LAKE MALAWI ACCOMODATION
Lake Malawi Accommodations and Facilities
- Four volunteer chalets, a beach chalet, plus a guest chalet for visitors. Bed linen and mosquito nets provided. Electricity is now available – when it works!
- Hot and cold showers, and flushing toilets in a communal block
- Safe drinking water from a borehole
- Large kitchen area, storeroom, and office with electricity and solar power
- Beautiful deck overlooking the lake, and adjoining covered meeting area
- Majority of the local population are from the Tonga tribe
- Close-knit subsistence farming and fishing community
- Closest towns are Chintheche (15 mi), Nkhata Bay (37 mi), and Mzuzu (62 mi)
Mwaya Beach, Malawi — Home of Ripple Africa
Mwaya Beach is located on the northern shores of Lake Malawi, just 1.5 mi from the M5 “Lakeshore Road” which is the most frequently traveled route through Malawi between Nairobi and Harare. It is approximately five hours northeast of Lilongwe International Airport, and Chizumulu and Likoma Islands are directly across the lake from Mwaya Beach.
Situated in a secluded bay, Mwaya Beach has been built to complement the lovely natural surroundings. It is nestled between indigenous bush, cassava fields, and clusters of large boulders on a pristine beach which continues around the bay for another 4 miles in both directions.
From 1995 to 2002, Mwaya Beach operated as a small rustic lodge for independent budget travelers, complete with chalets, camping, and a restaurant and bar. In 2003, Geoff and Liz Furber purchased the property and started Ripple Africa. They have personally financed the construction of all of the buildings and facilities at Mwaya Beach, and Ripple Africa has free use of the property.
While at Ripple Africa, volunteers stay in chalets which house up to three people. These chalets were designed by Kevin Davies, an English architect who lived in Malawi for 12 years and specializes in eco-friendly buildings. Each chalet is constructed using sustainable softwood, together with reeds and locally-produced roof tiles. The buildings are on raised pillars to reduce termite damage and come furnished with wooden beds, wardrobes, chairs and tables made by local carpenters. In addition, beds, mattresses, pillows, mosquito nets, blankets and bed linens are provided. Each chalet has a private verandah and magnificent views of the lake. Depending on the number of volunteers, chalets are most often shared and may be mixed gender.
The communal shower block consists of two showers, three sinks with hot and cold running water, and three flushing toilets. A borehole has been drilled at Mwaya Beach, providing safe drinking water.
Volunteers are responsible for all living expenses. We suggest approximately $45 per week for basic living costs, including food and drinks, plus additional money for local trips. Please refer to the Costs to Volunteer page.
Lake Malawi accommodations are available at Mwaya Beach and Lowani Beach for volunteers’ family and friends, Ripple Africa visitors/donors, and visitors who may be volunteering in another part of Malawi (for example, Peace Corps volunteers). The suggested donation for accommodations, and food and drink, is as follows:
- Visitors $50 per person per night paid prior to arrival (includes food and soft drinks)
- Returning volunteers coming as visitors, or volunteers working in other parts of Malawi, $25 per person per night (subject to availability), + MK10,000 per person per day for food and drink.
There is a meeting and training room with an adjoining deck that has beautiful views of the lake, beach, nearby islands, and the distant mountains of Mozambique on a clear day. The deck is perfect for sunbathing, socializing, and dining. There is nothing quite like enjoying a meal under the brilliant southern stars to the sound of gently lapping waves serenading fishermen as they glide by in their wooden dug-out canoes.
The kitchen and storeroom are positioned at the center of the property, with stunning views of the lake through the mango trees and bamboo. Electricity is now available at Mwaya Beach (although it is somewhat unreliable), as well as limited solar power in the office to allow for the charging of phones and computers, and to run the fridge in the kitchen storeroom.
The Local Village
People from the Tonga tribe make up the majority of the population in the Chibako village area, where Mwaya Beach is located. However, many people have moved to the village from other parts of Malawi and Mozambique for fishing, marriage, establishing small businesses, war refuge, and government job appointments. Therefore, the villagers are very accepting of outsiders.
It is a close-knit, subsistence farming and fishing community. Poverty is extreme, yet in a rural and not an urban sense. Money is scarce. Most people rely on the land for food and materials to build houses. Those who do have jobs earn very little, and many people receive money from relatives working in more prosperous countries such as South Africa, Tanzania or Zambia. Often several extended family members must pool resources to pay secondary school fees for one child.
Most people do not live near the lakeshore because the soil is very sandy and unsuitable for farming and raising livestock, making the beaches fairly unpopulated. Unlike some indigenous groups in southern and central Africa, the Tonga people are traditionally very calm and passive. And, like most Malawians, they are known to generally be very friendly.
The Surrounding Area
Built around several small bays on rolling hills, Nkhata Bay is 37 mi north of Mwaya. It is a bustling, potentially picturesque port town with a market, shops, craft and trinket stalls, and a handful of other guest lodges and restaurants. However, it is very dirty and run down. It is the government administrative center for the District and includes an Immigration Office as well. The port is the departure point for the ferry to Likoma and Chizumulu islands, Rurawe and Usisya (which are inaccessible by road and highly recommended for a visit), and Mbamba Bay in Tanzania. It is also a very popular place for budget travelers.
Mzuzu is the largest town in the Northern Region of Malawi, set in the Viphya Mountains. It is 62 mi from Mwaya and 25 mi inland (west) from Nkhata Bay, and has all the conveniences including banks with ATMs, shops, internet, and accommodations. In addition, there are coffee shops and restaurants, Shoprite (a large Western-style supermarket), an outdoor marketplace selling everything from food to spare auto parts, and a great indoor market for buying chitenge material.
Chintheche is the nearest town to Mwaya Beach and is located 15 mi away to the north. It is where Ripple Africa’s Environmental office is located and is convenient for its post office, shops and market, rural hospital, restaurant, and internet connection.