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48 hours at Pumulani on the shores of Lake Malawi

Sailing, snorkelling and seclusion



Published on

20 Aug 2018

Updated on

22 Apr 2021

Dancing On The Dhow At Pumulani

Safari life is my dream and a Malawi holiday certainly didn't disappoint, although it was very hard to leave Majete and Liwonde National Parks and head to Pumulani on the shores of Lake Malawi. What would we do there? How would we cope with one breakfast rather than three (dawn nibble, mid safari nibble and back to camp for a full breakfast)?

Pumulani Aerial View
Pumulani on Lake Malawi
Pumulani Decadent Bathtub
Bathroom at Pumulani
Pumulani Swimming Pool
The gorgeous pool

Well, our crew of 9 enthusiastic explorers needn't have worried.

Waking up at Pumulani is a joy in itself, where you tumble out of your heavenly bed, open the curtains and just know the day is going to be full of possibilities and adventure! Welcomed by the happy, friendly and endlessly patient faces of Team Pumulani to a breakfast, not yet totally deserved, but enthusiastically devoured, plans are made.

The Shores Of Lake Malawi
Mumbo Island on Lake Malawi

Having spoken to managers Garth and Rosanne, with their contagious zest for life, adventure and fun, we are off. Seamlessly, like the plans were made days ago, we are in Pumulani's luxury motor boat with everything needed for the morning (and more), heading across the beautiful crystal clear turquoise waters of Lake Malawi to snorkel at Cape Maclear, and visit Mumbo Island, whilst also enjoying the stunning scenery all around. Captain Black hugely endeared himself to us all with his ready smile, vast knowledge and the fact he let the kids 'help' him drive the boat.

Driving The Pumulani Boat
The children had a go at being pilot
Snorkelling In Lake Malawi
Snorkel time
Colourful Fish In Lake Malawi
Colourful cichlids in Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is vast and holds an enormous variety of fish, in fact up to 1000 different species of cichlid, most of which are only found here and numbers of species increase yearly. In we went and as you look through the clear water spotting more and more fish of varying sizes, and a tropical rainbow of colours, you suddenly realise, safari under the water is just as exciting and fun! Especially when you remember a discarded cheese roll on the boat which is then enthusiastically thrown (at me)......I am a human fish magnet!!

Lake Malawi Shores
Beautiful shorelines

On returning to the boat I am convinced catching a fish on a fly rod will be easy, there are so many of them! I felt very priveliged as I cast out in this incredible place. Catching something was not important, which is good as the fish had all clearly been at the cheese sandwich buffet and were not interested at all! Garth is a hugely keen fisherman and later he got me a cichlid in the pond at the lodge, not huge, but a fish is a fish! We put the fish back in the water to grow bigger for the next time!

Fishing At Pumulani
I finally had a fish
Local Villages On Lake Malawi
Local villages along the lake
Lake Malawi Snorkelling

On our way back from Cape Maclear Captain Black stopped a local fisherman to buy some fish...I think we all wondered what they were for. Was my honour as the only fisherwoman being helped by taking something, anything, back to show Garth!? No, I'd have to style that one out myself! We'd all spent a lot of time Fish Eagle spotting up and down the lake but now we were actually going to see them in action. Loud shouts of encouragement were made to persuade them off their baobab perches, a fish was thrown into the water, and then keen eyes began spotting them swoop down, not one, but two...who will get it? An amazing sight to see 20 yards off the side of the boat, wide-eyed children and adults alike.

Fish Eagles Over Lake Malawi
We couldn't believe we saw these majestic fish eagles at such close quarters

Off we headed back to Pumulani. Barely anyone made it home awake such was the result of a day out on the water and all our senses at maximum levels. A perfect day with something for everyone, and a fantastic start to my Pumulani adventure. Now time for gin!

The following day I set off with John on a nature walk to Star Beach. John was incredibly easy to be with on this 45 minute hike. He was very knowledgeable on the surroundings and especially the bird life, with keen eyes like a hawk and endless patience in helping me spot them. The panoramic views of Lake Malawi were once again breath taking and as we dropped down to Star Beach there were our kayaks...I love it when a plan falls into place!

Kayaking On Lake Malawi
Kayak time
Beautiful Lake Malawi Shores
Serene shores
Stand Up Paddle Boarding On Lake Malawi
Stand up paddle boarding

Being on the water at that level gives yet another eye opening view, as rocky bush and vast baobab trees loom above you whilst fish eagles soar around and pied kingfishers dive for fish. As we neared Pumulani Beach I challenged kayak 2 to a race to shore...I gave it everything but despite them showing very little effort, they won. In my defence, there were two of them!! A perfect few hours of relative quiet to really soak up the surroundings of Pumulani.

Pumulani Sea Kayak
Kayaking at Pumulani

This evening is sunset dhow sailing time, again traveling as lightly as a group of 9 can, off we went. The dhow itself is stunning, with beautiful wood carvings all around its exterior and comfortable seating for those within. Sunset on the dhow is simply another level and we celebrated it in style with sundowner drinks, snacks and kiddie tea eaten on board. Then the dancing began. Life has its times where you securely bank moments to pull up on dull days, this was one of the many I had on my trip. Watching 8 of my most treasured humans leaping, jumping, dancing and singing so loud I fear I must apologise to all those attempting a romantic sunset moment, but I wouldn't change a thing. It was simply epic and in that moment nothing else mattered, we were Team Malawi 2018 and we owned the night!

Dhow Sailing At Pumulani
Wood carvings on the dhow
Sunset Dhow Sailing On Lake Malawi
Dhow dancing to Katy Perry

Below are the words of our dhow song of choice.....

"You've just got to ignite the light and let it shine, just own the night like the 4th of July, because baby you're a firework, cummon show them what your worth..." It was such a good evening, this song will always remind me of our time in Malawi.

48 hours of Pumulani is a must if you're visiting Malawi, although I would recommend you stay way longer, there's so much else to do! There are many activities to try, but what really sets Pumulani apart is their dedication to detail, be it for an individual activity or a team outing. The team at Pumulani want you to love it just as much as they do, and that is utterly infectious.

End Of The Day At Pumulani
Reflecting on an amazing day

Wondering when to visit? Take a look at this guide on the best time to visit Malawi.

Looking for some more inspiration? Take a look at our best safari holidays ideas, our favourite family safaris, our big five safari guide or our top African safari honeymoon suggestions.

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