There was a lot of interest in joining us at the upcoming Hacker Beach lately. But, so far, we didn’t really publish a lot of information that would help newcomers know exactly what’s happening. Especially answers to vital questions like if it’s actually happening, if you can still attend, what it will cost, etc.
So here’s a last pre-beach blog post, hopefully containing everything you might want to know. And if something’s missing, just ask via comment, of course! Let’s dive right into it:
What is this all about?
Hacker Beach is a spontaneous gathering of hackers and like-minded people on a tropical island, taking place every year in January. The upcoming one is only the second episode of Hacker Beach ever, after we had an incredible time on Phu Quoc in Vietnam last winter.
There’s no central organization taking place, except for a special accommodation deal (first time this year, more on that later) and some people blogging and tweeting some updates here and there. Every participant is invited to help with anything. Hacker Beach is not a conference or a sponsored event. It’s merely a lot of nice people hanging out on the same island at roughly the same time in order to flee the Northern winter, work in an nice atmosphere, and enjoy the company of friends and acquaintances, both old and new.
During Hacker Beach, we’ll have spontaneous mini events like talks, community sessions, user groups, and so on, all contributed by the participants. Whoever wants to discuss, present, teach, or learn something is invited to contribute one, or ask for one.
Other than these (optional) mini events, you do whatever you want: work on your normal job, or on open source or side projects with others. Or don’t work on a computer at all, and build a float instead. Your choice.
Who will I meet?
Mostly Web and open source folks. For example Mozillians, W3C people, core people of projects like remoteStorage, Sockethub, and many others, as well as entrepreneurs and startup folks. And let me add: all disciplines are welcome, not only software developers or sysadmins!
I can’t/don’t want to attend during ALL of January. What’s up with that?
The official dates just indicate the general time frame, meaning you likely won’t be alone on the island during that time. You can come anytime and for however long (or short) you want. In fact, some Nairobians will drop by for only a weekend or a couple of days, while others arrive in Kenya in December and leave in February.
Last year, most of us just booked rooms at the same guest house ourselves, but this year we have a bit of a different arrangement, so if you plan to come please contact us on the mailing list or on IRC in #hackerbeach on Freenode.
You can also just book your own accommodation anywhere on Lamu, of course.
How do I get there?
It’s a bit tricky, yet not terribly complicated.
- First, if you’re not living in Kenya, you book an international flight to Nairobi. Choose a date, time, and route that fits best for you. International flights from Europe usually arrive in the morning, so if you don’t want to check out Nairobi for a day or two, you can continue to Lamu on the same day:
- Second, book a separate flight to Lamu with one of the local airlines or get a bus ticket there. You need to do that directly on the local airline’s website, and you won’t find these flights anywhere else. Here is our blog post about getting to Lamu!
For most (if not all) countries you will be able to get a Visa on arrival. Be sure to take some cash with you! It will cost 30 GBP, 40 EUR, or 50 USD. Your choice.
- A Yellow fever vaccination is recommended, but not required. It holds for life, so getting one is never a bad idea.
- Malaria pills are not necessary. Obviously, don’t sue us on that one, just note that none of the people writing this text will take them for a month. That said, it’s never a bad idea to have some as standby, because in the unlikely case you’re infected, it’ll help with the treatment to take them as soon as possible.
On Lamu, like in most regions in Kenya, there’s only 3G available. But according to people who even spent their company retreats there, it’s good enough quality. You can buy Safaricom SIM cards at the airport in Nairobi, and they offer Internet packages from a few MB up to 100GB. We’ll also buy some backup SIMs for a central router, that we’re setting up in the fort.
So, you’ll need to live a while without streaming HD video all day. And we’ll also have some fun setting up local mirrors for things we need often, like NPM or Rubygems. But Internet access in general is there, and it shouldn’t be a deal breaker for people who need to get serious work done.
Someone asked about how safe it is for LGBT people to come to Hacker Beach, due to Kenya being known for having conservative views and laws regarding sexuality and gender identity. Frankly, I haven’t researched it thoroughly yet, but in my experience people are just keeping it private there. When traveling the world, it’s always important to respect local laws and traditions, of course, no matter how foolish they are. Let me add that Lamu is a very small island with a lot of international visitors, and it is very secluded, which should make these issues basically disappear entirely. If you have serious concerns, though, please get in touch with us, so we can connect you with LGBT people in Kenya, who can tell you all about it.
Hacker Beach #2 is a go! We’re all set and everything is ready for action. If the idea appeals to you, and you have time and a budget for this in January, you should go ahead and book your flights to Nairobi now! Don’t worry about the details, as long as you get flights to Nairobi and back, we can sort out the rest with you, if you need any help. Don’t hesitate to ask us anytime, and we’ll help you with anything you’re not sure about!
On a related note: some hackers are staying in Nairobi over New Year’s. If you want to come early as well, you can join us at the Wildebeest Camp.