Reviews of Kaya Mawa
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
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Kaya Mawa review
Kaya Mawa was a disappointing experience. Despite booking lakeside rooms back in January, which had been confirmed by Expert Africa, we were alarmed to be told by Michelle that she always got out of breath going up to our room, Mbamba,, which was not what we had booked. It was the former restaurant up on the highest rock. She said Expert Africa had 'upgraded' us so we told her we would take it up with them. It appears this was not so. Not for us a room with a view - unless we were prepared to sit on the bed or take a chair indoors and look out of the window. The alternative was to look at a concrete plunge pool or sit surrounded by trees. We envied those guests who could take advantage of room service.;when we tried we had to eat indoors on our knee because the flies were so bad under the trees round the balcony.
Our meal on our first evening was excessively salty - we mentioned it when we were asked but were told we were probably suffering from sensory overload. How rude!
If you have any hankering for exploring Likoma Island independently after safari, forget it unless you are happy to report your plans in advance. It is hotel policy to inform islanders what the guests will be doing/ where they are going which we found very disconcerting. If you are happy to stay at the hotel and access the many water sports then that may not concern you.
We are not picky, difficult travellers and this is the first time ever that we have had a sufficiently disappointing experience.to feel so aggrieved despite many years of travelling. We certainly don't agree with the judgement in Lonely Planet.
Expert Africa comments
We were very sorry indeed that these travellers didnt enjoy their stay. We forwarded their comments to Kaya Mawas owner, James, who was also very upset.
Looking back: we reserved their preferred (standard) room, Ngani, when they booked their trip with us in January 13. Shortly afterwards, this room was redeveloped and upgraded to be a premier room; we were advised that the clients had been upgraded to that category by the Kaya Mawa team.
The Kaya Mawa team had, in fact, upgraded these travellers to a different premier room, Mbamba which they expected them to like. This room is substantially larger than Ngani and is on top of the small kopjie beside the lake, with views through trees to the lake. However, as the water was accessed by steps and a short walk this didnt please these travellers; theyd wanted to be right beside the lake.
A misunderstanding caused this error, which couldnt be rectified during their visit.
Becky made the comment about sensory overload, and was aghast that these travellers took it as being rude. She assures us that she would never have intended this, and that there must have been a misunderstanding.
James clarified to us that there is no need for any travellers to report their plans in advance for island activities; travellers are free to explore Likoma Island on their own. The exception is visiting the Cathedral, for which Kaya Mawa does usually phone ahead to ensure that it is open. It seems that there must have been a misunderstanding over this.
Finally, wed comment that we have no idea at all whats written in the Lonely Planet book about Kaya Mawa but were not at all surprised that its in error. Generally we find the Bradt Travel Guides to be far more accurate! ☺
We feel that the mix-up over the wrong room being allocated did not help these clients to enjoy their stay..
A great location, spoilt by shortages
The Island is lovely. The rooms are ok but spoilt by a lack of air con and power. The service is ok.
The owner was faultless at dealing with things. The manager was very weak. Shortages were a bore. They ran out of many wines. Tonic ran out on day one. Bacon ran out. This wasn't a problem anywhere except at this lodge so the too-often quoted "well, this is Malawi" was weak.
Expert Africa comments
Likoma and Kaya Mawa are lovely but like any remote lodge in Africa, logistics can be taxiing at the best of times and occasionally omissions happen. It's good to remind all of our travellers that things like this can and do occur occasionally virtually everywhere that we send travellers.
In this case, James, the owner of Kaya Mawa, responded to us very swiftly and apologised for running out of some of the wines requested by our travellers. He commented that the lodges wine list has a minimum of about 40 different wines. (We think this is exceptionally wide for such for a remote lodge!) James explained that they ran out of two wines that these travellers enjoyed but they still had a wide selection of wines to choose from!
Malawi has produced no tonic for over a year, and so Kaya Mawa has sourced a supply from South Africa. James apologised for running out, and unfortunately fresh stock only arrived shortly after these travellers departed. Similarly, although bacon also ran out, a fresh supply arrived on the flight on which these travellers departed on.
James explained that the Kaya Mawa team tries hard to keep comfort levels very high. When the mains electricity on the island fails, as it often does, travellers normally dont notice because the lodge has back-up batteries and inverters in place; these kick in to run all the appliances, including fans and lights. On the occasion mentioned, this back-up system worked perfectly until 3am, when heavy usage exhausted the batteries. Mains power was restored three hours later at 6am.
The team here use alternative power sources wherever they can. James comments that they have thought about air-conditioning, but are very conscious that air-conditioning units are power-hungry, and they substantially increase the lodges carbon footprint. Because of this, theyve put in fans and designed their rooms around natural boulders to be as cool as possible but have decided not to have air-conditioning.
Kaya Mawa is stunning, the staff are lovely everything was just great and exactly what I had hoped for. The setting is truly beautiful, a crescent bay with the rooms set around it and up and around the granite out crops. Our room was huge with incredible views out over the lake and so private, very comfortable very clean just perfect
The managers were sweet and couldn't do enough for you as were the staff and waiters who would move heavy umbrellas and bring you drinks where and when you wished. The food was excellent and varied and the dinners at tables dotted along the beach by the water was magical and very romantic with lanterns and candles lighting your way.
A lovely end to a wonderful holiday I recommend it especially after a safari and try to go for more nights than you think you need, you won't want to leave, I didn't
Island paradise on Lake Malawi
After our safari we wanted somewhere to relax and Kaya Mawa was perfect.
Set on a beautiful beach on Likoma Island, we were treated like royalty; nothing was too much trouble. Staff, most of who are from the local village, couldn't have been more charming and helpful. Our room was very big with private plunge pool, three decks and complete luxury.
Meals were mostly served on the beach and the food was very good. Other options were in your room or deck, in the gazebo, under the mango tree; they kept coming up with new ideas.
One of us did a couple of scuba dives which were very nice indeed with a totally personal service from dive master Kevin.
We did the boat trip around the island which was somewhat spoilt by rough conditions at the other (north) end of the island. The visit to the incongruous cathedral was very interesting.
We can't recommend this place enough; we are already trying to work out a way to go back!
Magical Kaya Mawa
Kaya Mawa and beautiful Likoma Island has been the perfect 5-day addition to our Zambia safari.
The picture-perfect beach location, crystal-clear waters filled with life, great food and service along with amazingly friendly people of Likoma Island made it a fantastic, relaxing experience. Special mention for the beautiful room (or villa in our case) - it would certainly deserve six stars for all of its unique individual features, special touches and spacious luxury.
Thanks again to the wonderful management and staff for all the effort in taking care of us after my father had hurt his ankle and apologies for all the long-distance room service across the beach and extra boat trips - rest assured that our time at Kaya Mawa was still hugely enjoyable.
If we won the lottery we'd go back tomorrow.
We simply loved it, great location, the most amazing room, great service and a little dog we fell in love with.
I cried when we left I loved it so much!!
Kaya Mawa review
Very relaxed atmosphere but professionally run. Nothing was too much trouble and the view from Room 4 was one of our best ever! Great opportunity to interact with the local population who were extremely friendly and wanted nothing except a look at the photograph we had just taken. A wonderful memorable time here, not least the singing in the cathedral and in St Marks Church on Sunday morning.
We feel that there may be a communication problem between Kaya mawa, Nkwichi and Willderness. When we arrived at Likoma, Kaya mawa were not expecting us until later and only turned up at the airstrip to take other clients back. We were supposed to transfer from Kaya Mawa to Nkwichi at 11.00 but the boat didn't arrive until 17.00. Kaya Mawa did everything possible (not helped by lack of reliable communication with Nkwichi) but Nkwichi were expecting an arrival from the airstrip.
There were also problems on leaving Nkwichi when the leaving time was changed several times (but this was partly due to Air Malawi Lilongwe to Joburg changing flight times). The other problem appears to Likoma airstrip. Our pilot in complained to the "security man" there about pot holes not being filled in and the next day another plane crash landed on the strip. Judging from news reports on the web about this, Likoma appears to be one of the worst places in Malawi to land and maybe Expert Africa can exert some influence as a result of this crash to help get somethingdone about this.
However this didn't upset ou time in Kaya Mawa or Nkwichi in any way - both were brilliant.
Kaya Mawa review
A long haul from South Luangua to Kaya Mawa and an even longer haul back to the UK - 4 flights! But probably worthwhile for some R&R at the end of our safari. We were very pleased we had taken your advice and stayed for 3 nights not 2.
Wonderful island and location. Our room was amazing, set amongst the boulders on the beach. We were lucky that the next door room was not being used, so we were able to use their deck and loungers - otherwise it is a short but gruelling track to the beach. It might have felt a bit close to that room and potentially overlooked if it had not been vacant.
One thing that I would emphasise to future guests and probably also to management - the need to take a torch and some sturdy trainers. The path to the room is extremely hazardous and it was pitch black there until the moon came out - I would advise management to lend out torches if they want to avoid accidents and being sued. The trainers are a must for the beach which is really really sharp on the feet - and that is coming from someone brought up on the beach with feet as hardened as most Europeans.
The food was really really excellent, and healthy too.
A stunning place to finish
Although Kaya Mawa initially seemed somewhat crowded (!) after the tranquility of Nkwichi, it was just another great venue.
The staff, and James and Susie in particular, were exemplary in ensuring that you always had what you wanted. Nothing was too much trouble and it was lovely to dine out under the stars in surprise locations each night. New Years Eve dinner was a fantastic meal - almost matched by the hilarity of the fireworks.
If you find steps hard, don't go to Chalet 3 but for relaxation, good food, water activities and for the shopping experience in town, this is a wonderful place.