Likoma Island
Likoma Island is the larger of two inhabited islands in Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi , is an African Great Lake and the southernmost lake in the Great Rift Valley system of East Africa. This lake, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania...

 (also known as Lake Nyasa), in East Africa
East Africa
East Africa or Eastern Africa is the easterly region of the African continent, variably defined by geography or geopolitics. In the UN scheme of geographic regions, 19 territories constitute Eastern Africa:...

, the smaller being the nearby Chizumulu. Likoma and Chizumulu both belong to Malawi, and together they make up the Likoma District
Likoma District
Likoma District is an exclave of Malawi situated within Mozambique consisting of two main islands, Likoma and Chizumulu in Lake Malawi . It is a district in the Northern Region of Malawi...

. Since both islands lie just a few kilometres from Mozambique
Mozambique, officially the Republic of Mozambique , is a country in southeastern Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west and Swaziland and South Africa to the southwest...

, and are entirely surrounded by Mozambican territorial waters
Territorial waters
Territorial waters, or a territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most from the baseline of a coastal state...

, they are both exclaves of Malawi
The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size...



The island has an overall area of 18 km², and is located in the north-eastern part of Lake Malawi, 7 km north-west of Cobue
Cobue is a small lake-side town in Niassa Province, in north-west Mozambique. It is located on the shore of Lake Niassa.Cobue serves as the gateway to Mozambique from Malawi. It is located 10 km from Likoma Island offshore...

, Mozambique). The closest city on the Malawian coast is Chintheche
Chintheche is a settlement in the Nkhata Bay District of the Northern Region of Malawi. It is on the shore of Lake Malawi, and is approximately south of Nkhata Bay. The town is close to the main road between Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota.-History:...



In 1880 missionaries from the University Mission of Central Africa, founded by David Livingstone
David Livingstone
David Livingstone was a Scottish Congregationalist pioneer medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. His meeting with H. M. Stanley gave rise to the popular quotation, "Dr...

, established their headquarters on Likoma Island. Due to David Livingstone's built headquarters, the island was assigned to Malawi rather than Mozambique when national borders in East Africa were established after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


Natural environment

Despite a high population density, the natural environment of Likoma island is largely unspoiled. The coast is varied, with rocky slopes, sandy bays and swamps. The interior of the island is mostly covered by grassland
Grasslands are areas where the vegetation is dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plants . However, sedge and rush families can also be found. Grasslands occur naturally on all continents except Antarctica...

, with a large number of baobab
Adansonia is a genus of eight species of tree, six native to Madagascar, one native to mainland Africa and the Arabian Peninsula and one to Australia. The mainland African species also occurs on Madagascar, but it is not a native of that island....

 trees (of the Adansonia digitata
Adansonia digitata
Adansonia digitata is the most widespread of the Adansonia species on the African continent, found in the hot, dry savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. It also grows, having spread secondary to cultivation, in populated areas...

species) and mango trees
Mangifera indica
Mangifera indica is a species of mango in the Anacardiaceae family. It is found in the wild in India and cultivated varieties have been introduced to other warm regions of the world...

. Fauna is mostly composed of small reptilians
Reptiles are members of a class of air-breathing, ectothermic vertebrates which are characterized by laying shelled eggs , and having skin covered in scales and/or scutes. They are tetrapods, either having four limbs or being descended from four-limbed ancestors...

, amphibian
Amphibians , are a class of vertebrate animals including animals such as toads, frogs, caecilians, and salamanders. They are characterized as non-amniote ectothermic tetrapods...

s, bird
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...

s and a number of invertebrate
An invertebrate is an animal without a backbone. The group includes 97% of all animal species – all animals except those in the chordate subphylum Vertebrata .Invertebrates form a paraphyletic group...

s, including scorpion spider
Platyoides is a genus of spiders belonging to the family Trochanteriidae and found in sub-Saharan Africa and its islands, Madagascar, Réunion, Aldabra and the Canary Islands....

s. On the coast, crocodile
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...

s are occasionally seen. The waters around Likoma, as is usual in Lake Malawi, host a number of Cichlid
Cichlids are fishes from the family Cichlidae in the order Perciformes. Cichlids are members of a group known as the Labroidei along with the wrasses , damselfish , and surfperches . This family is both large and diverse. At least 1,300 species have been scientifically described, making it one of...

 fishes; some species, such as Labidochromis caeruleus likomae
Labidochromis caeruleus
Labidochromis caeruleus is a species of cichlid fish that is endemic to the central western coastal region of Lake Malawi in East Africa. It is also known as lemon yellow lab, the blue streak hap, the electric yellow or yellow prince, depending on the colour morph...

, are endemic of the Likoma area.


Likoma is densely populated, with about 9,000 inhabitants dispersed in a dozen settlements, the main being the eponymous town of Likoma
Likoma, Malawi
Likoma is the main town on Likoma Island in Malawi. It is the administrative capital of Likoma District.Perhaps the most famous attraction of Likoma is the Anglican Cathedral of Likoma. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Peter, whose statue faces the lake...

. The most represented ethnic groups are the Nyanja people (60%) and the Tonga people (25%), followed by smaller groups of Tumbuka, Yao, and Chewa. Their main economic activity is fishing
Fishing is the activity of trying to catch wild fish. Fish are normally caught in the wild. Techniques for catching fish include hand gathering, spearing, netting, angling and trapping....

, although agriculture (mainly rice
Oryza sativa
Oryza sativa, commonly known as Asian rice, is the plant species most commonly referred to in English as rice. Oryza sativa is the cereal with the smallest genome, consisting of just 430Mb across 12 chromosomes...

 and cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

) is also represented.

The town of Likoma hosts a busy market. It is also known because of the Anglican
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...

 cathedral of St. Peter, one the largest churches in Africa.

As a consequence of poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 and insufficient hospitals, the situation of public health
Public health
Public health is "the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals" . It is concerned with threats to health based on population health...

 on the island is critical, although malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 (which is widespread in Malawi) has not been reported. Recently, Likoma has been the subject of a scientific study on the epidemiology
Epidemiology is the study of health-event, health-characteristic, or health-determinant patterns in a population. It is the cornerstone method of public health research, and helps inform policy decisions and evidence-based medicine by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive...

 of HIV
Human immunodeficiency virus is a lentivirus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome , a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive...

 and other sexually-transmitted diseases.

Despite the minimal economic development of Likoma, there are several schools serving all settlements, and literacy
Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read for knowledge, write coherently and think critically about printed material.Literacy represents the lifelong, intellectual process of gaining meaning from print...

 is thus widespread.

Infrastructures and transportation

Likoma has no paved roads, and there are very few motor vehicle
Motor vehicle
A motor vehicle or road vehicle is a self-propelled wheeled vehicle that does not operate on rails, such as trains or trolleys. The vehicle propulsion is provided by an engine or motor, usually by an internal combustion engine, or an electric motor, or some combination of the two, such as hybrid...

s. Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 is provided by a generator that is usually switched off at 10pm. There is a small telephone network
Telephone network
A telephone network is a telecommunications network used for telephone calls between two or more parties.There are a number of different types of telephone network:...

 on the island, although telephones themselves are quite rare. Hotels and institutions that use Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

 access the network through a radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...


Likoma has a tarred airstrip and can be reached by plane. Nyassa Air Taxi have small aircraft flying between Lilongwe and Likoma on a regularly shuttle service from $280/$490 for a single/return trip .

The island's main mode of transportation is provided by the MV Ilala steamer
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

 boat that circumnavigates Lake Malawi, stopping over at all the main settlements on the coast and the islands. Smaller boats (including dhow
Dhow is the generic name of a number of traditional sailing vessels with one or more masts with lateen sails used in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean region. Some historians believe the dhow was invented by Arabs but this is disputed by some others. Dhows typically weigh 300 to 500 tons, and have a...

s) cross the strait
A strait or straits is a narrow, typically navigable channel of water that connects two larger, navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of water that is otherwise not...

 between Likoma and Chizumulu, and also between Likoma and Cobue
Cobue is a small lake-side town in Niassa Province, in north-west Mozambique. It is located on the shore of Lake Niassa.Cobue serves as the gateway to Mozambique from Malawi. It is located 10 km from Likoma Island offshore...

 in Mozambique. Both goods and people are transported through these routes.

As Likoma is a relevant tourist destination in Malawi, there are a few hotels and backpacker hostels, usually based on ecotouristic
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 principles. The waters around Likoma are appreciated for snorkelling and diving
Diving is the sport of jumping or falling into water from a platform or springboard, sometimes while performing acrobatics. Diving is an internationally-recognized sport that is part of the Olympic Games. In addition, unstructured and non-competitive diving is a recreational pastime.Diving is one...


External links

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