Makokola Retreat

Makokola Retreat: Our full report

47 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (95%) From 4 reviews
Good for all ages
All year

Previously known as Club Makokola or 'Club Mak', the large Makokola Retreat is a large thatched family-owned and run resort beside a 750m-long, palm-lined beach, on the southern shore of Lake Malawi. The lodge is close to the town of Mangochi, and has its own airstrip.

The main areas of The Makokola Retreat are accessed via a long, thatched walkway, which incorporates the resort’s welcoming reception desk and a comfortable seating area.

The walkway ends at a large swimming pool, built around a bar, and with the recently renovated dining area to one side. This is a thatched, open- sided structure, with more tables and chairs under the trees and direct access onto the beach. The furniture is locally made from rubberwood and the brick pillars are decorated with artwork from the local Mua Mission. Hanging from the wooden rafters carved wooden fish hang from the wooden rafters, giving the impression of swimming as they sway in the breeze. A pizza oven is in operation at both lunch and dinner, and the Retreat also makes its own ice-cream served in home-made cones – a big hit with the children.

The tropical gardens at Makokola Retreat feature mature indigenous trees and shrubs, and are beautifully maintained. Pathways wind through the gardens leading to the 47 comfortable rooms, including some suites and family rooms. There is also a two-bedroomed house at the far end of the property, called the Chiefs Villa. This is ideal for a family or friends travelling together. Most of the rooms are round and thatched in the style of traditional rondavels, with some facing the lake and others facing the gardens. As in the main areas, the furnishings are locally made, the pottery is from Dedza Pottery and the carvings come from Mua Mission.

  • The 11 family rooms are similar but have two bedrooms, one double and one twin, and share a bathroom.

  • Each of the 9 suites (also called Lake Villas) has a separate lounge area, with two day beds and an armchair covered in locally made fabrics. There are tea- and coffee-making facilities, a minibar (stocked on request) and a television. In the bedroom, a double bed with a hand-carved wooden headboard is surrounded by a mosquito net. Each room has a ceiling fan. The bathroom has a bath as well as a shower, two basins and a toilet in a separate cubicle.

  • The 26 standard rooms do not have the separate lounge area but are otherwise very similar in design.

The beach at Makokola Retreat is north-facing 750m of golden sand, with sunrise at one end and sunset at the other. Thatched sunshades and sunloungers are dotted along the sand with views out to a nearby island.

The Makokola Retreat is a lively place, offering activities that include a range of watersports on Lake Malawi: snorkelling, sailing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, canoeing and boating. On land, there are tennis and squash courts, and a nine-hole golf course scattered with baobab trees. Non-motorised watersports are included in the rates – motorized watersports are extra. There is also a spa for guests who enjoy a bit of pampering.

Our view

The Makokola Retreat can become quite lively, especially over weekends. However it has a lovely location, with a fantastic beach and well-kept gardens, and it is very popular with families.


Location: Shore of Lake Malawi, Malawi

Ideal length of stay: 3 to 4 nights here will allow you to relax as well as enjoy the facilities on offer.

Directions: The lodge is 4 hours drive from both Liliongwe and Blantyre. It also has its own air strip so is accessible by charter flight from anywhere in Malawi.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On a recent visit to Makokola Retreat we did not stay long enough to enjoy a meal, but the owner explained what we might experience. Lunch and dinner are usually à la carte, although if the lodge is full this may be a buffet.

Breakfast is usually a buffet with a selection of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurts, fruit juice and fresh bread. A cooked breakfast is also available to order.

Lunch incorporates a selection of fresh salads, pasta, quiches and fish, followed by a light dessert.

Dinner is usually three courses, with a choice of two starters, five mains (usually red or white meat, fish and a vegetarian option) and three desserts. Often a local dish is served, too, such as chambo (a lake fish) with nshima (a type of maize porridge).

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Cost of meal e.g. lunch: Included

Drinks included: Local beers, house wines by the glass, spirits as well as soft drinks are included. All other drinks are extra.

Special interests

Beach holidays: Makokola Retreat is a great holiday-spot for water-lovers. It offers many water-based activities, from diving and waterskiing, to parasailing and further extraordinary sports. Discover the underwater world of the fresh water lake on a snorkeling trip straight from the beach.

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Diving & snorkelling: Excellent freshwater snorkelling

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Attitude towards children: Children of all ages are welcome at Makokola Retreat.

Property’s age restrictions: There is no age restriction.

Special activities & services: Childminders are available, although parents must be aware that they will be drawn from the staff and are not qualified child minders. Special children’s meals can be served.

Equipment: Cots and highchairs are available, For older children there is no shortage of activities, including the swimming pool, tennis and squash, and a range of watersports. The family rooms can sleep a family of six.

Notes: Young children need to be supervised by their parents as the swimming pool is not fenced and the lodge is in close proximity to the beach.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: There is a back-up generator.

Communications: WiFi is available throughout the lodge and there is also good cell phone reception.

TV & radio: There are TVs in all the rooms.

Water supply: Borehole

Water supply notes: The borehole water is filtered and is safe for drinking. Hot and cold water is available 24 hours.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: The nearest doctor is in Mangochi which is 15 minutes drive away. The lodge has its own airstrip so any serious medical cases can be airlifted to hospital in Lilongwe or Blantyre.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: There are security guards on duty day and night.

Fire safety: There is a fire extinguisher in each room as well as in the main areas.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: Laundry is available at an additional cost.

Money: There are safes in all the rooms.

Accepted payment on location: Visa and Mastercard are accepted but not Amex. There is a 6.5% service charge levied for the use of card. Cash is acceptable in US dollars, SA rands, euros and Malawi kwacha.