Paddling around the tip of the peninsula between Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear at the southern tip of Lake Malawi, I had a quite strong feeling that I’d be rounding the bend to a small tourist city.
Having only been to Malawi once at a very young and innocent age, my memories were of sitting naked on the beach and trying to catch mosquitoes with a tennis racket. I couldn’t quite remember the size of Cape Maclear, and with the knowledge of its popularity among tourists, I was certain that it would have grown substantially in my absence.
I was wrong. The adorable little village surprised me to be one that still functions and thrives on basic principles; ones that seem to be core principles of lake-shore life: fishing, casual trade and relaxation.
Luckily, I was beached there for three days and had ample time to do what I love most: kick my shoes off, walk around and take photos.
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Reflecting on my blissful time there and observing the prospect of returning, I can easily say that it’s not only for the perfectly warm and crystal-clear water, or the magnificent sunrises and sunsets, or the interesting village back-roads, or the relaxed atmosphere of a quaint lakeside village, that I would go back.
It’s the people that make this place what it is. The warm, friendly people with ceaseless smiles on their faces who embrace you into their way of life and let you go with an echo of laughter that’ll scratch your travel spirit until the day you make it back.
I’m glad I now have fonder memories with which to return…
Things to do in Cape Maclear:
- Take a ride in a local’s mokoro. With a bit of bargaining, someone will happily take you across the bay for about 1000 kwatcha, or R30. Expect beach stops to bail out water.
- Play bao with a local. While many people sell their hand-crafted pieces of this legendary game, when business is quiet they’ll be more than happy to accept your challenge at a game, especially if you tell them you already know how to play. If not, they’ll happily teach you too.
- Kayak around an island. The waters of the bay of Cape Maclear are protected from the vicious winds and swells on the lake. Ideal for kayaking! And there are a few islands easily travelled to by kayak. Thumbi West island is closest at 1km off shore, while Domwe lies at about 5km and Mumbo, 16km. Kayaks can be hired from Kayak Africa.
- Play soccer with the locals. You won’t have to walk far to spot a soccer match happening in the village. Generally at dusk. Join in!
- Sample some local cuisine. There are a few restaurants to go to. Avoid these. Head down the street, follow your nostrils and you’ll find some stalls selling cheap local food. They’re a good distraction from the myriad craft stalls, and you’ll definitely make the owner’s day by visiting.
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