date from the 18th century. Today the town is a living monument to its past. The old houses, built with coral walls two-feet thick are built with a series of alcoves rather than rooms, whose size is decided by the length of the ten-foot mangrove poles that are used for both floors and ceiling. Many are three-storeys high and feature winding staircases, vast carved doors, intricate fret-work screens, balconies and flat roofs. In the winding streets, the majority of women are black-veiled, while the men wear traditional Swahili dress. The majority of the population are Muslims; and the town echoes to the call of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer at the 23 mosques of the town. Lamu also hosts the important Maulidi Muslim Festival.
On the ground floor, there are three (3) bedrooms, which can all be interconnecting and share two (2) bathrooms, making these ideal for families with young children.
The four (4) first floor bedrooms are all ensuite, with hot water showers. The first floor rooms lead into the airy, covered dining area and living area, which also has a sunbathing deck. The top floor offers a private penthouse with double bedroom, private dining facilities, and veranda with sun-beds.
Sweet Banana House is annexed to Banana House and is a self contained two bedroom house, which can be rented as a private unit or as rooms. With its two large en suite bedrooms and access to the swimming pool, garden and Yoga Hall it is an ideal retreat for two couples or a small family wishing to enjoy Lamu without the formality of a hotel environment.
Banana Yoga and Wellness House is right next door and has five bedrooms all beautifully decorated and furnished in a fusion of Swahili and Indian décor. Each floor has a veranda with dining and living area and there is a rooftop for sunbathing. The house shares the swimming pool with Banana House in the garden adjoining both houses which is a gorgeous spot for moonlit dinners and daytime child's play.
Breakfast is included in the room rate.
Dining and bars
All three houses have excellent chefs and fully equipped kitchens at the disposal of house guests. The chefs will prepare lunches and suppers of your choice, and will charge only for the ingredients, which makes Banana House a flexible and economical option. Breakfast with home made jam and bread is included in the room rate. Dinner or lunch choices include such dishes as; ginger crab, barbequed snapper, tuna carpaccio or delicious fresh fruit salad with mango, papaya, pineapple and passion. The chefs also offer Ayurvedic and vegetarian cuisine. All ingredients are sourced locally.
The house offers a choice of family accommodation, children's meals and activities.
What to see and do
An idyllic climate cooled by the monsoon, the Swahili coast offers a daily average of 8 hours of sunshine, and the hot steamy climate is tempered by the monsoon winds: the south-easterly Kusi, which blows from April to October; and the north-easterly Kaskazi which blows from November to March.
Banana Wellness offers yoga programs, massage and other holistic treatments and hosts frequent Art of Living and other lifestyle-changing courses on cookery, meditation and yoga. Regular Yoga sessions are available daily with mats and expert tuition provided for all levels. Monika and her staff are excellent sources of local knowledge and can help you to arrange all manner of activities during your stay. Sundown sails, snorkelling trips, dhow cruises, Lamu cultural excursions, beach parties and overnight stays on Manda Island can all be organised. Alternatively a traditional Swahili dinner can be hosted in the gardens.
Banana House & Wellness Centre - Lamu Island • Kenya Hotels • Indian Ocean Beach Hotels & Resorts
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