Spectacular and untouched, Lake Malawi boasts an impressive abundance of activities and attractions, just waiting to be enjoyed by the adventurous traveller bold enough to journey to this Central African eden.
Where to go and stay
At some 560km in length, this vast southernmost African Great Lake is blessed with seemingly endless beaches of soft golden sand, along which are dotted several towns, resorts and guest houses offering a variety of lodgings. In fact, Lake Malawi can appear so beautiful and blissful that you could easily be forgiven for assuming it is a tropical island paradise rather than an inland lake in Central Africa.
At the southern end of the lake, about 250km from the country’s financial centre of Blantyre, is Cape Maclear (above), a lakeside village where tourists flock to enjoy the water’s magic. As one of the primary tourism hubs on the lake, Cape Maclear is well equipped to cater to all types of travellers, from those wanting to enjoy the tranquility of a holiday spent lazing on the lake’s beaches, to others after activities like kayaking and scuba diving in the lake’s clear and balmy waters.
When visiting Cape Maclear, you can choose from a wide selection of accommodation, including budget-friendly backpackers’ hostels like The Funky Cichlid (above) and Gecko Lounge (famous for its pizza and festive New Year’s Eve beach parties) to more exclusive offerings, such as those on the pristine and unpopulated Mumbo Island off Cape Maclear’s coast. Built out of 100 per cent sustainable material and operating on eco-conscious practices, the camp on Mumbo Island presents guests with a truly divine and eco-friendly private island experience. Accommodating a maximum of 14 guests, with lodges perched majestically over the lake’s glistening waters, the island is the embodiment of African luxury.
Further north along the lakeshore is Kande Beach Lodge and Campsite, a small beach resort that provides arguably the most relaxed and peaceful Lake Malawi experience. Sleep on the beach in one of the affordable beach chalets, or opt for one of the larger self-catering cottages with their own beach access. Though the accommodations here may be somewhat humble, the experience of staying in this unknown beachside destination is most desirable; if for no other reason than escaping from the outside world and immersing yourself in this unspoiled paradise.
Another popular destination is Likomo Island, the largest inhabited island on Lake Malawi. Crystal clear waters, pristine lake ecosystems, utter peace and quiet and a number of excellent lodges await tourists on Likomo.
Kaya Mawa (above) is Likomo’s most luxurious and exclusive accommodation. Romantic, ultra-private suites offer guests sweeping lake views, with sunset-watching being one of the major highlights of any stay. For an even more secluded Likomo Island sojourn there’s Ndomo House, a four-bedroom, fully-serviced island villa with its own private beach, swimming pool and outside dining area. Staying at this luxe island pad will leave you feeling like you’ve escaped to a magical place far away from the troubles of the rest of the world.
What to see and do
Considering that Lake Malawi is one of the cleanest lakes on the planet with a remarkable biodiversity, it’s no surprise that there’s a plethora of fun and relaxing activities to be enjoyed along the lakeshore. Swimming in the lake’s clear, warm freshwater is surely the most pleasurable experience, with snorkelling and scuba diving being additional highlights.
As the lake is home to unique wildlife species, most notably the 700 or so glittering cichlid species, snorkelling or scuba diving is a most colourful and exciting experience. Cape Maclear and Likomo Island are both prime diving and snorkelling destinations.
At Cape Maclear, be sure to head out to Otter Point (above), a small protected bay with huge boulders and dazzling waters filled with multi-coloured fish. A great way of getting there would be to hire a kayak from one of the beachside lodges or cottages (such as at Kayak Africa) and paddle your way along the lakeshore towards the reserve. If you’re lucky, you may even spot an African fish eagle swooping into the lake to catch its meal.
Another fun and authentic Lake Malawi experience would be to join a local lake resident in one of their traditional dugouts – canoes made from hollowed-out logs – mostly used for transport and subsistence fishing. At Kande Beach, ask one of the locals to take you in their dugout to the island just opposite the campsite. Here, you can marvel at the lake’s pristine nature, and for the daring, an exhilarating 11m or so cliff jump awaits.
Kande Beach’s other popular attraction is horse riding. From Kande Horse, a nearby stable and guest house, embark on an equine expedition through local villages and dense lakeside brush, culminating in a bareback swim with your horse in the lake waters.
Although waterborne activities are undoubtedly the lake’s greatest attractions, a major draw is also the restful and laid-back atmosphere. Even if you don’t fill your time spent at the lake with watersports and other fast-paced activity, simply basking in the glorious African sun with a sundowner in hand will make for a memorable holiday experience.
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM, THE FUNKY CICHILD FACEBOOK, KAYA MAWA FACEBOOK, 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.