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“Fantastic Honeymoon”
Review of Kaya Mawa

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Kaya Mawa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 23 May 2007

My wife & I have just returned from 7 night honeymoon at Kaya Mawa and we loved every minute of it. It followed on from a 3-day Safari in SA and was intended to ensure complete relaxation before finally heading home – it did exactly that.

The lodge is located on the southern most tip of the Likoma Island and is nestled into a rocky outcrop between two beaches. We got there
via a 4-seater 1hr air-taxi flight from Lilongwe Airport.

On arrival we were welcomed by James & Susie - one of two couples who
manage the lodge (think that's right!). James got us a much needed drink and gave us a matter-of-fact run down of the various activities
and hazards etc before showing us to hut 2 - our room from the stay.

As far as the obvious hazards are concerned: Malaria - we didn't get bitten once during our stay - perhaps we got lucky with the weather/time of year. I'm not sure we saw a mosquito at all during the entire stay (the lack of standing water and lake breeze maybe helps this). We took Malarone all the same (you’d be fool not too) - so far so good.

Bilharzia - again no signs yet! There are next to no reeds near the lodge and the water was only completely flat for 1 day in 7 (if that)
thanks to the lake breeze which was well received to temper the effects of the sun. We may take some tablets all the same after a couple of weeks just to be sure - better safe than sorry. It didn’t stop us from spending several hours a day in the water.

Lake fly do appear from time to time - particularly near the paraffin
lamps in the evenings - but at no point did it affect us adversely (they don't bite). We followed James' advice concerning minimising the use of lights in the huts and turned down lamps during the evening/nights and were never bothered by them in our hut. On our return flight the pilot did point out a couple of clouds of lake fly right out in the middle of the lake which from 3 thousand feet up looked huge and dense – I imagine it’d be unpleasant it they hit shore when you’re there. Apparently this occasionally happens but only lasts a short while. We did encounter the odd spider and even a bat in our hut – the wife’s not keen on spiders (neither am I but perhaps a different degree of dislike!) but they never troubled us (out of sight out of mind…).

The food was great - after filling ourselves on Safari it was good to get back to a more normal quantity of food (by choice!). The meals
can be taken anywhere - either in the restaurant (at the top of the lodge with beautiful views of the lake) or outside your hut or in the bars etc... Lunch is anytime after 1pm - we tended to eat it outside the bar overlooking the lake. Dinner - typically we met up with people in the bar after 6 and, when hungry, people disperse to various romantic destinations around the lodge (beach, deck outside hut, under the baobab trees, honeymoon island gazebo or dining room) to be waited on by the locally recruited staff. Neither my wife nor I are picky eaters - every meal resulted in a clean plate and neither of suffered any dreaded stomach upsets. They’ve just introduced a room service operated by walkie-talkie (no phones after all) which we made use of primarily for sunset Pimms but can be used to get snacks etc and order breakfast in your room if you can’t be bothered to leave it.

The lodge itself falls into the rustic luxury category - if you're after the plush luxury of a 5 star hotel then this isn't for you. All
the buildings are built by hand out of the local rocks/cement and often built around some large boulder to make an interesting feature.
The lodge has mains electricity from morning until ~10pm - after 10pm
a local generator keeps things running until everyone is in bed (uk plugs for chargers etc). After that all the huts have 12v lighting/fans charged by solar panels during the day. All rooms have hot water heated by a wood boiler - we weren't sure when/who looked after that but there was always hot water when we wanted it. All the rooms have a bath/shower built out of stone and most had a loo with a view of the lake. Windows etc are built by hand i.e. have gaps/aren't flush but we had them open all the time anyway (day & night) to keep things cool - there are long flowing white drapes for all windows. The beds are huge - with a rock base + thick comfy mattress and a good quality mosquito net. Fans are provided - 12v and
mains - we only ever used the 12v above the bed at night. Our hut had
a cushion-covered rock bench and table immediately outside plus a deck over the water with sun beds and an easy route to snorkelling (we also had several romantic sunsets and dinners there). Two (I think) of the lodges are situated on the other end of a 100m beach to the west of the main lodge – a further 2 midway along that beach. We took an opportunity to look round them when they were not in use and the two remote huts really make brilliant use of some massive boulders to make a unique layout – with the obligatory loo with a view of course! Honeymoon Island – across the bridge – looks great. We visited it when it was empty but never stayed there. Those we spoke to who did stay there seemed to like it – the bridge isn’t for anyone with mobility problems.

In terms of things to do - you can be as active or inactive as you like. The lodge only has 10 huts so it never feels busy and you can be as reclusive or social as you like. We tried to do relatively active things every other day - this included snorkelling most days, a picnic for 2 on a nearby rock island out in the lake, mountain biking round the island, a day’s boat trip round the island to see the local school, the cathedral and do some fishing . We also made good use of the laser 1 sailing boat, ventured onto the surf skis and had a crack at some wake boarding (unsuccessfully). Bikes & snorkelling gear is all new and good quality – there was mention of new scuba gear to emerge shortly (current stuff look reasonable to the untrained eye) but we preferred to stick to top of the water (no one used the scuba whilst we were there). Laser and surf skis are not new but perfectly functional and lake-worthy.

Surprisingly there’s also Internet Access in the reception - no telephones or mobile coverage (mobile access on its way though). We used none of it and were glad to be out of contact and away from ringing mobile phones for the duration of the stay. Drinks and petrol powered activities are charged for in US dollars – we took some dollars with us but in the end paid the bill online before we left. The lodge provided us with local currency (kwacha) when we needed it and added any that we used to our bill. They even gave us a honeymooners leaving gift of a 5ft paddle to make sure everyone knows you’ve been somewhere remote and hot when you get home!

All round an extremely memorable destination for a holiday (especially honeymoon) - I would go back but in reality it's not likely to be for a few years. I'd recommend it to anyone.

  • Stayed: May 2007, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank JimDeuc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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182 - 188 of 194 reviews

Reviewed 4 April 2007

This was billed by the Travel agent (aardvarksafaris.com), and in the literature from Kaya Mawa, as one of the top ten honeymoon destinations in the world. This is not the case in my opinion.

This is not a resort for people expecting 4* accommodation or above.

I had booked the honeymoon island, recently connected to the Likoma and the resort by a 150ft rope bridge. In my opinion quite good fun if you are steady on your feet, but potentially lethal by UK safety standards given the condition of the wooden slats worn by sea, rain and wind.

The resort itself was hand made by the locals, some feat considering what is available on the island. Unfortunately this method of construction did not lend itself to the 5star quality we had been led to expect. There were gaps in all doorways and windows, furniture was hand made and as comfortable as you would expect from that.

Things you need to know;

1)Bilharzia Our agent had warned us that the Lake was susceptible to this (bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/bilharzia1.shtml) , this was the case but we didn’t get the chance to experience the water so managed to avoid it.

2)Malaria - we asked the owner about the prevalence of this given I was without medical protect after my reaction to Malarone. He advised us that ‘he was unaware of a case in the last seven years’. The afternoon we left someone was medivacced off the island with severe effects of Malaria.

3) Weather – I’m not sure how to cover this one, don’t trust anyone connected with the island when researching the conditions. I appreciate we only had a short stay but we were told to expect a short rain shower in the afternoon with plenty of sun the rest of the day. Instead we had dull conditions in the day followed by the longest electric storms with high winds throughout the night.

4)Facilities – Not great beaches, covered in dog excrement from local dogs, they had bikes to hire and you can also go sailing with members of staff.

5)LAKE FLIES – There is a natural phenomenon on Lake Malawi, which we were completely unaware of. Flies (smaller than mosquitoes) that are completely harmless visit the island to breed on roughly a 48-hour cycle. The owners told us as we arrived (in the middle of a massive swarm) that it only lasted a couple of days and that it happened on average once a month but because of the impending rainy season they had visited twice in the last seven days. Given that we endured 5 different types of spiders, crabs, 3 types of lizards/geckos, birds and other insects – all in our room. I don’t think that we were being particularly fussy when it came to our lack of tolerance with these flies. They got everywhere and prevented any kind of enjoyment of day today things – breathing, walking, sitting, getting changed, washing, going to the toilet, drinking, eating…

To cut a long story short we arrived, spent an evening there, endured the food and drink with ½llb of flies in it. Tried to sleep through the storms on an island out on a peninsula with doors and windows rattling because of the gaps. Avoided the wildlife. Didn’t have the drinks delivered at breakfast next morning as promised so went over to the resort. Faced egg and fly on toast with no tea available, just warm bottled water. Decided to leave and waited for a plane to be chartered to take us back to Lilongwe.

Whilst I appreciate that the weather and the flies are out of the management’s control, I feel it worthwhile pointing the potential occurrences out to fellow travellers. For what it is worth the Manager went out of his way to be sympathetic and arrange for the flight out (for an additional charge), for this we were extremely grateful. However, the owners, and our travel agents showed little sympathy when I broached the subject of compensation.

Granted we started our stay a day late because of adverse weather conditions, and we were not in the best of moods as I was suffering from a reaction to the Malaria medication we had taken.

My last comment would be that this is a beautiful island. Unfortunately it was not as luxurious as had been billed. It was barely better than staying in a tent on a rock. The local staff were really friendly. I reiterate my point earlier - This is not a resort for people expecting 4* accommodation and above.

  • Stayed: April 2007, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
11  Thank DSP23London
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
kayamawa, General Manager at Kaya Mawa, responded to this reviewResponded 2 May 2007

I remember these guests well and am a little surprised by the extent of their complaints.

I respond directly to each point:
Bilharzia: For Bilharzia to be contracted essentially you need two ingredients, apart from the snail itself. Flat/still water and an abundance of reeds. At Kaya Mawa we have no reeds and with the prevailing wind from the south west in the afternoon the water is hardly ever completely flat. The owners of the lodge have been on the island for the past 13 years and in that time have never had bilharzia, i myslef have been here for the past year and a half and have never had it depsite spending the days in and out of the water teaching sailing and waterskiing.

Malaria: I have confirmed with the owner that he did not make this statement. He himself has had malaria in the last seven years as has my partner. Malaria is endemic in this part Africa. Again we are lucky here at Kaya Mawa as the mosquito for breeding needs stagnant water, we have none. However, we always advise all our guests to cover up at dusk and take their profilactics and provide mosquito sprays in all our rooms. We would be incredibly irresponsible if we did not. The fact that someone can get medivaced if needed shows that we have the suport sytems in place to deal with any emergencys

Weather: These guests arrived at the begining of the rainy season, settled weather can not be expected at this time of year, if they were advised that it would be then it would not have come from us. On the day they arrived the weather was overcast as was the morning that they left. The weather as ever is out of our control. We endeavour to provide facilities and activities which our guests can enjoy should the weather be inclement.

Facilities: The beach here has course sand. We did at one stage have an issue with dogs however this has no been rectified with daily beach cleaning. At the disposal of our guests free of charge we have kayaks, paddle skis, a sailing dingy, mountian bikes, mask/snorkels and fins and scuba diving. We also have facilities for wakeboarding, waterskiing, knee boarding and tubing. We have four motorised boats including a malawian dhow, a semi infaltable ski boat and a boston whaler for wakeboarding and longer trips. We offer our guests a number of various excursions, such as round the island trips and visits to the cathedral. At the lodge the lodge we have two qualified sailing instructors, a ski instructor and two dive masters, we are just about to employ a dive instructor as well.

Lake Flies: Rightly said they are a natural phenomenom. They swarm over the lake and if we are unlucky the get blown on to the island. They usually hang around about 36 hours. We do not get hit that often and obviously endeavour to make arrangements so that our guests' holiday is not ruined. When they do "hit" us then the whole lodge is not affected it may jay be one room ro a part of the beach. We do our best and advise our guests about them on arrival.
These particular guests had arrived complaining about their previous lodge for insects. This is Africa one can not expect a sterile environment.
The Bridge: The bridge was constructed one month before these guests arrived and did experience teething problems. We have now rectified the situation as best as we can but putting dampers on and a central support. Should guests not wish to use the bridge we also offer a boat service. The wood is all hardwood which is bleached by the sun, it may look old however is perfectly safe.

We bill ourself as a rustic boutique hotel. Over the past 18 months we have made extensive repairs and refurbishments to all the rooms and are continuing to do so with a new reception and watersports centre.

On the guests first evening i spoke to them and they said that they did not feel that this was the right sort of place for them. I suggested that they stay the night and see how they felt in the morning, if then they wanted to leave then i would try to organise a flight for them. In the morning i met them on the beach with the owner and his wife who were chatting to them, they felt that their whole honeymoon had been a disaster and that Africa just was not for them and wanted to go. I emailed those responsible for booking flights and made arrangements for the plane to come and pick them up at an hours notice. Obviously one can not expect to charter a plane to fly to a remote island top collect you free of charge! All of us here were completely sympathetic to their cause with the reaction to the medication and the bugs, it is horses for courses. They were offered a free long weekend at a chalet in Morzinne skiing, which the owner did not need to do, but did because we liked them and wanted them to have something good to come of their honeymoon.
To suggest it was barely a tent on a rock when they had a private island with a chalet with an 8 foot four poster double bed, gazebo, mini bar, stereo, tea and coffee facilities and direct radio link with the management, i think may put the review in perspective.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 August 2017
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  • Stayed: August 2017, travelled as a couple
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Thank 675gizelam
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 November 2016
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Room Tip: Bungalow mit direktem Seezugang und eines mit eigenem Pool. Vor uns der See und in Sichtweite die Kü...
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  • Stayed: September 2016, travelled as a couple
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    • Sleep Quality
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1  Thank Cherardo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 January 2016
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Stayed: November 2015
4  Thank Connie B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 23 November 2015 via mobile
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Stayed: November 2015, travelled solo
Thank zieglera
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 November 2015
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Room Tip: Alle kamers zijn fantastisch met uitzicht op het Malawimeer .
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  • Stayed: December 2014, travelled as a couple
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Thank sissivivi146
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about 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: £381 - £449 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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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