The untampered Likoma Island is surrounded by crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and an abundance of cichlids – some of which are endemic of the Likoma area.
Likoma Island is the larger of two inhabited islands in Lake Malawi, the smaller being the nearby Chizumulu.
The island lies in the north-eastern corner of Lake Malawi on Mozambican waters.
Likoma and Chizumulu both belong to Malawi, and together they make up the Likoma District.
Although both islands lie just 7kms west of Cobue, Mozambique, and are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters, they are both exclaves of Malawi.
The University Mission to Central Africa (David Livingstone’s mission) set up their headquarters on Likoma in the 1880s in part to try to fight the slave trade that used routes across Lake Malawi.
Because of this history, Likoma was retained by Malawi when the Lake was divided politically after World War II and the waters around it became Mozambican.
The island is only 18km², and has one town, Likoma Town, here you will find Central Africa’s third largest cathedral, St Peter’s.
How To Get There
Access to Likoma is currently by boat or aircraft. The airstrip has been upgraded in recent years though most visitors still arrive courtesy of the venerable Ilala ferry.
Things To Do
Bearing in mind the size of Likoma Island there isn’t an endless number of things to do, however, you will find some breathtaking experiences.
Diving off the island is good and you will be able to swim with the brightly coloured cichlids. There are over 20 dive sites around Likoma Island for you to explore.
Another water based activity, boat trips; you can take boat trips around the island, to the nearby Chizumulu Island or to neighbouring Mozambique.
If you want to explore the island and visit the various island villages, you can on foot, alternatively you can seek a thrill and hire a mountain bike or quad-bike.
Whilst on your excursion be sure to visit the old Baobab on the New Market Place. Nowadays, the baobab is hollow and sometimes used as a storeroom.
Things To See
- Visit the cathedral:
Likoma’s primary claim to fame is its magnificent cathedral. St Peter’s matches the size of Winchester Cathedral in the UK, yet is here on an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of Africa! Work began on this extraordinarily ambitious construction project in 1903 when the mission was fortunate to have a trained architect on its staff. Using local labour and materials, the vast granite building gradually took shape and the first service was held in 1905. It is still going strong well over 100 years later and is a sight and sound to behold during any service, when the passionate congregation will be in full voice. This vast building has some most interesting features including stained glass and carved soapstone.
Dancing competitions known locally as malipenga are frequently held at weekends and are extremely interesting to watch due to the traditional instruments that are used and the eccentric colonial costumes the men wear. If you are visiting over a weekend watching one of the dance competitions is a must.
- Climb the clock tower:
Back to the cathedral! The clock tower provides a stunning view across Likoma. After a tour of the cathedral, you can head to the roof, climb across the bells and the clockwork and take in the beautiful scenery.
See more of Likoma Island here.