Nkhata Bay

Nkhata Bay

Land Area (km²) / Rank 4,071 km² / 9th out of 28 districts
Population (2018) / Rank 285,795 / 23rd out of 28 districts
Population Density / Rank 70 persons/km² / 26th out of 28 districts

Nkhata Bay is at the most northerly point on the Lake reached by David Livingstone, and one of the main ports on Lake Malawi.

The town is dependent on Lake’s fishing industry but it has steadily grown in reputation as a tourist centre over the past two decades to eclipse Cape Maclear as the most popular traveller congregation point on Lake Malawi.

While most visitors associate Nkhata Bay with lazy days and party nights, the town offers plenty of interest to more active travellers, including kayaking, snorkelling, forest walks, horse-riding and fish-eagle feeding.

The town is home to the Tonga people who are famed for their love of fine dressing – it’s common to see older men dressed in full suits with Homburg hats, spats and canes.

Chichewa is the preferred language in hospitals, churches and radio in Nkhata Bay, although Chitumbuka is the main language spoken in the Northern Region.

Chitonga is the main language spoken in Nkhata Bay’s school.

  1. Nkhata Bay has steadily grown in reputation as a tourist centre.
  2. The town offers plenty of water activities to active travellers.
  3. Chitonga is the main language spoken in Nkhata Bay’s school.

Getting there and away

Nkhata Bay is situated on the M5 between Salima and Mzuzu. It’s a 50km drive from Mzuzu, and it shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes in a private vehicle, but may take twice as long on the regular minibuses and matolas. Note that transport from Nkhata Bay to Mzuzu can be picked up from the main bus station or from a stage about 200m out of town past the courthouse.

Coming from the south, Nkhata Bay lies about 40km from Chintheche, and is connected to it by regular minibuses. There is also plenty of bus and matola transport along the 198km stretch of the M5 between Nkhotakota and Nkhata Bay. To reach Lilongwe the quickest option is to go to Mzuzu and transfer bus.

Nkhata Bay is a port visited by the MV Ilala steamship, a boat which travels up Lake Malawi from Monkey Bay in southern Malawi to Chilumba in the north, via Likoma Island and Chizumulu. Smaller local boats also make the crossing from Nkhata Bay to Likoma and Chizumula.