Land Area (km²) / Rank 4,259 km² / 8th out of 28 districts
Population (2018) / Rank 395,897 / 18th out of 28 districts
Population Density / Rank 93 persons/km² / 25th out of 28 districts

Nkhotokota, formerly known as Kota Kota derived from the Chichewa for “Corner Corner” is one of the main ports on Lake Malawi.

Nkhotakota is a town of considerable historical note.

The slave trade at Nkhotakota was established in the 1840s by Jumbe Salim bin Abdullah, a Zanzibari trader of mixed Arab and African descent. And by the 1850s, Nkhotakota had become the main terminus from which as many as 20,000 slaves annually were shipped across the lake from present-day Malawi to the Indian Ocean port of Tanzania.

In 1861, Livingstone became possibly the first European to reach Nkhotakota, and he described the area as ‘an abode of lawlessness and bloodshed literally strewed with human bones and putrid bodies’.

When he returned a few years later, he met with Jumbe and tried to persuade him to abandon the slave trade. Though the two men engaged in a lengthy meeting, Livingstone’s efforts were in vain, and the slave trade out of Nkhotakota continued until the 1890s when Commissioner Harry Johnston persuaded Jumbe to sign a treaty in exchange for British protection.

In 1960 Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda chose Nkhotakota for his first political rally on his release from prison and prior to Malawi gaining its independence.

Nkhotakota is home to the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. 500 elephants were moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota between 2016 and 2017. The reserve is also home to several antelope species, buffalo and leopards.

Nkhotakota Wildlife ReserveNkhotatoka Wildlife Reserve (Entrance gate: early-18.00 daily, USD1...

Nkhotakota Pottery offers a range of pottery workshops and course last anything from a few hours to three weeks. If you don’t have time for a long course, there is also a workshop that you can make your own pots or decorate some that are already made.

Nkhotakota PotteryNkhotakota Pottery Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge is located on the lakes...

Another notable tourist attraction in Nkhotakota is the Mawira hot springs, an area of about 3km² of hot water that continuously gushes from the ground since time immemorial. Sungu Island made of sand and rocks is another fascinating place to visit in Nkhotakota.

Chichewa is the main language spoken in the town.

  1. Around 20,000 slaves annually were shipped from Nkhotakota by the 1850s.
  2. Nkhotakota is home to the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve which 500 elephants were moved from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve between 2016 and 2017.
  3. Nkhotakota Pottery is one of the tourist attractions in Nkhotakota.

Getting there and away

Nkhotakota is situated on the M5 about 200km south of Nkhata Bay and 110km north of Salima. It is connected to Kasungu, 125km to the west, by the M18, which also forms part of the most direct route to Lilongwe, a 200km run along the M7 via Ntchisi, of which only the 30km stretch immediately north of Ntchisi is unsurfaced. There is plenty of bus and minibus in all directions: all buses between Nkhata Bay and Salima stop at Nkhotakota, and there are regular minibuses to Chintheche, Salima, Kasungu and Ntchisi where you can change for Lilongwe. Nkhotakota is one of the main ports on Lake Malawi, and it is served by the ferry MV Ilala that weekly crosses Lake Malawi.