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Staying at Kumbali Lake Retreat, Lake Malawi

During my trip to Malawi, I had the opportunity to stay for two nights at the peaceful Kumbali Lake Retreat.

Just a 2 hours drive from Lilangwe, Kumbali Lake Retreat is a beautiful eco-lodge located in Senga Bay, on the shores of Lake Malawi.

Kumabli also has a country lodge in Lilongwe.

They have mastered the combination of authenticity and luxury, and offers the best of both worlds for nature lovers by way of land and water! Experience the freedom of disconnecting in your charming cottage and on the private white-sand beach, or become immersed in Malawian culture with a visit to the lodge’s neighbouring village. Kumbali also offers a fully stocked bar and kitchen with set priced meals (though breakfast is included), a complimentary guided hike, a complimentary sunset cruise, and free use of the kayaks.

Welcome Home:

I arrived to Kumbali Lake Retreat mid-afternoon and was immediately greeted by the resort manager Stinger, a kind man with a big smile, and the bartender Ashley, who offered me a chilled cider. I was ushered to my private cottage overlooking Lake Malawi, which included a luxurious open-air shower.

After weeks of cold water showers during my travels across Southern Africa, this hot shower (where you can literally watch the sunset) was such a guilty-pleasure and one of my favourite aspects of this cottage. I was also swooning over the plush white bedding and cozy mattress, where I drifted away into sumptuous slumbers to the sound of waves from bed.

where to stay in lake malawi

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi has been named a UNESCO world heritage site and in my opinion, exploring the lake is one of the best things to do in Africa. At Kumbali Lake Retreat, you can do this by kayak or boat cruise — or if you are brave enough, an icy dip! I later learned from Patrick, the hilarious  charming assistant manager, that “Lake Malawi is a calendar” — it’s 365 metres long and 52 metres wide.


kayaking on lake malawi

The cottage in the distance is Kumbali’s newest addition – the honeymoon suite. This baby will be fully loaded and self-sustaining once completed, equipped with its own butler!

At 4:30pm on my last night at Kumbali, I reported to the beach for my sunset boat ride with local water master and eagle whisperer, captain Steve. One of the bartenders saw us off, stocking up the boat with an iced savannah dry cider for me to sip while watching the sunset.

lake malawi sunset boat

We cruised around the lake to feed the neighbouring fish eagles, who were apparently hungry and very keen. Steve used a whistle to call them and tossed a small fish into the lake — within minutes the large eagle circled our boat before elegantly swooping the surface of the water to snatch the fish.

I learned from Steve that the eagles are monogamous, taking turns watching the eggs while their partner leaves to find food. They are also territorial, meaning once we moved further down the lake, the first eagle could not follow us (or it would be crossing over into another eagle’s turf).

From the boat, I could see the main fishing village and watch local fisherman hard at work. We anchored to watch the sunset, which is also an opportunity for snorkelling off the boat (though I was captivated by the sunset and decided to stay on board).

Lifuwu Hill

Kumbali Lake Retreat is built into the side of Lifuwu hill, conveniently providing a beautiful hiking and photography opportunity. I met Patrick at 7:30am for coffee and breakfast before departing for the trailhead in the neighbouring village.

The hike took us approximately 2 hours round trip and is fairly easy (though the tall grass at the top can be slippery so mind your footing!). There are a few different viewpoints, offering unobstructed views of rice fields and the lake below (and Samango monkeys if you are lucky!).

However, due to resort’s location in the hill, do not expect to get cell service during your stay (though you can get some in the village if you require it).

To be honest, I enjoyed the time being disconnected. With no emails, texts or calls, I could indulge in things I consider a privilege because I don’t often have time for them: reading a book for pleasure in a hammock for hours on end, getting lost in thought while watching a sunset, writing in my journal while sipping morning coffee. So often we are distracted by our phones or each other, or the million things we have to do — it was refreshing to just be there in the moment by Lake Malawi.

Getting There

In Lilangwe, I took a taxi to the main bus station where I caught a mini bus to Salima town (this cost 2500 kwacha). At the Salima bus depot, you can take a private taxi (4000-5000 kwacha) straight to the resort or a shared taxi (400 kwacha) to the road juncture and then a motorcycle taxi (1000 per person) to the resort.

I took a private taxi there and used the motor bike taxi/ shared taxi combination on the way back. It is really quite simple and painless, though if you are apprehensive and prefer a more simplified mode of transit, Kumbali can arrange a direct private transfer for you at a higher cost.

Overall I had an exceptional time at Kumbali Lake Retreat and would highly recommend them to you for a peaceful stay at Lake Malawi, or their country lodge.

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staying at kumbali lake retreat - where to stay in lake malawi

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What are your thoughts?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * said:
Amazing, I wish you a wonderful honeymoon! Enjoy Malawi :)
February 19, 2019 at 4:29 am
Stacey Fabien said:
We are heading to Malawi for our honeymoon so we will definitely put this on our list! We live in Namibia where it is always dusty and we are usually in the hot desert. So we can't wait to be by the lake
February 17, 2019 at 12:38 am
Alexis Rae said:
Oh my gosh that place looks seriously beautiful! Your room looks super comfy and that kayak trip sounds awesome. Glad you had a good time!
July 13, 2018 at 1:00 am
Samantha said:
It looks like it was beautiful! The bed looks especially inviting, and it is an awesome looking place to disconnect from the world!
July 12, 2018 at 1:52 pm
Teresa "Tess" said:
It must have been very peaceful and relaxing because that vibe certainly came through in your writing and photographs! I like being around bodies of water in general and often try to take trips as such.
July 12, 2018 at 11:46 am
Carrie said:
I would be totally down with the several days of disconnection without cell phone service. Malawi is high on my bucket list, so will have to keep this spot in mind -- although I always envisioned myself camping in a backpackers, rather than staying in a fancy resort, to be honest :).
July 11, 2018 at 7:32 pm
Laureen said:
We’ve seen a lot of Africa but have yet to make it to Malawi. This resort looks amazing! I will definitely look in to a visit on our next trip in 2019. Thanks for the tips.
July 11, 2018 at 5:11 pm
Coco said:
Oh wow this looks so lovely! I'm dying to visit Africa and now Malawi is at the top of my list!
July 11, 2018 at 3:44 pm
sarah said:
Those accommodations look GORGEOUS!!! And the food looks amazing too!
July 11, 2018 at 3:35 pm
Sinjana Ghosh said:
Wow! The pictures are just stunning. Any sane person would want to go there after reading this (money being the only barrier). What is the best time to visit Malawi?
July 11, 2018 at 2:33 pm
Sinjana Ghosh said:
Wow! the pictures are absolutely stunning! What is the best season to visit Malawi?
July 11, 2018 at 2:20 pm
Catherine @ To & Fro Fam said:
Oh my, this resort in Malawi looks absolutely incredible. That bedroom alone makes me want to pack my bags for a trip right now!
July 11, 2018 at 1:57 pm