Explore the most idyllic luxury beach holiday in Malawi

Kate Pirie By Kate Pirie
17 Feb 2017
Lake Malawi - Kaya Mawa - beach deck.jpg

Lake Malawi is so vast that spending time on its foreshore along the lake seems like a beach holiday. Likoma Island, where I stayed on my recent visit to Malawi, is without a doubt the most idyllic location on the lake.

Known as the calendar lake, 365 miles long and up to 65 metres wide, the pure waters of the third largest lake in Africa are simply stunning. It is also nicknamed "The Lake of Stars" because of the reflecting lanterns that the fishermen use at night on their wooden boats.

It is simply magnificent here – life is peaceful and laid back and one forgets time (until your tummy rumbles for dinner, though actually it is lying to you as you already had a substantial lunch – but, who’s taking note - you are on holiday!).

The visibility of the lake water is excellent, and more than 600 species of colourful cichlid fish are there to be explored. Laid-back lodges, small hotels, friendly locals and simple tasty food all make Lake Malawi a welcome and inviting stop at the end of a safari.

The lodge here on Likoma Island, Kaya Mawa, is outstanding and has received many awards, including Haute Grandeur’s ‘2016 Best villa in Africa’ award and Global Excellence Award’s ‘2016 Most Exclusive Luxury Resort’ among its accolades.

Kaya Mawa is a little piece of chic beach heaven in a very African setting. The birdlife around the lodge is prolific especially in the early morning - green backed heron, fish eagles, paradise flycatcher, weavers making a racket, and they fly from the lake shore to the baobab and raffia palm trees that dominate the lodge surrounds.

  • Lake Malawi - Kaya Mawa - family on beach.jpg

For wildlife lovers there is the fish and birdlife, and for families with children, paddling in the shallows of the fresh water is inviting, and there are no crocodiles or hippo to worry about! The lake is a perfect family destination as well as for honeymoons and older couples. I find its uniqueness is that it does not just have one distinct category - everyone is happy here!

Designed with an artistic eye, the main lounging and dining areas are a feast in beach chic. There are beached wooden decks, palm trees, art works, faded antiques, and turquoise windows frames where white bead and glass 'curtains' separate spaces. White raffia and cane furniture invite one to rest and relax on pink, orange, blue and white cushions.

Blue stripped cushions, bean bag chairs on the beach, and swing sun loungers all add to the relaxed no-need-to-wear-shoes-for-your-entire-stay kind of place. The food is divine too – do not even remotely think that you will be on a diet here – though everything is fresh and tasty and of the highest standard.

Every room and layout is different – some are better for couples who do not want to see anyone else for days, others better for families (slightly apart on their own with plunge pools), and others perfect for an older couple or group of friends sharing a larger villa with several bedrooms located on its own private beach.

  • Lake Malawi - Kaya Mawa - family villa.jpg

The different locations and private beaches are there to be explored and even those who are looking for a restful destination at the end of the safari, but get bored spending too long on a beach, are kept amused.

This is because of the lake itself, the island and its peoples. Likoma is home to 10 000 inhabitants and one enormous cathedral, which seems quite out of place situated at the other end of the island, but the missionaries in the early 1900’s must have known that the productive lake would provide for the Malawians and the population would grow in the future.

I took a wooden dhow trip out right from the end of my room onto the lake. My guide stopped occasionally along the lakeshore where children swam out to us and we went to see the fishermen coming back with their haul, taking the fish straight to market.

After my dhow ride I spent a few hours on the golden sands under a thatch-topped hammock being fed ice cold G&Ts by the discreet waiters. This provided an ideal position to watch the dhows sail past and see the local people coming down to wash their plates whilst the children splashed about in the water.

  • Lake Malawi - Kaya Mawa - snorkelling.jpg

The island and indeed Kaya Mawa’s footprint is dotted with huge baobab trees and on the second day I found a super shady spot under the mango tree right on the beach. As it was mango season, I had it all - gorgeous view, shady spot, food on tap and a glass of white wine next to me with ice cold droplets on the glass.

I was sorely tempted by the kayaks, paddle boards, hobie cats, wakeboarding, mountain bikes, quad bikes, PADI dive centre and sunset boat trips that invite you to get active… But that mango tree and I had a lovely restful afternoon together! Oh, I did finally do something - each room has its own set of flippers and snorkels, so a refreshing dip and snorkelling straight from the beach ended the day before sunset.

To sum up my stay here, Kaya Mawa is friendly, small and chic. This is the sea without seaweed and sharks, salt and sting rays. This is crystal clear turquoise waters, a remote hideaway, cichlids of every rainbow colour, fresh water, warm weather all year, beach bliss, and a perfect relaxing getaway.

Images courtesy of Kaya Mawa

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Posted by: Kate Pirie

Posted on: 4th January 2017

Read more: Posts about Africa

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