Cape Maclear, also known as Chembe, is a small tourist and fishing village in the Nankumba Peninsula, at the southern end of Lake Malawi.
Chembe Village and the surrounding islands sit in Lake Malawi national park, the first freshwater national park in the world. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. The waters are home to hundreds of cichlid fish species, or mbuna, nearly all endemic to Lake Malawi.
Booze & cruise boat tour
A photostory of a sunset Booze and Cruise tour of Cape Maclear with Isaac Jalasi. Issac is an experienced tour operator and the owner of Jama Yako Tours. He has been providing tours since he was 16 years old, using a dugout canoe in his early days. Isaac can be contacted on +265 994 318833.
Lake Malawi has around 700 species of cichlid fish, nearly all endemic to Lake Malawi. They make their home in the rocky shorelines of the lake and feed on algae. These ornamental fish, also called mbuna, are in high demand around the world and are exported by companies including Stuart M Grant Ltd in Salima.
They are also victims of poaching. In November 2019, four Chinese nationals were arrested for illegally entering the national park and fishing the cichlids. They were later fined K13 million (just over $16,000) by a magistrates court in Mangochi.
Lake Malawi National Park has a variety of birdlife including African fish eagles, white-breasted cormorants, wading birds, kingfishers, hornbills, kestrels and swallow-tailed bee-eaters.
Fish eagles live in pairs and are believed to mate for life. The tour guides in the cape have given the different eagle pair’s names like Michelle and Barack, and Ophelia and Macbeth. With a whistle and a call, the guides toss fish into the water which the birds swoop down to collect.
But there is no shortage of opportunists in the cape. A fish eagle and kite tussling after the kite picked up a fish. Kites will normally prey on young chickens in the villages.
Most of the fish eagles make their home in the Thumbi West island off Chembe.
At the western end of the Chembe beach lies the ruins of Golden Sands Hotel. The hotel, originally called Glengeary Hotel, was built in 1946 and was owned by Mrs Wynne-Jones. The hotel was operational until the early 1990s when it shut down.
Otter Point is on the extreme west end of Chembe Village although the little animals that the place is named after are very elusive. The water markings on the large rocks at the point is evidence of how much the water levels in the lake fluctuate over the years.
We were greeted by a lone and rather shy vervet monkey. His friends had probably already retreated into the forest for the evening.
With the Mrs at Otter Point.
Chembe Village is dwarfed on three sides by forested hills inhabited by antelope, baboons, vervet monkeys and birdlife. Thumbi West island, on the left, is also covered in a thick forest with a very small beach and a hiking trail. There is also Domwe, Mumbo and Elephant islands around the cape.
The Cape Maclear Covid-19 hit
Talking to a couple of tour guides and handicraft makers in the area, there is a general feeling of despair due to the slow down of business which has been attributed to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Most lodging facilities in the cape cater primarily to international visitors although you will find some Malawians doing day trips. I saw at least one lodge that had been closed and know of another that has been struggling financially due to low patronage.
Last year, the Cape Maclear Community planned to hold a CapeFest, an event showcasing artists whose proceeds would help build back the tourism community devasted by the impact of Covid-19. The two-day CapeFest2021 Intimate Jazz and Arts Festival will be held from 26 March 2021.
Cape Maclear, probably Malawi’s most intimate tourist village, needs your custom!
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