Lake Malawi – Domwe Island

For our last stop before parting ways we decided to head back north to Lake Malawi. You can’t visit Malawi without visiting the lake which makes up 1/3 of its overall border and it was the perfect time on the way back towards the airport from where we just were in the south.

We decided to do this properly and booked for Domwe Island, run by Kayak Africa out of Cape McClear. We were nervous that we were arriving later than the 3pm “ferry” because the road from Setemwa took a bit longer than expected. Well, it turned out the “ferry” was just a dinghy that is used to shuttle guests to the island and we were the only ones around that night so it didn’t much matter what time we got there.

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One the “ferry”

The island and the camp were quite neat. We opted for self-catering so brought all of our own food with us. We booked one camping platform with our own things and one tented platform with one of their tents (we couldn’t bring our rooftop tent with us – too difficult to detach from Fiona so we left them both in the secure parking lot on the mainland.) There are only 6 platforms on the island and since we had 2 of them it was an intimate affair. The first night we were the only ones there and we were joined by one other couple the second night.

We quickly settled into reading, playing Scrabble and a game or two of cards while sipping a few beers and glasses of wine. A perfect, relaxing way to spend the evening.

The camp staff were very attentive, going out of their way to help carry our things and show us around the kitchen while we were making our food. They introduced us to the local civet and bush pigs too.

Around a campfire on the beach the first night and this civet showed up to see what was going on. 

The next day we lazed in bed before a bacon and egg breakfast and chatted through the morning. We decided to stop being lazy and embarked on an early afternoon kayak around the southern point of the island. Now, my mom isn’t known for her kayaking skills but Dad gracefully accepted the added excitement of having her as a partner. We had them set-off first as I grabbed my camera, ready to photograph should any unexpected swimming occur but, much to my disappointment, they paddled away as if they had been doing this their whole lives!

Cheryl and I followed (we too got away with no problems) and we paddled around the island. As we were going along we realized how much bigger the island was than we had expected and after getting ~1/3 of the way around we decided to take a break on a beautiful beach and have a swim and some snacks. We read, relaxed some more and all took a dip. Mom even got her hair wet! Something which was quite the remarkable event during my childhood. Now she did it so nonchalantly. Camping changes a woman.

After an hour or so on the beach the weather started to turn. We went from enjoying a warm, sunny afternoon to dark clouds and a battering wind which whipped the lake into a sea of waves large enough to easily tip a kayak. I helped my parents off through the growing white-caps before Cheryl and I pushed off ourselves. Somehow neither boat tipped and we were able to make it rather quickly back around the island and mostly out of the wind.

It turns out that was exercise!

We enjoyed some more drinks and hot showers when we got back and dinner tasted exceptionally good that night.

We spent the night continuing our card battles – they culminated in a parents vs. kids Pinnacle tournament which we split 1:1 before getting too tired to continue, given the early morning the next day. The trophy is still up for grabs.

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Cooking dinner.  I don’t think it had anything to do with my culinary skills but the food tasted exceptionally good that night after kayaking.

The next morning we were up at 5am for my parents to begin their journey home.

And what a journey it is. Three modes of transport (boat, Fiona, plane) and six different legs (boat off island, car to Lilongwe airport, plane to Joburg, plane to Dakar, plane to DC, car to home). All taking over 36 hours. The things they do to spend time with their children.

Although I was sorry to see them leave I definitely enjoyed the time together with my parents. It may not have been the relaxing time away they originally had in mind but I hope it was even better than they had imagined. Judging by the smiles on their faces (and subsequent Facebook posts) I don’t think they would have changed a thing.

If you are interested in my Dad’s view of the trip you can find a link to his photos on Google+ here:

Next stop: Not sure. Either West into Zambia for a few days in Lower Zambezi National Park, further North into Malawi or South into Mozambique and back along the beach front. Essentially anywhere but East. That would be back into the lake and we just did that.

2 thoughts on “Lake Malawi – Domwe Island

  1. You are right,Josh. I would not have changed a thing. This was a trip of a lifetime. We were amazed at all you and Cheryl did to make it an amazing trip…..far better than a resort with drinks in hand. I am now calling myself an experienced “extreme” camper (words are relative) and experienced kayaker! Would do the whole experience over again with even more gusto.

    Love you both.


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