If you're heading to Lake Malawi and staying at Cape Maclear's Funky Cichlid Hostel, here's a list of absolute must dos.
1. Sunset with the eagles
One of the absolute highlights at The Funky Cichlid is the afternoon sundowner, coupled up with swooping fish eagles! Gather a bunch of friends (or some other willing travellers!), put in your drink orders at the bar and grab a bit of suncream. The boat heads off late afternoon to Thumbi islands, a short 15 minutes sail from Funky’s beach. Sitting in a sheltered cove, you can swim, drink and sit back as the captain points out the resident fish eagles diving for the dinner. To top it off, you’ll have one of Malawi’s classic sunsets as a backdrop to entire evening. Bliss.
2. Hike in the hills
The main focus of Cape Maclear (aka Chembe) is undoubtedly the lake, but right behind is a fantastic selection of forests and hills. The entire peninsula is a national park so there’s plenty of stunning spots that are worth an explore. There’s no better better for a mini-adventure than going on a short hike to one of the viewpoints overlooking the cape. Check out the mighty baobab overlooking the town, it’s an easy 15 minutes up the side of the hill.
3. SUP on the lake
If you’re a bit of water-sports person, there’s a few options for you at Funky’s. Kayaking is an easy choice, but if you’re up for a slightly different experience then try out stand-up paddle boarding (SUP boarding). Reserve a board at reception and head out when the water’s calmest. The neighbouring island is close enough if you’re up for a challenge and want to check out some marine life!
4. Kit yourself out with some Chitenje
If you've ever seen photos of Southern Africa (or West/Central/East Africa for that matter!) you'll no doubt have seen the striking patterns and colour combinations of the wax printed cloth. Kitenge, chitenge, capulana, kangas, kikoy and chitenje (as it’s called in Malawi!); there are quite a few names for this colourful cloth depending on the region. In Malawi you’ll often see women donning a striking chitenje sarong, and the men might even have a chitenje shirt or two. If you’re in the market for some jazzy new designs, throw your bargaining hat on, grab some chitenje cloth from Funky’s beach vendors and get yourself measured up.
5. Snorkel with some Cichlids
Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, is the 2nd deepest and 3rd largest lake in Africa. It has more fish species than any other lake in the world, making it a bit of an environmental wonder. Over 90% of these fish species are endemic, and of this 90% the majority of fish are the beautifully coloured cichlids. The best way to see these colourful fishies is of course to get wet! Grab yourself a snorkel & some fins and head to Thumbi Island, the nearest Island to Funky’s. You could very easily pair this up with kayaking, paddle boarding or even a sunset sail. There are also a few dive centres in town that offer a bit more of an extensive look at Lake Malawi’s marine life!
There are plenty of other things to do in and around the Funky Cichlid, so I wouldn’t limit yourself to just the above 5. One of Chembe’s charms is that it is a very picturesque and friendly town. One of the loveliest ways to spend an afternoon is to just wonder down the main strip, check out the local crafts, smiling faces, and learn about the local sustainable projects. Along the way you’ll be treated to some well-needed shade from Chembe’s largest residents, the baobab trees! If you’re back at Funky’s for sunset then grab a volleyball from the bar and get ready to play some pick-up volleyball with a bunch of Chembe’s youngsters. You can wrap up your day with a quick dip and dinner at the bar!