top of page
greece-wrr-1_orig (1).gif
Image by Harshil Gudka

Lamu, Kenya, September, 2025

Lamu Retreat 22 - 28 September '25

Come and join a group of writers in magical Lamu, a tiny, secret archipelago off the East African coast of Kenya. This is the place to discover your story, to connect, to rest and dream.

We are going back to Lamu to write in 2025, and this has now become an annual pilgrimage and a time to indulge in the magic of East Africa.

We have been going there since 2021 to write.  The first two years were in collaboration with the Littlegig Lamu Festival, where the focus of the festival was writing.  In 2025 the festival is changing gear, and so we are writing afterwards when the dust dies down and the music fades so we can find the quiet space to pour our words onto paper.

Why Lamu? 

Since the 1960’s, Lamu has attracted artists and nomads, writers and seekers. They have been enchanted by those white sails against that blue sea, and by Lamu’s hundreds of years of invaders and influence: Chinese, Omani Arab, Portuguese, British, Indian, Persian and African, dating back as early as the fourteenth century.

Stand on their shoulders, as you embark on your own creative journey, led by international writing coach, author and mentor Sarah Bullen.

For time slows right down when you’re sailing by wooden dhow, or exploring a medieval port town with no cars. ‘Pole-pole’ is the island’s mantra - Swahili for “take it slowly”. And, lulled by the laid-back pace, and the legendary comfort and service given by the Swahili islanders, you will do just that. 

  • An early morning (depending on the tides) sea swim in the Indian Ocean mangrove channels with a small dhow trailing you.

  • Late coffee (or a fresh coconut) at the Swahili market, watching the fishing boats as they leave.

  • Yoga at Banana House with Kenyan instructors renowned for their island-style practice.

  • Waking with the call to prayer that rings from the Shela mosques in the distance. 

  • A mid-morning writing session on craft and structure.

  • Anchored writing time at Banana House where you are encouraged to sit, get quiet and finally write. 

  • Time and space to work on your own creative pursuit.

  • One individual session with Sarah during your stay, which will focus on planning, writing feedback, or telling your story.

  • Lunch on the famous Peponi pool deck overlooking the moving tides, or at the local Swahili Cafe on the Maasai market square.

  • Afternoons exploring (or writing) old hidden passageways and shaded villas

  • We gather again in the afternoon for a writing session, with feedback on your pieces or a deeper writing exercise to take to bed. 

This is a six night writing retreat from 22 - 28 September. 

You will arrive on the island in time to check into your accommodation on the 22 September from 2pm and in time for a welcome Swahili dinner. We check out on the morning of the 28th when the writing retreat officially ends. Most flights off the island leave early, but you are also welcome to extend your stay for a day (or a week) and immerse in this magical place.

Travelling to a remote island is no walk in the park - so we want you to look carefully at flights and dates first. I do suggest you add a few days afterwards to make this an unforgettable trip on the island. 

Do yoga
Visit Lamu Old Town,
Swim in the mangrove swamps,
Take long walks on the beach,
Shop in the gorgeous boutiques or markets


Owned by Monika Fauth (Dutch) and her husband Banana (who is from one of Lamu’s original five families), this has the charm of a boutique hotel that feels like an elegant private home, with rooms spread over three houses in a lush tropical garden with a swimming pool. Banana House is also renowned for its airy yoga studio and morning classes by brilliant instructors, and its organic food prepared by the resident chef.  All writers are encouraged to stay at BANANA HOUSE, with 10 rooms reserved for the retreat. 

You, if you need an adventure, plus the gift of time and space in an extraordinary island setting. You don’t need to be a writer or to have a grand project in progress. You may be halfway through a novel, you may just want to write a special letter, create a video on your trip, or you may choose to absorb the other-worldliness of Lamu while your story brews. All seekers are welcome! You do have a story in you.
You can be working on a novel, memoir, poetry, workbook, online course, photography-based book, life story or just a creative writing project.
This is for writers who just need dedicated time away from your ordinary life to totally immerse in a creative environment to write, write and write. The time is both a deep-dive into your own book, and a task-based programme to get your word count up, or finish your book ready for submission. Both advanced and novice writers are welcome.




  • A structured writing journey for your full retreat, including:

  • Daily Breakfast. There we get home-made bread, jam, yoghurt, fruits, juices, pancakes or Swahili breakfast to start the day well.

  • A welcome feast on the first night of a Swahili dinner.

  • A second lunch at the Peponi Hotel to watch the dhows come in

  • A dhow trip out in the early evening to watch the sun set.

  • A tour to Lamu Old town where we will walk through the ancient city and see inside some of the famed houses.

  • One daily group session on a different aspect of writing and/or storytelling, led by international writing coach, author and mentor Sarah Bullen.

  • One individual session with Sarah, to assist with any aspect of writing your story, from structure, to tools, to inspiration, or publishing advice. 


  • Your accommodation at Banana House. Accommodation ranges from approximately 75 USD (1 person in a simple room) to 340USD (2 people sharing a ‘top’ room) per night.

  • Flights to and from the island. Beware, travelling to an island is no easy task. Be sure you know how to get there and your timing. 

  • Lunches and dinners outside of the ones specified above

  • Yoga classes which are $10 per class at Banana House 

  • Massages, extra day trips,  or any extras you want to to your stay. 

Secrets in Lamu

This column was written by Sarah Bullen for the Flâneur column in  Design Anthology, June 2022

You’re in deep trouble if you get your wardrobe wrong for a stay on island of Lamu on the Kenyan coast. The tiny winding lanes that snake up and through the ancient village are filled with deep sand, and that’s sure death to most footwear.


Tonight we are weaving our way up through Shela Village to a nightclub built in the dunes. Shela is the boho-chic hip centre of the island, in contrast to the more traditional Lamu Town and we are ending a full week of writing with some dancing to some top DJs at Mararaha Village. The bar was created by owner Wamuhu Waweru out of recycled materials and using local crafters.


It is the last night of a week-long retreat and all pretence at shoe wearing has been dropped as we pant up the sandy hill towards the eccentric venue, rising on poles above the village like a chaotic scene from Mad Max.


Flip flops are a disaster and will bury themselves deep in the sand and snap, so leather shoes are preferred. Or better still walk barefoot. Slipping off your shoes is just one of the levels of surrender to the elements on this island. Just watch out for the droppings left behind by one of the ever-present donkeys, or broken glass as you near the recycling dump at the top of the village.


Our eclectic group of writers, poets and scriptwriters are in love with the oh-so-stylish island with its many secrets. Lamu was, for centuries, the African version of the Silk Road and epicentre of gold, spices and slaves.  So many invaders over the hundreds of years left a mark on it, which has added up to a rare glimpse into ancient ways.


“I feel like we are back in Biblical times,”  one author whispers as we get lost in the secret passageways, hidden courtyards, narrow streets and magnificent stone buildings.


The labyrinthine street pattern has its origins in Arab traditions, but the village is organised according to local Swahili culture where the clusters of dwellings are divided into a number of small wards (mitaa) where a number of closely related families live. Many showcase Swahili building technology, based on coral, lime and mangrove poles.


Earlier that week we wandered through Shela with gregarious local Babu British, snooping around some of the magnificent empty villas.


The real world feels so far away. We wake just after 5am as the Islamic call to prayer sung by the Muezzin from a minaret wafts down with the warm wind.


That night we had a storytelling evening under the coral and limestone walls of a villa.

“Whisper your secrets to the wall,” British urged us. It is tradition to whisper a secret or make a wish into the vidaka (niches) carved into the walls.


Despite a litany of A-listers, celebrities, and Italian and British aristocracy, that flock here year-round, the island still retains its super-discreet and somewhat mythical appeal. 


The reason is simple, it is hard-as-hell to get there. By the time your water taxi pulls up in front of the beachfront Swahili market and you see the open verandas of all the sea-front villas you are no longer is the 21st Century at all and all that hassle is forgiven. You are in an ancient trading city, has risen out of the sand and the mangrove swamps and time stands still.

By the time your water taxi pulls up in front of the beachfront Swahili market you are no longer is the 21st Century at all. You are in an ancient trading city, has risen out of the sand and the mangrove swamps and time stands still.

Sarah Bullen



Stanley Gabriel, insurance CEO, Johannesburg

The Lamu Writing Retreat gave me the bravery to explore my purpose: I am destined for greatness and my voice can inspire a new generation of leadership.


Trevyn McGowan, gallery owner, Cape Town

A very rare, very special, very cool retreat, whether you have written before or not.

bottom of page