What It’s Like Staying on Mumbo Island in Malawi

I’m a sucker for a good deal.

When I happened to find myself on Mumbo Island’s website and discovered the property offered special rates for South Africans (that include return flights from Johannesburg!), I fired an email to their reservations office right away.

By the end of that week, I had plans for my birthday trip booked and paid for – I’d be spending six days in Malawi!

Albeit alone (I couldn’t find anyone else that could take off time from work over the available dates), but I didn’t mind. Mumbo Island turned into an incredible solo travel experience (especially because I had no way of speaking to anyone until I got back home) and it fast became one of my favourite trips.

Here’s what you can expect while staying on Mumbo Island in Malawi!

About Mumbo Island

mumbo island in malawi

Mumbo Island is a small island in the middle of Lake Malawi National Park. It’s only 1-km in diameter, and it’s never been inhabited, and the island is in a pristine and natural state.

The island is entirely off the grid. That means no electricity, no WiFi and no cellphone signal.

If you’re after a digital detox, Mumbo Island is one of the best places to detach your thumbs from your devices for a few days. And I’m not the only one that thinks so.

Mumbo is considered one of the top eco-lodges in Africa!

The island has enough room to accommodate 14 guests and almost all the decor is locally sourced and made in Cape Maclear or elsewhere in Malawi. If you know 14 other people who want to experience a Robinson Crusoe island getaway, you could easily book out the entire place for your crew, and it won’t set you back millions of Rands.


mumbo island chalet

Mumbo Island All-inclusive Packages

My trip to Mumbo Island is the first all-inclusive trip I’ve done in my 28 years. And I finally understand why so many other travellers opt to explore the world in this way.

It’s hassle-free, all your big ticket expenses are paid for up front, and the only thing you need to worry about is getting to the airport on time.

Here’s a break-down of what my all-inclusive Mumbo Island package included:

  • Economy return flights from South Africa to Lilongwe
  • A 4-hour overland transfer to and from Cape Maclear
  • A boat transfer to and from Mumbo Island
  • 2-night accommodation in Cape Maclear
  • 4-nights accommodation on Mumbo Island
  • Three delicious meals a day (plus dessert)
  • All the coffee, tea and biscuits your heart desires
  • Snorkelling and kayaking gear
  • A sunset boat tour around Mumbo Island

Here’s what was not included in my Mumbo Island package:

  • Alcoholic drinks on Mumbo Island
  • Any diving activities
  • Massages
  • Spending money for souvenirs

For all of the above, I paid just over R 20,000!

Plus, Mumbo Island doesn’t charge single supplement rates, the prices stay the same whether you’re travelling solo like me or in a group. Malawi is also a visa-free country for South Africans, and you’ll get a 30-day visa on arrival without paying a cent.

With travellers from the UK, Australia and the USA having to fork out as much as $75 for a 2-week visa in some cases, Malawi is one of those destinations where it works in our favour to have a Green Mumba passport.


sunset at cape maclear

Getting to Mumbo Island

Once my flight landed at Lilongwe Airport, my driver met me in the arrivals hall. We then made the long 4-hour journey to Cape Maclear, where I would be spending the night.

Not surprisingly, I fell asleep on the journey, and my snoring woke me up.

I wanted to crawl into a hole right then and there.

It wasn’t long before we entered Lake Malawi National Park and arrived at Cape Maclear Cottage – my humble abode for the night. It’s a beautiful little spot right on the beach with uninterrupted views of Domwe Island in the distance.

If you want money to buy souvenirs or anything else, draw cash at the airport or ask the driver to stop along the way as Cape Maclear doesn’t have any ATMs.

patio of cape maclear cottage

cape maclear cottage in malawi


mumbo island chalets

Arriving at Mumbo Island

After breakfast, I made my way next door to wait at the Kayak Africa offices for my ferry to Mumbo Island. The trip lasts 45-minutes, and it’s a small boat, so you’ll want to pack motion sickness tablets if you get sea sick easily.

One trick that’s worked for me is always to keep staring at the horizon. Apparently, it helps your body feel centred, and I haven’t thrown up since. *touch wood*

Once you arrive at Mumbo Island, you’ll meet the island’s host. You’ll also get a welcome drink at the bar and a brief tour of the island before you are taken to your room.

Mumbo Island does have solar-powered cellphone charging stations! So you don’t need to worry about sending your phone back to the mainland if you’re using it to take photos.


rooms at mumbo island

The Rooms

I stayed in chalet number 5 on Mumbo Island, otherwise known as the “honeymoon suite”. It’s the most secluded lake-facing room on the island, but it also gets the worst of the wind.

If you’re a super light sleeper, it might not be the best room if you’re visiting during the cold season (May to August) when the lake is at its windiest.

On the plus side, chalet number 5 does have an incredible view of the sunrise! I opened up all my windows and doors every morning to watch the sun come over the mountains in the distance – it was magical!

All the chalets on Mumbo Island are far apart from one another to guarantee privacy. You’ll also have an en suite bathroom and a deck with a hammock.

The grass mats and cane furniture are made in the village of Cape Maclear, and all water bottles and glasses are recycled wine bottles. The kikoi throws (which are perfect for the lazy beach days) are sourced from Kenya, and the bed linens are 100% cotton.

There are also mosquito nets in each room, but they aren’t a massive problem on the island. With no electricity in the rooms or on the island, you’ll find a solar-powered light on your doorstep at dusk.

You’ll need it to get to and from the restaurant for dinner as well as for going to the bathroom at night or if you want to read before bed.

ensuite bathroom at mumbo island

lake malawi

lake malawi


Food & Drink

As a vegan, I don’t expect much from places who don’t specialise in serving plant-based meals. With Mumbo Island being an eco-lodge, I went in hoping for rice and some vegetables and got so much more.

tea and coffee

Morning Tea and Coffee

At 6:30 AM, the staff will come to your chalet and leave a tray of tea, coffee, and biscuits outside your room on the patio. It’s a great way to start the day, and you’ll catch the tail end of the sunrise.

honey jar

Breakfast at 8 AM

For breakfast, there is a fruit salad with freshly baked rolls that are vegan. There’s also muesli and cereal, but you’ll need to have your own plant-based milk.

Non-vegans can choose how they’d like their eggs done as well if they want any bacon or sausage. Vegetarians and vegans can order sides like baked beans, tomato, and toast.

There’s also a range of spreads like peanut butter, honey and apricot jam to choose from as well as fruit juice, filtered coffee, and tea.

mumbo island restaurant menu

Lunch at 1 PM

Lunch is a buffet. Each day the menu changes from traditional Malawian foods to more Westernized dishes like pizza or Mediterranean pasta.

For vegetarians and vegans, there is a separate dish cooked for you to replace the meat dish on the menu. When I was at Mumbo Island, eggplant was in season, and most of my meals had that vegetable in a stew of sorts.

pizza

Dinner at 7 PM

Dinner is also a buffet style and the menu changes every day. By far my favourite meal on Mumbo Island was the roasted potatoes, butternut, green beans and carrots!

If you’re vegan, there won’t be a massive variation in the food you’ll be eating, but all the meals are delicious!

Drinking Water and Snacks

If you get peckish in between meals, there is a jar of peanuts and biscuits (not vegan) at the bar. You can have as much as you’d like and it’s all included in the price.

The water on the island is filtered, and it’s safe to drink. You can top up your water bottle straight from the tap, or you can buy bottled water from the bar if you’d prefer.


snorkelling

Activities

Despite being only 1 km in diameter, there’s more than enough to do on Mumbo Island to keep you busy for a couple of days.

Snorkelling

All snorkelling gear is included in the price. I found the best snorkelling spot to be around the rocks underneath the chalets closest to the beach. Impini beach is also a good place to try if you want to get away from the crowds on the main beach.

kayaking

Kayaking

One of the best ways to enjoy the sunset on Mumbo Island is to take a kayak out at 5:00 PM and paddle to the west side of the island. If you’re not a confident kayaker, one of the staff members will come with you.

You can also paddle around the entire island! You’ll stand a good chance of seeing the otters (just before sunset) if you’re quiet.

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving is not included in the price for Mumbo Island. If you would like to dive, Lake Malawi is considered one of the best freshwater diving locations in the world. You can book with Cape Maclear Scuba before or after you arrive.

You can choose to do courses like Openwater or Advanced, or you can book a single dive for $70 USD. TThe more dives you book, the bigger discount you’ll get.

hiking trails

Hiking

There are quite a few hiking trails that zigzag all across the island. The hikes themselves are easy, and children and adults will have an easy time getting around.

During my stay, there were quite a few people in their 60’s hiking, including Pod Rock which includes a bit of scrambling at the top. Pod Rock is also another excellent sunset spot and looks over Impini Beach.

pod rock view point

Cliff Jumping

There are a few spots where you can go cliff jumping on Mumbo Island. Ask the staff to point out the best and safest spots on the hiking map in your room.

sunset in malawi

Sunset Boat Tour

A sunset boat tour of Mumbo Island is an included activity during your stay. The best part is that you can go more than once if another guest is going that day.

Before you get on the boat, the staff will ask for your drink orders, and you can enjoy a sundowner as you watch the fishing boats set up for the evening and the sun dip below the horizon.

girl swimming in lake malawi

Relax on the Beach

The best beach on Mumbo Island is right in front of the restaurant. You’ll have uninterrupted views, excellent snorkelling and plenty of sun or shade.

If the main beach is a bit busy, Impini Beach is the next best option. It’s a short 5-10 minute hike from camp.

Massage

I don’t know about you, but I tend to splurge on massages when I haven’t one in a while. With it being my birthday, I decided to treat myself.

You’ll need to put in a request with Mumbo Island’s host as the masseuse needs to travel from the mainland. A 1-hour massage will set you back $40, but I think it’s 100% worth it!


rocks at mumbo island

Is Mumbo Island Right For You?

Mumbo Island is the perfect destination for adventurous solo travellers, couples or families looking for a digital detox. If you’re celebrating something special like a birthday, you can request a cake or a secluded candlelight dinner on one of the decks!

For travellers that aren’t able to walk up stairs, you can stay in the family unit. It’s hidden in the forest (no sea views), but it’s the most accessible for people with disabilities.

The staff can also help bring meals down to your room if you or someone you’re with is unable to walk up to the restaurant.


island walkway

How to Find Specials for Mumbo Island

Mumbo Island is an incredible and affordable getaway in Malawi for South Africans. With your flights included and no visa costs, the only thing you really need to budget for (once you’ve paid for your trip) is souvenirs or excluded activities like scuba diving.

To find out the dates for seasonal specials for South Africans, check out Mumbo Island’s website or contact their Cape Town office, Kayak Africa, directly.

P.S. This trip is not sponsored. I paid for everything, and the property had no idea I’m a travel blogger.


Any questions, thoughts or concerns about Mumbo Island? Need that final push to book your trip? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll gladly be the devil on your shoulder that urges you to swipe that card and jump on next plane to Malawi!

Want more Africa travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:

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Mumbo Island is located in the middle of Lake Malawi National Park and is one of the top eco lodges in the world. With no WiFi, electricity or cellphone signal, it's the perfect destination for adventurous travellers after a digital detox. Here's my review on what you can expect! | Malawi Travel Tips | Malawi Travel Guide | Malawi Travel Lakes | Lake Malawi Beach | Lake Malawi Travel | #malawi #lakemalawi #africatravel #mumboisland

 

Mumbo Island is located in the middle of Lake Malawi National Park and is one of the top eco lodges in the world. With no WiFi, electricity or cellphone signal, it\'s the perfect destination for adventurous travellers after a digital detox. Here\'s my review on what you can expect! | Malawi Travel Tips | Malawi Travel Guide | Malawi Travel Lakes | Lake Malawi Beach | Lake Malawi Travel | #malawi #lakemalawi #africatravel #mumboisland
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6 Comments

  1. val
    May 18, 2019 / 3:26 pm

    Such a great post! I had no idea about this island and it looks so beautiful and secluded! Your tips are very useful too, I am going to pin your post and add the island on my bucket list 🙂

  2. Emily
    May 18, 2019 / 4:26 pm

    This looks incredible! And I love that it’s so eco-friendly. Saving this for next time we’re in the area!

  3. Silly Little Kiwi Blog
    May 18, 2019 / 6:44 pm

    If the water is seriously that blue, BRB BOOKING MY TICKET *DROOLS OVER KEYBOARD AS SHE TYPES THIS*

  4. Meredith Fulford
    May 18, 2019 / 6:45 pm

    Beautiful photos! Lake Malawi has been on my list for a while and this place looks heavenly. Thanks for sharing!

    Meredith
    The Longest Weekend
    thelongestweekend.co

  5. Lizette Swart (Tracks4Africa)
    May 22, 2019 / 8:18 am

    I spent 2 nights on Mumbo and 2 nights on Domwe a few years back – also solo. Still the most awesome trip I’ve had.

    • lauren
      Author
      May 24, 2019 / 10:43 pm

      Amazing! I think Mumbo Island is a great destination for solo travellers!

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