Likoma Island lies in waters of Lake Malawi that are partially owned by Malawi and partially by Mozambique. At 8 km long and 3 km wide, it is considered a Malawian territory because of its historical ties to the country.
Scottish missionaries used it as a base for preaching to the people who gathered to hear their message. Their religious legacy can be seen in physical buildings and monuments and in the skills of the people. The settlement at Likoma was the only settlement in Africa with a 100% literacy rate for a long time.
The large and extremely beautiful St Peter’s Cathedral (roughly the same size as Westminster Cathedral in London) with its soapstone choir stalls, fine stained-glass windows and a crucifix (carved from a tree that grew in Zambia near to the village where David Livingstone died) is one of the physical remnants of the missionaries.
History aside, the isolation and relaxed atmosphere of the island is a great attraction for those who visit. Beaches have spectacular views of the mountainous Mozambican shore and the internal southern plains are covered in the majestic baobab trees, mango trees and huge granite outcrops.
The main town of Chipyela has a jetty and is near the cathedral, there’s an unusual atmosphere that rises from the neat, car free cobbled roads and stone houses. The central marketplace is the main hub of the town with a fig tree growing in the centre – the hollow base which is large enough for a grown adult to stand in!
Dancing competitions known locally as malipenga are frequently held at weekends, and are extremely interesting due to the traditional instruments that are used and the strange colonial costumes the men wear; for a truly genuine cultural experience, this is the place to go.
For those with an interest in the supernatural, the local witchdoctor is reputedly the most important in Malawi, and he frequently attracts visitors from Tanzania and South Africa. He will accept foreign visitors and this is an interesting experience to go through!
Nearby Chizumulu Island can be visited too, and whilst few people ever make it here, it is well worth it for the unbeatable diving and snorkelling in the waters around the shore, the trek up to the mountain and the beautiful beaches with ancient baobabs at their edges. Several of the cichlid species here are found nowhere else in the world, and divers can find experts in this area who will teach you about the different varieties of fish.
Trips to the Mozambican lakeshore can also be arranged, with one particular spot of interest being Cobue, which has a ruined church that makes for interesting exploration.
Manda Wilderness Reserve is also a good place to go; this comes down all the way to the lakeshore, and zebra, monkeys and otters are frequently seen, as well as lion and wild dog.
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