You Gotta Stay In Nkhata Bay
We’re all searching for a slice of paradise yet to be discovered by the masses. Why else do we constantly explore the farthest corners of the earth? Sadly, there’s a shrinking list of unspoiled places on this planet these days thanks to the rise of #wanderlust social media, and the ever-growing reach of tourism and industry. But while it might be getting harder to find the idyllic utopia we dream of, it’s certainly still worth looking for, right?!
If you’re of the same mind; a visit to Malawi’s Nkhata Bay is a must. You’ll see what we mean as you roll down through the hills into the bay, and the ‘lake of stars’ expands before your eyes.
Nkhata Bay is a small, vibrant market town on the shores of Lake Malawi, still relatively unaffected by tourism. As your bus ride slows to a halt in its centre, don’t be alarmed if you’re immediately set upon by touts - all four of them - inviting you to stay in their accommodation. In true Malawian style they are delightfully friendly, but despite their best persuasive endeavours, we already had accommodation pre-arranged at Mayoka Village and had to decline.
Mayoka Village is a lodge nestled in the jungle-clad shores of Lake Malawi, with an open-air bar perfectly positioned to enjoy a beer and epic sunset. For the record, the bright orange and blue sunsets here are outrageously insta-worthy. In fact, the whole setting is insta-worthy; or they would be if Nkhata Bay had internet, that is. Picture your Robinson Crusoe dreams and this would be it (minus the cannibals); Bungalows nestling the shoreline, crystal clear water, dense green jungle.
The centrepoint of Mayoka Village is the bar. A lively place full of 20-something backpackers sipping Carlsberg and swapping travel stories. Open and shady, it’s a cool place to relax during the day and a lively place to have a few drinks, chat to other travelers and play pool in the evening. But thankfully, this isn’t your typical party hostel.
Here, you’re likely to meet travellers, doctors, teachers, volunteers, hippies and everything in between, leading to the most interesting nighttime discussions. Equipped with a fantastic restaurant, the cuisine differs from night to night; the highlight being the weekly barbeque of fresh organic meats and fish, salad and of course, dessert!
Life at Mayoka Village, and indeed Nkhata Bay, is pretty slow. Most activity is focused on the lake and why not - it’s incredibly beautiful. Each day, we snorkelled right from the shoreline in search of the famous cichlids, or swam out to the Mayoka Village pontoon where we’d meet local fisherman, fellow travellers, or enjoy my own company for a few hours a day. Those brilliant sunsets we mentioned before? The pontoon is also the perfect location to catch these from a new angle.
If you’re after some adventure of the deeper-sea variety, those wanting to learn to scuba dive can do so here (Nkhata Bay is one of the cheapest places in the world to do so); courses start from as little as $250USD. If you wish to explore the lake yourself, you can hire canoes and paddle boards and venture where you want.
A short walk from Mayoka Village is the beautiful Chikale beach where you can sit back, embrace the sun, read a book or join an impromptu game of volleyball.
It doesn’t take long to embrace the way of life in Nkhata Bay. The laidback vibe of locals and travellers alike and the unassuming beauty around you makes it easy to feel you’re in true paradise.
People seem happy, content even. And so were we.
If you too are in search of paradise, you gotta stay in Nkhata Bay.
The short of it:
What: Mayoka Village
Where: Nkhata Bay, Malawi
How: If coming from Lilongwe, take the bus north to Mzuzu and then east to Nkhata Bay. Allow 10-12 hours
Cost: Expect to spend between $15-50 USD per day (including accommodation, food, activities)
Have you found your own slice of paradise somewhere? Tell us your story below!
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