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Lake Malawi

Malawi, landlocked as it is, might not jump into your mind as the most obvious of beach destinations. However, the spectacular freshwater Lake Malawi (sometimes known as the Lake of Stars, for its reflection of the stars at night) ticks all the boxes for a relaxing beach holiday: miles of golden sandy beaches lapped by crystal clear waters, sheltered coves and inlets, glorious tropical fish and a wide variety of watersports.
Lake Malawi works very well in combination with a Zambia safari (Malawi itself is not a traditional safari destination).

Lake Malawi: activities

A good range of watersports are available on the lake, including sailing, kayaking and scuba diving (the lake is as deep as 700m in places - below sea level!), not to mention swimming and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters, or lounging in a hammock on the beach. There are plenty of tiny islands to explore.  Likoma Island also offers cathedral tours, visits to community projects and mountain biking trails.

Lake Malawi: where to stay

Our favourite lodge in the area is Kaya Mawa Lodge, surrounded by mango trees and ancient baobabs at the head of a bay on Likoma Island.   Build using locally sourced materials and surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of Lake Malawi, Kaya Mawa is authentically African and perfect for a holiday of total relaxation. In 2014 it was awarded a Condé Nast Gold Award as a top 5 beach hotel.


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where to stay

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Client Reviews
[100% based on 1 reviews]

Kaya mawa: Although slightly awkward to get to, Kaya Mawa is well worth the effort.  This is a little bit of barefoot heaven.  We are very fond of Ras Kutani, but this is Ras Kutani +++, I would say in a different league, but with the same laid back charm - even more so.  It is an idyllic situation between two lovely beaches with a view over the lake to Mozambique five miles away.  Lake Malawi is crystal clear, full of myriads of small colourful cichlids.  Each cabin is supplied with two sets of snorkels and flippers and there is free sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding.  There is also water skiing and scuba diving, but these must be paid for.
It is quite difficult for me to describe the most important factor - laid back charm.  The owners were away but the camp was being run by Michelle, a delightful Dublin girl for whom nothing was too much, who made us feel totally at home before we had even seen our cabin.  Meals can be taken almost at any time, in one's cabin if required.  There is a complete open door policy - nothing is locked.  The camp has a superb symbiotic relationship with the local villagers, and there has never been a case of theft in the ten years the camp has been running.
The cabins themselves are delightful, well spread out and private, beautifully and originally designed around rocks, with large decks , comfortable armchairs and sunbeds, and in some cases like ours, with a plunge pool.  The views are stupendous, even from the bed. For us though, one of the most delightful features was that our cabin (Ngani) was overhung by a large tree colonised by 50/100 village weavers and their hanging nests.  An abiding memory for us is waking up in the morning seeing the sun rise over the lake through our open french windows, to an unbelievable dawn chorus of village weavers building their nests, chirping and fluttering to attract females.  This would coincide with the arrival of a pot of delicious coffee!
The standards of food and service were quite exceptional.   The chef was Michelle's partner Rich (who we did not actually meet) and although there was not a choice one's personal dietary quirks were always remembered and everything was delicious.   All the staff knew each guest by name, their favourite drinks etc, and thought of every requirement before the guest himself.   Very friendly but never obsequious.
When we were there there were 18 guests, although I think it will take about 30+.  Between us we had the beaches to ourselves, shared only with local fishermen and children who were very friendly but not at all intrusive.  The reason for this seems to be the remarkable relationship between the camp and the islanders, particularly the local villagers.  All the staff are local and highly trained.  Apparently it is camp policy to employ at least one member of each village family which gives stability,, they supply water to the village, have set up a cooperative of single mothers to produce high quality goods which they sell, and much else.  The result is a very friendly relationship with the camp and guests.
I have been trying hard to think of a criticism of Kaya Mara and the only thing I could say is that meals were served in deep bowls, and when dining at night at candle lit tables on the beach, the bowls had to be tipped up to see what we were eating!  To sum up we regretted that we had not booked for a week rather than three nights.
I have spent rather a lot of space on Kaya Mara, but I don't think you have been there, unlike the other camps, even though we went at your suggestion.  Tell your clients to forget the Caribbean - this is infinitely better!
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Where to stay in the other parks of Zambia

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Map of Zambia

Map of Zambia Zambia - South Luangwa Zambia - North Luangwa Zambia - Lower Zambezi Zambia - Kafue Zambia - Livingstone Victoria Falls Zambia - Liuwa Plains Zambia - Lake Malawi
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