Likoma Island: A Little African Paradise

Resident dog Basil lives the life on Likoma Island

My initial reaction to Likoma Island was nothing short of pure contentment. Although my travel friends from the ferry and I thought we would be leaving just two days later to get back to mainland, it just wasn’t going to happen. You can’t spend two miserable days on a boat, only to spend two days on a relaxing island. So it was time to kick back and relax.

A Fabulous Place to Run
My second morning on Likoma, I decided to go for a run. There is a ridge running down the island so my run ended up being more of a hike up the hills and a run back down them. From the ridgeline, one can look west to see even smaller Chizumulu Island or east to mountainous Mozambique. It’s quite picturesque. It’s funny to look back at my backpacking lodge- the hills are covered with African grass while the beach is tropical looking. It’s a tropics meets African bush experience.  As I was running back down the hillside, I passed a woman bent over mudding the foundation for a new house. I waved when she looked up. The woman threw her head back and laughed as she eagerly waved in return.

Island Fever? Not at all.
The next few days I spent swimming, snorkeling, and paddling around the bay on my favorite new lake toy: a waveski. It looks like a surfboard with indentations for your bum and your feet. I met a Chilean couple and a Swiss couple on the ferry, which made for a playful rivalry when their respective soccer teams played each other in the World Cup. We made several trips into the market to buy food to self-cater, as one couple had a cooking stove. The first night was rice and eggs. We were hoping to find cabbage (I don’t think that’s too much to ask in Africa) but when we got to the market we were told there was no cabbage that week. If it doesn’t come on the ferry, they don’t have it. There were tomatoes, onions, and beans. Rice and beans it was for the next two days! It was a lot of fun cooking and sitting around a fire with 5 other travelers. One couple made bread on a stick over the fire, which turned out to be quite tasty! Another couple roasted peanuts. We shared travel stories, had a few laughs over each other’s quirks and funny phrases, and did quite a bit of relaxing on the beach. It was a nice break to my usual solo travel. We ended up staying together for about 10 days, along with 4 others who had taken the ferry with us.

Discovering a new beach on Likoma Island

No Such Luck.
Likoma Island is only about 16 square kilometers. The population is around 6,000 people. I saw maybe four cars the entire time I was on the island. A few of us went into the market to pick up the food for dinner. On our way back we were walking with a couple of local teens. When we came to a fork in the road, we veered right, to head up and over the ridge to return to our lodge on the west side of the island. All of a sudden a motorcycle came flying around the corner on this sandy dirt road, leaving us to jump out of the way. He never slowed down, came straight up the middle, and there was not enough time. Before I knew it, I was knocked by the handlebars, catapulted into the air as my camera and wallet went flying, before hitting the ground. The force left me doubled over as I took a pretty hard hit to the ribs. There were kids scrambling around, but I recall still hearing the motorbike. I looked over my left shoulder to see two men on the ground but the bike tires still spinning. The driver jumped up but couldn’t seem to cut it off at first. He approached me, clearly shaken, grabbed my shoulders, and asked if I was okay.  He was recklessly driving but I think it scared him enough that there was no use for a lecture (not to mention I was not feeling so hot). A teenage girl named Catherine approached me trying to brush off my shirt and exclaimed, “My best friend, I am so sorry!” It was very touching.  The next few days proved difficult to sit up or bend over. I was very fortunate to have such sweet travel buddies who bandaged me up and gave me the Swiss equivalent of IcyHot for my ribs. It was definitely the next best thing to having my mom there.

Walking down the ridge at dusk

Oddly enough, we ran into a boy the next day who saw the incident. He walked with us a ways, until he casually mentioned that he had turned the motorcycle man into the police. I was caught off guard, but on a small island, everyone knows everyone and word travels fast. Supposedly, the guy did not have a proper license and the police were going to look into it. Either way, I think it scared him pretty badly. I’m just so lucky that I avoided the wheel of the bike and also that there are no paved roads on the island. I’m sure we would have had much worse scrapes if we had to eat pavement versus a little bit of sand.

A Malawi Must
Likoma Island is a must for any visitor to Malawi. While I don’t recommend taking the ferry all the way from Monkey Bay to get there, a shorter ferry ride is well worth it. The management at Mango Drift and the locals on the island are really friendly. It’s a beautiful setting, and a perfect place to rest for a few days and get in some great swimming! It would be a shame to make it to Malawi and never experience the island life.

This post was not sponsored by macrocephalous autohagiographer, however they are just getting a temporary mention for the heck of it.

11 thoughts on “Likoma Island: A Little African Paradise

  • Wow, what would have been your options had you broken some bones or had worse injury? I guess I’m old enough to think of your poor mother reading this! These incidents are often worse for the people far away who are helpless to do anything! Oh, and your pictures are amazing as usual. :)

    • There’s technically a hospital on the island, but I can’t imagine what type of facility it is. I just kept thinking about what if my teeth had been knocked out. But thankfully, the ribs are healing fine. And I agree, it’s definitely worse for people like my parents who have to hear about it from thousands of miles away!

  • BEAUTIFUL photos! Absolutely gorgeous. I guess if you’re going to get hit by a motorcyle anywhere, this is a pretty place to recover?….

    Glad you’re okay and that a new best friend was there for you (too sweet!)!!

    • Heather,

      You’re right- it was a great place to take it easy to recover. I was lucky that I was staying in one place for a few days so I didn’t have to worry about my lugging around my stuff. And I went for my first run in five weeks today so things are getting back to normal for me!

  • Not to sound repetitive or anything, but your photos are absolutely stunning. What camera/s do you have?
    Hope you have recovered from the motorbike mishap and I look forward to reading more of your amazing adventures.

    • I have an Olympus e510 dslr. I’m hoping to take a photography class and upgrade equipment next year but for my first slr camera it’s great!

  • So glad to hear you are okay. This is so naive but these aren’t the photos that come to mind when I think of Africa, which is silly because it’s surrounded by water.

    Beautiful photos.

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