Islands with a Difference - Part 6 - Orlando / Florida Guide
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The population of about 20, 000 lives in just 80 sq km.
Recently times have been hard for Lamu. Unrest in the region provoked governments to issue ‘don’t go’ travel warnings, and travellers stayed away. However heightened marine security has seen advisories lifted and has put this has put the island back on the map. Which is good because welcoming, car-free Lamu is really unique. It’s home to the last and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa. UNESCO has listed Lamu Old Town, which is built from coral and mangrove wood. It is an atmospheric warren of alleys, verandas and secretive doors dating from the 14th century. The beach life is fine too, whether you want to laze in the fishing village of Shela, watch the dhow builders at work in Matondoni or swim with the dolphins offshore. It’s best to go July to October, when it’s warm and dry, followed by hotter January to March. The rainy seasons are April to June and November to December. The nearest airstrip is on neighbouring Manda Island, served by flights from Nairobi and Mombasa with ferries connecting Manda and Lamu.
The island is around 650 sq km with a population of about 14, 000
This is Turtle heaven in the Arabian Sea, the hilly outcrop of sand and palm trees is one big natural oasis. Birds, including flamingos and oystercatchers, flock beaches strewn with rare shells and the wrecks of salt-encrusted dhows. However, turtles are the main draw, four species come here to nest throughout the year, including one of the world’s largest populations of loggerheads, numbering around 30, 000. A hike up Jebel Humr which is Masirah’s high point, provides a good island overview. Combine a trip here with a visit to Oman which is a fascinating country. The weather is cooler and less humid November to April. The Green turtles nest July to October and hatch September to December. Loggerheads nest May to September and hatch July to November. Ferries leave from Shana’a which is a 6hr drive south of Muscat; the crossing to Hilf, Masirah’s main town takes about 1. 5 hrs.
ALAND ISLANDS, SWEDEN/ FINLAND
With an area of about 6, 787sq km and a population around 30, 000, this is an independent-minded archipelago with authentic Scandi style.
The Aland Islands do it their own way free of the mainland in the north Baltic Sea. This cluster of 6, 500 outcrops is ‘an autonomous and monolingual Swedish region of Finland’. It even has its own stamps and its own flag. It’s also the place to have a proper Scandinavian summer stay. You can rent a cottage by the coast on the main island, Fasta Aland itself and make the most of the long days. Cycle to 14th-century Kastelholm Castle or hike the three days 63 km Sadelin trail. This travels via primaeval forests and ancient burial grounds. You can explore the capital Mariehamn’s maritime heritage and then catch a ferry to one of the tiny villages on the outlying islands. You can kayak with sea eagles around the uninhabited atolls and the isle-scattered Foglo area is ideal for beginners. June to August is high season, when temperatures can reach the mid 20°Cs and most Finns/Swedes visit. Around this time it’s light from 3am to 10pm. May and September are quieter options. The fastest ferries leave from Grisslehamn or Kapellskar, both in Greater Stockholm and take 2hrs and from Turku in Finland which takes 5hrs. Flights to Mariehamn airport from local centres are around 45mins.
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