There is paradise on earth, in many places. One of these is Mumbo Island, Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the world’s first freshwater lake National Park. The lake has some of the best fish diversity in the world and also has the highest number of diverse species of Cichlids in the world – such colourful, beautiful fish.
I like finding places to stay that are more green and conserve their natural environment to the highest degree possible, so I was looking around since I am in Malawi for work, and had a weekend to spare. There isn’t too much written about Mumbo that I could find, but a couple of visits on the website had me sold! The lodge is owned and managed by Kayak Africa, based in South Africa, who, from the names, are all about adventure!
To get to the island, one has to take a boat across from Kayak Africa’s main office on Cape Maclear which is full of life, and has the Bohemian lifestyle feel to it, lots of bars, and resorts to stay on.
If you want to get away from all the hustle and bustle though, then I suggest travelling to one of the more deserted islands like I did. So back to my story….after an almost 4 hour drive from Lilongwe to Cape Maclear, I took a boat across to Mumbo Island, my home for the next two nights. My host for the weekend joined me on the boat ride – Matthew, a Waldorf School teacher from Cape Town who is taking a year off to re-evaluate his life – such a pleasant soul!
45 minutes later we were at the Island, and I think I almost fell over in the water when I realized how breathtakingly beautiful Mumbo Island was – surrounded by crystal clear, azure waters where the fish swim free, this truly was heaven! Matt (now on more familiar terms!) showed me to my room which is on Jumbo island – on my various TripAdvisor searches I had found that Tent 4 had the best view of the Sunrise and was on a rock outcrop so was extra special. The lodge was nice enough to accomodate my request.
So my room had a hammock for me to be lazy on( and read away!) The door and windows in my abode stay open all night, and there is no real danger from anything except mosquitoes! Now the bathroom is very special and very green! Perched away from the main room, it consists of the ultimate eco-chic toilet and shower. Soap and shampoo provided is completely biodegradable and has no harsh chemicals whatsoever in it. The lodge has specific agreements to not leave any non-biodegradable trash on the island so all is taken care of. I also put away my own chemical-filled other toiletries to keep the island as clean as can be.
The toilet is a dry composting toilet, so after you are done your business, there is no flush, but you just put in a couple of handfuls of sawdust (right next to the toilet) and let nature and decomposition do its thing! This really is not as bad as it sounds – and its quite a nice, luxurious toilet. The waste goes into a storage chamber and because of some biological reactions, all liquid matter evaporates and the dry stuff left behind is almost good to use as compost, but the lodge just takes it back to Cape Maclear and incinerates it – again, no waste left behind!
The shower is literally a metal bucket, and you have to request the staff to bring water for your bath – which is quite alright! My favourite time was when the sun had gone down at 6.30pm (here it gets very dark very early!) so I could have a shower under the starry African sky!
After seeing my room, I went to hang out on the beach – this lodge has very few rooms so tends to be very quiet, which I like. One thing I must note – there are lots and lots of LIZARDS on this island so if these reptiles are something you don’t like, this really isn’t the place for you. I saw huge monitor lizards while here too! Swimming in the water is just an ethereal experience – as birds fly around you and fish swim around your feet, in the crystal waters!
Matt was using a magnifying glass and the power of the overhead sun on driftwood to write beautiful phrases – I have never seen this done live before so it was very cool! First afternoon, Matt took me kayaking around the island – this took about 45 minutes and in the middle, we stopped so Matt could teach me how to cliff dive – first cliff dive in my life, and oh so thrilling – though my photo makes me look constipated with fear! (On my last day I did a much higher cliff dive and hurt my chest, so please, do learn from the experts!)
All meals are on the main Mumbo island, and are signalled by the playing of a rod on a big wooden frog that echoes off the island!
The sun goes down around 5.30pm and there is no electricity on the island, so everyone got solar lamps to use – this also means that nights end very early! I ended my night watching the stars, meditating, and seeing the hundreds of boats on the lake keep their lamps on to attract fish – this is truly the Lake of Stars!
The mornings are glorious! On both days I awoke at 5am, and by 5.30am the sun was coming up behind the mountains and over the water! Birds started to sing, and I could hear and see lots of Fish Eagles as they soared to their morning hunt – often in pairs! Tea, coffee and biscuits are brought to all rooms at 6am – I thoroughly enjoyed that but noticed some smaller lizards and birds surrounding my chair and the tray – turns out that in this particular tent, lizards like to eat biscuits!!! On the second day I noticed how they all ran around for the biscuit crumbs, and promptly put my feet up on my chair!
Day 2 included a pre-lunch hike to Mpipi Bay with Matt, where we snorkelled away and saw the most amazing variety of cichlids under the water – of all colours too! Sadly I don’t have any photos of me snorkeing because i was enjoying the adventure so much!
That really worked me up for a scrumptuous lunch, and after, just relaxing on the beach! A sunset cruise at 4.30pm was the best way to end the day – on the way we saw a Fish Eagle sitting on a rock, and kingfishers flying around!
The sunset – gosh, stuff only dreams are made of! This is a really romantic place – I just wished Sam was here with me!
Sunday came by and I was very sad to be leaving soon – but some very friendly South African volunteers and their mums invited me to join them and Matt snorkelling and cliff jumping – how could I say no!
And so at 2pm I bade farewell to Mumbo Island – people say this is a much quieter version of a trip to the many Thai islands, but I think it is that and more.
I definitely will be back, this time, with Sam!
For more details on Mumbo Island check http://www.mumboisland.com
Also check my youtube video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRsKDKSTo-8&feature=youtu.be
This blog is entered for the Travel Start Blogger Experience Competition 2015. Wish me luck!