18 Jun 48 hours on a ferry in Malawi
Small and beautiful Malawi is defined by it’s lake, a huge fresh water lake which separates Malawi from Mozambique and even touches a bit of Tanzania in the north. Many of the must visit places are on the lake, or even in the lake… You can, for example, go kayaking (on a multiple day tour!), stand up peddle boarding and snorkeling or even diving (check out Aqua Africa’s night dive in Nkhata Bay).
My biggest highlight on the lake, was taking the Ilala ferry for 2 nights from Nkhata Bay all the way south to Monkey Bay. After a lovely 2 week stay at the Butterfly Space in Nkhata Bay, my travelbuddies and I made plans to head south to Cape Mclear. Instead of sacrificing one day of traveling in over crowded mini-buses and perhaps a touring bus, we’ve decided to go on the Ilala ferry that goes once a week.
The Ilala is a mini Titanic that can host around 250 people and has a 3rd, 2nd, 1st and cabin class. I highly recommend traveling in first class. Frist class means that you get to sleep on the upper deck, under the stars and with loads of space. Out in the open, laying on the deck in your sleeping bag. Magic. There is however one tiny thing that they don’t mention. How to get on the ferry.
Since several years the water has been too shallow for the ferry to get to shore, so you have to take a smaller boat from the dock, where you’ll most certainly get wet feet in a cramped refugee like experience. Trying to keep your backpack dry and staying safe from falling into the splashing water, and at the same time stepping onto the tiny wooden stairs of the Ilala itself. We made it safely between the massive bags of flour and who knows what. Even my friend Andy who is bicycle touring, arrived dry. His bike incl. bags simply got lifted onto the ferry by the massive shipper of the refugee boat.
I was very much impressed by the boatman with his steady feet and strength when he effortless lifted the bike out of the small boat onto the ferry…
The next day a few others managed to get an entire motorbike, a fridge and a wooden dug-out canoe through the small entrance of the Ilala.