Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Monday Escape: Nkhata Bay, Malawi


Nkhata Bay is the capital of the Nkhata Bay District in Malawi, and it is described by Lonely Planet as “Caribbeanesque” with a “lush tropical indent”. It is on the shore of Lake Malawi (formerly Lake Nyasa), east of Mzuzu, and is one of the main ports on Lake Malawi. It is a beautiful location, and if you’re aiming for Africa, you should consider the tender shores of Lake Malawi.

Bordered by Mozambique to the south and east, Tanzania to the north, and Zambia to the west, Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, runs along most of Malawi’s eastern border. It’s described as the “Warm Heart of Africa”, referring to the friendliness of the people. And it certainly lives up to its name.

The town of Nkhata Bay is home to the Tonga people who are famed for their love of fine dressing; it’s common to see older men dressed in full suits with Homburg hats, spats and canes. Extremely small and cozy, this is a place for aspiring expats with Africa in mind– as well as for those with an authentic notion of ‘escaping’. As with Africa in general, this is a place for those who warm to the notion of culture shock, and seek it out.

Nkhata Bay is fairly small and walkable. Alternatively, you can hire a water taxi to take you from one end of the village to the other; this is also a neat way to see the coastline. There is only one beach around, but it is only a gentle 20 minute walk from the town.

One of the must sees of Nkhata Bay is the feeding of the fish eagle which lives high up on the cliff face south of Njaya Lodge. Trips can be organized by any of the lodges. And if you have a vehicle at your disposal, you should visit the huge Kawalazi coffee plantation located roughly half-way between Mzuzu and Nkhata Bay (as you travel towards Nkhata Bay, there’s a small sign on your right). A very friendly Sikh manages it, and he’s happy to take you around and show you how the plantation runs. The countryside around the plantation is also worth exploring if you want a break from the lake.

One of the best things to do while on the lake is dive. Most of the lodges can arrange other day trips to points around the lake, and rent out fins, masks, kayaks and more. The mouth-breeding cichlid fishes are fascinating and represent the most diverse vertebrate radiation in the history of the Earth!

Also, not too far away is Nyika National Park – Malawi’s biggest national park, located on the 1800m high Nyika Plateau. Can you imagine the views?

Malawi is one of Africa’s true jewels, and at the heart of the continent it is the ideal launching point for discovering the whole of the eastern side of the continent. Check it out!


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