Keep Mum-bo about Malawi

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - BY SOPHIE IBBOTSON

PICK UP any hol­i­day brochure that fea­tures African des­ti­na­tions and flick through the pages, the usual sus­pects — Kenyan sa­faris and South African wine tours — are inevitably in­cluded. But one of the con­ti­nent’s most beau­ti­ful, safe, friendly and ac­ces­si­ble sites is con­spic­u­ous in its ab­sence.

Why is no one talk­ing about Lake Malawi?

With well-stocked sa­fari parks, moun­tain treks and ver­dant tea es­tates, Malawi has plenty of draws, not least that, at the mo­ment, you can have it all to your­self.

But the most im­pres­sive draw is Lake Malawi with its moun­tain back­drop. This Great African lake lies in a val­ley formed by the open­ing of the East African rift. It is a vast body of fresh wa­ter which cov­ers at least one-third of the coun­try.

I headed to Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi’s south­ern shore. Quiet by day but buzzing come evening, Cape Maclear is a rib­bon of wooden beach huts stretched out along the lake­side.

The town takes its name from the clear­ness of the wa­ter, and here you can learn to scuba dive, hire a kayak and snorkelling gear, or sim­ply stretch out on the im­mac­u­late white sands and soak up the end­less rays of the sun.

Rac­ing across the wa­ter, bounc­ing on the waves, I caught the mo­tor­boat to Mumbo Is­land. At first the is­land seemed un­in­hab­ited, but as I drew up to­wards the jetty, I could pick out thatched huts cam­ou­flaged among the trees. Mumbo is an e c o - r e s o r t ,

a n d t h e Friendly lo­cals wel­come vis­i­tors The sun casts flame-like streaks on the sur­face of Lake Malawi; the lake cov­ers over one-third of Malawi and is home to ex­otic birds and wild an­i­mals; huts on Mumbo Is­land are made from sus­tain­able tim­ber sim­ple huts are beau­ti­fully made from sus­tain­able tim­ber.

The breeze off the lake pro­vides nat­u­ral (and ef­fec­tive) cool­ing, and af­ter dark the only light­ing is from so­lar­pow­ered lanterns.

Hot wa­ter for show­er­ing comes in a bucket, and there are smell-free compost toi­lets. Robin­son Cru­soe would feel quite at home here.

At sun­down, you want to be out on the wa­ter. Fish ea­gles come into nest as the sky turns pink, and the sink­ing sun casts flame-like streaks on the sur­face of the lake. It’s tempt­ing to keep this se­cret to my­self.

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