Malawi's island music festival

The Likoma Festival (Li-Fest) on Malawi’s beautiful Likoma island is set to take place on the weekend of 3-5 April. Although Malawi has many festivals, such as Lake of Stars and the Blantyre Arts Festival, Li-Fest is the only festival that to be held on this magnificent island and boasts of treating its revellers to a ship cruise music party.

Photo: www.likomafestival.com
Photo: www.likomafestival.com

Apart from the ship cruise to the island, patrons will on Saturday 4 April enjoy a boat cruise around Chizumulu Islands and Mozambique, play beach games, race canoes and go sight-seeing. Live music performances will start at 3pm until the morning of Sunday 5 April. From 12pm until 5pm, it will be time for traditional dances. Over 15 local musicians and 4 top DJs have confirmed to perform at the festival and the organisers are also expecting some from RSA, Zambia and Mozambique. Some of the artists already on the bill include: Piksy, Gwamba, Mafo, Martse, Crazy G, Mlaka Maliro, Lucky Stars, Nepman, Daredevils, Barry One, Bucci, Young K and Lulu.

The annual event has moved from being held in summer to Easter each year. This change has been made to offer patrons of the festival more time on the island following the long weekend. The festival has also rebranded from Likoma Sand Festival (Li-Saf) to the Likoma Festival (Li-Fest). This is aimed at promoting tourism to the Island District (and the country in general) while at the same time providing people with an opportunity to learn, earn, enjoy and advance their lives.

Travel Arrangements

We have hired four buses (2 from Blantyre and 2 from Lilongwe) that will leave the two cities between 5-7pm on Thursday 2 April, 2015 for Nkhata Bay. Upon arrival of the last bus, MV Ilala and the new MV Chilembwe will leave for Likoma  Island (at around 4am on 3 April 2015). The ships are expected to arrive at the island at around 7:30am. Tickets for those that will use these buses are going at MK45,000 (incl. coach, MV Chilembwe and festival entry fee) and MK35,000 for those who will sail by MV Ilala.

Others are free to drive or arrange own transport to Nkhata Bay. Tickets for this category are going at MK25,000. Unlike many festivals, for Likoma the fun starts as soon as the ship leaves the dock, as there will be a disco on the deck with DJ Trick and Africa the DJ.

Those flying to Likoma from Blantyre or Lilongwe will pay MK15,000 at the Likoma Air Strip.

Likoma Island is about 80km east of Nkhata Bay and motor vessels take 3 hours to reach the island. It is therefore expected that by 8:30am at latest, everyone will be on the Island. For those that observe Good Friday, will have enough time to join the Way of the Cross session at the historical St Peter’s Cathedral, while others will be checking in at camping sites that will be prepared for the event.

The motor vessels are expected to leave the island by 7pm and get to Nkhata Bay by 11pm at the latest. This will ensure that everyone gets back to the city by Monday before 10am.

Don’t forget to bring:

  • Enough cash, as there are no ATMs on the island.
  • Hiking boots
  • Bikinis
  • Waterproof camera
  • A blanket (there will be tents and mattresses) unless you book at a lodge.

More about Likoma

Likoma is an exclave of Malawi situated within Mozambican waters in Lake Malawi. It consists of two main islands, Likoma and Chizumulu. The administrative headquarters is Likoma.  The town of Mbamba hosts a busy market and the Anglican Cathedral of St. Peter’s, one of the largest churches in Africa.

Covering a total area of about 21 km², Likoma District is densely populated, with about 16 000 inhabitants dispersed in a dozen settlements, the main one being the town of Likoma. The most represented ethnic groups are the Nyanja people (65%) and the Tonga people (25%), followed by smaller groups of Chewa, Tumbuka and Yao. The islanders have diverse cultural beliefs and traditions, but tolerate each other in a multicultural society. The islanders are also known for their unique dances such as Chioda, Mganda/Malipenga and Mvetserani, which are performed day and night.

The main economic activity is fishing, although agriculture (mainly rice and cassava) is also represented on a small scale. The island is so small that it has only about 10 cars, including army vehicles, an ambulance and the cars of Escom the electricity supplier. The island prides in its unique and preserved beauty, clean environment, good views, friendly people and unique culture. Likoma was listed in Top 10 Best Beaches in Africa by Africa Travel in 2013. These beaches are unspoilt with clear, clean waters. The vegetation has been preserved as grassland with very few wild animals, mostly reptiles, birds, and others. The waters offer some of the best swimming, diving, watersport and fishing experiences. It is also known for its rare and beautiful fish, including colourful Cichlids (known locally as mbuna).

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