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Likoma Island

Likoma Island

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, mainly a result of the use that Scottish missionaries put it to, using it as a base from which they would preach to the people who gathered to hear their message.

The religious legacy left behind by these missionaries can be seen in physical buildings and monuments, as well as the skills of the people. The settlement at Likoma was the only settlement in Africa with a 100% literacy rate for a long tmie.

Physical remnants of the missionaries include a large cathedral that is roughly the same size as Westminster Cathedral in London, and extremely beautiful, with features of note including 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. This is St Peters Cathedral, and was built in the shape of a cruciform using local granite.

History aside, the isolation and relaxed atmosphere of the island is a great attraction for those who venture here. With beaches that give spectacular views of the mountainous Mozambican shore, and internal southern plains covered in the majestic baobab trees, mango trees and huge granite outcrops, this is well worth a visit.

The main town of Chipyela has a jetty and is near the cathedral, and has an unusual atmosphere that arises from the neat cobbled roads and stone houses, with no cars and a central marketplace that is the main hub of the town. This market place has a fig tree growing in the centre of it that has a hollow base which is large enough for a grown adult to stand in, which is an unusual and curious sight.

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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