Land Area (km²) / Rank 18 km² / 28th out of 28 districts
Population (2018) / Rank 14,527 / 28th out of 28 districts
Population Density / Rank 807 persons/km² / 1st out of 28 districts

Likoma Island is far offshore from Chintheche, but only 7km from Mozambique, the larger of two inhabited islands in Lake Malawi, the smaller being the Chizumulu Island.

The islands are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters and both exclaves of Malawi.

The setting up here of the headquarters of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, founded in response to a plea by David Livingstone in the 1880s – caused it to be retained by Malawi when the Lake was divided politically after World War II in 1954.

The landmark of Likoma is St Peter’s Cathedral built between 1903 and 1911, and the third largest cathedral in Central Africa. This grand edifice is about the same size of Winchester Cathedral in England and has notable features carved soapstone choir stalls, fine stained-glass windows and a crucifix carved from a tree that grew in Zambia near to the village where David Livingstone died.

The Island’s sandy beaches and secluded coves have some of the best snorkelling and diving in Malawi.

The southern plains are covered in massive baobabs, shady mango trees and studded with impressive granite outcrops.

The inhabitants of Likoma Island speak a Nkamanga dialect, a variety of Nyanja and are mostly fishermen.

Dancing competitions known locally as Malipenga are interesting to watch due to the traditional instruments that are used and the eccentric colonial costumes the men wear. These are generally held in the afternoon on weekends about 500m out of town opposite the Hot Coconut Bar.

The annual Likoma Festival is a contemporary celebration of arts and culture with a strong focus on artists and traditional dances from Malawi. It is held in the second week of October.

  1. The Likoma District consists of the Likoma Island and Chizumulu Island and they are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters.
  2. St Peter’s Cathedral, the landmark of Likoma, is the third largest cathedral in Central Africa.
  3. The annual Likoma Festival is held in the second week of October.

Getting there and away

The most affordable way of reaching Likoma from the Malawian mainland is with the MV Ilala, which is scheduled to stop at Likoma on Saturday on its northbound trip and on Tuesday on the southbound trip. Allowing for delays, this means that you need to allocate at least five days to the round trip, spending three or four nights on the island. The MV Ilala docks a few hundred metres offshore as a beach about 5 minutes’ walk from Chipyela. It is usually docked for at least 3 hours, which means, in theory, that ferry passengers who are travelling on could still hop off the boat and take a quick look around the cathedral. In practice, however, the complexities of transporting passengers between the MV Ilala and the beach make this inadvisable, unless you’re prepared to risk the boat sailing away without you.

If you plan to travel from Likoma to Mozambique, you must tell the captain of the boat prior to departure so that the immigration officer meets the boat at the port in Cobue as visas cannot be obtained in Metangula.

At the other end of the price scale, Ulendo Airlink flies between Lilongwe and Likoma once or twice a day. All charter flights and boats to Likoma can be arranged through Kaya Mawa or their representative, Ulendo Safaris. Additionally, the airstrip at Likoma now has international clearance, so direct flights can be arranged t/from Mfuwe in Zambia or destinations further afield.

BoatBoat The MV Ilala ferry is a popular means of travelling around the...