Everything at Kizingo is simple. Its appeal lies in the basic, get-away-from-it-all charm.
Kizingo: Our full report
On Lamu's extreme south-western tip, Kizingo (which means “point" in Swahili) is a simple beach lodge of palm matting and makuti thatch tiles on a large, 12-acre plot of sand dunes and scrub. Built in 2003 by the van Aardt family, and still owned and managed by them, it’s a deliberately informal and low-key setup. Unfortunately, as of 12 July 2014 we cannot recommend this property because the UK's foreign office has advised against travel to this area – the Lamu archipelago.
People come to Kizingo to really get away from it all. Most beach lodges in Lamu offer a degree of barefoot escapism, but Kizingo is deliberately very low-key indeed. To a certain extent it’s a labour of love, suiting the van Aardts as a place they cherish rather than as the fruits of a business plan.
You invariably arrive by water, picked up at Lamu airport by Kizingo’s little speedboat and sped past the mangroves around the landward side of the island. Pulling onto the beach at Kizingo, you’ll be in bare feet already, but you may want to be prepared with waterproof footwear as the sandy walk to the main part of the lodge can be very hot underfoot.
You’ll be greeted with a drink and the most informal of introductions and briefing chats before being shown to your room. The guest cottages or bandas at Kizingo follow a similar construction to a number of similar beach lodges along Kenya’s north coast. They’re built around a framework of mangrove poles, with tough matting of woven palm fibre sewn onto the frame to create the walls and a steeply pitched roof of palm-leaf makuti tiles lending a thatched effect. The glass-less “windows" are left open, facing out into the low scrub but there’s no intrusion on privacy as the rooms are well spaced - and you can roll down the blinds if you want. There are no fans in the rooms and needless to say no air-conditioning – which is provided naturally by the near constant breeze of the monsoon winds. A veranda of wooden boards or a roofed porch area are provided with swing beds and seating. Inside, the centrally positioned beds have full-length mosquito nets (though rarely any need for them at this end of the island). The mattresses are foam rubber – not ideal, but apparently quite comfortable. Each room has a writing table and chair. The bathroom is located in an extension of the main building at the rear, and includes a basin on a cane washstand and a walk-in cement shower, or in some cases a simple shower base, with a plumbed-in water supply and a standard flush toilet. As you’d expect, toiletries come from Kenya’s naturally sourced manufacturer, Cinnabar Green. Seven of the bandas are double or twin, with one, the "stilt room" having a second floor, making it idea for a family.
Superb sunsets and sunrises are said to be typical of Kizingo, and having time to enjoy them is likely to be high on the agenda of most guests. Forgetting about work and the daily routines of life are part of the joy of being here – “no news, no shoes" as one guest aptly summed up the appeal. There’s no swimming pool, either, which means you swim in the sea – gently bath-like here, where the creek enters the ocean – and no beach boys to interrupt your progress across the beach.
If you want activities, there are some, notably swimming with dolphins roughly between November and April. Between October and June, green sea turtles choose some of the beach areas as nesting sites and you may be able to watch them laying. Approximately 45 to 75 days later the turtlets break out and flap down the beach into the ocean – and again you may be lucky enough to have a chance to witness this.
You can fish from the beach, kayak, kitesurf (best from January to April and from July to October) and snorkel (best from November to April). At extra cost, Kizingo can also organise water-skiing and deep sea-fishing during the season (from November to April), when humpback whales are sometimes spotted.
There are close links with the Kipungani community, and guests can usually arrange to visit the school.
Finally, if all that activity has tensed you up, Kizingo has a resident masseuse.
Our viewWe only had the chance to pay a short visit to Kizingo the last time we were in Lamu in December 2013, but the atmosphere is laid-back and welcoming and the guests we met there had thoroughly enjoyed their stay. We're looking forward to becoming better acquainted with the lodge as soon as possible.
Ideal length of stay: At least 3 nights.
Directions: Kizingo is on the extreme southwest tip of Lamu island, about 45 minutes by speedboat from Lamu airport, via Lamu creek, between the island and the mainland.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: The Van Aardt family.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: Meal times are flexible and meals can be served anywhere. Solo travelers will often be hosted if they request it. The day starts with a morning wake-up call and tea or coffee (on request). Breakfast will always include fresh fruit and the option of a cooked breakfast to order. Lunch is cold, a three-course meal, served by the waiting staff. Dinner very often includes local seafood, Kizingo’s own chickens and home-grown salad crops.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included
Drinks included: Drinks are not included, but prices are deliberately quite reasonable, with beers and house wine by the glass at about U$3–4, sodas U$1 and a gin or vodka and mixer around U$2. Wines by the bottle range from around U$15-30.
Further dining info: You can have your meals at your banda if you choose.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome.
Property’s age restrictions: None,
Special activities & services: There are cots and highchairs available. Lifejackets and bodyboards are available.
Generally recommended for children: Kizingo is probably best for teens or older.
Notes: With no pool and a fairly adult environment, there’s not enough to keep younger children occupied here without needing parental involvement.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: Solar panels provide much of the energy, but a generator is turned on in the evenings to provide for the freezer. There is power for lighting in the rooms at all times, but charging of batteries is done in the bar area. Solar heated water is available most of the day.
Communications: Wi-fi is available throughout the lodge for those who ask for it, but it isn’t offered. Mobile phone network coverage is good.
TV & radio: A plan can always be made if guests need to watch something important.
Water supply: Borehole
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The manager and one member of staff are first-aid-trained. The boats always have a first aid kit. Lamu town has the nearest medical assistance at hospitals and clinics. Helicopters can land near the lodge.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is a good contingent of askaris on relatively short shifts.
Fire safety: There are sand buckets in all the cottages and fire extinguishers by the fuel store.Staff are fire-trained. The assembly point is the beach.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry can be done for a small extra charge, but underwear can’t be accepted. Clothes are hand-washed, line-dried and ironed.
Money: A safe is available for valuables.
Accepted payment on location: All major currencies (US dollars, Euros, Kenyan shillings, pounds sterling) are accepted for cash settlement of bills. Visa and MasterCard credit cards are also accepted, with no surcharge.