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Paddle in hand, crystal blue waters, white sand beaches, beautiful sunsets. Need we say more? A romantic holiday exploring Lake Malawi’s unspoiled and deserted islands by kayak.
Lake Malawi is more like an inland sea than a lake, and the myriad islands evoke deserted tropical islands in a way Robinson Crusoe would have been proud of. Mumbo Island is a practically deserted Island and has never been inhabited (excepting the tiny wilderness camp you'll be staying at) so the wildlife and vegetation are pristine. The pristine waters around are renowned for some of the best fresh water snorkelling and diving in the world. African fish eagles are abundant as are teeming populations of cichlid fish species - small brightly coloured fish. Domwe Island is even more peaceful, with only three tents on the Island, connected by an occasional land bridge to the mainland, it also plays host to a variety of small mammal species.
You will spend a week exploring the unspoiled and pristine islands of Lake Malawi. You will begin your adventure, after picking up some basic supplies, by paddling to Domwe Island. This idyllic island is totally unpopulated, with basic rustic accommodation. You won’t want to leave, but there’s even more to come…
After spending a couple of days exploring the 11km perimeter of the island, it’s time to head off to the deserted tropical island of Mumbo. Once you have completed the 8km paddle, you will be ready for some serious chilling out. The accommodation here is very private and is in furnished tents. Only 14 guests can stay at one time, so we are talking seriously peaceful.Your only stress is going to be how to spend the next few days; should you be doing some more kayaking a bit of diving or snorkelling, or just chilling in a hammock.
Tranquility is the name of the game here and whilst families are welcome, it is definitely chill out in a hammock territory, rather than hordes of children playing Marco Polo at top volume. You don’t need to be particularly fit for the kayaking (and if you are nervous about that bit you can cheat and catch a lift on a boat. Ok, we know this is a kayaking trip, but you can still kayak when you get there! If you are the active type who doesn’t fancy chilling in a hammock, they have all of the scuba diving equipment on site, so you can dive and snorkel to your heart’s content.
There's plenty to see. Effectively a 364-mile (585km) long aquarium, Lake Malawi contains more fish species than Europe and America combined, many of which have evolved in Darwinian fashion according to local conditions around the specific groups of rocks they inhabit.
But you don't have to be a fish fanatic to appreciate the beauty of this place. Within a couple of hours of the minibus-with-earrings experience, the bows of my kayak were biting into the sand of what could have been an exclusive private island in the Seychelles, albeit with limpid fresh water and associated bird life.
My arrival was greeted from the trees by sea eagles that looked like demon headmasters. On a rock around the corner, a group of whitebreasted cormorants lined up to face the evening sun, their beaks open and wings wide, and wherever I walked on the island I seemed to be preceded by the same rainbow skink with a jauntily skew whiff blue tail.
Although the island of Mumbo is uninhabited, this was no hardship experience. A walkway of planks led out to an offshore islet which was home to a luxury tented camp in true upmarket safari style, with fresh Malawi coffee and home-made cinnamon biscuits waiting on the table.
Adamson, who introduced himself as an "island man", chided me gently for having pulled up my own kayak - he would do that - and added that ice had just arrived from the mainland to "chill the greens" - green- labelled bottles of Carlsberg.
Mumbo is one of two islands in the Lake Malawi National Park with camps run by Kayak Africa, a company set up by a group of thirtysomethings from South Africa who've managed to blend the ingenuity of man with the creativity of nature.
The tents are on wooden platforms overlooking the water; you can lie in your hammock in the moonlight, listening to wavelets beneath you.
Kayak Africa's concept is for an all-inclusive island exile, with your own canoe, snorkel equipment and dive gear, and if you don't have a PADI certificate (as I didn't), this is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to dive.
You don't need to dive, though, to swim with the fish. The majority are ciclids, striped yellow or blue, and they are so unfazed by snorkellers that you could almost reach out and touch them. Many species have developed curious personal habits, which include playing dead, holding their offspring in their mouths, and reproducing in a way which would have Sir David Attenborough struggling for a non-salacious euphemism.
(The Times, London, 15 Feb 2003)
Times reviewing Kayak the deserted islands of Lake Malawi
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