Cape Maclear is the busiest resort on Lake Malawi and one of the leading tourist destinations in Malawi.
In 1859, the missionary and explorer David Livingston found the Cape and named it “Cape Maclear” after his friend, the astronomer Thomas Maclear, who was Her Majesty’s Astronomer at the Cape of Good Hope.
In October 1875, a new mission, “Livingstonia”, was set up by a group of members of the Free Church of Scotland. Before the missionaries arrived, the area was controlled by the Muslim Yao people. The graves of some of the missionaries are in Cape Maclear, overlooking the bay.
Although Cape Maclear had a good harbour, they decided to move the location north to Bandawe in 1881 due to the high number of malarial fatalities.
Cape Maclear and its islands, forests and bay were declared a national park in 1980, creating the Lake Malawi National Park, the first freshwater national park in the world.
The area became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984, being of “global importance for biodiversity conservation due particularly to its fish diversity”.
There are plenty of accommodation options from tents on the beach to upmarket lodges serving fine French cuisine, and also offers a peerless range of aquatic activities, from snorkelling and diving to kayaking and motorised lake excursions.
- Cape Maclear is the busiest resort on Lake Malawi and one of the leading tourist destinations in Malawi.
- The Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear is the first freshwater national park in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Getting there and away
The turn-off to Cape Maclear is next to the Energem filling station on the west side of the 10km feeder road to Monkey Bay, about 5km north of Chirombo junction on the M10. An array of signs to the various lodges renders it difficult to miss.
By public transport, you must first get to Monkey Bay. There is no public transport along the 18km road between Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear, so you will either have to hitch or else wait for a matola ride. Matolas leave for Monkey Bay from around 5am, on a fill-up-and-go basis, and take about an hour. From there you can get onward transport. Most of the lodges in Cape Maclear can also arrange transport.
Coming from Lilongwe or Salima/Senga Bay, it may also be possible to arrange a private motorboat transfer, which takes about 3 hours in decent weather. As the road network has improved this option has become less popular.