When you think that you will most probably never visit this place, please don’t trust yourself.
You’ll go there sooner than you think, and nothing can stop you, not even a new virus variant announced just a day before departure. The year is 2018 and I am looking at the wearetravelgirls.com photos from their Mumbo Island trip, since then Malawi is on my list, but in the category, probably when I retire. Just 3 years after we made it and Mumbo Island was definitively the highlight of the trip. Since we decided to skip Tanzania, as it would be just too much of a pure car time, the best decision ever was taken and we got to spend 15 days in the “warm hearth of Africa”. And we were traveling so “planless” south to north spontaneously planning the sleepovers, it is so easy when your house is on top of your wheels.
Even though the southest, Liwonde was not our first stop, but hearing all the great stories about the park, we took the extra miles and the extra hours to visit the country’s biggest National Park. Animals wise we weren’t so lucky, but still it was an interesting ride, it was the first winch moment, and a moment when we thought we are going to be stuck here for the rest of the night. As it turns out according the locals, we were 3 days late, because the rainy season was starting and the animals were taking another direction.
But even more than the National Park and the strong winch game, highlight for us was the stay at the Liwonde Safari Park & Camping. There we met Fred, owner of the camp for more than 10 years, who told us first hand national geographic stories. He is not only European guy who decided to stay in Africa, but he has a long working experience with wild animals and so many stories that you need to hear first hand. The camp was one of the best from the whole trip, they would prepare the fire for you, there was hot water, the food was super affordable and delicious, but that is not all. There was an observation platform above the river, i could say meditative state of mind was invented here.
The place. My Malawian call. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of the place. You are arriving at Cape Maclear, leave your car, take the necessities, which are swimsuit, and sun protection, devices with full batteries are recommended as the place is fully sustainable and the solar electricity chargers are not enough. There are 5 houses and 2 family tents on the island (Mumbo and Jumbo Islands), meaning that maximum of 14 people can be present at the time plus the crew. There is open bar, delicious food, snorkeling and kayaking equipment and total peace of mind. I can’t recommend it enough, even pictures do not speak enough words.
CAPE MACLEAR & MONKEY BAY
Cape Maclear is one of the most favorite places according the locals, there is super long beach, tons of cottages directly on the beach, people selling handmade stuff, but also a place where you can see how the locals live. Sometimes the views were not the happiest, but what matters is that everybody is trying their best. In this area is one of the most popular expat/travelers hanging spots, the Fat Monkeys lodge.
Lilongwe – Barefoot CAMP
Our arrival in Malawi was directly in the capital, we didn’t spend much time here, just for grocery shopping, gas tanking and atm. The gas stations in Malawi only accept cash, and when you want to fill the thank of a Land Rover that is huge amount of paper. Our accommodation for the night was the Barefoot Lodge, a place run by South African guys, which were very happy to see that travelers and campers are coming back. Their bar was super nice and they are organizing events and gatherings for the expats in Lilongwe.
Many people were recommending places on our trip, places that sound like this Kachere Castle, Mayoka Village, Makuzi Beach, and coming from Europe I was thinking it was actual castle or a village, but they were all accommodations. Then we decided not to visit all of them just under any circumstance, but to travel and stop where we feel like. For this day we had two options in mind and we said we will see which one looks better and then decide. But the moment that we step in Makuzi Beach, we even decided to stay 2 nights instead of the planned one. Sadly because of covid big group canceled their stay here, but on the positive note, this place belonged to us. Only the four of us and no one else. We bought fish directly from the fisherman and enjoyed the following two days.
NYIKA NATIONAL PARK
Sometimes even I do not like to stick to the exact plan, and that is how we ended up in Nyika National Park, (the real reason was one last chance to spot a leopard) also one of the places where instead of one we decided to stay two nights, maybe it wasn’t only us, but we had the best neighbours: zebras and impalas. The park is also home to the second biggest summit in Malawi and to more than 200 varieties of wild orchids. The staff here was amazing every morning they started the fire for us and they were so friendly and were joining us for lunch.
I guess this was probably the second most popular place for backpackers and travelers in Malawi, The Mushroom Farm eco lodge. There aren’t mushrooms here, not even on the menu, but they are owners of one of the most scenic views in Malawi, prepare home made juices and infuse gin, and there is something with this place that has a balinese vibe, maybe the yoga classes. However the camping spots are not the best one, when it gets crowded a line in front of the toilet is being formed. Not very far from the lodge, are the Manchewe Waterfalls, worth the 30 minute hike.
This place is actually the “beach peak” (Luormo peninsula) from the scenic panorama view from above, and no, we didn’t come there because we were so curious to see what is there, but we were looking for a place for covid test and ended up here. The place is run by Belgian couple, who sold everything there in order to develop the region. They are not only providing jobs, but they are really trying to educate and train the people of the Karonga area. They already have a small farm and testing which plants are succeeding, some animals, and the plan is to bring back the wildlife as well. Passionate people 1000%. They serve french cuisine and have delish fruit wines. La Rondavelle is a must visit.
They have 3 menu choices, some went for fish and some for the antilope.
La Rondavelle actually means round built house
We realized since day one why Malawi is called the warm hearth of Africa. People were so humble, end everybody was very helpful. They will even recommend you the restaurant next to theirs, and help the owner while serving you. Of course it is Africa and everything gets done in a slower pace but hey hey hey, you are on vacation.
And we visited many more places, for camping, drink or just to check them out even though they were closed. The Kachere Castle seems to be very popular. Castle Hotel directly on the beach, Rafiki Camp and the owner Sandy were amazing, the sunset view point and the braided bread there were a great reason to stop. One of the oldest lodges is the Kande Beach, we stopped there for a drink, we had it to ourselves. The only open pottery was the Nkhotakota Pottery, they have the opportunity for pottery workshops, but now the weren’t working in full power. There were places that we didn’t like that much as the Sunbird’s Hotel camping, but the nice kurios market in front of it was one of the best, the sellers were so friendly and not pushy. And since on the Northern side of the lake the tourism is not yet developed as in the south, we were camping at the beach in Mikoma Lodge, but that was not a real camp. The difference going north is really noticeable less tourists, more garbage, but hopefully it will get better. From the places that I really wanted to see, but were skipped are the Satemwa Coffe and Tea estate, luckily I found their products in a market, and Dedza pottery, as one of the most famous potteries in Malawi. But you never know when you are going to return somewhere.