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This small town on the shores of Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) is one of the few places on the Cairo to Cape route that attracts significant numbers of independent travellers. The nickname "Lake of 1,000 Stars" comes from the many nocturnal fishermen using paraffin lamps to lure their catch. Apart from offering the chance for freshwater scuba diving, the town is otherwise all about relaxation. Note that the one ATM in town only accepts Visa cards.
Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) contains many species of cichlid fish. The cichlids provide evidence of evolutionary radiation, with the different species having evolved as a result of the varying environmental conditions to be found within the lake. There are a couple of dive shops in the town, which can kit you out to see the cichlids at close quarters.
The lake of stars is an annual, huge (at least by African standards) festival lasting three days in central Malawi, close to Nkhata Bay. The actual festival takes place in Chintheche, a small town about 1.5 hours south of Nkhata Bay. The dates aren't set, and change slightly each year. Usually though the festival is held during early September. The festival attracts both big, international names, as well as local artists. It is advisable to book accommodation well in advance.
The closest functioning airport is at Lilongwe.
It takes about an hour to get from Mzuzu by matatu (minibus), costing MK350 (July 2009). There are many throughout the day. Note that the driver will only stop in the centre of town so don't bother trying to disembark early. There is one AXA bus per day in each direction costing MK250 (July 2009), departing Mzuzu at about 6:30AM and Nkhata Bay at about 1PM.
The Ilala ferry stops at Nkhata Bay once per week in each direction.
Nkhata Bay is, in the main, small enough to traverse on foot. The exception is if you are staying at one of the resorts at the southern end, such as Mayoka Village, in which case the walk to/from there with luggage might not appeal. A taxi will cost about MK700 (July 2009). Note that, while walking around Nkhata Bay - especially the stretch to Mayoka Village - you will inevitably be accosted by Rasta guys at some point. Though they are entertaining to talk to, the conversation will eventually turn to their handicrafts stalls or some other attempt to obtain money. Also be aware of the existence of drugs scams, i.e. someone will sell you some weed then will attempt to blackmail you by threatening to tell the police.
Meals are available in all the accommodation and there are tourist-oriented restaurants in the town. These are all, of course, much more expensive than the local restaurants. Try nsima, a maize stodge common throughout East Africa that's worth experiencing once. Chambo is any one of four edible species of cichlid fish, but note that overfishing and pollution are causing a decline in its numbers.
All the accommodation has bars but you can buy alcohol from the supermarket for half the price - remember to take the bottles back for the deposit.
|Aqua Africa||P/Box 209 Oilcom Road||Hotel||-|
|Big Blue Star||po box 110 northern region||Hostel||-|
|Njaya Lodge||Box 223 Chikale Beach||GUESTHOUSE||-|
The cheapest place in town is in the centre (address unknown) and costs MK300 per hour (July 2009). At Jessie's (next door to Big Blue Star), the cost is MK480 per hour (July 2009).
See also International Telephone Calls
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