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“Exquisite barefoot living with the best swimming pool in Africa (Lake Malawi)- but with a twist!”
Review of Kaya Mawa

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Kaya Mawa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Certificate of Excellence
South East England
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“Exquisite barefoot living with the best swimming pool in Africa (Lake Malawi)- but with a twist!”
Reviewed 17 October 2009

Blue, crystal clear waters with tropical fish, white sand beaches surrounded by Baobab and mango trees and bougainvillea and frangipani. The difference? The water isn't salty...AND it is in the middle of Africa!
Kaya Mawa is a delight. Enchanting rooms set on the beach or out into the lake. Dining each night is set in a different location. Lovely staff who will do anything for you. But don't forget, you are on an island on a lake in the middle of Africa...so if you want European style and security of supply, it isn't the place for you! And, I have read a couple of poor reviews of this place and can only say - you are right that if you want air conditioning and are frightened of ants or NON-stinging insects then this isn't the place for you - and what are you doing in Africa in the first place? If, on the other hand, you don't get stressed when the plane hasn't brought the plain yoghurt and you have to endure fresh fruit instead and if you appreciate the quirkiness of the extraordinary, then do go here. We made it the end of a safari and climbing trip and it was perfect.
Don't bring clothes and jewellery but bring a sarong and flip flops - that's all you'll need.
If you want night life and action, forget it. If you want beauty and things that are really out of the ordinary, this is the place for you!

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
1 Thank DJGtravellers
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Mali
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
Reviewed 17 October 2009

Our stay at Kaya Mawa was excellent. We had the family chalet on the beach by the lake, which was perfect for our family (3 young children). The chalets are far enough apart, that each visitor has its own space and privacy.
The children absolutly loved it : playing in the sand and swiming in the cristal clear waters of Lake Malawi all day.
The service was perfect, lots of flexibility to accomodate us with the children. The food was truly excellent.
We would love to go back and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quiet or active vacation by a beautiful lake (we spent a lot of time relaxing but also did some diving and waterskiing).

  • Stayed August 2009, travelled with family
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Helpful?
3 Thank catabamako
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
The world
Level Contributor
7 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed 17 October 2009

We booked this trip with the purpose of relaxing in wonderful surroundings over an extended weekend and found that the place was exactly what we were looking for.

It was relaxed, laid-back, extremely beautiful and unique. I have travelled in Africa to similar type of remote, exclusive resorts in many ocasions in countries such as Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda...and Kaya Mawa was the nicest stay.

Yes, the lodge obviously is in Africa so there are bugs but significantly less than in any other place I have been to and we only found the odd harmless spider and some very cute lizards. There were of course some ants around the dinner table in one ocassion but nothing that couldn't be easily solved with some salt. Can one expect a bug-free experience in a remote lodge in the middle of disconnected Africa? I prefer to see them than to see ordes of people insect spray at hand constantly killing bugs to preserve a sterile environment, it is just not environmentally friendly nor does it respect the surroundings. In the end, I was very positively surprised to see that there were no mosquitoes, which should be the main concern when one travels in malaria infested areas. I do agree though that the tiny little bugs that were everywhere (it was a temporary problem we were told) could have been cleaned from the outdoor seating area in each room more than once a day.

We had a great time at Kaya Mawa and highly valued the intimacy and privacy that the resort affords. All rooms are secluded, they have their own access to the water, lovely sun beds and peace and quiet to read, chat or enjoy silence and relaxation. The fact that dinner was always in couples and every night at a different location around the resort also added a detail to the experience and I must say they were all very romantic. Especially if you couple the stay at Kaya Mawa like the majority of the people, with a safari in Zambia, I believe it is very much appreciated to have some alone time with your partner because, as nice and interesting as group dinners are, some people go on holidays to get away from everything, relax and be with the loved ones and having to keep conversation with the person sitting next to you with whom you may have nothing in common is interesting once or twice but not every night. In the end, if you want to interact with the rest of the guests, it is very possible to do so during lunch or at sunset, although most of the people prefer to see the sun set from the privacy of their room.

If one wants to do any activities it is possible and we took some kayaks out, took an island tour with the quad bikes and snorkelled around the lodge to beautifully clean and crystal clear waters. We also tried to take a bike ride but it was too hot and had to return soon after departing.

The lodge also sponsors a local workshop where the community beautifully decorate linen and cushions which they re-sale and it was nice to see that it contributes with sustainable opportunities for development in addition to the typical school building one sees in most lodges in Africa.

The Manager runs the place like it is his house which is pleasant in the sense that it puts you at ease and explicitly proves that one can do anything in Kaya: you can have breakfast, lunch or dinner anywhere you want, radio any of the staff asking for anything and that is in my opinion also better than having strict rules which make your vacation be on a tight schedule. He also has a particular British sense of humour which may sound slightly arrogant at times but it didn't bother us.

The food was always tasty and nicely presented and considering the remoteness of the location, they managed to prepare good menus every night. Deserts were always delicious too.

The rooms are all diferent and hand made, hence have character and personality and are really special. We had a nice bath tub carved out of stone which was wonderful. There was always hot water and electricity when we needed it and we had a mosquito net that covered the whole bed perfectly. We didn't see any bugs inside the beg nor did we get bitten by anything. It amy get a bit hot inside the room which is why you have no windows so that the air flows. Air conditioning would ruin the experience although I can understand it may be very unpleasant during the hot summer months, we were there at an ideal weather time (30 degrees during the day) and had no trouble sleeping.

I think despite it was really one of the nicest places we have stayed at it may not be the type of location for everyone, purely because this is genuine Africa and that comes with its pros and its cons. However, having travelled in Africa vastly, it would rate it in my scale as one of the places where we had to put up with the least nuissance. Aside from the small bugs, everything else was just PERFECT and it is likely to be the only place I have stayed I would love to go back to!

  • Stayed September 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank c980040
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York, New York
Level Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 October 2009

Likoma is beautiful, make no mistake about it. The lake is clear and fresh, and the island barren but interesting. The locals are fairly friendly -- we were hustled a bit on the three-mile walk into town, but less than other comparably poor places in Africa. And the chalets at Kaya Mawa are secluded and peaceful, each with a gorgeous view of the lake.

So what's not to like?

Lots. The bugs are plentiful, there's no air conditioning, and the food's pretty lousy, but given the location -- on an island in one of the poorest countries in Africa -- those problems are sort of unavoidable. The biggest problem with the hotel is its manager (and part-owner), James, who runs the place as if it's his house and you are a not very welcome guest. While James and his friends and family members drink and waterski and hang out together, you get to watch, or to pay extra for those activities on top of the thousands of dollars you've already spent. James also has the odd habit of discouraging guests from socializing with each other. There are no communal meals or activities. I understand that many people staying there want privacy, but wouldn't it make more sense to allow guests to decide whether to eat together?

If KM were cheap, the attitude might not matter. But the place costs between $600 and $800 a night per couple, and flights are another $640 round-trip per person. So you're looking at $800 to $1,100 per night. At these prices, the resort should be far friendlier and more welcoming than it is.

My advice: if you do want to go to KM, plan on no more than two nights, and don't book in advance. You may be able to get a deal on the flight ($320 round-trip instead of $640) if you book it when you're in Malawi -- and you might save some money on the resort too. Likoma is worth seeing, but not at any price.

  • Stayed September 2009, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
6 Thank eastvillagetraveler
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
kayamawa, owner at Kaya Mawa, responded to this review, 17 October 2009
I remember these guests well. I am slightly perplexed by this travellers review. I have had no family or friends out to the island since I was married here two years ago. The only people that I socialise with are the guests of Kaya Mawa.
In the evenings these guests would come up to the bar and sit in the corner playing scrabble. I spoke to them every evening, checking that they were happy and if they wished to do anything the next day, they never mentioned any issues, problems or complaints, in fact precisely the opposite. No effort was made by them to talk to the other guests. Again I am confused.
There were guests who were engaging in watersports whilst these guests were here and should they have wished to have a go the facilities were there for them too. It is made clear prior to any booking that motorised activities are extra.
Kaya Mawa has never had communal dining or activities and for this we have until now always been complimented. However we do have guests that ‘make friends’ whilst they are here and request to eat together which is absolutely not a problem and in no way discouraged.
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Cleveland
Level Contributor
58 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 October 2009

Kaya Maya may be beautiful BUT that is all it is!!! We were there for 7 Nights and it was the worst vacation spot we have ever been to-James (Who now owns Kaya Mawa) has let his managers go and had two kids running this resort. The resort is closing in November for rennovation but I doubt that could even help this place. Its VERY Hot in this place and there are NO SCREENS on the windows of your accomadations and according to James never will be-so you have to leave your windows open since there is no air-Also there is a fan in the room but most of the time it is not running (after 10:00p.m. it goes out for the whole night leaving you roasting and unable to sleep)-<Also be prepared to not have electricity many other times because it goes out often. The mattresses on the beds have to be at least 20 years old and the mosquito netting has holes in it-We had thousands of ANTS in our sink and even after they sprayed each time we went to brush our teeth or wash up they were still there. SO GROSS!!! The Ants were all over the toilet seat and bowl as well which was very disgusting!!! The Place is full of bugs and since you have to leave your windows open expect to spend lots of time with Africa size BEES and WASPS and Mosquitos and every other bug on earth. The food was Always Cold and you didn't have a choice at what was served and also expect bugs to be crawling on your table and food as well as swimming in your water-Every glass we were served had chips in them and all the dinnerware was chipped. There is really NOTHING to do there expect swim in the Lake-They have bikes but the roads are dirt and filled with rocks and stones so theres no way you go for a ride-The ATV's (extra cost) were broken-Actually everything in this place is broken down. By the way-We thought this was an all inclusive to only find out drinks were extra even bottled water and Coca Cola. At night after dinner there is NOTHING to do there except go to sleep-No kind of entertainment at all and if you use any kind of light in your chalet it attracts BUGS BUGS BUGS-so be prepared!!! It is beautiful-But broken down and need of much repair and not worth any Money-They should have payed us to stay there-It was almost like being on Survivor-If you wanted anything to eat in between meals-forget it - you couldn't even get a cookie!! Wilderness Safari's is severing there ties with this place and for good reason-ITS A DUMP!!! So if this is the kind of vacation you want -go for it-but for us - it was Hell on Earth.

  • Stayed September 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
8 Thank bobswifecleveland
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
kayamawa, owner at Kaya Mawa, responded to this review, 21 October 2009
Firstly perhaps I should explain a little more about these guests to put the whole review in context.
Bob is a slight and fit gentleman, he is a salesman in America. Bob’s wife is not slight and she understandably struggles to get around following two knee surgeries. She will only eat fast food, preferably fried. They enjoy holidays on cruise ships.
Whilst I am always very receptive to constructive criticism it is how we grow as a business, I would like to address each point separately.
1) The previous managers were not ‘let go’ they had worked here for 3 years and wanted to pursue new avenues. We have been interviewing for new managers however would rather not rush in and pick the first ones that we meet.
2) We are not closing for renovation; we are closing because we want to make some changes to areas of the lodge which cannot be done whilst we are open.
3) On the day that these guests arrived I was unfortunately unwell in bed. Fortunately, I had a gap year student on work experience who was licensed to drive our vehicle. Rather than hire a local pick up I requested that he pick up these guests from the aerodrome in our Landcruiser. Upon arrival at the lodge they were introduced to Mr Peter Kamwendo who has been employed here over 10 years and is the Malawian manager at Kaya Mawa. Peter then showed them around the lodge stopping for a fresh juice in the bar, he then showed them to their room. I was unable to attend the bar that evening leaving Peter in charge. At no time were any teenagers in charge of Kaya Mawa, that would be ludicrous.
4) From September until December is the hot season on Likoma. At its hottest, which is in November and not when these guests were here, it peaks during the day at about 35 degrees and during the evening drops to early 20’s, we also have a lovely breeze almost every afternoon. Malawi has a tropical climate where temperatures are expected to be high.
5) Bob wife is absolutely correct there are no screens on the windows. In fact it is not uncommon for lodges in Africa to have no windows at all. We do have a large mosquito net over each and every bed which are new every year. If she had found a hole in her net she need only have let me or the management know and we would have fixed it immediately.
6) All of our rooms run off a dual power system ensuring there is 24 hour electricity. At the moment it means we have two sets of switches for fans and lights. One set runs of 12 volt solar power and the other of mains power. What this means is that whether the island is providing power (which it does not during lunch or after 10pm) or not our guests can always turn a light or a fan on. When guests are here we do suggest that when the mains power is on they do not use the 12 volt solar power as they will drain the batteries for the night. The 12 volt systems are fool proof and only let us down when this simple rule is not followed. She complained of the issue after her second night so we switched the batteries to make ensure that the fault did not lay with our system, which it did not.
7) Mattresses. These guests slept in a room with twin beds. I first arrived at Kaya Mawa four years ago. We created our first twin room three years ago. Therefore the mattresses on their bed were three years old and are only used for some of that time (when the room is made up as a twin) as the rest of the time the room is turned into a double with one double mattress.
8) Ants. Hands up, sadly they did report that there were a lot of ants in their room on their penultimate night. I personally went to investigate. There was in no way an infestation, however I personally sprayed the room. I explained to them that the poison we use takes up to 36 hours to be fully effective so, sadly, they would not have seen the real effect of the poison.
9) Bugs. This is Africa. Regardless of where you go there are bugs. We have no more than anywhere else and significantly less than many places. It is as if these guests came to Africa expecting a sterile man made environment where they could pick and chose what part of the environment they would like to keep and which they would like to turn off.
10) Food, I find the comments slightly strange here. Bob’s wife has very peculiar dietary requirements which we did our best to fulfil, namely she only eats ‘junk food’. Not our standard fair here. During her stay here and when leaving she complimented us on the food and how we had managed to look after her so well with the fried chicken, chips and pizza and catering to her needs. Incidentally all our food (the cooked stuff) goes out on hot plates.
11) We have mountain bikes available. We chose mountain bikes because all the roads on Likoma are dirt. The mountain bikes are four months old and have probably been used three times
12) We have Quad Bikes which are not broken and are regularly serviced, they in fact went on a tour with guests whilst they were here. (Incidentally when Bob’s wife first complained to her agent she said that the mountain bikes were unusable not the ATV’s!)
13) Chipped glass. When it was pointed out on their last day that all the glasses were chipped, pointing the glass on the breakfast table I immediately checked all glasses in the lodge, amazingly she must have had the same glass every time she was served a drink, it was the only chipped one.
14) Drinks being inclusive. Bob’s wife brought this up within 5 minutes on day one of her stay, i pointed out that we have never been an all inclusive lodge and that on her voucher it was clearly stated as such. She informed me that she knew what was said on the voucher but she hadn’t been told before leaving home.
15) We do not put on evening entertainment for our guests after supper, never have and until now no one has ever complained, I’m not sure how well a cabaret would go down.
16) I have never heard anyone call Likoma Island boring. At Kaya Mawa we have a number of activities including: Kayaks; sailing; windsurfing; waterskiing; quad biking; mountain biking; walks, fishing, island trips, snorkelling and scuba diving. The island is steeped in culture there are visits including; the cathedral, the market, the textiles workshop and the witch doctor. These guests either could not or decided not to participate in any activities, perhaps this is why they were bored.
17) With reference to the comments intimating that Wilderness Safaris chose to sever links with us, a complete lie. We are no longer being marketed by Wilderness by mutual agreement, however we are extremely happy to continue to work closely with them and will do so in the future.

Calling Kaya Mawa a ‘Dump’ is perhaps as farfetched as our first Tripadvisor ‘complainer’ calling it a ‘tent on a rock’!
Whilst it is sad Bob and his wife did not love Kaya Mawa, had you met them you may understand that there are some places some people are simply not suited.
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Salzburg, Austria
Level Contributor
22 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 20 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 August 2009

Looking for a place like heaven here on erarth? You find it at Likomas Kaya Mawa. The most romantic hide away, great food, wonderful people and the clear blue waters of Laka Malawi... At Kaya Mawa you wish for the time to stop and that tomorow may never come!

  • Stayed June 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
2 Thank Lilarosa
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Shoreham-by-Sea, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
10 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed 11 January 2009

I'd like to start my review by telling you what kind of people my wife and I are, because I find that it helps you decide whether you can trust the review or not.

We're in out mid-twenties, I'm a freelance web designer and my wife is a optician so we've got more cash than some of our friends but are by no means loaded! We both love travel, and especially love 'off the beaten track' type places. We often spend most our holiday budgets on just getting to places and then stay in hostels etc. but this being our honeymoon we fancied some luxury.

We both love africa and went on to stay in the Seychelles for 2 weeks after Kaya Mawa... and what can I say..... Kaya Mawa blew the Seychelles out of the (crystal clear, fresh) water!!!

Likoma island is pretty much the most beautiful place in the world as far as I'm concerned and Kaya Mawa is the perfect accommodation. Granite bath tubs, private jetties and hand crafted chalets are the order of the day and not soulless white walls and it is all the better for it.
The water is warm and clear and full of fish (better snorkeling than the Seychelles) and the beaches are beautiful too.

The service was top quality, everyone was so friendly and approachable. Great bar, good wine.. my only slight reservation about the whole place was that the food wasn't as fresh and fishy as I had hoped but it was explained to me that a lot of the produce had to be imported in at great cost, so bearing that in mind they did a great job with what they had.

Take a boat tour around the island, it's a great way to see most things in a day and then just relax relax relax.

I'm actually getting depressed writing this review that I'm not there right now!!

  • Liked — Everything!
  • Disliked — Nothing!
  • Stayed September 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
2 Thank Luke H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Kaya Mawa

Property: Kaya Mawa
Address: P.O. Box 79, Likoma Island, Malawi
Region: Malawi > Northern Region > Likoma Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Kaya Mawa 3.5*
Number of rooms: 7
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Also Known As:
Kaya Mawa Likoma Island
Kaya Mawa Malawi/Likoma Island

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