Traveling through Malawi to Likoma Island

10:30 am

I have mostly had to rely on the internet and travel blogs regarding travel schedules to different places on my journey.
I am currently in Malawi and have had to travel to Likoma Island on the Ilala Ferry. I have also learnt that everything I have read online has been outdated - not because there aren't any travelers coming to Malawi but also mostly because the Ilala's own schedule is outdated and has not been updated. Even the local lodges and backpackers hostel have the outdated schedule.

I arrived in Malawi on a Sunday night and thought to spend the night in Lilongwe so that I can travel to Nkhatha Bay on the Monday and catch the Ilala on Tuesday to Likoma Island. After getting settled in at Mufatse Backpackers (if you Google it, it comes up as Mufasa backpackers), my Malawian contact Peter was able to reach me on the lodge's number. He advised that there was an Axa bus that left Blantyre at 5pm and will be leaving Lilongwe at 10pm. I then got ready and got the lodge to call me a cab so that I could make my way to the bus depot. This bus is one of the faster ones so it is also a bit pricey. From Lilongwe to Mzuzu it costs just over MK6 000 (MK - Malawian Kwachas). The bus arrives on Mzuzu just after 2am, it doesn't leave until 6am so you can just stay on the bus and sleep till the morning when it continues to Karonga.

From Mzuzu you can get a sharing taxi to Nkhatha Bay which will set you back MK1 300.
At Nkhatha Bay you can get on the ferry to Likoma Island. The ferry supposedly leaves Nkhatha Bay for Likoma Island on Mondays at 4pm. It's suppose to arrive at Nkhatha Bay on Monday early morning but on my day of travel it arrived at 2pm and left the Bay just after 7pm.
The Ilala has different classes. 

Economy class which you really don't want to be on. This is where all the locals sit with their vegetables, animals (goats and pigs) etc. This class stinks of fumes and it is boiling hot in there. Once seated, your movement is restricted as there is just too much packed all around you. Economy class costs just over MK4 000. 1st class is where all the cabins are and with the price tag of MK 11 000 per person, there is nothing special about it so it is not worth it.
Then we have the upper deck.
The upper deck costs MK 7 610. There is shelter by the bar should it rain but it's small so we will all end up packed underneath like sardines.
The Ilala is extremely old and needs to always go for maintenance. The Malawi Shipping Company has introduced a brand new ship with even crazier prices. The new boat is called the Chilembwe and it will be replacing the Ilala at the moment till the Ilala is back on the waters from maintenance. 
The new boat started on my return from Likoma Island. I didn't use it as it was too pricey for no reason. I returned to Nkhatha Bay from Likoma Island on the Lamani Boat which costs MK3 000 where as the new boat costs just over MK9 000. 

Unfortunately you can feel every wave on the Lamani and the toilet doesn't inspire one to relieve themselves but it arrived safely and that's all that matters.

Upon our arrival at Nkhatha Bay we found officials with ambulances waiting for us as a journalist had reported that there were cases of Ebola in Mozambique and these suspected people would be traveling to Malawi from the Island. 
Mozambique is a stone throw away from Likoma Island.
We were all quarantined on the lake for over an hour till the officials and doctors were ready to test us all and no one had any symptoms of Ebola.
The Malawian Government and the doctors have had a media briefing explaining to the country that it was all irresponsible reporting from the journalist as there were no cases of Ebola in Malawi or Mozambique.


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