‘It’s hard to find an apartment here now – the town is full’: they are waiting out the pandemic in style

European accents echo around the bars and restaurants in Lamu on any given night. And there is not a mask in sight.
The Kenyan coast has seen soaring numbers of visitors and well-heeled Covid “escapees” in the last few months. On Lamu Island English, French, Italian, Spanish and Swahili are the common languages in the bars.

The manager of the Peponi Hotel, one of the most well-known places to stay on the island – where a double suite costs $270 (Sh 27, 000) per night – said: “It’s crazy how busy it’s been. We’re full most weekends. A lot of Europeans and Brits are coming down to stay for long periods.” Peponi is seeing its best season in its history, with 80 per cent occupancy during January.

Brian Hingerty, a 22-year-old musician from California who is renting a flat in Shela, the upmarket village on Lamu island, spoke to The Independent newspaper: “It’s almost entirely Brits. They say half of Notting Hill is here. Everyone you meet here has had a deadline [to leave] of 8-10-12 days, then the next thing you know they’ve extended another two weeks, three weeks. It’s hard to find an apartment here now. The town is full.”

Travellers from the UK to Kenya are exempt from quarantine and require only a negative Covid-19 test taken within 96 hours of travel to enter
Oscar is a 19-year-old student at Oxford Brookes University who came out to Kenya on a family holiday at Christmas. He and his parents were meant to leave after a few weeks but have ended up staying on Lamu Island for over three months. He says: “It’s sociable here. I can work remotely. Why wouldn’t we stay?”

Since the end of 2020, there have been reports of celebrities staying in and around Shela, and of parties in the evenings until the national curfew of 10pm. At Manda Bay, a luxury lodge on Manda Island, next to Lamu, where a single beach-view room costs $440 (Sh 44,000) per night, the owners confirmed that they had received several multiple week bookings from British tourists.
“I’ve eaten out for every meal – mostly fresh local seafood – drunk in bars, danced, met new people, attended parties on the beach. What you can’t do in London is available here, and on tap.”
Further south in Kenya, an hour’s drive from Mombasa, lies Diani Beach – known for its white sandy stretches and spacious villas.  Two restaurant owners told 

The Independent that after a rough period from March 2020 when Kenya imposed a strict lockdown, the Salty Squid Beach Bar & Restaurant has now hit new heights in business, with huge numbers of local and international tourists.
“A surprising number of Europeans have come out in the last few months, especially English families,” says Prevett. “There’s a lot of people enrolling their kids in local schools for a term because they just don’t want to deal with the UK.”

Further north in Malindi and Watamu, two holiday destinations traditionally popular with Italian and British expatriate communities, business is also booming. The rise of a domestic market for tourism among the rapidly expanding Kenyan middle classes has made an impact.

Hemingway’s, a five-star hotel in Watamu, was almost fully booked for the first week of March. Damian Davies, who was involved in setting up Hemingway’s and is now a managing director of another resort in the area, Turtle Bay Beach Club, said: “The property market is in private rentals here due to the Covid risk. The interest in Watamu is people looking to rent or buy lovely houses. People have realised they can work in very diverse jobs from destinations like Watamu and Lamu.”

However, Daniela Blattler, the 57-year-old Swiss founder of GeLamu, is less enthusiastic about this new wave of tourism. “I’ve never seen so many people in Lamu in 18 years,” said the entrepreneur.
“Everyone is arriving with a mask. After not more than 20 minutes they throw their mask away. I’m waiting for the big disaster that we’re all going to get sick.”

(Source; the Independent UK)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *