Kate’s Malawi safari travels – Lake Malawi Robinson Crusoe-style (part 3)

This is a third post about my recent Malawi safari “recce” trip. Hear about my earlier posts on Chelinda Lodge and Kaya Mawa

I am a bit of a fair weather camper – I look at friends heading off for a three week camping trip into the bush and I admire them, but I do not envy them. I love to be close to nature, in a wild and remote place, but I also love my creature comforts.

So it’s wonderful to find those special places in Africa which are able to offer just the right balance between rusticity and comfort. The next stop on our Malawi safari was just such a place – a Lake Malawi lodge called Mumbo Island Camp just off the southern coast of Lake Malawi.

Mumbo Island Camp sells itself as a Robinson Crusoe destination. Well all I can say is that if Robinson Crusoe ever had experienced Mumbo Island, I don’t think he would have come back to ‘civilization’.  This is a perfect place to chill out -  completely away from it all but still with access to running water,  stunning beaches,  delicious home-cooked food and a campfire in the evening ( certainly not needed for its heat-generation.)

How we got there:
From our first Lake Malawi lodge, Kaya Mawa, we flew back to Lilongwe (just over one hour) where we were met by our driver for the drive to Cape Maclear on the southern shores of Lake Malawi. This drive takes 3-4 hours depending on the traffic and also the pedestrian traffic on the roads. (It took us 3½ hours). The roads are in good condition but you cannot drive fast because of people walking on the side of the road, goats on a death wish scampering across the road and the odd stray dog. The second half of the drive is particularly scenic as you descend down the Golomoti pass from the Malawi highlands into the great rift valley where Lake Malawi is situated. Along the road are toy stalls where master craftsmen sell intricately carved wooden toys: cars, landrovers, tractors, bicycles, motorbikes – every little boys dream. One stall had an amazing bicycle with 27 gears which actually worked. Amazing craftsmanship!

On arrival at Cape Maclear, there was time for a drinks order before we got into our boat for the 45 minute boat cruise to the stunningly beautiful Lake Malawi lodge on the deserted Mumbo Island.

lake malawi lodge, mumbo island campWhat a special place! Mumbo Island Camp has a lovely ambience.  This lake malawi lodges comprises just 5 island chalets on their own little island, accessed by a suspension bridge from the main island, plus one family unit in the forest. The five view chalets are little reed huts under thatch simply furnished with beds, tables, chairs and an all important hammock. A short distance away is your own private bathroom facilities with eco-loo and basin under thatch and a bucket shower which is filled with hot water whenever you want it.

The main area is very simple with a small reading/sitting room, dining area and bar.  Below is a lovely sandy beach in a pretty little cove with hammocks under some much needed shady trees & loungers.

Activities at Mumbo comprise of swimming, snorkeling, kayaking  and self-guided or guided walks around the island.  There’s a small dive centre at the beach where you get snorkeling gear and the best places are close to the beach so you don’t have to swim far.

The guided walk around the island was lovely as well. Don’t believe them when they say any footwear will do! I recommend trainers as the paths are quite steep in places and so it’s good to have some grip. Lovely tranquil forest paths lead you to view points through the fig trees down onto Lake Malawi.

There is no electricity or internet connection on the island. Cooking is by gas and lighting is provided by wind-up torches  (for getting to the bathroom and to the main areas)  and a solar powered light for reading in bed. Hot water is provided by a solar geyser (with a donkey geyser as a backup).

We had a stunning, if eventful, kayaking trip around the island. The wind had got up so that the kayaking was not as relaxing as we were expecting. My partner and I even managed to fall off the kayak much to our amusement. Have you ever tried to get back onto a kayak when you are laughing hard? It’s not easy. But our kayaking guide was right there with a helping hand – and amazingly, a straight face – and we were on our way again. The trip around the island takes about an hour and is very safe as you are always close to the shoreline.

If you are interested in booking Mumbo Island Camp or any other Lake Malawi lodge, contact us.

PS: Yes, it really is this pretty!

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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