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Seven ways to experience Lake Malawi

22nd October 2012 Print

Lake Malawi is on more lifetime wishlists than it’s not, and no wonder why. A mirror-flat, sparkling surface that stretches across more than 20% of what is arguably Africa’s friendliest country, it’s certainly seductive. Throw in an exclusive beach lodge offering languor and lively activity in equal measure, and this is wildest-dream territory.

Only legendary safari operator Robin Pope Safaris could have brought such style to this lakeshore. Pumulani stands alone, its lush, lawned slopes tumbling down to a sandy powder-sand beach. A dazzling infinity pool eases into the crystal, currentless warm waters of the lake; and ten grass-roofed hillside villas offer space and seclusion.

But don’t think there’s only one approach to this pristine scene – ie being draped dreamily and dramatically over a sun lounger, lifeless save for loo visits and lifting a straw to one’s mouth. Oh no: no, no, no. The backdrop might be like a Bounty ad, but the Lake is actually abuzz with options:

Unsalted, unstirred splash
This is some of the cleanest, clearest and warmest water around, with no currents and no salt content, making it glorious for swimming, snorkelling, fishing, sailing and kayaking – all of which are included in the price of a stay at Pumulani. For a small charge you can dive, waterski, wakeboard and let loose on a fun tube ride.

Cichlid submersion
One of the world’s most bio-diverse bodies of water, Lake Malawi is home to over a thousand species of fish. It thus offers excellent scuba diving, particularly as kaleidoscopic clouds of cichlids weave their way between luminescent coral reefs.

Bow dhown before the sunset
Pumulani has a 40ft traditional wooden dhow boat – a heavenly, Malawian-made vessel powered by a large triangular sail and a 40hp engine. In the care of experienced local crewmen, a sunset cruise is included in the price of a Pumulani stay.

Dinghy independence
So long as you have sailing experience, you are welcome to take one of the two-man sailboats out onto the lake and enjoy a feeling of utter liberation on its inviting waters. And, if you have no knowledge of boating, no problem: a guide can easily be arranged.

Cycle and scull
Mountain bikes are freely offered to those wishing to explore the lake’s spectacular surrounds. Be escorted by a guide along a bike trail through woodland and villages, ending on the lakeshore where kayaks will be waiting for you to paddle back to Pumulani.

Perambulate and paddle
Guided walks are a wonderful way to spot some of the lake’s breathtaking bird life (including Bohms bee-eaters and African hawk-eagles), as well as creatures such as Samango monkeys and spot-necked otters. Again, a return trip home by kayak means the day ends on a high.

Beach bliss-out
OK, so there are some of us who will go to Pumulani with the express wish of simply being immobile – to sizzle in the sun, snooze in the shade, read and recover. And right they are: unwinding is an art form in itself – you could even call it an activity, or a pursuit at least.

Malawi specialist Expert Africa ( has a seven-night stay at Pumulani from £3,251 pp (based on two sharing) including return international flights, internal flights and transfers, full board and most activities.