Kelvin, the owner, is a fantastic Rasta man committed to making his guests comfortable and have fun. His place is located within a 5 minute walk of Mayoka Village towards town. This great little café is on a porch that overlooks the lake. He has great tea, and a variety of food. I suggest the banana pancakes, I could eat those all day. Outside the café Kelvin sells artwork (paintings, carvings, jewelry etc) made by him and his friends. It’s a great place to hang out or to buy souvenirs as he will negotiate a price with you but wont be as pushy as some of the vendors next door. When I was there in 2015, he was also talking about staring his own lodge on the hillside, so that might be finished by now, I would like to try staying there if I returned to Nkhata Bay
Kaya Papaya Restaurant
This cute little two story café is on the left right before you hit town coming from Mayoka Village. I was drawn in by the promise of ice cream from the display board outside. The ice cream was delicious and hit the spot on a hot December day. I didn’t order the food, although what my friends got looked great, but it was a nice place to hang out, drink a beer, and listen to some decent music. I wish I went back a second time.
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
Going here was a nice, cheap, day trip from our lodge in Nkhata bay. We met our tour guide at the lodge. Normally I’d advise against just spur-of-the-moment going with the first tour guide who approaches you. It could have very easily been a fraud. But, lucky for us he turned out to be a somewhat decent guy. He picked us up from the lodge in the morning and drove us to the park. We got stuck in a giant puddle on the way and the driver needed to pay some people to help push us out. The park had beautiful scenery. Malawi is beautiful in general, but there was something special about this place. We saw one elephant, some monkeys, some deer-like creatures and hundreds of Hippos. We saw one hippo walking through the woods. I never realized how truly big hippos were until I saw this one! I thought I was in Jurassic park or something. We spotted about a hundred hippos in the lake. We got out of the car and started walking towards them. We were able to get pretty close. Our guide got closer and seemed very excited but my friend and I stopped when they looked at us and started standing up. I know I can’t outrun a hippo. We ate lunch overlooking a beautiful valley, drove around a bit more but didn’t see anything and started back. Now I would say you should go to this park if you love hippos.. but the road leading up to the park we saw a few people carrying pieces of hippo meat that had been poached. Our wonderful tour guide even stopped to see if he could buy some, and that’s when I saw a giant hippo graveyard. So the park I wouldn’t give the highest review for conservation, or variety in animal population (as it was mostly hippos). Our guide was very enthusiastic, cheap, and friendly, but his enthusiasm at buying poached hippo meat threw me off a bit. It was a nice change of pace, and a chance to leave the lodge and see more of Malawi though. I’d recommend going to Vwaza if you’re in the area, catch a nice deal, and don’t have the biggest problem with hippo poaching.
Mayoka Village – Nkhata Bay
I absolutely loved this place. It’s a little haven away from reality. The prices were great. Accomodations range from camping, to dorms, to private chalets. I stayed in a chalet for most of the trip, and then switched to the dorms for the last few days. The chalets are clean, with mosquito nets and fans. Our chalet had a beautiful wrap around porch, outdoor shower, and a nice indoor one too. The dorms are clean as well, and I felt safe keeping my belongings on my bed. There is a nice outdoor shared shower and a compost toilet for those of you that are eco friendly. Everywhere you go on this compound overlooks the bright blue lake. It is on the edge of a cliff, there are a lot of stairs so this place definitely isn’t wheelchair friendly, or “I have bad knees” friendly. It’s a good workout though. They have different dinners scheduled every night for decent prices. There were other travelers coming in and out all week, so it was a great place to meet people. The owner was very friendly and helpful, I suggest getting to know him and his family, they have a ton of interesting stories and advice. As far as the lake, Mayoka has kayaks for guests to use, a raft out on the lake, and they occasionally do boat trips out to a cliff that, if you’re brave enough, you can jump off of into the lake. Occasionally you’ll see a monitor lizard, they live among the rocks, but they try to stay out of your way. Everything you buy here is put on a tab. You can pay off your tab in Malawian Kwacha or USD whenever you’d like. Butterfly Space is a lodge right next door and they sometimes have small concerts and art activities going on that you can join in on. I’d recommend going to visit it at least. Mayoka is about a 15 minute walk to town with gorgeous views of the lake the whole way, it also passes through a pretty decent art market. The men will be pushy with getting you to buy their things, but don’t forget to bargain for prices!
Malawi – December 2015
Malawi is a small but very beautiful country. It is filled with rolling hills covered with beautiful farms. Lake Malawi is HUGE, and filled with beautiful turquoise-blue water. The lake is a great destination for scuba diving. A few of my friends got scuba certified while we were there. When we went they recently raised the US visa to around $80, about double of what it was a few months earlier. We thought that was pretty steep for such a small country, seeing that Zambia next door was $50, and it has a number of famous waterfalls and national parks. BUT we paid it. I was traveling in December with a group of 28 Peace Corps Volunteers. That means we travel cheap. We stayed the night in Lundazi, Zambia near the border and arranged for us to ride on the back of a cantor from Lundazi, across the border, all the way North to Mzuzu. Crossing the border was easy, but at the time they couldn’t issue visas at the border so we were instructed to go straight to immigration in Mzuzu. We made it there alright. Immigration was so slow. Granted we were 28 Americans trying to get tourist visas, but the staff was busy watching a football game. We did alright. I heard that a second group of volunteers that came by a week later were sent away and told to come back the next day, which was a pain. Getting around Malawi is very basic, you take a minibus. We bought out a minibus to take us back a little south to Nkhata bay. I loved my week and a half in Malawi. I feel like I saw enough, and had enough of the transport that I don’t need to go back again.