Nkwichi Lodge: Our full report
Nkwichi Lodge, on the eastern shoreline of Lake Malawi, in Mozambique, is set on a perfect white sandy beach, ...... fringed by rocks, with some of the best snorkelling on the lake. The lodge is simply but cleverly designed, using rocks and local materials, and as a result blends in well with the surrounding landscape.
Nkwichi Lodge is described as a 'community conservation scheme'. Its philosophy is to improve the standard of living for local people, whilst also protecting indigenous wildlife and its habitat. The lodge works with
local villages to promote tourism, which provides the community with an alternative way of earning a living to hunting and fishing. Part of the cost of your stay at the lodge is a community levy in return for the use of their land and provides a fund for community needs, such as medical facilities, education or transport. The lodge also employs local staff wherever possible.
On arrival at Nkwichi it's a short walk from the boat up to the double-storey main area. This building is open at the front and sides and built from brick and thatch supported by enormous poles. Downstairs it has a seating area, library, small curio shop and guest toilets, along with a noticeboard displaying information about the lodge’s community work. Wooden steps lead up to the bar and another comfortable seating area, with views towards the lake. There is also a dining area here, used when the weather is not so good, although during our visit in October 2014, all our meals were enjoyed either on the shaded deck overlooking the water, or on the beach itself.
Reached along sandy pathways, Nkwichi beach - 'nkwichi', meaning 'the sand that squeaks’ – has pure white fine sand leading down to a pebbled shoreline. One of the best beaches on the Mozambican lakeshore, it is dotted with sunbeds, sunshades and hammocks. Tucked away within the rocks, and shaded beneath a wild fig tree, is a raised wooden deck with a small bar, some comfy chairs and tables and chairs: the venue for most meals during the day. Next to here, an old dugout canoe, standing upright, is kitted out with shelves for towels, snorkels and other watersports equipment for guests to use.
Central to the beach is a thatched gazebo with comfortable chairs and tables on the sand, a great spot to relax in the shade in the heat of the day. Note that, very occasionally, crocodiles can be spotted in the main body of the lake, but the shallow waters of the bay are considered to be safe for swimming.
In the evenings a fire is lit on the beach with directors’ chairs set around it and a bar on the sand, creating a lovely spot for guests to enjoy a sundowner drink.
Guest accommodation at Nkwichi Lodge consists of five individually designed chalets – three of which are standard and two are premier chalets. Nkwichi also has two private houses; one designed for families or groups travelling together, and the other a romantic private retreat. Both are located a short distance from the lodge – but are not right at the lodge itself.
The chalets were built mainly by the lodge staff, using local materials wherever possible. Four are standard chalets and two are designated ‘premier’ chalets.
- Of the three standard chalets,
- ‘Kuya’, hidden amongst trees just off the main beach, is a large structure with rocks and trees forming part of its design. It is all on one level, with an en-suite toilet, while the bathroom is tucked away at the back and completely open. This chalet is ideal for families as two extra single beds can be added.
- ‘Niassa’ is built on a rock face under the trees, not far from the beach. Inside, steps lead up to a platform on which a double bed is set. The main bathroom is behind the chalet, with an ensuite toilet..
- ‘Scotland’ is the most secluded of the standard chalets, with its own sandy dining area and with views through vegetation to the lake. It is built on two levels, with an outdoor shower and bath (both with lovely views), and the toilet in a separate hut next to the chalet.
- Nkwichi Lodge’s two ‘premier’ chalets have a greater degree of privacy and space:
- ‘Nkwazi’ is located on its own west-facing private beach, perfect for watching the sunset. Three sets of double doors can be completely opened to offer wonderful views of the lake from the four-poster double bed. The outdoor bathroom features a bath built into the rocks as well as a shower, while the toilet occupies an adjacent hut..
- ‘Kakoa’ has its own private access to the lake, and is completely open at the front, with wonderful lake views from the upper-level four-poster double bed. Below is a built-in seating area, from which a door leads to an outdoor bathroom with a bath built into the rocks and the shower forming part of a tree. The toilet is up a few steps in a separate hut.
A higher level of exclusivity comes in the form of Nkwichi’s two-bedroomed Makolo House, which nestles deep in the bush overlooking the lake. One double and one twin room, both en suite, shelter beneath a high thatched roof, with an upstairs platform creating a perfect place for children to hang out. The house has private access to the lake for swimming and snorkelling. Meals are provided here by your own chef, but a ten-minute lodge brings you to the main lodge, where guests are welcome to take full advantage of all the facilities.
The more romantic one bedroomed Songea House is a private retreat, situated a 20 minute walk from the main lodge. The openfronted chalet is built with a high thatched roof providing views of the lake and wilderness. Inside, steps lead up from a seating area to a platform on which a double bed is set. Outside, the surrounding area is dotted with spots for intimate dinners and drinks. The house includes a private service team for meals, drinks and activities, and enjoys its own secluded beach.
Nkwichi Lodge is a pretty relaxed place to stay, but there are plenty of activities too – many based on the lake. The fresh water is ideal for snorkelling, with many areas close to the lodge that are great for underwater exploration. You can also explore the shoreline in one of the lodge’s four Canadian canoes, led by an experienced guide. Canoeing is at its best early in the morning, when the lake is calm. On our recent visit, in November 2013, two of us went out early with our guide, Patson, stopping occasionally as he pointed out a bird or something interesting along the shore. We saw African fish eagles, many cormorants sunning themselves on the rocks, and pied kingfishers, as well as a few passing fishermen on their boats. After about an hour we stopped at a secluded beach for a swim and time to relax, before paddling back to the lodge for a hearty breakfast.
Fishing and sailing in one of the lodge’s wooden dhows are further water-based options, and particularly enjoyable around sunset.
Back on land, there are walks and hikes of various distances through the wilderness behind Nkwichi, with a guide recommended to show you the way. We took a fairly steep late afternoon walk up to a viewpoint – about 30 minutes from the lodge – with amazing views from the top of Likoma Island and the western lake shore, about 50km away. We stopped there for sundowners, and our guide pointed out his village down below.
A walk, or boat trip, to ‘the farm’ is a must. Set up to teach local communities about sustainable farming methods and crops, it also provides fruit and vegetables for the lodge. During a guided tour you will find out about the work that is being done as well as about irrigation, composting and paper recycling.
It is also possible to visit one or more of the local villages from Nkwichi. Some involve a lovely walk along coves and bays where you can stop off for a refreshing swim, or you can be taken by boat (at additional cost). Most of the lodge staff are from these villages, and are happy to show you around and introduce you to their families, while guests are welcome to visit the schools.
Yet another option, albeit weather dependent, is the Lake of Stars bed: a night out under the stars. A four-poster bed topped with a mosquito net is located on a private rocky outcrop, or on a secluded beach. After a private candlelit dinner, lie in bed and gaze up at the stars, then wake in the morning as the sun is rising. You are provided with a canvas bucket-shower and portable toilet, and a member of staff will stay nearby with radio communication with the lodge in case it is needed. This experience needs to be booked in advance.
Nkwichi Lodge is a lovely lodge in a remote location on the Mozambican shore of Lake Malawi: a great spot both to relax, and to take part in some of the many activities offered. The staff are friendly and welcoming and nothing appears to be too much trouble. As well as providing employment for the local community, the lodge is involved with sustainable farming and building schools.
- Manda Wilderness, Mozambique
- Ideal length of stay
- 2-3 nights
- Nkwichi Lodge is accessed by air from Lilongwe to Likoma Island, then a one hour boat trip to the lodge. Guests will need to visit Cobue en route in order to organise a visa for Mozambique before proceeding to the lodge. At the time of our visit in October 2014, a visa cost U$30 per person and must be paid for in cash
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board
- Food quality
- We found the food at Nkwichi Lodge to be of a very good standard – delicious and fresh. There are many different dining locations and guests can choose to dine together or on their own – the lodge staff are very flexible with the dining arrangements and locations.
With advance notice, Nkwichi Lodge is able to cater for vegetarian and other dietary requirements.
Breakfast is usually served on the raised deck overlooking the beach. On our recent visit (in October 2014) we were offered a selection of cereals and some freshly cut mango. We also had a choice of a cooked breakfast – eggs, bacon, sausage and tomato – and toast.
Occasionally breakfast is set up in a surprise setting. On our second day at Nkwichi we were taken by boat to a popular spot for sundowners, where breakfast had been set up at a table in the shade. Before heading back to the lodge by boat we had a quick cooling dip in the lake.
Lunch was a lovely surprise. We were called from our sunbed on the beach to a tree-shaded location further down the beach, where a white tablecloth surrounded by cushions had been laid out on the sand, with low tables for water and wine glasses. We were served vegetable wraps with humus and salsa on the side as well as a tomato and cucumber salad. This was followed by a very refreshing coconut ice cream – which somehow hadn’t melted despite the distance from the kitchen!
Dinner on our first evening was served by candlelight on the little sandy beach in front of our room. We had an onion tart starter, followed by fish fresh from the lake, roasted baby potatoes, cabbage and green beans. Dessert was a delicious lemon cheesecake. On our second evening, when we dined with other guests on the main beach, our pumpkin soup (made from pumpkins grown on the farm), was followed by Goan chicken curry served with cardamom rice and various dips, and finished off with a fruit crumble.
- Dining style
- Group Meals
- Dining locations
- Indoor and Outdoor Dining
- Further dining info, including room service
- Meals are very flexible and can be eaten any where around the lodge, including at your chalet.
- Drinks included
- Tea, coffee and filtered water are included but all other drinks are extra. Approximate prices – U$2 for soft drinks, U$3.50 for beers, U$5 for spirits per shot, U$7 for a glass of wine and a bottle of wine varies from U$30 – U$40.
- Cultural experiences
- Nkwichi is a key part of the Manda Wilderness Community Trust and its levels of community involvement are absolutely superb. You can visit a local village, or the interesting demonstration farm, where you will undoubtedly be met with a warm, genuine welcome.
- See ideas for Cultural experiences
- Attitude towards children
- Children are welcome at Nkwichi Lodge.
- Property’s age restrictions
- There are no age restrictions for children.
- Special activities & services
- There is a special childrens menu available.
Guided nature walks with a guide are available for children.
Swimming aids, toys and buckets and spades are available on the beach.
Child minders are available however parents need to mindful that they are camp staff and not qualified child minders.
- Cots and highchairs are available.
- Generally recommended for children
- We recommend this lodge for children. There is no dangerous game around so this is an ideal spot for children, however parents need to supervise children near the water.
- Power supply notes
- There is solar electricity in the rooms and a generator as back-up. Batteries can be charged in the office.
- There is no WiFi or mobile phone reception. The lodge is contactable in emergencies via skype phone.
- TV & radio
- Water supply notes
- Water is pumped from the lake and sand filtered for showering. Drinking water is filtered through a more rigorous system.
“Pack for a Purpose” - community development
Nkwichi Lodge is an essential part of the Manda Wilderness Project, created by Nkwichi’s investors to make a remarkable difference for the lives of local communities. The project combines three pillars: responsible tourism, conservation and community development, allowing guests to grasp the advantages of responsible tourism and ensure the preservation of this unique part of Africa. The partnership with the UK-established Manda Wilderness Community Trust enables the lodge to work closely with 16 villages, raising funds and items needed for the most urgent project developments. Some of the main activities include the construction of schools and a maternity clinic, organization of cultural events opened to the public as well as vocational training.
Each of the three sustainability pillars contributes to a significant progress in the overall conservation of the Lake Malawi region. Nevertheless, the end goal is to achieve a developed, self-supporting community by allowing travelers to be a central part of this great cause. To this extent, Nkwichi Lodge is an integrated part of the “Pack for a Purpose” initiative, an enterprise that engages tourists in making an impact on the local communities. Anyone can explore the list of the projects and the supplies needed to support these local initiatives, which guests can then bring with them to make a significant impact on the lives of local families.
See more great sustainability projects in Mozambique
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a clinic in Cobue which is 30 minutes away by boat. The closest hospital is on Likoma Island, a one hour boat trip away.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- The lodge has 10 nightwatchmen who patrol at night.
- Fire safety
- The lodge has fire extinguishers in common areas.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- Laundry is included in the cost. The clothes are collected in the morning and delivered back in the afternoon, depending on the weather.
- There is a safe in the office for guests to use.
- Accepted payment on location
- Credit cards are not accepted. Cash is accepted in Malawi kwacha, US dollars, UK pounds euros and Mozambique Meticais.