Malawi is still one of the poorest countries in the world, but the people aren’t sad or miserable. They are full of life and happiness and wherever we went, we felt welcome thanks to their big warm smiles and shiny eyes. We obviously couldn’t wait to explore more of this incredible country!
Tuesday 10 September we left Lilongwe to fi-nal-ly go to Salima and Senga Bay on the famous Lake Malawi. For months we had been considering this area to be our potential new home, so we were super excited.
The town Salima is about one and a half hour’s drive from Lilongwe, but it felt a lot further. We were so happy when we saw the signs, but honestly that didn’t last long. Salima is old and dirty, just a big mess. We are used to limited maintenance on roads and buildings in Africa and chaos in the streets is nothing new, but this didn’t feel right. Not that we felt unsafe, but this wasn’t the place to build a new life.
Full of hope we continued driving to Senga Bay and we were surprised about the number of well-known and pricy resorts. Of course it was a magical experience to finally see the huge lake, but to get there you have to drive past so much rubbish that it ruins the atmosphere. There is no doubt that it must be absolutely beautiful behind those high resort walls, but we were disappointed. We now believe that we should’ve driven a bit further north of Senga Bay, but that day we decided to spend one necessary night at an empty campsite before heading south along the lake. Slight changes in climate meant we saw more and more Baobab trees, the one even bigger than the other! Apparently the fruit is extremely healthy, but unfortunately the juice, like many healthy things, is a punishment for your taste buds…
We knew that Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay would be more touristic and that didn’t get our heart pumping, but it turned out to be three amazing days! There are indeed quite a few lodges, campsites and restaurants, but it’s not over-crowded and all venues are small scale and very cosy. The location on the beach guarantees breath taking views and spectaculair sunsets. Our first night in Cape Maclear we found the best camping spot every; in the shade of a large mango tree less than 10 meters from the beach. The whole afternoon we just sat there with a pot of Mzuzu coffee followed by some local beers. All we did was looking at the passing wooden canoe-like fisher boats (mokoros). And of course we had to try a freshly caught ‘kampango’ that evening!
The two days after we gave ourselves and especially the dogs a bit more space by renting a unique reed house on the lake. JayJay and Mocha could finally run around again and easily stay behind while we were trying to meet lodge owners and tour operators in the area. The house was half open, so we still went to bed with the sound of waves and we woke up with the same and additionally the iconic call of the African Fish Eagle. The best way to start your day with a smile!
At Kayak Africa we rented a, guess what, kayak to explore Lake Malawi from a different angle. The crystal-clear water is home to more than 700 species of cichlid in stunning colors and patterns. While kayaking we saw lots of bright blue fish and when we went snorkelling around Thumbi Island we were soon surrounded by a nearly full rainbow. Again we were amazed that this is not the ocean, but it’s actually quite pleasant without the strong current or salt in your eyes!
Being active makes you hungry, so we solved that issue in a very cultural way by ordering a local goat stew. After cooking on the fire for hours we still had difficulty chewing, so how much harder must it normally be?