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. This vast expanse of bright blue water makes up some 20% of the whole of Malawi!
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.
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.
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.
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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From the Nyika Plateau we flew one hour to the lovely Likoma island in the northern part of Lake Malawi. I couldn’t believe the contrast in temperature – from warm jackets & fleeces on the Nyika Plateau to sundresses & shorts at Kaya Mawa, a luxurious Lake Malawi lodge on a tropical island in the middle of the lake. What’s not to like?
Lets put this out there before I say anymore. I loved Kaya Mawa – there was very little that I could fault. If you are looking for a luxurious African beach lodge to finish off your safari – any safari – consider Kaya Mawa.
Before I arrived I was really intrigued to see whether I would really feel that I was at the ‘beach’ on Lake Malawi as Kaya Mawa and other lakeside lodges sell themselves as beach lodges? The short answer is ‘yes’ – I really did feel like I was at the sea: the lake is so vast that the water just stretches forever. Plus the sandy beaches, palm trees, snorkeling…none of this broke the illusion. The enormous baobab trees were the only welcome reminder that I was in Africa.
However Kaya Mawa is also reminiscent of the tropical island of Zanzibar in its décor yet keeping a very African feel as well – very relaxed, very laid-back, very “barefoot luxury” to use a slightly hackneyed phrase. The place is simply magical. The communal areas of bar, sitting area and dining area are set at the back of the private beach with lots of indoor-outdoor living. Lovely western African prints adorn the cushions and bed throws, old fishing boats have been adapted into comfy sofas, eastern lanterns light up the night sky.
The various villas are very fluid and organic, each one very different as they are built into the rocks on either side of the beach. I can honestly say that I loved every villa that I saw. Obviously some are even more gorgeous than others – contact us for our personal recommendations. The three rooms closest to the beach with direct access into the lake (via steps) are standard rooms. These are great rooms but not as large as the others and not as private as this is the best spot for snorkeling. There are also two family rooms (with two bedrooms sharing one bathroom) at the back of the beach. The superior rooms at Kaya Mawa are larger with stunning views and much more privacy. Some of them have private pools (if they don’t have direct access into the lake). Then there are two named villas, Madimba and Mainja, where we stayed (lucky us!). Both have private plunge pools and both are extremely private (if quite a walk from the main lodge areas) and utterly recommended. The Mainja is a family house with two en suite bedrooms, sitting area indoors, alfresco sitting area and plunge pool. Absolutely stunning.
From a practical point of view, Kaya Mawa is an almost year round destination. It closes between mid January and mid March which is the period of the most summer rains. Winter days are lovely but the nights are slightly cooler (June/July). As the season continues it gets warmer and warmer. We were there in late May, and it was a delightful temperature – really warm but not scorchingly hot. In June/July, you may want to put on a long-sleeved top for the evening chill but we didn’t need to. As spring begins, humidity and heat will build and build through September to November and night times will remain hot – there are fans in the rooms. The start of the summer rains sometime in November will cool things down and make it more pleasant.
Bedroom at Lake Malawi lodge Kaya MawaOne important thing to note – practically the only caveat – is that Kaya Mawa is not really suited to the frail as there are loads of steps in the villas, in the bathrooms and also to get to many of the villas. It is not uncommon to have a bathroom area on three different levels as it follows the contours of the rocks. However there are a couple of villas with fewer steps so you need to let us know to request them.
I would recommend at least 4 nights at Kaya Mawa if time allows and more if you are a beach lover or if you want to do something like learning to dive or learning to kite-surf.
The water temperature in Lake Malawi stays constant throughout the year and was very pleasantly warm. I could happily snorkel there for hours. Included activities are snorkeling (from the beach), kayaking, laser dinghy sailing, mountain biking around the village. All motorized activities are extra. These include scuba diving, dive courses, quad biking around the island, tours to the village and Likoma Cathdral, boat cruises around the island, sunset boat cruises and their new activity, kite-surfing and kite-surfing courses.
Kite-surfing at Kaya Mawa – this takes quite a long time to learn so only really possible if staying quite a few nights. However they teach people in the water (as opposed to on the beach) and provide a man and a boat to help bring the kite around so that in theory you spend more time kite-surfing and less time dragging your kite along the beach (having brought it down).