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Departing Monkey Bay on the Ilala

On Saturday we finally boarded the Ilala. Although I had booked weeks earlier I had still not purchased my ticket from the ticket office. As Amelia and I had booked to go Cabin Class we were high status travelers. Others discussed what class they would travel and David (the Scottish guy who had been sceptical of my crocodile tales) confirmed that they would be “slumming it in 1st class”.

The historic Chauncy Maples was next to the Ilala

A first class ticket was approximately half the price of a Cabin Class ticket. We booked a cabin because we have two small children. First class passengers sleep on the top deck. If they time in right they can lie there with a great view of the southern sky. Second (and third?) class passengers sleep below with the cargo. At the ticket office I regret missing a great photo of about fifteen or twenty baboons jumping from a nearby tree onto the office roof. It would have been the ultimate ‘Monkey Bay’ photograph.

David waits outside his cabin

We saw the historic Chauncy Maples ‘parked’ next to the Ilala and soon we were off. Amelia and I were carrying an UNBELIEVABLE amount of luggage. Truly this was the Lampoon Taylor Family Holidays. I had figured however that people would help us carry out stuff at the critical moments. However the blankets that we brought were life savers for some of our fellow passengers – we brought them for our planned camping at Mango Drift. For a beach trip I usually would want to pack at least two boats in my suitcases plus all the camping gear I could think of.

Get settled into First Class

The two Davids - explorers both. 150 years after David Livingstone.

First we passed along the western side of the great Cape Maclear peninsula. We were only a few days short of one hundred and fifty years from the day David Livingstone first saw and named Cape Maclear.

Soon we could see the gap between the mainland and Domwe Island where the second ever group of westerners ever to set sight on Cape Maclear sailed a few years later (they were a government expedition sent to investigate the, as it turned out, false stories of David Livingstone’s death). Locals now say that a lone leopard lives on Domwe. Soon we could see ‘White Rock’ which is reputed to have underwater caves with one of the top ten fresh-water dives in the world. Next is ‘Elephant Island’ otherwise known as Mumbo Island. The first Scottish missionaries to settle at Cape Maclear (the third lot of Europeans therefore) found an elephant on this island. It seemed incredible as the island is so far from the mainland so the elephant would have had to swim.

People sailed through that gap searching for David Livingstone once. Actually, by the time they got here they had established that the rumours were false.

Elephant Island (Mumbo Island) with 'mainland' Cape Maclear in the distance

Then the Ilala heads out into open water and over to the first stop which is Chipoka. Chipoka is, I think, one of only three proper ports for the Ilala, the others being Monkey Bay and Nkhata Bay. The other stops make use of life-boats and small local boats to ferry the cargo and the passengers.

Chipoka from the Ilala

Before reaching Nkhotakota it was sunset. The evening stop at Nkhotakota would be followed by the night crossing to the far side and to Mozambique.

Sunset is close on the Ilala

Ruth makes new friends. Do not worry. I strictly enforced a no going to the edge rule on her

Family Photo


5 responses

  1. Hello Douglas,

    I am Erika from TravelerVoice, a new social network for travel bloggers.

    I just found your blog and I really like how you described your travel story in Malawi with beautiful pictures and assertive comments! It’s exactly the kind of writing we are looking for our Living abroad section, please feel free to register πŸ™‚

    In the meantime I am running a contest to reward the most outstanding travel blogs on the web and I am still looking for new members πŸ™‚ so please check it out at http://www.travelervoice.com/contest.aspx for further details.

    I am looking forward to hearing from you πŸ™‚


    September 23, 2011 at 9:09 am

    • Douglas

      Hi Erika

      Thank you for that. Very nice of you to say. Sorry it has taken a while to reply. I am registering now.

      I won’t be winning any prizes. I have seen the kind of views that one has to express to win prizes and my views don’t fall into the correct categories. I mean, look at the sorts of things that the winners of Miss Universe say – I’d have no chance.

      But I have registered!


      October 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

  2. Pingback: The Ilala Reaches Likoma Island « Destination Malawi

  3. Pingback: First Couple of Days on Mango Drift – mainly photos and links « Destination Malawi

  4. Andy Thomas

    Hello. I am writing an autobiography at present. I lived in Zambia and took a group of children to Lake Malawi. I am doing research on the missionaries who died at Monkey Bay and saw your article. I was particularly interested in the prison ministry as I am a Chaplian to a large prison in Australia. I took my family up Lake Tanganyika on the SS Liemba – similar to your trip. Thanks for re-kindling memories.

    March 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm

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