We are spoilt with amazing places to stay all over Lake Malawi. From south to north, there are awesome lodges where you can relax as much, or as little, as you want and have an all-around excellent experience.
Blue Zebra, a favourite of all the Crafted Africa team, is in a gorgeous spot and the management team add to the whole experience, Jen and Duncs make Blue Zebra what it is. Ok, we are a little biased as they did work for us at The Funky Cichlid and do always stay with us in Lilongwe, however, we would bet our bottom dollar that anyone who has experienced their hospitality would agree. In addition to Jen and Duncs, master cocktail barman Bryan and the fantastic chef Heston, the whole Blue Zebra team do make you feel part of the family. It is probably one of the main reasons we like to head that way as often as we do.
The lodge is well located, only a 20-minute boat ride from Senga Bay (which is only a 1.5hr drive from Lilongwe International Airport). This makes Blue Zebra your perfect first or last stop in Malawi. Blue Zebra also connects nicely with Mumbo Island (only a 20-minute boat ride) or Cape Maclear (40-minute boat ride) making it easy to connect with Southern Malawi. Additionally, it is only a 5-7 hours road transfer to connect with South Luangwa in Zambia and if you can stretch that budget then you can catch an hour’s flight with Fly Ulendo from Lilongwe to Mfuwe.
Although the waters around the island are not as crystal clear as some parts of the lake, they do make up for this with their infinity pool, their upmarket safari tents, delicious cocktails and tasty meals. If you enjoy a little bit of birding, there are lots to be seen here and they are having a variety of small mammals and antelope being re-introduced to the island by African Parks-if you ever wanted a Snow White moment here is the place to do it.
It is also good to note that getting to the island you will need to wade in the waters at Senga Bay to hop onto the boat transfer, as this side of the lake is not very well protected the waters can get a little rough…hold tight, but the end destination is totally worth it.
Mumbo Island, another one of our favourites and barefoot luxury at its best. Mumbo is hands down the most beautiful part of the lake and offers breathtaking views of the crystal-clear waters that surround you. This little piece of paradise is either a 20-minute boat ride from Blue Zebra Island Lodge or a 45-minute boat ride from Cape Maclear, also connecting it perfectly with Southern Malawi. The geographic location is however not ideal for your first or last night in Malawi as it is a 3-hour road transfer from Cape Maclear to Lilongwe or Blantyre airports. We think it is best to have Mumbo in the middle of the trip.
The snorkelling and diving in this area are world-class (by freshwater standards of course), with over 800 species of Malawi Cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. You really feel like you are looking down into an aquarium from your chalet. The birdlife is a twitchers paradise too, African Fish Eagles, kingfishers, cormorants and so much more. Mumbo is managed by the wonderful Kelly, who is also a great host and goes the extra mile to make your stay comfortable and memorable, nothing is ever too big or too small.
Mumbo’s accommodation is in basic, thatched chalets that overlook the turquoise waters, with simple en-suite bathrooms, bucket showers and no electricity. Mumbo is the epitome of your Robinson Crusoe’ experience. The lodge is completely eco-friendly offering only solar power, it is the perfect digital detox destination, with no Wi-Fi or phone signal…so if Wi-Fi and hairdryers are a prerequisite for you then this place is not for you… but we love it. 5 of the 6 chalets overlooking the waters and the family chalet is a little further into the bush, but still in walking distance from the main area.
As well as snorkelling and diving you can also enjoy a kayak around the island, enjoy some downtime on the private beach or walk up the hill for sunrise or sunset. We highly recommend this, head to ‘Pod Rock’ and relish in the peaceful and breathtaking surroundings.
Pumulani, set in a stunning location, on a hillside with fantastic views of Lake Malawi, Pumulani could just as easily be a villa in Santorini. It is close enough to Cape Maclear for a day trip but also in a unique location where you feel you are off the tourist trail. A 2-hour drive from Liwonde National Park, 3 hours’ drive from Lilongwe, 4 hours’ drive from Nkhotakota or a short boat transfer to Mumbo Island or Blue Zebra.
The lodge itself offers comfortable and luxurious villas with gorgeous views over the lake, warm hospitality and delicious food. The dining deck and infinity pool also boast breathtaking views and come night time you can learn all about how to use the stargazer. Recently, they have also built a new pool and it is right on the beach.
Come sunset it is definitely worth taking a cruise on the Dhow, which is a beautiful way to watch the sunset and feed the fish eagles. In addition to this there are a number of other activities on offer, take a kayak out to the islands, hop on one of the bikes and explore the area or float around on a SUP (stand up paddle-board) in the calm waters, it’s all included in the price too! If you wish to do a bit of diving or motorised water sports they offer this too, it is additional but totally worth the extra pennies. Pumulani is the perfect option when considering the other Robin Pope properties and long stays, they offer wonderful specials between Malawi and Zambia.
Kaya Mawa, located on Likoma Island which is further north, so the best way to get there is a short 1-hour flight from Lilongwe. Alternatively, if you are planning to see other parts of this beautiful country you can also fly from Nkhotakota, Chelinda, Liwonde, Southern Lakeshore and Majete. It is good to note that the flight is not cheap, however, it is pretty much a private charter and offers an incredibly scenic flight over Lake Malawi, the views are spectacular. Fly Ulendo offers regularly scheduled flights as well as a supplement for non-scheduled flights.
This little slice of paradise is nestled into a golden sandy bay on Likoma Island in central Lake Malawi. The waters around Kaya Mawa are crystal clear and dotted with rocky outcrops and lazy sandy bays that slope down to some of the deepest parts of this vast freshwater lake. You get the distinct feel of island life here, a slower pace and everyone is incredibly friendly…renowned in Malawi of course! Baobabs are in abundance their distinctive figures add to the landscape, making it unmistakably African. The feel is rustic chic, with the chalets nestled amongst the rocks and lush vegetation. They are white on the inside, stone and thatch on the outside and each chalet has its own special features; namely, an incredible view that is unique and the premium rooms all have their very own plunge pools.
Ali and Oli, the management couple here are wonderful, they are assisted by Mike and Lucy and together they make the perfect team. All the local staff at Kaya Mawa are warm, friendly and quick to make sure you have everything you need, they too add to the experience. The food at Kaya Mawa is first class, healthy, tasty and plenty of it. The wine selection is also impressive, as are the selections of craft gins and classy whiskeys. As for activities, kayaking, snorkelling and SUP’s are all available and included in the rate. Like most lodges around, diving is extra, it is good to note that the diving here is fantastic so add it to your list whether you are just starting out or have all the qualifications. The dive instructor, Cedric is very experienced and knows all the best spots. E-bicycles are also an additional extra and a great way to see the rest of the island, especially the beautiful Cathedral. The spa overlooking the lake is also a nice touch and Ruth is a very skilled masseuse….heavenly.
All in all Kaya Mawa ticks all the right boxes and is a perfect way to end your time in Africa.
So, if you think the Lake sounds like a bit of you, get in touch with us and we will tailor the perfect itinerary for you.