Naomi & Charlie cycle the length of Lake Malawi during their Equator to Cape adventure
16 May 2018
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Malawi was a wildly anticipated stint on our cycle journey. The promise of water to jump in after a hot day in the saddle and activities on the beach sounded idyllic. We were once again pleased with our choice of transport - the bikes. Our human powered adventure meant that we travelled more slowly (only just 😉) than the overlanders who would only hit up one or two lake spots, whereas our timescales warranted at least 5 different trips to the lake as we moved south.
So, from north to south...
Around 50km from the border with Tanzania, you find your first beached lake spot at Karonga. After days trailing up and down mountains in Tanzania, the blue waters and white sands seemed too good to be true. Camping on the beach and clinking our beers on the porch of our tent with the horizon as a backdrop after our first dip gave us a good feeling about Malawi.
A day of winding roads and headwinds leads to the next lake spot at Chitimba. A great spot for a beer or two - this is also the gateway to Livingstonia.
A tough cycle inland and out again led us to the widely revered spot in Nkhata Bay - Mayoka Lodge. At this quirky lodge, all of the rooms are mini chalets set into the cliff face by the lake. There’s no beach here, just a cove of rocks to jump off into the sparkling blue. All of the rooms have stunning views of the lake, and there are lots of little spots to clamber down to the lake giving an element of seclusion in what is a busy place.
Mayoka is the venue for activity lovers - free paddle boarding and kayaking is included with your accommodation. There’s no limits or timing, just grab a board and try to stay upright! It’s clear that Mayoka has a community feel - expats, volunteers and tourists alike gather for a few beers over the evening entertainment and delicious buffet. It’s a lively lodge full of interesting people and definitely a place that shouldn’t be missed.
Our next day took us to Chintheche. Just a short cycle from Nkhata Bay, so we arrived in great time and were quickly drawn into our own little oasis. From the get go, we could see that The Chintheche Inn was going to step things up a notch in the luxury stakes. We were greeted with the most delicious iced tea ever tasted, and whisked off to our beach front cabin room. Flowers on the bed and a personalised welcome note made us giddy with excitement for a few days of much needed pampering. Then out of the doors we walked straight onto the pristine white sands. And nobody else was in sight. We were brought comfy pillows for the sun beds, and provided beach as well as shower towels.
The small touches that show everyone at Chintheche has really thought about making everything perfect. After some playing in the pool, dinner was served: chambo fish (obviously) but it was cooked to perfection, and the usual plain rice was swapped for delicious vegetables and salad. A real treat. Still with the beach to ourselves we perched on deck chairs and were startled by a phenomenon we didn’t know existed - a ruby red moon-rise. It really was a couple of days of magic at The Chintheche Inn.
Despite not wanting to leave, we had to keep on peddling southwards. Our next stop - Ngala. Ngala Beach Lodge is set in a stunning spot - views of the mountains and the lake (the only place we really saw both together) with grassy lawns and an infinity pool to add a special touch. We camped on the beach and the night sky really put on a show. The stars seemed to go on forever.
Our next day on the bikes was a tough slog, heavy headwinds made the journey tougher than we’d have liked. So when we arrived at the little tucked away oasis that is Fish Eagle Bay Lodge we were thrilled.
This place turned out to give us a little bit of everything - quirky and comfy rondavel huts as our bed and bathrooms. Beautiful secluded beach with sun beds so snug that an afternoon nap was inevitable. The standalone bar overlooks the lake such that the views from the windows look more like paintings. And the food - incredibly reasonable price (especially compared to some of the lodges) and easily some of the best dishes we’d tried in Malawi. A real treat that should, but won’t come close to, breaking the bank.
Our final stop on the tour of Lake Malawi would lead us to Salima and Senga Bay.
We had been told to head straight to Cool Runnings, and when we arrived and met the staff and owner - we understood why. A bohemian feeling place with options for everyone -camping, glamping, dorms and private rooms. There was a great setup for self-catering, which was handy not just for cooking but also the feeling of cooking for yourself being an acceptable option and not cheeky or cheap! Cool Runnings has both beach and lovely grass to lounge around upon, with yet more nap-inspiring sun beds to boot. The glamping tent that we made our home was like any other chalet - lights, beds, power sockets. The only difference was the tent feel to the outside.
At Senga Bay the lake is the most beautiful, it’s seems to stretch out like a huge flat mirror for miles and miles. The owner, Samantha is full of exciting stories of travels in Africa and would definitely provide some inspiration for any future adventures.
Safe to say, leaving the lake was incredibly tough, and we will definitely be back!