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“Kaya Mawa -- A Real Find and Very Special Place”
Review of Kaya Mawa

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Kaya Mawa
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 5 October 2017

We were celebrating a 20th wedding anniversary with a return trip to South Luangwa where the proposal was originally made. The itinerary also called for a contrasting chapter, so a beach holiday with a difference was in order. And so it was with Likoma Island on Lake Malawi. We were a family of 4 including 2 teenagers, and everyone felt they had landed in heaven. We've travelled all over the world, and can assure you that Kaya Mawa is a pretty special property indeed.

It is seamlessly run by Michelle and Richard with the former acting as head of house and the latter mastering the kitchen. We tend to judge a property not just by the quality of service, but how committed and happy the staff are all the way down the ladder. They say Malawi is the warm heart of Africa, but the staff at Kaya Mawa are not only capable and completely willing to please you could really see they enjoyed working here too.

Kaya Mawa is pretty remote, and we were expecting a Robinson Crusoe sort of experience which might be characterised as 'shabby chic'. That wouldn't capture what was on offer though here. Quirky for sure but certainly not shabby. Barefoot, casual luxury more like it.

To the extent possible everything is sourced locally. The accommodations certainly reflect that as ours (Mainja House) was literally built/incorporated into the rocks and decorated with locally designed treasures (many sourced from the textiles factory). However, the quality of the rooms, the main restaurant and lounges and things like the beach furniture and spa were all super and first class in every way.

Most any 5 star property around the world worth the rating shows itself off photographically/audiovisually on the internet with considerable aplomb. What I will say is that Kaya Mawa's website if anything under plays the considerable charm and atmosphere and uniqueness of the property. It is extremely difficult to photograph with any real justice.

With regard to meals and drinks I was a bit concerned as there is no menu. Richard designs the offering each day based on what is available / of best quality / what suits the mood. One of my daughters is a veggie, so I wasn't sure what to expect. My wife said it would be fine as any place can rustle up eggs. I shouldn't have worried. The food was simply sensational. We couldn't fault a single dish. I would challenge anyone to find a better meal at any leading London restaurant. I was also a bit concerned before hand that whilst the property includes food in its pricing that isn't the case with drinks. It's not truly an all inclusive. So I was worried about how quickly the drinks bills would tot up. It turns out that Kaya Mawa's mantra about chilling is completely true and this extends to the extras. The house wine for example was of excellent quality, served in generous portions, and priced extremely reasonably.

If the food and quality of lodging was fantastic then the rest of the facilities were also equal to the challenge. The beach was pristine clear and the water was clear and welcoming. We sampled the spa and the treatments were fantastic and most reasonably priced.

I also made use of the dive facilities. It wouldn't be fair to say that Lake Malawi is on a par with something like the Maldives. However, diving in fresh water has its attractions. The dive master was extremely knowledgeable and the equipment was well maintained. The approach to diving was in no way "cowboy", but rather very conservatively and thoughtfully managed. For example, the dive master offered to provide me with a refresher before we set out to deeper water. We dove for a total of circa 50 minutes. If memory serves the charge was something like $40 including all the kit and I was on my own. Very reasonable indeed compared with any other resort I've visited. The water sports equipment (kayaks, sail boats, etc) were all in tip top shape and easy to access. James demonstrated his kite boarding prowess while we were there, but I couldn't muster up the courage to try it.

Another thing that struck us about Kaya Mawa was how sympathetically it had been integrated into island life. The website talks about how the owners set up a textiles business that provides decent jobs for the locals. That's true, but it's a lot more than another craft shop selling souvenirs. It's actually a working factory teaming with activity and well worth a visit. Other things that struck us was the fact that locals are welcome to come on to the beach to undertake daily requirements such as washing pots, etc. This tended to take place early in the morning. We really like the fact that the owners had embraced the local community rather than turning the resort into a gated / walled off enclave. This was also reflected in the jeep transfer to/from the airstrip. It's true to say that all the children and most of the adults waved and smiled as we drove past. There is real poverty here, but the atmosphere on the island was warm and positive. I kept asking myself why the driver was only going like 5-10 miles per hour. Was it to facilitate the meet/greet experience? I thought it was more driven by a case of not kicking up road dust and noise that might upset the people living along the route.

On a final note about ethos, a local choir came to sing for us at one of our last dinners. These people were singing out of real passion. It wasn't some act staged for the tourists. My wife couldn't help herself but join in the beach dancing too. One of the restaurant staff of longest standing (Martin if I recall) was also cheering and dancing like crazy. We asked him if he was a member of the choir during his spare time and cheering the group on. He informed us that he was in fact a choir coach/leader, but for a different parish church, so the performers were in some way rivals. Sweet.

The owners of the property happened to be onsite during our stay, and we had an opportunity to chat quite a bit with them. Very engaging couple with ties to the UK as well as Africa. Kaya Mawa and their other interests are well off the beaten track. It takes a considerable knowledge and attitude to look after this sort of property. James and Susie along with Michelle and Richard have those qualities in spades. This property has a special vibe and it really works. The Caribbean, Maldives, Seychelles, and less travelled places in Asia are all fantastic. But Kaya Mawa has a distinct and enduring offering which we will always remember.

Room Tip: All are unique. Mainja best for families / extended groups. Far end of beach, but very private. Supe...
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  • Stayed: August 2017, travelled with family
    • Rooms
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5  Thank scottfoster2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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5 - 11 of 194 reviews

Reviewed 2 October 2017

Arriving on Lakoma island one would not expect to be transported to the sublime luxury and tranquility of Kaya Mawa. From the moment we arrived we were treated like royalty, but felt as though we were with friends. Each room is special, and the design of the entire lodge is spectacular with views of the lake and surrounds from every vantage point.
Their attention to detail with the decor and the food makes you even more amazed to be in the middle of Africa. Our ultra private suite set high atop the rocks had its own plunge pool and we spent lazy days reading in seclusion on our wooden deck, surrounded by incredible birds and the tranquil sounds of the lake in the distance.
Thank you James and Michelle and to your whole team for making this one of the most memorable trips we have ever had. Brent and Lisa

  • Stayed: September 2017, travelled as a couple
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Thank vonkerk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 September 2017

Barefoot luxury! Wonderful setting for this superb eco resort. Stone cottages set amongst the rocks and trees each separate from the other and all enjoying exquisite sea views. The staff were friendly, helpful and smiling and the management top class.
The food was delicious too. I cannot rate this resort too highly!

Room Tip: Khuyu was comfortably close to all amenities but still totally self contained.
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  • Stayed: September 2017, travelled as a couple
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Thank Fumba
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 20 September 2017 via mobile

Kaya Mawa is amazing. A beautiful little resort, beautifully put together, every comfort and service delivered with grace and genuine pleasure.

Everything from start to finish was organised and delivered flawlessly, from the charter flight from Lilongwe to Likoma, to restaurant and bar and room service, the staff are all just wonderful, so friendly and nothing is too much trouble.

I had booked a standard room (small house really) but they had upgraded me to a really beautiful villa with its own plunge pool. All the rooms are blended beautifully into the rocky shore and have individual lake access but this one has a very private access via a small inlet. The lake is beautiful, warm and crystal clear with millions of little fish, so the snorkelling is awesome. Lots of bird life as well, with cormorants, egrets, kingfishers etc.

The food is uniformly excellent, imaginative and creative with a lot of local ingredients skilfully presented and absolutely delicious. You can have your meals at the restaurant overlooking the most beautiful cream-coloured beach or at your villa, which is lovely.

Everything was just perfect, I cannot sing the praises of Kaya Mawa loud enough. I highly recommend the "Best of the Lake" option that combines Kaya Mawa with Nkwichi Lodge on the Mozambican shore of the lake. The transfer is by boat across the lake and it's a little adventure by itself.

Stunning unique place off the beaten path, a real treasure - do absolutely go. You will not be disappointed.

Stayed: September 2017, travelled solo
Thank Jonathan H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 September 2017

This was our second stay at Kaya Mawa (the first was in July 2015) & we loved it so much that we traveled halfway around the world just to stay there again. I wrote a detailed review for our first visit & it holds true to today. The food is just as amazing. We booked the same room (Nkhwazi) & it was still amazing, except that we slept with the windows open this time & being lulled to sleep by the sound of the water enhanced the experience. This time, I booked 2 massages instead of one - fabulous!

Michelle, Martin, Harold & MacDonald were still there & it was so nice to see them again! And this time, there was a lodge dog!!! We missed our dogs, so it was so nice having Kira there! We had to do the quad bike tour again & my husband was like a little child, he loved it so much! We visited the Katundu workshop again & they specially made pillow covers in the same bright fabrics found at the lodge, so now we have something to remind us of Kaya Mawa back in Chicago. I would recommend saving space in your suitcase for school supplies, which you can deliver to the nearby school. We packed pens, pencils, sharpeners, chalk, flash cards & beach balls & they were very appreciative, as they are in need of supplies.

One special treat is that the lodge now has a band & they performed for us on top of a hill at sunset. It was such a special experience.

You haven't seen the last of us, Kaya Mawa, we will be back!

  • Stayed: July 2017, travelled as a couple
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2  Thank TX_Longhorn99
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 July 2017

Very interesting an unusual place lies in Likoma Island and Malawi bathes by Lake Niassa a world of limpissima fresh water and large area,With varieties of rare fish house on my lake has a good restoration and Spa is only seen in person.

Room Tip: All rooms are crazy but on my of the lake is the best for me.
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  • Stayed: November 2016, travelled solo
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Thank Carlito W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 July 2017

With a perfect match of local people and all the luxury you would expect from a top notch place in, let's say, the Caribbean. But hey, this is Africa! This is even Malawi!

You are helping the locals with your visit.

Everything is friendly, classy and with *****cuisine.

Very special is even the (for free) Internet access. Like home, and that's absolutely not so common in this part of the world.

Chapeau!

Room Tip: The wedding "castle" is the best
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  • Stayed: June 2017, travelled as a couple
    • Value
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Thank TonyCDL
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about Kaya Mawa

Address: P.O. Box 79, Likoma Island, Malawi
Region: Malawi > Northern Region > Likoma Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free Breakfast Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Likoma Island
Price Range: $669 - $786 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Kaya Mawa 3.5*
Number of rooms: 7
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Kaya Mawa Likoma Island
Kaya Mawa Malawi/Likoma Island

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