My boyfriend and I have been on a trip across the north coast, booking stays at boutique romantic beachfront owner-run properties where our days are spent going on romantic sunset cruises, sipping good wine and going on long walks along pristine beaches (and somehow still managing to have the occasional argument). We save the best for last; The Cabanas at Kizingoni Beach in Lamu. This property was actually my suggestion, having visited it previously in 2016 and vowing to one day return with a partner.
Arriving at the all-too familiar Manda Airport, a prearranged speedboat with a friendly captain picks us up from the jetty and pretty soon we’re darting across the sea past mangrove forests towards the southern end of the Lamu archipelago. Set a little far from the airport (we wanted somewhere secluded where the only other people we would bump into would either be staff or a fisherman passing through), it takes us about 35 minutes to get there. “Is that it?” he asks eagerly as we approach Matondoni, then Kipungani. “When you see it, believe me, you will know it,” I respond.
Everything falls into place as we advance upon a golden stretch of beach where staff members dressed in breezy white shirts are smiling and waving at us. Kizingoni beach looks like a dream, and to be back here with somebody it’s like straight out of one of those romantic novels I spent afternoons poring over under my desk during boring history classes in high school. Perhaps due to the fact that I always had my head buried in books about faraway places as a teenager, I’ve always wanted to be marooned on an island, Robinson Crusoe style – albeit with all the haute style and luxuries of a chic room with clean linen – and this would be just the place to live out those fantasies. As our bags are carried to our room, we are ushered to the bar area for a refreshing welcome drink and an orientation of the property. The bar looks different from what I remember with swing sets serving as bar stools and a comfortable lounge on one end.
Perched on a sand dune and nestled amidst trees right on the beach with unobstructed views of the sea, walking up our two-storey villa, one of eight in the property, is like going up a tree house. Rightly so because given the elevated position of our room, we might as well be staying in one. The rustic structure, too, blends with the environment as the high roof is palm thatched and the walls are made from woven mats. Wooden accents are also everywhere, from the Swahili-style balcony chairs to the large intricately carved mirror above a bed so large it could fit an entire family. Lying on this bed during high tide, you can see the water shimmering under the sun right in front of your balcony. There is also a loo with an absolutely incredible view and one could be content to just gaze at the landscape from there, but alas, there’s an even better spot downstairs where two hammocks, set side by side, bring you eye to eye with the ocean. Bare feet, messy hair, swimsuits and cocktails at hand, we spend a bit of time bonding and enjoying the breeze from here.
It takes a certain kind of romantic to run a place like this, and should you meet Shawn and Anna, it will all fall into place. These two, much like my partner and I, come from opposite ends of the world – Shawn is from Hawaii while Anna is from Kenya. The pair met in Hawaii at a kitesurfing event and it was love at first sight, quite literally, as Shawn saved Anna from a serious kite tangle out at sea. By the time they both got safely back to shore, they were besotted, and have been together ever since. Anna says that all their friends and family raised their eyebrows as they lived and worked on opposite sides of the globe, but the two made the long distance work, spending all their savings to travel to see each other whenever they could. Finally, last year, they decided to put down roots in Lamu, one of their favourite places, to nurture the healthy, happy lifestyle that they wanted to start together. Anna is a health coach and advanced yoga and meditation teacher (which they provide at The Cabanas), while Shawn has been a professional kitesurfer since he was 12, and has competed around the world. He retired from competing when he moved to Lamu as he finally found his perfect kitesurf playground at The Cabanas after a worldwide search, a real testament to the conditions here. He has set up a bespoke kitesurf school and now the couple gets to enjoy the sport that brought them together most days of the year.
We prefer to take our breakfasts at the Top Deck, which is exactly what the name suggests, taking turns tucking into breakfast and swimming the length of the infinity pool which offers views of the ‘jungle’, cabanas and sea. This is the kind of spot which ignites the romance without much effort, and as long as you’re with a partner, you’re instantly put under a spell. You will look like quite the sappy pair taking turns between marveling at the scenery and getting lost in each other’s eyes. For lunch and dinner, chef Njole Zuma is adept at various cuisines ranging from Italian to continental and African. He also whips up fantastic vegan and vegetarian dishes using some of his favourite ingredients such as seeds, cumin, coriander, fennel, fenugreek and cardamom. I love his use of coconuts to elevate the dishes, accompanied by fried potatoes so good that it would be a crime to resist- at least that’s what I tell myself. Succeeding at working ourselves into a food coma, we have no choice but to stroll down to the beach for a massage that sends us right to sleep. Such a tough life. As if to balance things out, our plans for a seafood beach bbq are put off thanks to a bout of rain.
The Cabanas at Kizingoni Beach lend themselves to a do-nothing-but-relax-andget-pampered romantic escape. The staff are ever at your beck and call. The place is also so secluded that when we set off along the shoreline for a walk, we only have sand crabs and birds for company. The villas, too, are so spread apart that even if there are other guests, you and your partner will likely feel like you’re alone on the island. Love is celebrated here, and Shawn and Anna love to host proposals, anniversaries and just couples wanting to escape the rat race and reconnect with each other. You are very welcome to relax into the healthy happy nest that they have created in this corner of Lamu.