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Top 4 island paradises of Lake Malawi

Malawi is a hidden gem in Africa that is fast emerging as a complete tourist destination, offering safaris, scenery, beaches and rich cultural experiences. But the jewel in the crown of Malawi’s tourist attractions is Lake Malawi – the Rift Valley’s ‘Lake of Stars’. Home to the world’s first freshwater National Park and covering a third of the country, Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa. Although a lake of crystal clear fresh water, its size and depth gives it a sea-like appearance, with one side rarely visible from the other, and a shoreline of idyllic golden sandy beaches lapped by gentle waves. The Lake is a real-life aquarium, home to up to 1000 species of brightly coloured tropical fish, many unique to the Lake. That’s more species than all the lakes and rivers of Europe and North America put together! Far from hiding away, these fish will swim around you, come up close, and boast their magnificence right in front of your eyes. This vast body of freshwater is not only a scenic wonderland but it provides a wide range of water sport opportunities for those looking for something beyond sun, sand and swimming. And international-class accommodation is dotted along its length, mainly small friendly lodges, that suit all budgets and interests. Options range from luxury lodges and yacht charters to rustic camps, and include the opportunity to stay on deserted tropical islands, each with their own piece of paradise and plenty of activities to keep you occupied. Equally, all offer a truly relaxing beach experience, often in complete seclusion. Below we identify 4 amazing lodges found on islands in Lake Malawi. Blue Zebra Island Lodge, Marelli Islands (Lake Malawi National Park) Found in the Central Region of Malawi and just a 2 hour journey from Lilongwe, Blue Zebra Island Lodge is a unique escape for nature lovers and adventurous travellers. This wild paradise is exclusively situated on Nankoma Island, part of the Marelli Island Archipelago. The three islands of this group are in Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site home to a vast array of rare and colourful fresh water fish (cichlids), many of which are endemic to Lake Malawi. The islands support diverse flora and fauna and are a haven for bird watchers. This is an idyllic luxury retreat with  8 en-suite safari-style tented chalets & a superior family cottage overlook the lake. Secluded Executive Chalets are set in an unspoiled environment, with private balconies boasting spectacular lake views. Packages include a tasteful menu with elaborate 2-course lunches & 3-course dinners. Guests can laze in the hammocks with that book you’ve been too busy to read, chill out with cocktails at the infinity pool or relax with a massage. The more active can explore by kayak, boat or trek the nature trails. Snorkel trips, sunset cruises, water-skiing, wakeboarding and tubing are popular with occasional yoga retreats and seasonal Scuba diving. Mumbo Island Camp, Lake Malawi National Park Mumbo Island Camp is on a pristine, deserted island 10 kilometres off the Cape Maclear Peninsula in the southern part of Lake Malawi and it lies within the Lake Malawi National; Park. This exclusive camp offers barefoot luxury and tranquillity in what must be one of the most stunning locations in Africa. The camp is tucked away on the rocks and beaches of a serene bay and the crystal-clear waters surrounding Mumbo Island are protected, making for excellent freshwater diving and snorkelling. Lake Malawi National Park was established primarily to protect some of Lake Malawi’s very rich aquatic life and the park is particularly well known for its colourful cichlid fish population, which can be easily seen at Mumbo. Accommodation features tastefully furnished tents and family units with shaded decks, hammocks, en-suite hot bucket showers and ‘eco-loos’. The Camp’s construction adheres to the strictest principles of eco-architecture and its operations make an almost zero ecological impact on the island.  A blend of exploration and leisure based activities are offered at Mumbo Island Camp. Kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, boat rides, scenic walks and birding are all available. Domwe Island Camp, Lake Malawi National Park Domwe Island is the Lake Malawi National park’s wildest island. Its ancient forest supports several species of mammals and numerous birds, while the surrounding waters are home to over five hundred species of tropical fish. Domwe Island has never been populated and is still in a pristine natural state. The island is ideal for active guests and those that love observing nature. There are extensive and challenging nature trails that weave around massive granite boulders and giant trees; sea kayaking along the 11km shoreline will delight those who enjoy exploring; and the clean and clear blue waters around the island are perfect for snorkelling, swimming and Scuba diving. The camp on Domwe Island lies at a small beach on the island’s sunset side. The camp is simple yet exclusive, and allows for self-catering, with a fully- equipped camp kitchen (though there is also a cook on hand!) The accommodation consists of three fully-furnished safari tents and two tent sites, complemented by a dining area with bar and a water-sport deck. The whole camp is minimalist and eco-friendly, and is tucked into the lush foliage to create a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ atmosphere of rustic charm. Kaya Mawa, Likoma Island Although not situated on its own deserted island, no round-up of Lake Malawi’s island lodges would complete without Kaya Mawa, a lodge rated as one of the top ten most romantic place on the planet by Condé Nast. Likoma is Lake Malawi’s largest island and is home not only to a number of villages, but also a magnificent cathedral built by missionaries over 100 years ago that is equivalent in size to Winchester Cathedral. Meaning ‘maybe tomorrow’ in the local dialect, Kaya Mawa is a lodge of true luxury, situated on the southern tip if the island on a crescent beach. All of its rooms are handcrafted and designed to fit into the surroundings whilst taking advantage of the breath-taking views across the Lake. There is now a wide variety of accommodation from stone and teak-thatched rooms and chalets to magnificent private houses (with 1-4 bedrooms). Each has its own feel and design and with private decks, plunge pools and direct access to the crystal clear waters of the Lake, all guests are well catered for and truly spoiled. There is a bewildering array of water activities including diving, sail-boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, paddle boarding, kite surfing, water skiing, sailing and wakeboarding, plus mountain bikes and quad bikes for those who wish to explore on land. With an award-nominated restaurant serving fresh innovative dishes using local organic produce and fresh lake fish, and a well-stocked bar with endless views of the Lake to the south, it’s very hard to leave! Maybe tomorrow… Kelly White is Director of the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium. Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium aims to provide you with the best information to make Malawi your tourism destination. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Kelly White

Kelly White is Managing Director of Geo Group Marketing and has been promoting and marketing Malawi’s tourism for over 20 years, after falling in love with the country (as so many of its visitors do), on his first trip to Africa in 1995. Geo Group works for the Malawi Travel Marketing Consortium which consists of the members of Malawi’s tourist industry who are focussed on international markets. Members cater for all travel and tourism needs across the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ – tours & safaris, game lodges, lakeshore resorts, hotels, adventure activities, watersports, car hire, air charter, etc. Recent leaps in its safari experiences are helping to make Malawi one of the fastest emerging and most complete destinations in Africa. Kelly co-authored a guide book on Malawi, has now visited all the countries in southern Africa and has also been working for the Eswatini (Swaziland) Tourism Authority since 2010.

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  1. I am astounded. I never know that Lake Malawi was large enough for islands like this. Considering how beautiful the lake is it is amazing that so few people know that it is a holiday destination.

  2. I really like the look of Blue Zebra Island Lodge, in the Marelli Islands. As well as that lovely small beach, I love that style of tall dark wood buildings (hopefully air-conditioned) that provide some escape from the sun.

  3. Fantastic destinations they all look absolutely great. But how do I get there? Where do I fly into? How do I get a transfer? What’s the road access like?

    1. You can fly to Lilongwe or Blantyre and Malawi has lots of local tour operators who can organise transfer or your whole holiday. Check out the Malawi Tourism website for more info.

  4. Interesting to read about the hammocks at
    Mumbo Island Camp in the Lake Malawi National Park. My wife loves hammocks. We stayed somewhere where had a hammock on our patio, she spent blissful hours there reading. I struggled to get in it, never felt at ease in it, and then tipped out if it in a very inelegant style. I think I’ll just go fishing instead.

  5. These crystal clear waters look mesmerizing! It’s like going in a swimming pool made by nature, you don’t even need goggles to see through these lakes. I didn’t know Africa has these hidden sanctuaries in their islands. The ambience also looks peaceful and relaxing! I hope they serve great food and their accommodations are good. I need to book a trip as soon as possible.

    1. Where are you based? We can put you on to your closest Malawi Embassy for further info.

    2. Where are you based? We can put you on to your closest Malawi Embassy for more information.

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