Traveling through Malawi on a budget. Senga Bay and southern Malawi..

We went to Malawi in February 2015, during a complete trip,
8 months, through Southern and Eastern Africa.

SENGA BAY is a long sandy bay (4 km), with an authentic fishermen village on its northern part. 
We liked it! Real lake ´s life! Real Malawi! Real simple village!

It´s the closest place from Lilongwe (capital city) to the lake. So week-ends and holidays can get a bit crowded and noisier. There are a few holiday houses and lodges, but the beach is long enough and this is Malawi (not so many expats and people going to the beach!). But weekdays are calm, only the fishermen and local people around... and not so many baclpackers (Nhkata and Monkey-Cape are much more popular).


Nice views of the lake with small island (Lizard), Mozambique and Cape Mcclear in front. 
It was rainy season (big storms) and the water was brown. We didn´t swim. It must be much better during dry season. 
The beach is more or less clean... blue plastic bags always... And this is a lake!
The smell is strong around the village, remember, you are at a fishermen´s place !!! If you don´t want the smell, you have to go further south.

We enjoyed a lot in Senga because we liked the fishermen village atmosphere: fishermen preparing the nets and boats, women washing on the shores, children swimming, fresh fish in the morning, fish drying in big boards... Friendly people.
We prefered the authentic lake´s life than the tourist spots only for foreigners, like Nhkata.



   Public Transport in Senga Bay  

Lilongwe to Salima (100 km), minibus,1.500 K (3€), 2 h. Departure when full.
Also a few old AXA buses/day going to Salima (1.200 K), some seem to continue late afternoon to Senga.

Salima to Senga Bay (20 km), van 300 K, 30 min
From the small bus station in Salima (main road) you have 2 options. The van´s drivers will offer you private transport (expensive) or you can wait with local people til the van gets full to go (it can take a while or not).

From Senga, you can even hire a private boat to Cape Mc Clear (it´s just in front of Senga, the rocky point on the right), but expensive (around 200 US$).
There´s also a small local boat crossing sometimes from Senga to the Mozambique border (Mangochi).
The lake ferries don´t stop in Senga.


   Cheap accommodation in Senga Bay   

The accommodation in Senga Bay is spread out in several km. You can see it on the map we did.
So if using the public vans from Salima, if you don´t want to walk too much or take a private taxi, only 2 central options: Murfasa and Cool Runnings. 

Murfasa Backpackers (also written Mufasa, AKA Wamwai). 
It´s where we stayed. 
Prices for accommodation in Murfasa Backpackers:
- Camping: 2.000 K/pp (4 €)
- Dorm bed: 3.500 K/pp (7 €)
- Room without  WC: 10.000 K (20 €)
- Room with WC: 12.000 K (24 €)
As the lodge was almost empty and in the rainy season, we negotiated and we stayed at the dormitory (alone) for 2.500 K/pp.

 Just stop at Senga´s market (last stop of the Salima´s van), cross the school and you find the place, 10 minutes walking.


The place is basic, could be better and cleaner. 
It´s just in front of the lake, just on the side of the fishermen village, great views from the terrace and always village life to see.
You can use the kitchen (the “chef” is nice). 
To camp, it´s on a small patch close to the billard pool. Not a real campsite.
Many local guys around, drinking beers, a bit sticky…, music… But this is Malawi´s lake!

Murfasa has now new local owners (nice), under different management than the "Murfasas" at Monkey Bay, Cape Mc Clear and Lilongwe (not very original with the names…).
Lots of activities, but expensive (in $).

Cool Runnings: the other central option.
Just next to Murfasa, Samantha, the owner is an interesting lady, white Zimbabwean. Nice garden and place. Good place to camp!
Prices are more expensive than in Murfasa. 
Usually closed in February (this year in January). It was still closed when we arrived.

Prices:
- Camping : 2.400 K/pp or 5$
- Dorm bed in tent: 3.850 K/pp or 8$
- Dorm bed: 4.800 K/pp or 10$
- Rooms from 35$



If you want to head 2 km north, where the tarmac road ends (you can ask the minibus driver to bring you there for extra money) you´ll find the expensive Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel and Steps Restcamp (3.000 K/pp camping), a nice place to camp too, but no beach to near.

One more km north (dirt road) Safari Beach Lodge (around 4.000 K/pp camping and quite expensive rooms).
South of Senga market, a 3 km long dirty road will bring you to a serie of lodges (most of them medium price, not really cheap).

Note: there are many local cheap lodges in Salima (20 km inland), it´s a big commercial town on the main road, only if you are blocked there by the night...

   Food & drinks in Senga Bay   
Senga Bay market

Outside the lodges restaurants (not too cheap, dishes 2.000 - 3.000 K, 4-6 €), not too many options except local super-simple-dark restaurants at the fishermen village. 
A few basic small shops at Senga´s market (road) and in the fishermen village. A few snacks too and some fresh bread. 
Also fresh fish every morning direct from the lake.

We cooked in the backpacker´s kitchen, buying supplies in the market, but not so many options to buy.  


At Salima, you find a few bigger shops (think in doing some shopping) and simple food stalls at the bus station.


   Services in Senga Bay   

No banks, the closest ATM is in Salima, but not always works for international cards! 
Bring enough cash from Lilongwe!
Quite limited internet. The lodges have wifi (it´s written) but the internet doesn´t work.


   THINGS TO DO IN SENGA BAY   
  • Enjoy the fishermen village atmosphere. We liked it. The beach activity, with the boats getting ready, women washing, children playing, the small street… Authentic lake´s life.
  • Just walk on the long sandy beach (4 km long). Beautiful views. North, stones. 
  • Take the hill´s path and get to Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel. Nice walk if you have time, traditionnal houses. And a nice private beach at the hotel.
  • Swim or not ? We didn´t. The lake was brown (rain), not too clean… also bilharzias problem. Just in case...
   
  • Go to Lizard Island. It´s in front of Senga (north), rocky small island. The fishermen offer snorkel activity for around 50$/pp. Very expensive for us! We didn´t go. But if interested, try to negotiate, many fishermen there with boats.
  • Also hippo pool (further north) and crocs farm (south). We didn´t go. Tourists spots.

  SOUTHERN MALAWI   




We didn´t visit these places, but here´s some information we got while in Malawi. Maybe it will help you.

We didn´t visit this part of Malawi, heading north from Salima-Senga to Tanzania... and because of flooding.

Warning: during rainy season, it rains heavy in the south. Floodings in January 2015!
 
Monkey Bay
Main port in Malawi, also fishermen. Transport from Lilongwe via Salima (Salima is150 km north) and from Blantyre (250 km south), many vans.
A few camps around ( the most popular are Mufasa and Venice) and also some further south out of town.

Cape Maclear:
20 km north of Monkey Bay, now many vans from Monkey, around 300-500 K.
The super popular tourist destination in the south, a beach surrounded by rocky hills. Plenty of backpackers and lodges on the beach.

Liwonde National Park (game park of Malawi):
Possible to reach Liwonde town by public transport (Lilongwe, Blantyre, Monkey Bay-Mangochi).
There are camps outside the park (no need of paying 10 $ park fee while sleeping!), like Majasi Wildlife Camp (just near the center, the cheapest option) or Liwonde Safari Camp (6 km away). 
To visit the park, a boat tour is popular...or a safari drive. You need a car or join a tour.
Not so many animals, compared with other Africa parks.

Zomba:
50 km south of Liwonde, you can do walks in the plateau. 

Mulanje mountain:
3.002 m (east of Blantyre). You need a guide, 25 $/d and porters 20 $/d (fee 1$, camping 2 $, hut 3 $). Complete information at www.mountainmulanje.org.mw




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