“Nothing beats a trip to Lamu,” declares Nairobi-based fashion designer Anyango Mpinga. She’s not the only high-profile fan of this car-free Kenyan archipelago – Kate Moss, Mick Jagger and Sting have lapped up its castaway charms. It’s unlike the manicured mega-resorts in other Indian Ocean hotspots. UNESCO-listed Lamu Old Town is East Africa’s best-preserved Swahili settlement; a labyrinth of rustic, coral-stone dwellings and silversmiths’ studios, minarets peeping above palm trees, and a working waterfront jostling with donkey carts and fishing dhows. Picture a smaller, under-the-radar Zanzibar.
The past decade has been tough, though: terrorist activity in 2011 pretty much obliterated tourism. But after a travel ban was lifted two years ago, “the area is flourishing again and we’re so happy to have full camps of guests,” says Caragh Roberts, owner of Manda Bay, which just scooped Beach-Inspector’s Best in The World award. It seems the celebrities are flocking back, too: Princess Beatrice jetted out in January.