Interview Sandy Bornman: From conservationist to Lamu local, Kenya

by | 14 03 2021 | Africa, Interviews, Travel

Originally from South Africa, Sandy Bornman has lived and worked as a conservationist in Zambia and Botswana before coming to the Kenyan island of Lamu in 2000, together with her two daughters Jemima & Ruby.

We discover the small coastal town of Lamu, a slice of Kenyan paradise with – by now – Lamu local and boutique owner Sandy. She let’s us in on her daily life and inspiration, what Intentional living means to her and her best insider tips on the island.

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Lamu Sandy Bornman Kenya

Images via @sandylamu

You came to Lamu in 2000. What made you come and what made you stay?

We had visited the island the previous year with friends from Zambia. I decided to visit Lamu again with my girls who were 4 and 2 years, but this time we never left and made the island our home.


 What, to you and your family, is your most important change compared to your ‘old life’? 

 We lived near the Luangwa Valley National Park, Zambia where one had to be alert and aware at all times for wild animals, a herd of silent elephants suddenly appearing or a troop of baboons turning your lawn upside down or a wild cat hiding in a shrub nearby, and as romantic as it may sound, once we made Lamu our home I could relax about these dangers for the girls. And the people, of course, as charming and friendly in Zambia as they are in Kenya.

Intentional living – what does it mean to you?

To live with intention is to find a unique and small place and live simply with nature and make a living but not necessarily make a lot of money.  On the island, the saying ‘pole pole’ in Swahili (pronounced polay polay) means slowly, slowly and the lesson here is less is more.


Biggest inspiration on the island?

My biggest inspiration on the island is the Swahili architecture, which stems from the 18th century and is influenced by Oman and Persia.


You are the owner of Aman boutique (meaning peace & quiet) on Lamu island, what was your inspiration behind Aman boutique?

Re-inventing myself and having to make a living inspired me to open Aman boutique as there were hardly any stores on the island.


How does Swahili culture inspire and influence you?

The Henna designs, Arabic script and Swahili architecture inspire me to design homeware and have our own textiles printed.

Lamu, although it is getting more popular every year, is still a bit of an insider tip.    Let us in on the islands’ secrets.
Where to sleep?

Depending on your budget sleep at Peponi Hotel, Kijani Hotel, Majilis, Bahari Guest House and many small and big private houses available.

Where to eat and drink?

Eat and drink at Peponi Hotel, Kijani Hotel, Diamond Beach Bar, Majilis Beach Bar, Umu’s Swahili Dishes.

Where to shop?

Shop at Aman, Africa Corner, Ali Lamu, Natural Lamu & Baraka Gallery.

 Something only a Lamu local would know?

Best time to travel to Lamu is from mid-October to mid-March.

 A whole day to yourself – what do you do?

Go on a sailing dhow for snorkeling to Manda Toto. The captains will serve a magnificent lunch of fresh grilled fish on the dhow.

Follow Sandy @sandylamu for more daily island life inspiration.

Lamu Sandy Bornman Kenya
Lamu Sandy Bornman Kenya
Lamu Sandy Bornman Kenya

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