Nkwichi Lodge hugs the eastern shore of Lake Niassa, the ninth largest freshwater lake in the world – 560 by 80 kilometers and up to 700 meters deep – and more commonly known as Lake Malawi outside Mozambique, which only has a small portion of the lake.
With six chalets and two houses, each with a different design built around trees or rocks, the bedposts have been hewn from old tree trunks and the large secluded bathrooms include outdoor showers under the trees. For a night unlike any other, there’s also the option of a star bed, or as they call it here, the ‘Lake of Stars’ Bed,’ which is set on a deserted beach surrounded by baobabs or on a private rock island close to the shore.
Nkwichi is one of the few places where you can either snorkel or go for a safari, the latter taking you into Manda Wilderness, which, although it doesn’t have the Big Five, is a success story worth telling. In an effort to encourage the return of big game, community leaders and local committees have agreed to stop the practice of burning the forest and savannah, tree felling, snaring and hunting with dogs. The lodge, the Manda Wilderness Community Trust and the Manda Wilderness Agriculture Project combine to form the Manda Wilderness Project, which is designed to foster responsible tourism to the benefit of visitors and the local community.
Started in 1999, Manda Wilderness Community Trust has actively involved 20,000 local Nyanja people in carving out a huge conservation area along the shores of Lake Niassa and has helped build primary schools, a clinic, and roads in what it describes as “one of Africa’s last true wildernesses.” One of the most significant achievements of the close cooperation was that villagers were able to register their communities’ land as their own and to declare a conservation area of 120,000 hectares – the size of Greater London.
At least 15 villages are involved in, and benefit off of, the Manda Wilderness project. In 2008, they negotiated vigorously with the government and the World Wildlife Fund on the details of a new aquatic reserve for Lake Malawi.
Manda itself lets you know off the bat how your visit makes a difference. The game reserve protects 1,200 square kilometers of savanna, streams, forest, mountains, and lakeshore.
The lodge employs 75 local people who directly support over 1,000 family members. The trust has built five schools, a maternity clinic, a maize mill, and two church roofs. Its agricultural project, which aims to improve nutritional habits and farming practices, has assisted over 350 farmers. All kitchen waste goes to the nearby agricultural project to be used as compost; paper and cardboard is recycled to produce paper notelets and cards; old wine bottles are turned into drinking glasses and water bottles.
In Their Own Words
“Carefully introducing international tourism to a beautiful yet undeveloped part of Mozambique, we offer many local people an alternative income to subsistence farming and fishing, whether through direct employment, the production of food and supplies for the Lodge, or the preserving the unspoilt environment.”