I think I may have run out of superlatives to describe the amazing Majlis resort. Ever wondered what it feels like to live like royalty? Well, staying at the Majlis can bring you pretty close! Exquisite rugs, hand-made Swahili-style furniture, elaborate well-appointed air-conditioned rooms,and two magnificent swimming pools are the crowning glories of this boutique luxury resort that was once a family retreat for the owners.
Situated on Manda Island in the Lamu archipelago, this beachfront resort, with its reminders of the beautiful Swahili culture, boasts a pristine private beach, breathtaking views and, is a dream for the romantic at heart – and this travel enthusiast of course. High wooden beams are on display throughout the hotel and you can see just how much attention to detail went into the design. To give you an idea of just how everything at the Majlis is pristine, all the furniture at the resort is white-washed. In addition, the cushions, the cushion covers, and the walls are pristinely white as well.
We arrived into lovely weather at the Manda airstrip, which is a small airport that handles both domestic flights as well as private travel. The weather was not too hot or humid, especially if you compare Mombasa or Diani, whose temperatures tend to rise pretty high. If you are an adrenaline junkie, you will be happy to know that a Speed boat is the only mode of transport between the different islands. There is a downside to this however. Should a guest at the resort fall ill, then the speedboat is the only way to get you from the resort to the main land Lamu, for medical services.
At the airstrip, we were met by the resort’s representative who carried our luggage to the Jetty via a ‘mkokoteni’ or cart, where our luggage was loaded onto the boat. The duration of the walk to the Jetty is just about a minute, therefore guests needn’t worry about too much exposure to the sun. Most impressive though are theporters, who in their advanced old age, can still carry heavy luggage into the boats.
After the exhilarating 10-minute speed boat ride, our group was met at the beach front of the resort, taken to our rooms and provided with a refreshing welcome drink. For the Nairobi city dwellers, where dust is common and can be found on every available surface, we could not stop marveling at the sand! There was sand everywhere! And, we noticed that the resort did not have any dust anywhere at all, or on any surface!
The Majlis does think of everything to ensure that they cater for the needs of all their guests. Allbathrooms in the resort, including the cloak room, have bidets. The Hotel is fumigated every two days and the rooms are sprayed with mosquito repellant during turn down time.
We could not find a bug or a mosquito during the entire duration of our stay. But should it rain, the Hotel does get puddles and you are well advised to walk carefully to avoid any kind of accident while on holiday. The Majlis Staff do talk enthusiastically to each guest; orders are serviced quickly and with a smile. Did I mention the long and Pristine private beach? And, unlike other resorts where the fishy ocean smell hangs snugly and permanently in the air – there are people who find this smell adorable – this smell was nonexistent here. I was also grateful that there was excellent mobile telephony connection from the two main Kenyan networks.
Culinary speaking, I would rate the Majlis at perhaps a 9/10. All meals are a ’la carte and the seafood doesn’t have a fishy taste. Helpfully, the Kitchen caters to guest’s needs and they do go the extra mile to prepare a meal that is requested by a guest, even though it is not on the menu. We could have rated their food at 10/10 except that we realized that the Breakfast selection is not as wide as we are used to in other luxury hotels. But where the Majlis beats them all is that their selection is all excellent! I rate their Pancakes at 10/10. I would also highly recommend the crab salad, the crab soup, pancakes for breakfast of course, their mouthwatering pizza and the delicious lobster.
Guests would also be advised that Manda Island does not have a main power supply. The Majlis though is mainly powered by solar panels and wind turbines and is very eco-friendly. However, the Rooms do not have a landline telephone or television. But you can call the reception with your personal phone.
Even though the Majlis is built to inspire relaxation and romance, the surroundings are just as splendid and offer numerous activities to guests. The Guest relations staff will take you for all the excursions chosen and ensure that your needs are taken care of. Masha, (our guest relations staff) was simply wonderful, polite, helpful, patient and informative. He answered all of the group’s questions and slowed down to keep up with the guests’ pace as we walked. Some of the excursions and activities offered at the Majlis include fishing, sea excursions, water sports, snorkeling & diving, yoga & wellness as well as cultural excursions into the main land.
For the sea excursions, we indulged in a Sunset Dhow Cruise which was a 1-hour tour of Manda Island. With the sun setting ahead of us, it was truly a sight to behold! Our captain used the wind rather than the motor to sail, ensuring that the cruise was not noisy as we absorbed the wonder of nature in the calming waters of the ocean. Included in the cruise are popcorn and crisp snacks as well as drinks to complete this experience.
As required of any trip, it is most advisable that you pre-arrange to have a local guide before your visit. We noticed that Lamu locals are pretty keen to assist and guide visitors, but they did always end up hassling the guests, much to the guests’ annoyance.
At the one of the local shops, pure and natural coconut oil (excellent on all types of skin and hair) and Sesame oil (we are told works on aches and pains, arthritis, numbness and swelling) is very affordable at just KES 150 per bottle for the coconut oil and at just Kshs 250 per bottle for the sesame oil.
If you have children, I wouldn’t say that the Majlis hotel is the ideal getaway for families. However, it is an excellent romantic spot and is ideal for couples on honeymoon and those looking to build some romantic memories for their relationship!
The Author is the Travel Designer and Manager at Saffara Travel.
This article was published in the East African Newspaper for the week beginning Saturday the 20th of April, 2019. Read it here as, "Discover Lamu at the Majlis"
Wanjiru Catherine, CEO