5 days in Cape Maclear

5 days in Cape Maclear

Our trip to Cape Maclear was originally inspired by 2 of our friends moving to Malawi to run a backpackers lodge (see this post for more about the lodge). We hadn’t put much thought into a Malawi trip before but the more we thought about it, the better it sounded!

We tried to do some internet research before our trip but found there to be much less available than we had expected. This is the main reason why I am trying to blog a bit more about this wonderful holiday than I normally would.

Getting to Cape Maclear

There is no real quick and fast way to get to Cape Maclear but it is certainly doable. We flew to Lilongwe on an SAA flight from Johannesburg. After about an hours wait in the border control queue (we were at the very back) we got our luggage and a lovely man named Steven was waiting with a sign for us. Steven drove us for the next 3 and half hours to Cape Maclear. This process was only this easy for us because we didn’t have to organise our taxi driver ourselves. We contacted the good people at the Funky Cichlid and they arranged the taxi for us. We just had to pay our driver ($95). I have heard from other travelers that the same trip took them over 10 hours using public transport but it was obviously much cheaper.


Where to stay in Cape Maclear

We arranged to stay at a backpackers called  The Funky Cichlid and it was perfect for us. This reasonably priced accommodation is a whole heap of fun!


We were very comfortable in our private room and were thrilled to see it was a four poster bed with the mosquito net over it. This is so much better than what I would call a normal ring mosquito net – which always lands up over my face in the middle of the night. The four poster option is a whole heap better!

We spent one night on Domwe Island and it was absolutely phenomenal. The good people of Funky’s organised it for us so all we had to do was arrange our food and drinks for the night. The rustic island is a paradise and I highly recommend spending a couple of nights here. Here is a blog post I’ve written about Domwe Island if you’d like to know a little more about it.


What to do in Cape Maclear:

Fortunately for us, there were plenty of fun activities for us Funky’s. We were able to hire snorkel equipment, kayaks and SUP boards and didn’t need to mission far away to find the fun.

Kayak. A Cape Maclear must! I highly recommend taking a kayak to Thumbi Island for some walking around or snorkeling.

Snorkel. The two most popular snorkeling spots are probably Otter Point and Thumbi Island. We only swam at Otter Point and we saw so many beautiful cichlids! We snorkeled at Thumbi and it was amazing! There is also apparently some pretty great snorkeling at the Domwe Island gap but we never got there to check it out ourselves.


Run/walk. This may seem obvious to some and ridiculous to others. I only went for one run in Cape Maclear and I really enjoyed it. It was hot and sweaty but was also a great way to see more of the village and landscape. I did a simple 4km route that the triathletes run in the Cape Maclear Triathlon which was easy to follow and I’m sure any of the lodge managers could easily explain the route to anyone keen to run it.

Shop for textiles. You won’t have to look far. The best place for buying beautiful Malawian fabrics is probably along the main road through Cape Maclear. If you don’t make it that far though and just stay at your lodge, the fabrics will come to you! There are a number of vendors who will approach you to sell you fabrics and offer to tailor some summer clothes for you.


SUP (Stand up paddle board). Balance is required but once you have that down, this is a pretty great way to see the lake. The added height makes fish spotting a little easier and you feel like you’re getting a pretty great work out.


Sunset boat ride. This isn’t an official Funky’s activity but they still organised it. Our sunset boat ride included feeding fish eagles which was absolutely incredible!


*** PARK FEES! These guys will get you. If you go to Thumbi Island, Otter Point, Domwe Island etc, you will be charge a $10 park fee per person per day. If you pay it once it covers you at all the places for that day. Rangers will spot you and hunt you down so it’s just best to be prepared for this. If possible, try coordinate your snorkeling at Thumbi Island and swimming at Otter Point (as an example) on the same day to minimize your park fees. ***

As you can probably tell, I’m quite fan of Funky’s and you can read a little bit more about my favourite things to do at Funky’s here.

What to eat:

Fish curry at Funky’s (trust me)

Fillet steak at Fat Monkeys

Where to drink:

Funky’s (for the best GnTs and biggest vibe in town)

Gecko Bar (for a pre-dinner drink)

Fat Monkey’s

Thomas’ (if you’re keen to drink with the locals – and you should be)


What to take with:

Obviously packing is a personal thing but if you’re anything like me, you really don’t feel like having packing regrets mid holiday! If you’re not too sure where to begin, here is a post with some packing tips for Malawi.


We didn’t know what to expect from our trip in Malawi but we were thrilled with everything we found. The warm heart of Africa out did itself!









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