A paradise island combining postcard-perfect beaches, rustic luxury and a walk into real Malawian village life.
Sip a Malawi gin and tonic watching the sunset over Lake Malawi, have a candlelit dinner on the beach, snorkel through the fresh water of the lake admiring the most diverse collection of fish in any body of freshwater in the world. Venture into the island to meet the friendly villagers, visit their textile and furniture workshops or take in the largest cathedral in central Africa. All on a tiny island in the middle of one of Africa's great lakes.
Cape Maclear on the southern lakeshore of Lake Malawi, about a 4hr journey south of the capital Lilongwe, is a magical and mystical enclave that abounds with small secluded beaches, where most are used by local fishermen and their families to sort fish, or are used by local children as a giant paddling pool. A few are attached to backpackers lodges that become bars and clubs in the evenings where you can dance for hours to South African house music or see live performances from Malawian artists. An African beach can't get much better than sitting on white sand, under a shady tree, looking out on a sun-kissed lake, sipping a cold Kuche Kuche beer. It has an extremely chilled atmosphere you can do everything: Take trips out to do some fishing, do some watersports, have a bbq on the beach, head down to the Lake of Stars music festival (in September), or simply do nothing. I've had some amazing times and met amazing people. It is one of the most incredible places in the world, where tourists, travellers and locals mix freely and is a must-do stop-off for any traveller.
Gecko Lounge has a particularly lovely beach, and good food, accommodation etc. www.geckolounge.net/
+265 999 787 322
Google map: bit.ly/sxqZzx
Cape Mac Lodge is the higher end of the market www.capemaclodge.com/index.html
+ 265 9 621 279
P.O Box 2269 Blantyre , Malawi
Google map: bit.ly/vrZgbl
To get there fly to Lilongwe from Heathrow and then get the local minibus service down (part of the experience) followed by a ride on the back of a pick-up to Cape Maclear as the roads are too bumpy for minibuses - although of course a luxury jeep can be arranged.
A year in Malawi was my best year ever, from teaching, to diving, to horseback safari ...
My best tip for someone doing a gap year would be don't rush! Go and live in another country, make it a base and travel from there. It saves stressful planning before you know the country, carrying heavy bags everywhere, more travelling options - lifts with people you meet going somewhere that you can't get to by public transport. Saves expensive flights from country to country - so many options to travel over land! You can meet and make lots of new friends not just people to say hi to but forever friends.
I did mine with Project Trust and lived for a year in Malawi. My year was a brilliant mix of working, teaching, playing, learning and travelling, getting to know Malawi and seeing some of the best sights in South Eastern Africa and meeting amazing people!
+44(0) 1879 230 444
Malawian Style are a fantastic tour operator that cater for all markets. They know all the hotspots from safaris to the mountains and of course magical Lake Malawi. Their scheduled tours take you around and all at the right price but you could do what we did and join a group tour for half the trip and let them plan a self drive to some more upmarket places and give you a bit more privacy away from the group.
What makes a good hostel in Africa? If it were just the fact that it was clean and the prices fair, we would have been content with our stay at the Mufasa Lodge in Lilongwe, Malawi. Add on hot showers, friendly staff, Wifi internet, and a fun lounge bar in the back, and you have the best hostel we’ve seen so far.
After more than 30 hostels in 100 days on the road in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda - the Mufasa Lodge stood in a league of its own. Starting at fifteen US dollars a night for a dorm bed, it’s the best value in the city.
Kamuzu Procession Road, PO Box 7 Lumbadzi, SS Rent a Car Building, Lilongwe, Malawi
Malawi is a fantastic country. I especially enjoyed my time in Nkhata Bay at Njaya Backpackers.
That said though, anything along the coast is generally pretty wonderful. Very, very relaxing after the constant tourist crush of Arusha, Dar, and Tanzania as a whole. It is a magical country, with a beautiful lake, and wonderful, friendly people.
Kande Beach combines a gorgeous powdery sand beach with a variety of accommodation from camping and dorm beds to ensuite chalets. There is tons to do such as tours of Tonga, the local village, scuba diving and horse riding through the forest, then along the beaches and finishing with bareback swimming in the water. The locals are lovely, welcoming and some of the kindest people you'll meet. The bar is great for parties or just a quiet drink, and there is internet access available. Its heavenly and really is the warm heart of Africa.
A music festival in a beautiful setting by the shores of Lake Malawi. It's probably the only place in Africa you'll be able to hear dubstep and kwasa kwasa at the same time...
There's not a drop of mud in sight and it's all for charity so you feel good doing it. The rumour that Madonna will be there this year is probably not true though.
This is a little island with a small eco-lodge. There are only sex tents each with ensuite 'compost' loo and bucket shower looking over the lake. There is no one else living on the island except the birds... kayaking, strolling, sun bathing and generally doing very little is what it's all about. If you are looking for a totally un-commercialized beach holiday somewhere different - this is it.
Mumbo Island (all meals and accommodation) or Domwe Island (if you want to go camping and do your own thing).
Cycling or walking around the island and visiting the cathedral... chatting with the locals in a totally relaxed, beautiful and safe environment. Mass tourism has not hit and the locals are chilled and friendly. The kids will hang out with you and follow you everywhere just because they are curious and interested. The lake is cobalt blue and perfect for swimming...
Cathc the ilala ferry once a week to get there or fly in on a very little plane with Nyassa Air. Stay at Mango Drift backpackers or Kaya Mawa for quirky barefoot luxury.
A family run resort by Lake Malawi. Located at Sani, Nkhota-kota - the chalets boast a beautiful view to the amazing Lake Malawi. Each chalet is fully furnished, and fully complemented by a kitchen and en suite shower/toilet.
They also benefit from environmentally friendly solar power which works day and night, providing those essential hot showers and access to all your electrical needs! A real great place to relax and have a good time.
This is a pottery set on the shores of Lake malawi in a beautiful, peaceful location. The owners have worked together with local people to create a wonderful environment, where you can learn about pottery, have a go at making your own ceramics or just chill out and enjoy the location. More structured 2-3 week courses are also on offer, and you can arrange to have your pottery shipped home at the end!
www.dedzapottery.com/courses.html Nkhotakota is about 200km north of Malawi's capital, Lilongwe.
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