Where is this place? Mumbo Island is in the vast Lake Malawi National Park marine reserve, in the southeastern African nation of Malawi. Only one kilometre in diameter, the otherwise uninhabited tropical island, which is covered in ancient fig and baobab trees, lies 10km northwest of Cape Maclear, on a lake that is 600km long, 80km wide and more than 700 metres deep, at the southern extremity of the Rift Valley.
What makes it so special? Well, if you want to feel like the last – or first –people on Earth, there is no place like Mumbo. It has the distinction – and awards to prove it – of being eco-friendly in almost every respect. There is no mains electricity here, so forget about your gadgets. The kitchen works off gas and all lighting is solar-powered. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” and the staff do not let the side down, making guests feel part of a happy, smiling family. The lake reaches beyond the horizon, giving the impression of a crystal clear, sleepy ocean. At night, there are so many shooting stars, you might just run out of wishes.
What manner of wildlife lurks here? Ever heard of a rainbow skink? You will here. You’ll also encounter large water monitors. Bird life is dominated by the ubiquitous fish eagles but twitchers will be rewarded with sightings of less common forest birds, such as the sombre bulbul.
And the camp itself? If you require opulence, look elsewhere. If you want privacy and seclusion, Mumbo can deliver. It accommodates just 14 guests, in five doubles and one four-bed family unit in the form of tastefully furnished tents and spacious reed chalets, with shaded decks and hammocks overlooking the lake.
The camp is made of timber, thatch and canvas, and is perched on high boulders, which, combined with the lush foliage, lend a Robinson Crusoe ambience. There is a dining area with lounge and water sport gazebo. Meal times are flexible. Breakfast is simple and scrumptious, and lunches and dinners feature an array of salads, fresh fish, chicken and vegetable casseroles, curries, stir-fries and pasta dishes. The well-stocked bar is open all day.
What is there to do? These waters support more than 2,000 species of freshwater fish – a greater variety than in any other lake on Earth. The colourful cichlid fish and the massive granite boulders that make up much of its underwater terrain create a unique snorkelling experience in the calm, warm, clear, fresh water. The resort’s two-person kayaks are large and stable, and the local guides possess an intimate knowledge of the area. Lake Malawi is also a great place for scuba diving, especially for beginners or those who prefer relaxed diving with little danger. On dry land, nature trails weave their way around the granite boulders that litter the island. Not surprisingly, lying in a hammock with a book and a cocktail is another popular activity.
What’s the bottom line? Prices vary between US$230 and US$260 per person per night, depending on the season. Children stay at a discounted rate. Included are three meals a day, purified water, all activities and equipment, taxes and National Parks fees. For further details, visit www.mumboisland.com