Society

Mike’s camp serves tranquillity on nature’s big plate

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One of the bedrooms at Mike’s Camp in Lamu. PHOTO | KARI MUTU | NMG

Summary

  • Kiwayu lies in the Kiunga Marine Reserve, a pristine environment with very few settlements.
  • Arriving at the Kiwayu jetty, you climb up wooden steps that lead to the top of the hill where the camp is located.

For a truly remote beach holiday, Mike’s Camp in Kiwayu Island of Lamu is the place to be. Kiwayu lies in the Kiunga Marine Reserve, a pristine environment with very few settlements. It is one of the furthest regions of the Lamu archipelago and access is only by boat.

Our group took a speed boat from the main island of Manda, a two-hour ride in the open seas that got us there in the late afternoon. Along the way we passed rocky islets and mangrove-lined channels and apart from small fishing villages, there were no people to be seen.

Another transfer option is an overnight dhow to Kiwayu, with dinner and breakfast served on board. I imagine it would be a very tranquil journey where you are rocked to sleep by the boat while looking up at a starry sky.

Arriving at the Kiwayu jetty, you climb up wooden steps that lead to the top of the hill where the camp is located. The following morning is when I really appreciated the view because breakfast was served on an open-sided dining area near the edge of the hill.

From here you look out to the turquoise blue ocean that stretches for miles, with no towns in sight. The occasional fishing boat would sail by and sometimes I spotted a large fish leaping out of the water but otherwise, it was like having the whole island to ourselves.

When owner Mike Kennedy set up to build the camp, his goal was to preserve the natural environment whilst taking advantage of the beautiful surroundings. The entire camp is constructed in an eco-friendly manner using local mangrove timber, thatched roofs and woven makuti mats for the walls and floors.

Residents of Kiwayu were employed to build the camp and the staff are mostly from the nearby villages. Acacia trees, baobab trees, and thick undergrowth around the camp add to the natural atmosphere and give additional privacy between the bandas.

The simple, spacious bedrooms are also built of makuti and mangrove, facing the ocean or the creek-side. Big windows all round allow a lovely cross breeze since there is no air conditioning. I slept soundly each night on very comfortable beds with mosquito nets.

Each en-suite sleeping banda has a large detached bathroom with all amenities provided and windows that also face the water. Talk about a toilet with a view! In true eco-style, there are bucket showers that the staff refill up regularly.

There is no plumbing and water is transported to camp by donkeys. Solar-generated electricity is provided throughout the camp and there is Wi-Fi in certain spots, although I did not mind the opportunity to detach from my phone.

The self-catering Sankuri House, a 3-bedroom makuti bungalow further up on the hill has panoramic vistas to the ocean. This bungalow is ideal for a group that wants more privacy, although I much prefer a full-board booking where staff handle meals and so on.

Mike was not present during our visit but the staff looked after us so well. In the morning, fruits, cereals, toast, eggs made to order and more made for a hearty start to the day. Lunch and dinner were equally satisfying, served family-style and consisting of comfort foods with local flavours.

Naturally, there were lots of fish items freshly caught by the local fishermen, Swahili curries, coconut-flavoured potatoes, salads, pasta dishes and more. The self-service coffee station was available all day and afternoon tea came with a freshly baked cake.

Sundowner drinks were served around a big bonfire on the beach. When night fell we climbed up to camp for dinner, set up outdoors on sandy ground. Strings of fairy lights around the dinner tables and an almost full moon created a magical ambience.

There is lots to do at Mike’s Camp including swimming, snorkelling in the reefs, kayaking, sunbathing on the deserted beach, water skiing and sand yachting. Up at the camp, there is a games area with a pool and table tennis, darts and board games. The well-stocked bar area is always open.

Or you can spend a lazy day lounging barefoot in the main mess area like I did one time. I eschewed all activities in favour of the front lounge under the trees with low day beds and a swinging seat.

I just could not get enough of the endless seascape and serene atmosphere. A good book, soft music in the background and fresh watermelon juice was all I needed.

Mike’s Camp is the sort of place for a couple to retreat for a relaxing holiday in a rustic setting or for a family getaway far from civilization. A truly unique, barefoot paradise in the middle of nowhere.

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