Nkhata Bay, Malawi

(Notes from a journey to Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia, Sep/Oct 2015.)

Heading from Lilongwe toward Nkhata Bay along the northwestern shore of Lake Malawi, the countryside rises into undulating hills and valleys, nearly engulfing the inselbergs that dot the landscape. The forests at higher elevation looked greener during the dry season than what we’d seen further east, with fewer deciduous trees. Here and there pine tree plantations appeared, incongruous in this tropical land, where their timber has become a major cash crop. And as everywhere we’d been in Malawi, we saw grass and underbrush being burned near and far, along the roadway, with the smoke growing thicker as we proceeded north. Village clusters of shops, homes, and small fields grew smaller and less frequent too, between increasing expanses of semi-arid forest and brush.

Many small shops in this part of Africa have names that read like sayings of hope, wisdom, or faith, usually earnest, like “God Is Wonderful Hardware.” But sometimes they had a sense of humor. The “Trust Nobody Food Shop” across the road from a grocer called “Trust In God” made us wonder if the shop owners were involved in a verbal joust, as did another pair, “God Knows” and “Nobody Knows.”

In Nkhata Bay, the coastline is broken into cove-like beaches separated by rocky promontories, rather than one long stretch of pebbly sand. We chose to stay at a guesthouse overlooking Chikale Beach, from where we had an unbroken view eastward across the lake. The lake is so vast that looking across you can see no shoreline. Inland along the roadways that lead to Chikale Beach is the town of Nkhata Bay with small shops and residences for its population of 15,000 hidden among the trees and twists of the hilly landscape. The tourist infrastructure along the beaches is much more sparse than at Cape Maclear, but the beaches were busy the evening we arrived as Malawians were finishing their Mother’s Day holiday celebrations—a major holiday in this predominantly matrilineal society. Malawian music piped over the sands from the speakers of a beachside bar, while adults enjoyed their beers and kids paddled playfully in dugout canoes just offshore. In the morning, we were up to watch the sun rise over the lake. The morning light sifted through the smokey haze that hung over the lake so heavily that the disc of the sun wasn’t even visible until it was well up in the sky. [—Usha Alexander, October 2015]

Nkhata Bay (more)

Evening on Lake Malawi

Dawn on Lake Malawi

The thinker at dawn

Kid in a boat (more)

Chikale beach



Nkhata Bay vista

Visitor at dawn

Morning on the lake

Boats at dawn

Mango tree on the beach

Lake Malawi coast

Rocks on Chikale beach

Lake Malawi coast

Chikale beach

Lake Malawi at Nkhata Bay

A dog whisperer

Pretty bird

Scenes from the countryside from Lilongwe to Nkhata Bay

Patel Super Market

Bike taxi stand

Roadside eateries

Trust Nobody food shop

Village homes

Village shops

Jacaranda trees

Selling tomatoes

Village homes





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