Pumulani: Our full report

10 rooms
Traveller's rating
Excellent (92%) From 24 reviews
Suitable for 6+
mid-March to mid-January

Pumulani is a luxury beach lodge located high on a hill on the west side of Nankumba Peninsula, towards the southern end of Lake Malawi. It is within the Lake Malawi National Park so is a great spot for walking, snorkeling or simply relaxing.

Pumulani’s pedigree is excellent, as it's owned by Robin Pope Safaris, who run some of Zambia’s, Zimbabwe's and Malawi's best camps.

Pumulani’s has a central bar and dining area set high above the lake, with great west-facing views from an expansive deck – perfect for enjoying one of those amazing African sunsets. Individual dining tables are laid out both inside and under cream-coloured umbrellas.

Down a few wooden steps, to a lower deck, is Pumulani’s large infinity pool, surrounded by comfortable sunloungers and striped sun umbrellas.

More steps and wooden walkways lead down to a lovely quiet beach, complete with sunloungers and umbrellas, and a hammock strung between the trees. A beach bar offers drinks and light snacks during the day. When we visited in November 2013, a floating platform had been built just off the beach: a lovely spot to swim out to and sunbathe – and a popular spot for the pied kingfishers, too!

The ten villas at Pumulani are very spacious and stylish without being glitzy. Built on different levels along the hillside, some are higher up, closer to the main area, and others are nearer the beach. All have turfed roofs, so that they blend into the hillside.

In addition to four twin-bedded (or double) villas, and four with a king-size bed, there is a honeymoon villa with an outside shower; and a family villa which can sleep four people in comfort (or five if there are small children).

Each of the villas has a large, air-conditioned bedroom with capacious mosquito nets surrounding the beds, a ceiling fan overhead, and – behind a solid wood headboard (with reading lights) – an area for storing luggage. A dressing table, with mirror above, has a hairdryer and plug points.

The en-suite bathroom boasts a free-standing bath, double basins, double showers and a flush toilet. Dressing gowns and toiletries are provided.

A separate lounge features comfortable cane chairs and a sofa, while on a low table is a selection of bird and nature books and magazines. Each villa has a minibar with soft drinks and water, with other drinks stocked on request. Sliding doors lead out onto a wooden deck where two canvas directors’ chairs and a sun umbrella afford a great spot to enjoy the views over the lake.

Most people come to Pumulani to relax for four to five days after a safari in Zambia or Malawi, although some come for the activities – which include snorkelling, kayaking, waterskiing, wakeboarding, fishing, tubing and scuba diving – and the birdwatching is good here, too. For some of these activities, Pumulani has its own, traditionally-built 12m wooden dhow, which is also used for sunset cruises.Experienced sailors may use the lodge’s two sailing boats, though you are requested to remain in sight of the lodge for safety reasons. Back on land, Pumulani also has a state-of-the-art telescope which the manager can use to explain the stars.

Guided walks are possible along the lakeshore to visit nearby villages, and mountain bikes are available to explore the surrounding area. We took an early morning guided walk along the hillside above the lakeshore to a small cove, where kayaks had been left for us to paddle back to the lodge in time for a hearty breakfast. Out on the hillside, rock hyrax, vervet monkeys, whilst spotted-necked otters frequent the lakeshore.

The rates at Pumulani include all non-motorised activities (eg: snorkelling, fishing, sailing, mountain biking, nature and village walks, sunset cruises and kayaking). Motorised watersports, however, such as waterskiing, wakeboarding and scuba diving (from a boat), cost extra, and can be paid for locally.

Our view

Pumulani is a relaxed, comfortable beach lodge and is a great spot to end a trip after a safari in either Zambia or Malawi. The staff here are friendly and the service and food good. It appeals to guests who wish to just relax and unwind, or those who prefer to be kept more active. Please note, however, that with all the steps here it is not suitable for the elderly or guests with walking disabilities.


Location: Shore of Lake Malawi, Malawi

Ideal length of stay: Four to five nights here would be ideal after a safari in Zambia or Malawi. We would often suggest combining Pumulani with one of its sister camps such as Nkwali Camp, Tena Tena and Nsefu Camp in Zimbabwe's South Luangwa National Park. In Malawi, they also have Mkulumadzi and in April 2018 plan to open Kuthengo Camp.

Directions: Pumualni is three and a half hours from Lilongwe by car and four from Blantyre. Or it is a 45 minute flight.

Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer

Key personnel

Owner: Robin Pope Safaris

Food & drink

Usual board basis: Full Board

Food quality: On our recent visit here (October 2014) we found the food to be good, with a wide choice on offer.

Breakfast is a self-service buffet of cereals, fresh fruit, yoghurt, fresh muffins and fruit juice. A hot breakfast is cooked to order.

Lunch is usually a choice of a meat or fish dish. We were offered a choice of beef schnitzel or chambo fillet (local fish from the lake), served with chips and salad, and rounded off by delicious banana and apricot parcels.

Dinner is usually a three-course meal. Our starter of tomato tart served with tomato dressing was followed by a choice of either beef fillet on a bed of mushroom risotto served with fresh vegetables, or chicken or vegetable Thai green curry, served with basmati rice and naan bread. Dessert was a very tasty crème brulée.

On our second evening we had a lovely beach barbecue lit by lanterns with a local band to entertain us. Food included boerewors (a traditional South African sausage), pork chops, steak and chicken, with a selection of at least five salads, all finished off with a delicious chocolate tart and fruit salad.

Dining style: Individual Tables

Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining

Drinks included: Local drinks (beers, wines and spirits) as well as soft drinks are included. Pumulani also has a small cocktails menu and these are included as well. Premium drinks and champagne are extra and charged for locally.

Further dining info: Room service is not possible - although a a private dinner on the deck of your room can be requested.

Special interests

Beach holidays: To make your stay one of your best beach holidays, Pumulani offers a range of activities. Enjoy the sheer feeling of remoteness by the infinity pool, race around the lake on water-skis, or join a stately dhow for sundowners in the middle of the lake – the choice is yours.

See more ideas for Beach holidays in Malawi

Walking: Walking at Pumulani is best with a guide, who can take you along the lake shore, near the hillside and into the nearby villages. For some variety, try the option of kayaking back along the lake after your walk.

See more ideas for Walking in Malawi

Luxury: Each air-conditioned villa at Pumulani is vast: a massive bathroom with twin showers and elegant freestanding bath leads to a spacious bedroom, a separate lounge and a veranda. If space is your ultimate luxury, Pumulani is a great choice – complete with some great views.

See more ideas for Luxury in Malawi


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

Property’s age restrictions: No age restriction

Special activities & services: There are no special activities specifically geared towards children however there is the swimming pool and the beach, which can keep children entertained. A childrens menu is available and special meal times can be arranged.

Equipment: Pumulani has one baby cot and a few highchairs.

Notes: We recommend Pumulani for children 6 years and over due to the uneven wooden walkways and the number of steps. Children will need to be sensible, and closely supervised by their parents at all times.


Power supply: Mains Electricity

Power supply notes: Pumulani has a back-up generator.

Communications: There is WiFi in Pumulani's main area and good cellphone reception.

TV & radio: There are no TVs at Pumulani.

Water supply: Other

Water supply notes: Lake water is pumped through a water filtration system. This water is fine for washing but not for drinking. Bottled water is provided for drinking.


Green technologies to protect the environment

Green technologies to protect the environmentPumulani Lodges offers the perfect setting to unwind in a beautiful and tranquil location on the Southern end of Lake Malawi, camouflaged with lavish hills amongst the trees and rugged crags. The luxurious villas were especially designed to blend into their different surroundings and use green technologies to operate. This includes solar energy systems for providing power and solar water heaters for guest showers which reduce carbon footprint and contribution to deforestation.

Water is carefully monitored to reduce leakages and flow restrictors on showerheads and taps were fitted where possible, as well as implementing a guest towel re-use programme. Gardens are watered at cooler times of the day and only drought-resistant native species are harvested.

In terms of waste management, all wastewater is treated biologically before being discarded and all waste is either recycled, re-used of disposed of responsibly. The team at Pumulani is advised to avoid buying glass bottled or tin canned goods and guests are offered refillable steel water bottles instead of plastic water bottles.

Paper is re-used as draft paper and cardboard is sent to local recycling units operated by neighbouring communities. Any non-degradable waste is separated and burnt or transported to Lusaka and Lilongwe for responsible disposal.

Health & safety

Malarial protection recommended: Yes

Medical care: There is a clinic available in Cape Maclear as well as Monkey Bay, about 45 minutes drive away. For more serious cases a flight can be arranged to the hospital in Lilongwe. Some of Pumulani's staff are trained in first aid.

Dangerous animals: Low Risk

Security measures: There are staff on duty during the day, and at night there are two night-watchmen around Pumulani Lodge.

Fire safety: At the time of our visit (November 2013) there were no fire extinguishers at the lodge. These were on order and due to arrive sometime in 2014. There is a fire-break around the lodge.


Disabled access: On Request

Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is included at Pumulani.

Money: Each room at Pumulani has a digital safe. No currency exchange is provided.

Accepted payment on location: Payments for any extras at Pumulani are best made in cash; US dollars, SA Rands, Pounds sterling, Euro or Malawi Kwacha are all accepted. Visa credit cards are also accepted, upon which there is a 5% surcharge. Other credit cards are not accepted at Pumulani.

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