A tourist boat skims along the surface of cichlid-rich Lake Malawi at sunset © Ariadne van Zandbergen, Africa Image Library
In addition to having the broadest range of accommodation options anywhere on the lake, Cape Maclear offers a peerless range of aquatic activities, from snorkelling and diving to kayaking and motorised lake excursions.
Situated in a 6km² enclave of unprotected land within Lake Malawi National Park, the second-largest settlement on the Nankumba Peninsula is the fishing village known to locals as Chembe but to most outsiders as Cape Maclear. It’s a beautiful spot, enclosed by tall forested mountains and lush rocky islands, and one that has long enchanted overseas visitors.
In addition to having the broadest range of accommodation options anywhere on the lake, Cape Maclear offers a peerless range of aquatic activities, from snorkelling and diving to kayaking and motorised lake excursions. The notoriously assertive beach-boy and tout culture that once characterised the village has been diffused, thanks to the adoption of a rota system that assigns a specific guide to a specific lodge for a specific period. And yet there remains a gratifyingly integrated feeling to tourist development in Chembe, with most lodges lying right in the heart of the village, so that visitors are exposed to everyday African life in an unforced manner very different from any other lakeside resort in Malawi. There’s a strong strand of community tourism here, with a range of projects that directly benefit Chembe people: from local tours, jewellery- and papermaking workshops, drumming lessons and more.
Adding to these charms, Chembe is one of the few accessible parts of the Malawian lakeshore to face northwest, which not only ensures some protection from the fierce winds that sometimes rise on the lake, but also means it is perfectly positioned for spectacular sunsets.