Not quite your typical tropical island – thankfully.

If you’re in the market for an unusual island holiday destination where the people next door are unlikely to turn up yet don’t want to do the same palm trees and white sand that everyone goes for then Likoma Island is the answer.

Likoma is one of those geopolitical oddities that belongs to one country, namely Malawi, but lies entirely within the territorial waters of another, Mozambique. Together with the smaller neighbouring island of Chizumulu it makes up the district of Likoma about half way up (or down) Lake Malawi, and they sit quietly and fairly unnoticed just a few kilometres off the coast of Mozambique.  The anomaly occurred because of how the area was colonised by Europeans. Anglican missionaries arrived on Likoma from Malawi (then known as Nyasaland) rather than from the Portuguese occupied Mozambique (Portuguese East Africa back then), and thereafter they became British and subsequently Malawian territory.

The island is as idyllic as islands are supposed to be. It is largely covered in grassland but is home also to a good number of Baobab and mango trees. The main attraction for visitors apart from the tranquillity is the main town’s cathedral. Building started in 1903 and the imposing stone edifice seems much too large for such a small place.


Image via Wikipedia

Getting to Likoma is easily arranged by air to the small airstrip from the Malawian capital Lilongwe. A steamer connects it with Nkhata Bay also in Malawi, while smaller boats including Dhows connect with Cobwe in Mozambique and with Likoma’s sister island Chizumulu.

There is a hotel (Kaya Mawa) and several guest houses as well as a backpacker’s hostel, however it should be noted that electricity is commonly only available until 10 pm. The best method of transport around the island is walking even though there are a few cars that travel the few unpaved roads, but since there’s not a lot to do and plenty of time to do it in, walking is really no hassle.

A really good resting up place if you are doing the Cairo to Cape trip, and an excellent hide-away if what you’re looking for is a relaxing, unhurried, interesting stay among some extremely friendly and easy-going people.

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