Lake Malawi is Malawi’s stellar attraction, great for kayaking, diving and yachting.
March to September
Lake Malawi is the stellar attraction of a Malawi safari, enriching every aspect of its life. A stay at one of the Lake Malawi resorts is the ideal wind-down at the end of your Malawi safari. Effectively it doubles as a ‘beach stay’. The sandy shores of Lake Malawi are by far the closest “beach” to the prime game reserve of South Luangwa and Kafue.
This vast expanse of bright blue water makes up some 20% of the whole of Malawi! Over 2,000 species of fish occur in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Malawi. This includes the colourful endemic cichlids that are easily spotted when snorkelling.
A quirky off-the-beaten-track destination on Lake Malawi is Likoma Island. This is a remote island near the Mozambique border with a cathedral which would be at home in Britain. All mixed in with a laid back tropical island ambiance.
The beautiful mountainous terrain surrounding much of Lake Malawi doesn’t make for productive farming. So the lake itself is a vital part of the Malawi economy. Fish such as chambo and kapenta make up the main protein source for the lakeside people. So at night, the lake is sparkling with the tiny lights of the fishermen using lights and paddle bangs to attract the fish.
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The idea of setting up Pumulani was to offer a really good beach option post-Zambia safari without the need to go to Mozambique/ East Africa. The link between the two areas is straightforward and swift, as I would find out for myself the next day: when I flew from Pumulani to Nkwali in South Luangwa (I was reversing the normal sequence) the TOTAL travel time door to door was 5 hours, including a bit of waiting time at Lilongwe while the pilot filled out his new flight plan and refuelled the plane. In Africa terms, that is a doddle.
The main lodge is at the top of a granite outcrop, from where the views of the Lake are breath-taking, and the villas are at different heights below. I had room 5 which not only has the best view in my opinion, but is also close to the communal areas in terms of horizontal distance and height.
Other rooms are lower; some are pretty much at beach level which is quite a hike – about 150 steps (my guess, I did not count them!) or a fair 3-5 minute walk up. BUT they do have a golf cart they can use to transport people. All villas have grass roofs and are beautifully appointed. There’s a family villa near the Lake which has 2 bedrooms. The honeymoon suite has an outside shower in a kind of dhow. In general a third or even fourth bed can be put in all rooms. Children of all ages are welcome in low season, but high season JUL-SEP there’s a minimum age limit of 7.
All activities are included except SCUBA and motorised water sports. For diving and snorkelling they take guests in one of their speed boats to Cape Maclear. That takes about 20-30 mins and they go there because of the Cichlid fish. They also have open kayaks and 2 person dinghies, the latter are available to experienced sailors to take out on their own or be accompanied by a guide. I did the dhow sunset cruise which was fab – you’re out for an hour or hour and a half which seemed just right.
I also did the early morning bird walk which was superb. Mine was only an hour but we saw a fish eagle nest and the fish eagles themselves plus many others such as sunbirds and a pygmy kingfisher. Often they combine a walk and a return by kayak in a 2.5 hour morning activity.
Finally on the activity front is star gazing. They have a wizzo 850 x magnification telescope and when I was there Simon was also in camp, and he really knew his stuff. Highlight was seeing the rings of Saturn – yes they really DO exist!
Food was superb as expected. You can dine up at main lodge or down by the beach bar where there’s plenty of shade. Overall I very much like Pumulani and could well imagine chilling out there after a Zambia safari. How many days could I envisage staying there? Well, I think 4 or 5 would be fantastic; I certainly didn’t want to leave!
While I was at Pumulani I talked with Munyama and Ton, one of Robin Pope’s directors, about Mkulumadzi, an exclusive new luxury lodge in Southern Malawi set on a lush riverbank within Majete Wildlife Reserve. When we spoke it hadn’t opened, but as I write it is up and running. This will help create an interesting Malawi circuit.