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“The warm heart of the warm heart of Africa” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Zulunkhuni River Lodge

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Zulunkhuni River Lodge
Albuquerque, New Mexico
1 review
“The warm heart of the warm heart of Africa”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 17 October 2011

You know when you discover a wonderful band/film/artist before 'the masses' (and then you kind of resent it when other people start to find out about it and it becomes popular)? Well, Ruarwe will give you that same bitter-sweet feeling of superiority. Sweet, because you've seen and experienced quite possibly the closest thing to the myth of Eden; bitter, only because you have to leave. Even better - the remote location means that Ruarwe and Zulunkhuni River Lodge probably won't be over-run and spoiled any time soon. Thank goodness, I can always go back...

Getting there - I caught the Ilala in and hiked out. The hike was fantastic. Easy to do in a day, with stops for meals/swims/chats along the stunning way.

I spent a week here and didn't run out of things to do. Walks, swimming, snorkeling, diving off various rocks and balconies... The food is great, the company even better.

Malawi was by far my favorite country in southern Africa, and Zulunkhuni very high on a long list of places visited. Don't miss it.

  • Stayed August 2011, travelled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank R K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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70 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveller tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (7)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Japanese first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Oslo, Norway
2 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 October 2011

It's not hard to get there, as long as you plan (the african way) how to get there ahead. The travel there is in itself a treat, as the ferry (the Ilala) is very pleasant, and the truck (Mzuzu-Usisiya) is a quite exciting way of travel.
The lodge in itself is as all others here say a real gem. Beautiful surroundings excellent for small hikes, a beautiful river excellent for swimming/jumping from cliffs etc, and of course Lake Malawi.
We stayed at the Stone House, with our own beautuful balcony, it felt like a quasi honeymoon for us as a couple. The staff and managers created a good atmosphere. Go there, don't miss out!

  • Stayed July 2011, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Erik C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
zulunkhuni, Owner at Zulunkhuni River Lodge, responded to this review, 14 October 2011
Thanks Eric for the wonderful review, and for letting us know you had a good time. It`s always nice to hear from people again, please stay in touch.
Charlie and the Zulunkhuni gang
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Belfast, United Kingdom
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 6 September 2011

I spent a few nights in Zulunkhuni, concluding a 10-month stay in Malawi. Of all the lodges I visited this stands out as leaps and bounds ahead of the pack.

Part of the charm is the pilgrimage that must be made to get to Zulunkhuni River Lodge. I chose to hike from Usisya (a lake-shore town accessible by daily truck from Mzuzu, or by boat from Nkhata Bay), where I had been staying for several weeks. Usisya has a couple of "local" lodges should you need to stay a night, though nothing really catering for the tourist market. The hike from Usisya to Ruarwe is a hike, not a casual stroll, and with a ridiculous backpack (well over 25kg) and wearing flip flops, it took me around 6-7 hours.

The food was fabulous and eating evening meals (set menu) together with the other guests and the lodges owners added a lovely friendly dynamic. A longer-term volunteer or two, amongst a real hodge-podge of artists and travellers made from really interesting conversation.

While travelling in Africa, I have often been troubled by the relationship of ex-pat business people with their communities. Once again, Zulunkhuni does brilliantly in this regard. From the lodges' beginnings - proposed to Charlie, the owner, by a local chief - to its ongoing involvement in community projects, this lodge actively participates in the local community, rather than resenting it!

A real treat - such exquistely beautiful settings and such a friendly atmosphere, in a large part due to the lovely owners, means I certainly hope to make a return trip some day.

  • Stayed August 2011, travelled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
1 Thank Sara_Ebb
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
zulunkhuni, Owner at Zulunkhuni River Lodge, responded to this review, 12 September 2011
Thankyou so much for the lovely review.
It really is nice to hear from an outside source not only how beautiful our place is but that our community development work is noticed by our guests as well.
We certainly shall keep up the hard work and reviews like this really give us some extra drive.
We have also been troubled in the past by some business owners relationships with their communities and have often thought to ourselves "if everyone ires you so much why the hell do you live here?"
We must however voice our belief that the vast majority of lodge owners we have met in Malawi have a true love of their local communities and of Malawi in general. Although this is probably more due to the average Malawians character than the saintlihood of every Muzungu that comes through.
Thanks again for the lovely words.

Charlie Harper (co-owner)
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oxford, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
30 reviews
12 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 June 2011

I am loathe to describe how brilliant this place is, in case it becomes swamped. But only the adventurous will get this far =and it is worth the effort a million fold. Yes, it takes nearly 24 hours from home in England to Lake Malawi. And then a few days on the big ship Ilala to Zulunknuni - but what a welcome you receive from Charlie, Sally and the villagers. It's like arriving on the set from a 1930s Tarzan film, but for real. Where else can you go to sleep with your door open to the lake, the sound of tiny birds, and a huge friendly dog lieing on the doorstep in case a baboon should saunter past? Great food, and excellent value. Next time I shall stay much longer. There's no free parking - but the nearest car is several hours by water away. Plenty of room to park your canoe though.

  • Stayed May 2011, travelled solo
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
2 Thank JanieHampton
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
12 reviews
9 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 10 August 2010

It took us 4 days to reach Zulunkhuni lodge and for a while we thought we'll never get there. I am surprised that no one has mentioned how hard it is to get there...
We missed the llala ferry that sails up and down the lake once a week in each direction. After this we tried to catch a 'mystery truck' that leaves from Mzuzu. We waited for this truck almost 6 hours one morning after having spent the previous night on the bus from Blantyre. We finally gave up and spent a couple of days in Nkhata Bay from where we managed to catch a local boat that took us as far as Usisya (a local village around 13 miles from the lodge). It took another 24 hours before we finally managed to find another local boat that took us all the way to the lodge.
The lodge is a real gem and I do highly recommend you to go there if you are planning a trip to lake Malawi. We were not that impressed with Nkhata Bay and I don't think anyone should leave the lakeside without visiting this wonderful lodge. It really feels like a hidden paradise. There is no electricity so you spend all day swimming, snorkelling, reading books and then drinking wine in the candle lit bar. It is the sort of 'hideaway' place most people only dream about finding. The food is vegetarian but it is the best veggie food I have ever eaten. Even my husband who cannot live without meat was totally satisfied and did not even realise that we were not eating meat for days. - JUST make sure you catch the llala as the other alternatives are expensive or slow.

  • Stayed June 2010, travelled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank TCarryer
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oulu, Finland
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 5 May 2010

The only bad thing about this place is that once you've been there, you're always looking for something like Zulunkhuni. And if you'll find it, you must be very very lucky and I want to know about another place like Zulunkhuni!!!

We stayed here in the beginning of our World Tour and kept looking for a place that would have some same kind of atmoshpere than Zulunkhuni, but failed to do so. This place is my paradise on earth and I hope it stays that way. The people running the place are fantastic, the surroundings are absolutely beautiful and the food is great. What more do you need?

We were planning to stay there for 3-4 days, but ended up staying for 3 weeks instead. It is such a magical place, I can't stop smiling when I think of our time there. The fact that there's no phone coverage or electricity made it even more enjoyable. It's a perfect getaway. Miss it heaps and hope I could be there soon again!!!!!

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank Iiti
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Seattle
1 review
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 12 December 2009

Zulunkhuni is the most spectacular place I have ever visited. The few days I had there were not enough, but I spent them swimming in the azure waters, hiking around the surrounding hills, visiting the local village, and relishing the amazing solitude at Zulunkhuni. By the way, the food at the place was the best I had in Malawi. Unbelievable. It is a trek to get there, but the process is part of the fun, and you will remember it pleasantly in your daydreams for the rest of your life!

  • Stayed August 2008, travelled with friends
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Value
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Location
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 bubbles
      Service
Helpful?
Thank ThaboCollins
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Zulunkhuni River Lodge

Property: Zulunkhuni River Lodge
Address: T/A Boghoyo | Ruarwe Village, Nkhata Bay, Malawi
Region: Malawi > Northern Region > Nkhata Bay
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Parking Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #3 of 7 Speciality Lodging in Nkhata Bay
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Nestled amongst granite cliffs, indigenous forest and cascading waterfalls, our low price lakeside accommodation is complemented by a fantastic restaurant/bar, and activities on offer include hiking, snorkeling, fishing, cliff jumping and cultural tours of the surrounding communities. Supporting the local economy, we also offer volunteering opportunities. ... more   less 

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