A grand adventure to Lake Malawi

When someone asks you where you’d go if you had £1000 to spend on a grand adventure, your mind instinctively goes to the furthest, most exotic place imaginable, because the further away you get from home, the more different the environment and its people, right? Well, not exactly.

When I got posed with this question of a Grand Adventure (supported by MoneySupermarket.com) anywhere in the world that needs to last as long as possible, without exceeding £1000, I could think of no better place than a tiny little country on my home continent of Africa – Malawi.
Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

In Cape Town we live in a fully functional (rather beautiful) city with cars, traffic lights, a very busy and successful business district, bars, hotels and anything else you might associate with a city. Although it’s still Africa, I can’t say that I truly know Africa. Therefore I would love to backpack up the coast of Lake Malawi, a 885km trip, stopping at the many beachside backpackers along the way. Not only is this something completely different from my home and all my previous travels, but I’ll be taking a responsible tourism trip, supporting the local communities, eating locally and using public transport. Isn’t that just the perfect pretext for a more than grand adventure?

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi takes up a third of this small inland country also known as the Warm Heart of Africa. The people here are incredibly friendly and happy to help a wandering backpacker. From what I hear, the transport is an adventure in itself. It ranges between buses, matolas (local minibus services), ferries and the back of pickup trucks and it’s guaranteed to always be filled over capacity with anything from people and their baggage to chickens and fresh produce.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

I’ll start my journey in the south at Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear. The latter is said to be any backpacker’s ultimate paradise. Getting here I’ll take a bus from one of the major cities like Lilongwe or Blantyre. I’ll then join Kayak Africa on a trip to the completely uninhabited islands of Domwe and Mumbo, kayaking there, spending a night on each and missioning back. If I’m visiting at the right time, I’d love to go to Lake of Stars at this point. It’s a three day music, arts and culture festival and I hear it’s incredible. After this I’ll travel north to Kande Beach and on to Senga Bay where the woman who runs the local backpackers is also a nurse who helps out in the community. She encourages everyone visiting to donate blood and it sounds like the perfect way to give back. From here I’ll travel to the tiny Likoma Island and its single backpackers on the lake shores and then move on to the incredibly Nkhata Bay in the northern region of the lake.

Lake Malawi

The backpackers are all situated on the shores of the lake, with endless stretches of sand to laze on and every water sport you can think of. It’s also the cheapest place in the world to get your diving license which means endless adventurous opportunities. Most of the backpackers are situated within a village or community and many of them are eco-friendly. Getting from the southern regions to the north, I’ll take the iLala ferry where you can camp on the open deck if you don’t feel like the crowded main area.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

I’m not planning how many days to spend in each place. The places I’m planning to visit aren’t even final yet. I’m playing it by ear. If I hear of another beautiful spot up the coast then I’ll just slot it into my plan.

Lake Malawi

So here’s an estimate of how far I’ll get with my £1000

Bus to Monkey Bay – £7

Ilala Ferry – £8 max

Dorm bed at backpackers – £4 – £10

Food budget per day – £7

Domwe Island trip – £36

Mumbo Island trip – £120

Lake Malawi

This gives me at least a month to travel as I please. It also gives me the opportunity to travel the way I feel is the best way to travel – by taking my time. No rushing past a place, no single night sleepovers and no cramming a million activities into one day. I’ll have the chance to truly experience this lake and its surroundings, and who knows, I might even have money to spare to explore the capital or some of the other towns in Malawi.

 Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi

I’m excited just sitting here and I’m hoping that my new year’s resolution to see more of my own continent will finally come true. I’ll even make the promise to blog my way up the coast, keeping everyone at home updated about this sure-to-be-memorable adventure.

 This blog is my competition entry for MoneySupermarket’s A Grand Adventure project. Read more by clicking here.

Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi
Photos courtesy of Sarah Duff and Tyson Jopson

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