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“For the truly civilized...”
Review of Kaya Mawa

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Kaya Mawa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed December 30, 2011

If you want a great big resort with scheduled activities, cookie cutter rooms and sterile surroundings, please don't go to Kaya Mawa. You'll only be disappointed (shame about Bob).

On the other hand, if you want barefoot luxury, privacy, fantastic food, a willing and able staff, loads of self-directed activities and almost inconceivable views, Kaya Mawa should be at the top of your list.

I stayed in the Mbamba room, which was epic. 180 degree views of the lake, extremely private, absolutely huge but minimally and comfortably furnished with a great eco-chic aesthetic. Did I mention the private plunge pool? How about the indoor/outdoor bathroom with a huge tub, magically fluffy towels and all the mod-cons? After eight hot and dusty days on safari, albeit in some very high-end camps, this was practically a mirage.

The food here is superb, the hosting delightful and unobtrusive and while I wanted to explore the cathedral and all of Likoma's other delights, I simply basked in the glow of the Lake and sat on my ample behind.

I've traveled to islands around the world from Bora Bora to Barbados, and I wish there were more unpretentious, understated options like Kaya Mawa. To achieve this level of accommodation and elegance deserves high praise, so much the better without the Disneyland-style resort bells and whistles that would only mar the unique ambience of the island.

I'll be back, Kaya Mawa.

  • Stayed: October 2011, traveled with friends
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2  Thank T S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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135 - 141 of 194 reviews

Reviewed December 20, 2011

We were not sure what to expect from this holiday but were surprised and elated with what we did find. Kaya Mawa is a secluded resort on a small island in lake Malawi. The service was personal, friendly and very helpful. We stayed in one of the premier rooms- Nkwazi (think I spelt that correctly). The room is situated with a 240 degree view of the lake, over looking a small island and had an individual plunge pool. It was a very private room with large trees and abundant bird life in the trees. Sunsets from the deck were amazing.

The food was great and refreshing. Don't expect the buffets and ala cart menus from the big chain hotels. Expect delicious meals with unusual combinations made from fresh ingredients. We looked forward to each meal and were not disappointed.

Days can be spent diving, snorkelling, sailing or taking trips around the island. We spent ours relaxing around the room and snorkelling. The water was clear and fishes abundant just a few metres from the shore.

This is definitely a resort for those who want to get away from the busy world and relax. If you are looking for a large resort, full of people then this is not the destination for you.

  • Stayed: December 2011, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank BushFreak
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 18, 2011

It is hard to know where to begin when describing this triumph of a hotel. The achievement alone of getting the fabric of the buildings, the first class staff, the ingredients, equipment and room finishings to this singularly remote location staggers the imagination.
The setting in itself is breathtaking and the service faultless.
What a welcome from Michelle - personalised service, thoughtful comments and a room prepped (I am sure under her watchful eye) to the best possible standard. Even the request for a tin of Kiwi shoe polish didn't phase her - worth hearing how they came to have it though.
Richard - conjures up meals of the highest standard and even homemade biscuits appear with your coffee and tea.
I have seen many hotels dumped without any consideration to local communities in beautiful locations, then fenced off as an enclave for the privileged few. Dig a little deeper and you will find that James has given and continues to give a huge amount back to the local community. His support is discrete, unpublicised and I imagine frequently overlooked.
I left after too short a stay in awe of the food, the staff and the entire achievement of Kaya Mawa.
Maybe it wont be as soon as tomorrow, but it will most definitely be again soon.
(Had a good chuckle at some of the balderdash written by stultifyingly naive travellers.)

Room Tip: Just ask or let them know your requirements, I am certain they will find the best possible match.
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  • Stayed: November 2011, traveled with friends
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1  Thank stoffy_abroad
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 10, 2011

We recently spent 6 nights at Kaya Mawa. It is a beautiful setting and all the accommodation has tremendous character. Everything is done to an extremely high standard – with tremendous attention to detail. Service is excellent, while still being relaxed and fairly informal. Breakfast and lunch are in the restaurant next to the beach, and in the evening tables are laid out around the beach with lanterns, for romantic candle (and lantern) -lit dinners. Or, if you prefer you can have your meals served on your deck at your room at a time which you arrange beforehand - which is a really nice touch. When they came to lay out our table on our deck for dinner they even brought flower (hibiscus?) petals to decorate the table setting. There are plenty of things to keep guests occupied if that’s what you want but we mainly relaxed around our accommodation and pottered around in and on the water. The food was great - we are both vegetarians and were very well catered for – it’s always appreciated when we go away to get balanced meals, rather than just vegetables. We started off in Ngani, which is really nice, and then moved to Madimba, which is fabulous, but we managed to have a good look round several of the various places during our stay and they were all really nice in their own different ways. At Madimba we had our own pool, which was filled up for us when we moved in, kept clean during our time there, and then emptied out before the next guests (at least, I’m pretty sure this is what happens as all the pools in the unoccupied places were empty and clean). Thank you Michelle, Rich, and James for your generosity and kindness and to all the team there for looking after us so well.

Room Tip: Read the website descriptions. All of the rooms are unique so pick the one that suits you best.
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  • Stayed: October 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank GeorgeandJaki
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2011

Kaya Mawa Lodge and the Likoma Island is a treasure of hospitality, warm-hearted, humble people, crystal clear water and very healthy cuisine. Richard and Michelle - our hosts- make a formidable team - always available , yet granting all the guests their privacy. This was the case with all the staff at the Lodge as well. Meals were served wherever you wanted to eat, the rooms were rustic yet luxurious. A definite TO DO on anyone's holiday list. A great place for a honeymoon as well as a family getaway. Safe swimmimg , lots to do, beautiful scenery and enough space to still be private if you wanted to. The snorkelling is very safe and absolutely breathtaking! Awesome sunsets and beautiful bird song all day around!

Room Tip: Best to ask the managemnet team what your requirements are. THey are very accommodating and will ens...
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  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank ilse080
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 31, 2011

To the uninitiated Traveller considering Africa. Before you read any further please remember I rate this five stars.

What people need to know about Africa, that includes this paradise island. There is a shortage of many basic materials/supplies in this continent and it is further exaggerated by the fact that Kaya Mawa is an island on the lake. So, the power might fail due to a lack of fuel, back up generators might also fail due to the same problem and the back-up batteries might lose their charge because it is hot, so don't expect everything to work all the time.
Africa is also home to many bugs, spiders, creepy crawlies and even snakes, this island is no different, the water doesn't keep them away. That said, there are great mosquito nets that defend you from anything that is likely to want a three course meal out of you. My body is normally a treat for such activities, and I was almost unscathed from the seven day experience (I couldn't say the same whilst on safari...)
Rich is the master in the kitchen and his cullenary skills are top drawer, having trained in France and also India as well as Africa. What comes out of his kitchen is a delight worth waiting for each day (whether there is a power cut or not, he never failed to deliver.)
His partner, Michelle, is the hostess with the mostest and you feel like you have known the pair for years as the build up an instant rapport. That said they also fade into the background when they realise they are not required.
The bar is well stocked with international drinks and a great selection of South African wines. Bearing in mind this place is on an island where everything has to be flown in, the bar bill at the end of the week was as refreshing as the drinks during the week - $2 for a beer, you can't go wrong.
Talking of flying, this is a small island, so has a small runway, therefore needs small planes. So if you don't like the idea of flying for an hour in a 6 seater Cesna, the only other option is a ferry twice a week.
Activities, do as much or as little as you like , loads of water sports, some of which are complementary and other are reasonably priced, including PADI diving. Also loads of on land trips and activities on two or four wheels.
We stopped in two rooms during our seven day stay, both had small, but beautifully formed pools and the rooms are everything you would expect of in Africa. This is not London, Paris or New York, so don't expect the floors to be even or the windows to fit or anything else you would expect of a five star, this is Africa. Beautiful Africa.
I can't recommend this place highly enough and I have tried to highlight some of the things that might shock the uninitiated so everyone's eyes are wide open. Now read all the other reports including the comical terrible one's, including James' rather amusing responses (James is the owner by the way, he's also very approachable too)
You will not regret setting a foot on this island

Room Tip: They're all great rooms
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  • Stayed: October 2011, traveled with family
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2  Thank thompssx
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 26, 2011

My wife and I enjoyed a fantastic honeymoon at Kaya Mawa, staying here for seven nights after a three night safari on the Shire River. When we arrived we were totally blown away not only by the island but also the setting of Kaya Mawa; the beach, the bar area, the room, the service - everything seemed too good to be true. It wasn't. We had the most wonderful stay.

Our room - the closest room to the bar - was beautiful, cleaned and tidied twice a day while we were at breakfast and dinner and had its own sun deck and shaded outside lounge area. There were great products in the bathroom and a bag each containing snorkel mask and flippers. Real rustic luxury. We were offered an upgrade to the Honeymoon Island half way through our stay, which was really thoughtful, but we loved our room so much we stayed put!

Rich and Michelle - the couple who run Kaya Mawa - were helpful and friendly throughout our stay. They were both chatty and attentive and we enjoyed sitting at the bar with them most evenings before dinner, but they also knew when to leave you to your own devices. The rest of the staff - all from Likoma island - were always available for whatever you needed, happy to bring drinks to your room or help you rig up a sailing boat to take out. And they were all super friendly.

Rich, who is the head chef instructing a kitchen full of local women, produced amazing food (we were at a Michelin starred restaurant just weeks before our stay and this food was definitely up to that standard). As much as you want for breakfast (cooked and continental), lovely two-course lunches and incredible three-course dinners. The bar was really well stocked - regular top shelf stuff like Makers Mark and Glenmorangie as well as our new favourite, Malawi Gin! The wine list was extensive and Rich and Michelle picked out a couple of corkers for us to try, although I would say some of the wines were slightly over priced - most between $40 - $50 a bottle. The wine by the glass was pretty good and this was only $4, beers were only $2...

You can do as much or as little as you like, we had some days just relaxing on our sun deck reading, we took out a sailing boat, regularly used the kayaks, took mountain bikes around the island, went for a walk to the local textile workshop and through the nearby villages, and on the last day tried waterskiing - all of which I'd certainly recommend!

  • Stayed: September 2011, traveled as a couple
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Thank mikeandem
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
Location: 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: $524 - $614 (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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