Off the eastern shore of the Lake is Likoma Island, a small piece of Malawian territory in Mozambican waters. The University Mission to Central Africa (David Livingstone’s mission) set up their headquarters on Likoma in the 1880s in part to try to fight the slave trade that used routes across Lake Malawi. Because of this history, Likoma was retained by Malawi when the Lake was divided politically after World War II and the waters around it became Mozambican.
Likoma’s primary claim to fame is its magnificent cathedral. St Peter’s matches the size of Winchester Cathedral in the UK, yet is here on an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of Africa! Work began on this extraordinarily ambitious construction project in 1903 when the mission was fortunate to have a trained architect on its staff. Using local labour and materials, the vast granite building gradually took shape and the first service was held in 1905. It is still going strong well over 100 years later and is a sight and sound to behold during any service, when the passionate congregation will be in full voice. This vast building has some most interesting features including stained glass and carved soapstone.
The island has a few bustling local communities and some lovely beaches. Given its small size it is easy to explore on foot. Nearby is another tiny island, Chizumulu, also Malawian territory.
Access to Likoma is currently by boat or aircraft. The airstrip has been upgraded in recent years though most visitors still arrive courtesy of the venerable Ilala ferry. There are also now a number of boats that offer straight transfers between Nkhata Bay and Likoma.
Accommodation on Likoma is limited but includes one of Malawi’s top luxury lodges, Kaya Mawa. Named by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top 10 most romantic lodges in the world, Kaya Mawa is a stunning, multi award winning, responsibly and sustainably run property and one of the best beach lodges in Africa. All manner of lake activities are on offer (including scuba diving) and, for most people, Kaya Mawa is reason enough in itself to visit Likoma. There are a handful other properties on the island, including the charming mid-market property of Ulisa Bay Lodge , which also offers pottery as an activity for its guests! A wonderful barefoot luxury lodge is just across the water on the Mozambique shore of the lake – Nkwichi Lodge at Manda Wilderness.