DESTINATIONS Malawi Solo Travels

How To Enjoy Cape Maclear On A Budget

(Last Updated On: May 9, 2018)

By now, you should know Malawi stole my heart and I intend to go back there someday. I loved everything from the kampango fish, to enjoying a cold Carlsberg by the beach and watching the sun set over the lake. I made sure to explore this southern African country from Nkhata Bay to Cape Maclear on a budget. 

Cape Maclear is a town at the South of Lake Malawi. The town has a little bit of everything from friendly people, islands, amazing fish, and incredible water sports to some very high mountains. As a matter of fact, the town is surrounded by mountains and hills. I decided to put a list of my favorite things to do in order to enjoy  Cape Maclear on a budget.

Visiting and staying at one of the Islands

This is definitely the best things to do while in Cape Maclear.  Let me tell you guys, the Islands in Malawi are heaven on earth. There are a couple of islands like Domwe, Thumbi and Mumbo. Most travelers take day boat trips to the Islands but I would recommend staying at one of the Islands for a couple of days.

I camped at Domwe Island with another solo traveler I met on the MV ILALA  and it was incredible.  First of all, Domwe is a very private Island, a romantic getaway. A perfect start or ending to a honeymoon. Imagine sharing a whole Island with a handful others? Just imagine!  I would take long walks along the island feeling like Olivia pope on vacation with her lover. Only that there was no lover in sight. SIGH! Solo traveler problems.

Want Southern Malawi’s Costs Breakdown and Itinerary? download it here:


I spent my time honing my snorkeling and kayaking skills.  Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night to see fishermen busy at work with their lamps offering the illusion that the stars were floating on the lake. This is why Lake Malawi is called the lake of stars,

The lack of crowds and Lake Malawi's waves make this experience unique.

Swimming with colorful cichlid fish at Otter point

I had never swum with colorful fish until I visited Malawi.  Lake Malawi boasts of hosting at least 800 types of this colorful cichlid fish. Otter point is a must visit should you want to experience this. It may also be a chance to interact with Malawians and make a friend or two.


If there is anything that Cape Maclear is famous for is Kayaks. I had the opportunity to Kayak from the Main land to Domwe and although it was terrifying at first, I had the best time. Yes, I just realized that I had a lot of firsts in Malawi. Of course, we had a guide throughout just in case.


Honestly after snorkeling at Domwe Island, I did not feel the urge to go scuba diving to experience Lake Malawi's underwater world. I was literally snorkeling at the edge of the lake and I would see the array of bright colored fish just by snorkeling.

Scuba Diving

However, there are a couple of Scuba Diving shops and even PADI  courses for those interested in hiring instructors to learn how to scuba dive.

 Sunset Cruises

Isn't it obvious? Who would not want to see the sun setting over Lake Malawi?

Trail Walks

I only did one hike trail walk at Domwe Island which had me in tears because I found it rather tough.  I heard there are several hiking trails that are not easily marked. It is best to find a guide in town to avoid getting lost.


Want Southern Malawi’s Costs Breakdown and Itinerary? download it here:

Getting to Cape Maclear

Cape Maclear is about 4 to 5 hours from Lilongwe. There are matolas (public vans) that are used for transport though they take more than 4 hours on the road. The best way  to save you time would be to hitchhike as a solo traveler or  renting a car incase you are in a group.  Honestly, renting a car is the best thing anyone can ever do if you want to explore Malawi because the public transport system is terrible.

Another way would be to take the Ilala from the Northern side of Lake Malawi to Monkey Bay. This journey takes three nights. After monkey bay, you may grab a shared taxi to Cape Maclear which is 20 mins away.

Camping in domwe island

Domwe Island is the only island that allows camping since the rest of the Islands have furnished safari tents which are pricey for the budget traveler.

Camping per night costs about 15 USD and you have to book with Kayak Africa.

Remember to carry lots of sunscreen, camping gear and food supplies because one is required to make their own food. There are kitchen staffs paid to help should that interest you.

There is no electricity at the Island so you will need to charge your electronics before leaving. Solar electricity is available though and can only charge mobile phones.


If you are on a tight budget, I recommend staying at either Fat Monkeys or the Funky Cichlid. Their rooms are pretty basic but are clean and affordable.

I personally stayed at the funky cichlid and boy, this hostel throws sick parties and the food is beyond amazing!


I hope this post will inspire you to visit Cape Maclear. I honestly believe anyone visiting  Malawi will fall in love with this beautiful hidden gem.

Here's a video of my backpacking experience in Cape Maclear.

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