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Digital Subscriptions > Travel Africa > January-March 2019 (85) > Good karma

Good karma

In the heart of Lake Malawi lies a quiet island with a big history, where the trickle of tourism flows effortlessly through the fabric of society. But there’s more reasons to visit than you might think. By Laura Birtles

The name Likoma purportedly derives from the Nyanja phrase, likoma joko, meaning ‘oh, what a pleasant land’. And pleasant it is indeed. Encircled by powdery beaches, wild coves and sparkling waters, this remote isle — situated in the Mozambican waters of Lake Malawi but officially part of Malawi — is the kind of place you might wish to stay forever.

On Likoma, life moves at a slow pace, largely unencumbered by global influences and tourism. Arriving here is like stepping back in time. There are almost no vehicles and just a few bicycles, a couple of villages, one town, one unpaved road running the length of the 17sq-km island, a couple of backpacker outfits and one small luxury lodge on the south-western shore.

Kaya Mawa, aptly meaning ‘maybe tomorrow’, is an idyllic retreat. Sleeping just 26 people, it is intimate and romantic — fresh frangipani flowers on the bed and deep bathtubs with a view over the lake. Its understated, airy rooms have a natural feel and jovial staff dish up delicious, wholesome food each meal. It’s true to say you could spend your days here doing nothing except lazing on the beach or your private deck, reading or spotting some of the 500- plus bird species. But, as we were to discover, Likoma is more than just a place to kick back and relax.

For those prepared to tear themselves away from the camp’s dreamy cocoon for a few hours, there are myriad activities on and offshore. The clear waters are perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkelling, water-skiing, wakeboarding, sailing and scuba-diving. Lake Malawi harbours a greater variety of freshwater fish than any other lake on Earth, so there is plenty to see as you explore the rocky outcrops of this unique underwater landscape. Most of these are colourful cichlids (locally called mbuna), of which the lake contains an impressive 400 types.

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About Travel Africa

Africa's changing cultural landscape • Safaris for body and soul • Top spots for you to go this year • Nature's Best Photography • Likoma Island • Jackals • Travelling with teenagers • Skeleton Coast lions... and much more!