Being a landlocked country sitting between Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania, you might wonder why Malawi is on this “Island Life” page? Malawi actually offers some incredible beaches, crystal clear waters, coves, bays, rocky islands and some amazing snorkelling and diving. But this is not the sea, this is all on Lake Malawi which stretches for around 580 Kms from Tanzania for almost the entire length of the country of Malawi and forms the border with Mozambique. The lake is home to tropical fish called cichlads. Cichlads are often found in freshwater aquariums because of their tropical colours and strange behaviour. Males build nests in the sandy lake floor and some guard their young by taking them into their mouths as the first sign of danger.
Aside from the cichlids and sandy beaches, Malawi has some of the friendliest people in Africa. They are very welcoming and love meeting tourist that make the effort to come see their country.
Who should come to Malawi? Malawi is not your typical tropical beach destination, but does appeal to the more adventurous, active person looking for something different. If you have been to Africa before and possibly experienced some of the more traditional beach and island destinations, then Malawi might be the next thing for you to experience.
What is there to do in Malawi? Aside from the snorkelling and diving, there are your usual water sports on offer including sailing, skiing, kitesurfing, kayaking and swimming. On the land guests can enjoy village visits, mountain biking, hiking and more.
How do I get to Malawi? Malawi is best combined with safaris in Zambia and in particular the South Luangwa as there are direct flights from Mfuwe to Lilongwe.
Where to stay in Malawi? Malawi is not your typical beach destinations and so there are only a handful of lodges to choose from. Below are our 2 top places to stay on Lake Malawi.
Located on a beautiful rocky bay with a crescent sandy beach and crystal-clear waters, Kaya Mawa is by far the best place to stay on Lake Malawi. The lodge is spread out over rocky hills and bluffs, in amongst the trees, but all with views out over the lake. Each of the 7 stone chalets are unique in design and location, there is even a chalet on its own little island connected by a wooden boardwalk. There are also 5 private houses on the island, perfect for families looking for their own space.
Kaya Mawa is a charming little lodge and has been voted as one of the top 10 most romantic places in the world by Conde Nast and was recently voted the “Most Romantic Safari property” in the Safari Awards. With each of the chalets having access to the beach, lake, private pool or on its own island, Kaya Mawa is perfect for the adventurous couple of honeymoon.
There is plenty to do at Kaya Mawa including diving and snorkeling, but also sailing, kayaking, water skiing, kite surfing, fishing, mountain biking, island walks, village visits or simply relax in your bungalow, on the beach or at the bar.
The main area has a bar and lounge as well as a restaurant area, all on the beach and facing west to take in the sunset views across the lake. Food is fresh and local. The chefs use organic produce handpicked from their garden as well as locally sourced meat and fish.
Getting to Kaya Mawa requires a flight to Lilongwe and from there a light aircraft flight across the lake to Likoma Island.
Why we love Kaya Mawa:
Romantic spot, perfect for honeymooners
Something different as a beach destination
No salty skin after swimming
Stunning bungalows with their own character
Some of the friendliest people in Africa
Conservation efforts: Kaya Mawa is owned by Green Safaris, who specialize in eco-friendly camps and lodges in Zambia and Malawi, so their focus is on sustainable tourism ventures. There are too many conservation and community initiatives that Green Safaris does to mention here, but as far as Kaya Mawa goes, they support the local community workshop producing art using recycled materials.
Mumbo Island is a little rustic camp on a deserted island in the middle of Lake Malawi. The camp is completely off the grid and is operated by Kayak Africa. The camp is built on the rocky outcrops above the water and in the forests, blending perfectly into the surroundings. With just 5 twin/double tents and 1 family tent, Mumbo Island is small and intimate. Each of the tents is on raised decking with a shaded veranda, hammocks, bucket showers and eco-toilets. There is a small dining tent, complete with a bar located under a large baobab tree and then there is a water sports gazebo where guests can plan their daily activities. This is a real Robinson Crusoe style camp, perfect for the adventure traveler.
Guests staying at Mumbo Island can be as active or relaxed as they wish. With kayaking, snorkeling, diving, swimming in the crystal waters, hike around the island or simply just relax.
Getting to Mumbo Island requires a 4-hour road transfer from Lilongwe to Cape Maclear and then a 45-minute boat transfer across the lake to the island.
Why we love Mumbo Island:
Rustic design and feel
Lots of active things to do
Conservation efforts: The whole camp is completely off grip and runs in an eco-friendly manner. All the décor has been sourced and bought locally, thus supporting local craftsmen and industries.