What to do?
There is a range of activities to suit everyone at Cape Maclear: choose from sea kayaking, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, hiking or shopping in the local craft markets. Or try the volunteer opportunities at one of the ongoing assistance-projects running in the village. Local village "tour operators", better known as the Beach Boys, also run boat tours to nearby islands and beaches for snorkelling, swimming and fish eagle watching, followed by a tasty fish braai (barbeque) and chill-out as the sun sets. Very mellow...
Kayaking and Snorkeling
For the outdoorsy stuff, head to Kayak Africa. Their rustic thatched basecamp on the beach is the gateway to their Robinson Crusoe style island camps – a treat! But more on that later. At their beachside reception you can hire kayaks (sit inside or sit-on-top) which are very difficult to capsize (though someone always has to try!) and snorkel gear (mask, snorkel and fins) and paddle yourself over to Thumbi island, one of the three islands in Cape Maclear which are part of the Lake Malawi National Park. (The other two are Mumbo and Domwe, on which Kayak Africa have camps and which can only be visited if you are staying there). Thumbi is a mere 30 minute paddle from the mainland and abounds with quiet, still coves, turquoise water, green jungle and an underwater miracle of tropical fish. These are the famous cichlids of fresh water aquarium fame – a vast family of multicoloured fish all uniquely adapted to their environments. They starred recently in a BBC documentary entitled “What Darwin Didn’t Know”.
SCUBA dive with Cape Maclear SCUBA
Join Cape Maclear SCUBA for a diving adventure and experience an underwater world of giant granite boulders and hundreds of multi-coloured freshwater tropical fish.
Cape Maclear Scuba offer PADI courses from Beginner to Divemaster in a relaxed, friendly and professional environment. The classes are small and the focus is on safety and fun. CMS has two dive instructors; the urbane Rob, originally a Joburg boy, but he's been there for years, or Patrick, Malawi's first qualified dive instructor. Both chaps are highly rated by all those who dive with them. The rest of the CMS team, from Lewis the dive master to Watson the boatman are all fantastic friendly fellows and highly skilled at their work.
There are many dive options, from the famous "aquarium" rocks off Thumbi island, a wreck, granite pinnacles, caves and much more. You can even do a night dive if that thrills you.
Cape Maclear SCUBA pride themselves on having zero dive accidents in the 12 years they have been diving at Cape Maclear.
Go to Otter Point
Another beautiful and accessible place to snorkel and kayak is Golden Sands Reserve, and particulary Otter Point. Otter Point is the end point of the long beach called Golden Sands, which falls within the National Parks Reserve and it is a magical place of giant granite boulders, tiny islets, deep turquoise pools and myriad flitting fish. Take your kayak, snorkel gear and a picnic and spend the day. You won’t regret it. There is a small entrance fee of $5 which is well worth it and much needed. You pay at the gate if you are driving in, or may be asked for the fee by a guard on the beach. Your money really makes a difference to the people who look after this tiny park. You could also hire a local boat to take you to Otter Point, but that way you get company, which suits some but not those who prefer solitude.
Hire a catamaran for the day or just for a sunset cruise.
Catamarans are available to hire for cruises from Kayak Africa; the hand built "Miss Java", or from Chembe Eagles Nest; "Mama Africa". Both are well equipped and run and great for a short cruise.
For longer or more upmarket cruises, you'll need to check in with Danforth yachting - their very fancy yacht, Mufasa, is only available to their guests.
You wouldn't expect it, but Cape Maclear has some great shopping opportunities!
Liinu, a fabulous Finn, has opened an eclectic little shop called Gaiatar (she used to own Gaia House which is no more). Here you can buy all sorts of fantastic Malawian sourced crafts and goods - from Malawian-grown tea, coffee, nuts and fruits to great clothes designed by Liinu and made by the local tailor in the local cloth called chitenje. You can also buy funky crochet bikinis, made on site by a group of village ladies who sit and crochet in the garden. You too can sit in the lovely garden, in the shade of a frangipani tree and sip delicious tea or coffee and nibble a home made biscuit. This is very comfortable shopping!