Situated halfway up Lake Malawi and not far from the large town of Mzuzu, Nkhata Bay is an idyllic little fishing village with great places to stay in Nkhata Bay and a large number of attractions. In fact, we say this is a small village but actually, the population now exceeds 15,000 while the village itself continues to spread outward over the nearby hills.
Nkhata Bay is also one of the busiest ports in Malawi and hugely popular with volunteers, backpackers overlanders and tourists in general. As mentioned, it sits right on top of Lake Malawu to the east of Mzuzu and an estimated 400 kilometers from the capital Lilongwe. Overall, this is the second most popular resort in the entire country and one of the most beautiful places to see in Malawi.
History of Nkhata Bay
An interesting history lies behind Nkhata Bay which was once the home of the mighty Tonga. However, this nomadic tribe was invaded quite often by the Ngongi who would flee to the north in fear of Shika, the South African Zulu King at the time.
Population and language
As mentioned above the population is more than 15,000 and Chichewa is the main language in Nkhata Bay and by this we mean in churches, businesses, hospitals etc. That being said, you will also find that the Tonga language is most common in the schools here and accounts for the majority of what is spoken in the bay.
Employment in Nkhata Bay
The main employment in Nkhata Bay comes in the form of agriculture with cassava being particularly popular. Aside from farming, there are some enormous rubber plantations nearby and tourism is undoubtedly a huge source of income for the area.
Facilities in Nkhata Bay
Many bars find themselves scattered around the town with just as many places to stay in Nkhata Bay. And then this is the myriad of local restaurants, market stalls, grocery shops and a bus station. And then there are also four major banks including FNB and NBS while a local ATM machine is also there to be used with any major credit/debit card.
As for internet, it is easier to have a local sim card but there are also some internet café’s in town and naturally, Wi-Fi is starting to crop up more often. A Post Office, medical centres and several café’s make up the most part of what you can find in the town.
Tourism and Backpackers in Nkhata Bay
Nkhata Bay really is a backpackers paradise with the lakeside views, laid back vibe and some of the best things to do in Malawi. A number of incredible lodges are placed along the bay on either side which is varied in terms of standard but each of them promise a memorable experience. Another huge draw card is the opportunity to scuba dive in a freshwater lake and naturally, there are many dive centres and operators here too who are happy to cater for tourists.
With the Cape to Cairo overland route being so popular, this is always a must see destination in Malawi. There are also great places to stay in Nkhata Bay but the trouble for these new arrivals is that they never want to leave once they have stayed here for even a few days.
It really is a great place where locals and visitors mix seamlessly, where top notch accommodation, good food and relaxing surroundings are always on offer. Overland Trucks are the one absentee here in Nkhata Bay due to the hilly nature of the terrain and instead they opt to stay at Kande Beach a little further South. It would be great for the community if they did start coming but then it is also nice that the region is not overcrowded with tourists.
Volunteering in Nkhata Bay
Volunteering is also super popular here but if I’m honest, this is mostly because the area is such a nice place to base yourself with a local vibe but also some creature comforts. These opportunities range in terms of time and demands but if you are hard working and proactive, taking part in a Nkhata Bay volunteer project can be a highly rewarding way to spend your time in this beautiful part of Malawi.