Malawi Magic: Nkhata Bay

If you’re looking for tranquil waters, isolated beaches, and unrivaled diving options, then look no further than Malawi’s Nkhata Bay. Just over an hour outside of Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay is a premier spot for Southern Africa travelers to relax and recuperate before their next adventure.

malawi map

Get There

Bus services link Nkhata Bay with Lilongwe and Blantyre. Head North along the lake and you’ll find Nkhata Bay 90 minutes West of Mzuzu. A unique experience is the Ilala Ferry which ambles it’s way North along the lake arriving to Nkhata Bay on a Sunday and heading off again on the Monday morning.

Where to Stay

No matter your budget, Nkhata Bay has accommodation to suit your needs. Big Blue Backpackers provides dorm rooms, private straw huts, a large bar, and it’s own private beach. Mayoka Village is a backpackers haven etched into the cliffside with it’s famous BBQ’s and pumping nightlife. Nkhukuti Beach Resort is a slightly more upmarket option providing renovated facilities and removed from the Backpacker scene.

What to Eat

Based in the middle of town, a Thai restaurant (that also does Pizza) is not something you expect to stumble upon in rural Malawi but Kaya Papaya is a brilliant setting for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Safari Africa is one of the quality no frills options for those on a budget. Mayoka Village is the most popular spot amongst tourist with themed nights. Look out for Pizza night or the ever-popular buffet BBQ.

nkhata bay

What to Do

Diving is a major drawcard with Lake Malawi offering plenty of unique fish. Aqua Africa is a reputable operator offering a range of dive options for people of all experience levels. 40km out of town, Kande Beach offers horse riding among other activities. Local touts will be sure to offer you boat trips or fishing experiences. One of the highlights is watching the Fish Eagle diving from height for fish. Of all the activities to do in Nkhata Bay, relaxing with a Carlsberg in hand while watching the local fisherman takes the case.

Bonus Time

  • Everywhere in town is walkable and provides the opportunity to mix with the friendly locals. Take care walking at night (especially along the cliff top after a few beers at Mayoka Village).
  • Although there are claims Nkhata Bay is a¬†Bilharzia-free zone, there is evidence of cases. Pay a visit to a GP within a month of first contact with the Lake to receive the right medication.

What to Pack on an Overland Trip

cropped-giraffe-1042618.jpgThere is no better way to explore Southern Africa than on an overland trip. One of the main issues facing first time explorers is the question of what to pack. Here we’ll cover the do’s and don’ts when it comes time to pack.


  • Opt for a durable bag. Backpacks are ideal to load into the truck and comfortably cart around between lodges/tents. Look for backpacks with a detachable day pack to allow for extra freedom when exploring.
  • Pack for the season. Southern Africa typically has two seasons – wet and dry! Know your season and pack accordingly.
  • Africa is typically considered hot but the nights can get bitterly cold. Make sure you have something warm on hand when the camp fire just won’t do.
  • Comfortable and durable shoes are a must. Allow yourself the best opportunity to take advantage of walking safaris.
  • Sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat will allow protection from the baking sun.
  • Insect repellent, sunscreen, malaria tablets, and hydration tablets – don’t leave home without them!


  • Packing heavy items will cause sore shoulders and the wrath of your overland group as you cart your bag around.
  • White items do provide great protection from the sun but the African dirt is something not even the strongest bleach will soak out of your clothes.
  • Wearing shoes you are afraid to get dirty is a massive no. Dirt, mud, water, and animal excrement will find you!
  • Bringing valuable items comes at high risk. Knowing your bags will be thrown around provides maximum opportunity for breakage.
  • Overpacking can kill valuable room for all the souvenirs you’ll pick up along the way. Markets also offer the perfect opportunity to grab clothes along the ay.

Victoria Falls v Livingstone

Victoria Falls (the Wonder) is one of the major highlights of visiting Southern Africa. The common question is which town to base yourself for exploring the Falls – Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone (Zambia).


Access to the Falls

Both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides both offer breathtaking views of Victoria Falls. During high water season (December – March) both sides offer great visibility but the Zambian side will offer the most dramatic views. In the dry season (April – November) Zimbabwe may offer the better views with the Zambian side being merely a trickle.

In terms of the townships, Victoria Falls is just a short stroll away from the Wonder whereas Livingstone is a 10 minute drive.


There is no shortage of accommodation either side of the Zambezi with options to suit any budget. Victoria Falls offers the ever popular Shoestring Backpackers where you can mingle with travelers and locals alike after a hard day of exploring. The Victoria Falls Hotel offers something unique for those with a higher budget offering great views of the Railway Bridge and rooms suitable enough to satisfy the Queen Mother.

Livingstone offers accommodation options along the river as well as budget options such as Jolly Boys and Livingstone Backpackers in the township. Waterfront is the riverside choice for overland tour companies offering camping, shared, and mid-priced options. For those looking for a taste of Colonial Southern Africa and with a larger budget, The Royal Livingstone is a luxurious choice as Zebras cross the lawns while you sip cocktails along the Zambezi.


Both towns have an underrated food scene with options to suit all appetites. Victoria Falls has many African Inspired options with In Da Belly offering a menu of Warthog and Impala while if visiting the Boma for a buffet of African classics you can expect a night of traditional entertainment.

Livingstone offers more Western Cuisine with Olga’s Italian Corner, the Carribean inspired Cafe Zambezi, and Golden Leaf providing headline acts. A unique Livingstone experience is the Elephant Cafe where you can enjoy a high tea amongst elephants. An iconic experience is dinner aboard the Royal Livingstone Express steam train.



There is no shortage of river options on both sides with the bungee jump, rafting, sunset cruises, game drives, and helicopter rides just naming a few. Victoria Falls is quite modern in facility offering family friendly activities along with traditional cultural activities.

Livingstone is the perfect base for exploring one of Africa’s most underrated National Parks in Chobe, Botswana. Just a 40 minute drive away from Livingstone you can sleep amongst the Lions and view Africa’s largest congregation of Elephants.


In summary, there is very little separating the two towns with both offering a multitude of options for all types of travelers. Victoria Falls is the ideal base for an easy stroll over to the Falls whereas Livingstone offers a more unique African twist and still has the remnants of colonialism.

Our suggestion, give time for both!

Why Travel Southern Africa?

If you’re sitting there wondering why to make your next travel destination Southern Africa, these 7 reasons are sure to have you packing your bags right away!

Wildlife Galore


Wildlife is the main drawcard for most travelers to Southern Africa and remains the reason seasoned travelers keep coming back. Whether you’re watching Rhinos in Kruger, gazing at Elephants in Chobe, or stalking Lions in Etosha; Southern Africa has hundreds of unique wildlife viewing opportunities at your fingertips.

Natural Wonders


Table Mountain is the first natural wonder that greets visitors to South Africa and provides a beacon above the buzzing city. Add the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert in Botswana, along with Lake Malawi, and you’ve got natural wonders to fill your itinerary. The greatest wonder of all is Victoria Falls where you can feel the powerful spray as you take views from both Zimbabwe and Zambia. Why not swim up to the edge of the falls at Devil’s Pool?

Stunning Beaches


Surrounded by the coastlines of both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Southern Africa has no shortage of unique and stunning beaches. Cosmopolitan Cape Town offers the restaurant, bar, and sunbaking beach of Camps Bay. Surfing options are also aplenty in South Africa with the world famous Jeffreys Bay headlining the list. Mozambique offers diving havens of Vilanculos and Tofo while the beaches along Lake Malawi offer a point of interest. Better pack your swimming trunks.

Contrasting Landscapes


Desert, mountains, savannah, wetlands – Southern Africa has it all. Desolation and rough seas hammer Namibia while the Eastern side provides tranquil waters and sandy beaches. Botswana is possibly the best example of contrast with the Kalahari Desert bordering the wetlands of the Okavango Delta.



If viewing a Lion from metres away isn’t enough adventure for you then don’t worry – Southern Africa has so much more. Sandboard, windsurf, and catch sharks in Namibia. Surf, camp amongst predators, and shark cage dive in South Africa. Bungee jump, white water raft, or sit at the edge of Victoria Falls in Zambia. There is no shortage of adventure at your fingertips in Southern Africa

Easy on the Wallet


A trip around Southern Africa can be very easy on the wallet if you have time on your side. Travel like a local in buses and experience camping under the African sky with many options to place your tent. Local markets offer the chance to purchase inexpensive food and local restaurants offer a variety of food at a low cost.

The People


The main selling point of Southern Africa is it’s people with a huge variety of cultures, languages, handshakes, and smiles. You’ll feel welcome from the moment you step out of the airport and get that same friendly greeting with every border you cross. Live like a local and experience what Southern Africa really has to offer through it’s people.