After a few nights of relatively basic accommodation, we hoped for a little luxury at “The Makokola Retreat”:http://www.clubmak.com/, our third location on Lake Malawi. We weren’t asking for the earth, just a decent glass of wine or cocktail, 24-hour electricity, a hairdryer and wifi.
This was the largest, smartest place we’d stayed in, with 50+ rooms. On arrival, we were waved through huge, imposing gates with very formal security, and walked down a long, covered corridor to reception where we were told there was an unexpected power outage and that wifi was extra (although 3000 Malawian Kwacha (£3) lasted for 4 days).
The resort, which until a recent refurb was called Club Makokola and more commonly, Club Mak, had beautiful grounds and individual white-washed thatched cottages. Our unusual circular cottage (41) included a lounge with two sofas, matching chair, coffee table, fridge with bottled water and TV. Two arches led into the bedroom with a large, double bed replete with mosquito net, chair and dressing table. But despite the size, the bed was poorly positioned which meant one person, not me, had to walk down the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ to get in and out of what was a comfortable bed. It was beautifully furnished with ethnic printed curtains and matching cushions, traditional wall art and interesting lamps. There was plenty of hanging space and shelves and tea and coffee making equipment was stored in quaint china containers resembling thatched cottages.
The bathroom was not a ‘room’ but an area. The first section had double sinks with shaded turquoise tiles to reflect the sea with occasional fishes on some. A separate loo was next with a beautiful turquoise/fish small hand basin, followed by a large, white, oval bath and finally there was a huge walk in shower. Fluffy white towels were everywhere along with soap, shampoo and shower gel in turquoise pottery containers but sadly, there was no hairdryer. As we were filling the bath one night, the power went off (twice and for a couple of minutes) so we lit the candles on wall brackets which created a romantic effect.
Although there was a water sports centre and 9-hole golf course, the only facility I used was the spa where I had a relaxing, reasonably-priced ‘Lake Massage’ in a room open to the elements on one side. The pristine beach had coarse sand, and it was easy to get in and out of the lake which, in this area, was calm and rock free. The thatched parasols were well-spaced along the beach and red and blue striped sun beds laid out (despite decent towels in the bathroom, the royal blue beach towels were skimpy). It was the first time a lifeguard has introduced himself to us and explained the various depths of the 30m long pool.
The outside bar beside the pool and lake, became a favourite spot for our late afternoon sundowners as, in addition to providing an excellent Malawi G&T with delicious nibbles, we could watch the flotilla of small fishing boats on their way out for the evening.
Apart from a 12 hour, ‘Chinese invasion’, the hotel was very quiet with no more than 10 guests which was unusual considering it was a weekend when many expats working in nearby Lilongwe or Blantyre escape the city for a few days. I suspect that during the week you could have the whole resort to yourself.
Food was good. One morning at breakfast, served in the semi-open dining room, there were more staff than guests. There was the usual fruit, cereals and juices followed by a cooked breakfast which varied between a buffet and a la carte. Lunch was served in a tree-shaded, garden area and there was a good choice with pizza’s a speciality. Despite the limited number of guests, an effort was made each evening with the location varying between the beach, pool and garden. There was also an elaborately set up beach BBQ with a huge choice of Malawian food cooked in clay pots by elaborately dressed ladies. Sadly, cocktails were not included in our ‘all inclusive’ package and the wine was named something like ‘fresh and fruity’ – a far cry from my favourite Sauvignon Blanc.
Whilst not finding all I’d hoped for, we enjoyed our experience at Club Mak – it doesn’t deserve to be so quiet.