Mumbo Island was proclaimed part of the Lake Malawi National Park in 1980. Kayak Africa founded the camps on Mumbo Island and Domwe Island in 1994 and have built up the camps and run them since that time, making it our 25th anniversary
Kayak Africa began as a tiny company, started by a young couple who rented land on the mainland of Cape Maclear from the Mododhi family (ten members of this family are presently employed by Kayak Africa), set up a tent under the tamarind tree and began the incredibly hard slog of starting something from nothing. In 1996 they were awarded the exclusive concession to operate tourist camps on the two islands, Mumbo and Domwe for the next ten years. There were no telecommunications in Chembe Village at the time, so they made a deal with the owner of the petrol station on the corner of the Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay roads, put a fax machine there and made regular runs to go and check whether a rare guest was going to turn up.
In those days, guests kayaked out to the islands with a guide and slept in dome tents with mattresses on the ground. It was basic, but comfortable and there was always a chef who whipped up great food in the tiny reed kitchen. In the first few years, visitors were few and far between and often people would be delighted to find they had a whole island to themselves.
Over the years, Kayak Africa has ploughed any money it has made back into the business. Slowly, we added small luxuries as we could afford them, and spent every rainy season during the time when the camp was closed for a month, to build and beautify the camps. We have adhered to a strictly sustainable practice in all aspects of the building and running of the island camps and have won high praise and awards for our “green credentials”. Consequently the islands remain in a state of pristine wilderness that has existed for thousands of years.
Mumbo today has permanent locally built reed bungalows on thatched decks overlooking the lake, a beautiful dining area on the main island, a thatched lounge area, a family tent hidden in the forest, a beach shower and loos, and every guest has the joy of a thatched and reed bathroom en suite. There are beach loungers on the sandy shoreline for those who need to relax; a fleet of kayaks at the disposal of the more energetic; snorkels, masks and fins to enjoy the underwater beauty (as a guest once said’ “It’s like swimming in an aquarium!”) and many signposted walking trails around the whole island for those who like to explore on land or bird watch.
Kayak Africa is run by Jurie Schoeman and Clive Bester who are the directors and founders of the island camps. Four of our longest standing Malawian staff hold management positions within the company. These key staff live in Chembe village and have worked their way up through the ranks of the company to attain the managerial roles they now hold. Under them are a staff contingent of nearly sixty local men and women who work as chefs, guides, boatmen, laundry ladies, gardeners, drivers, carpenters and builders.
Back in Cape Town, we have an efficient online booking and marketing team who market Malawi and our lovely island camps to the rest of the world through our websites, Instagram feed and Facebook pages.
If you haven’t yet paid these unspoilt islands a visit, make this year your time to experience a true island paradise!