From the smallest amoeba to the greatest of galaxies, we define ourselves by our borders, our boundaries: I am me, therefore I am not you. We feel safe within our own territories. It is only when we leave our territories that we realise that beyond our perimeters lie all the disclosed secrets and wise wildernesses we never even knew we longed for. Beyond our borders we encounter spaces where ideas are exchanged and knowledge is gained. We must push through our boundaries, our comfort-zones, if we ever truly want to know (and grow) more.
Andrew Gorski and I recently crossed numerous ‘borders’ to discover a place that is often referred to as one of Africa’s ‘best kept secrets’: Nkwichi Lodge on the shores of Lake Niassa (more commonly referred to as Lake Malawi). This award-winning establishment, in the most northern province of Mozambique, has been celebrated by many as one of the greatest examples of responsible tourism (RT) in Africa.
And, Nkwichi Lodge has the awards to prove it. In 2012 they won the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler World Saver Awards in the “Doing It All” Category for small resorts; in 2011 they walked away with the “ToDo Awards” (an international Contest for Socially Responsible Tourism); and in 2008 they won “Best Small Hotel” in the Virgin Responsible Tourism Awards.
‘Greenwashing’, the exaggeration of good environmental practices by a business, is as common as the latest Prada knock-off in the RT industry. But, this exclusive, incredibly romantic getaway does exactly what it says on the packet. The overall experience of guests and the positive influence on the lives of the surrounding communities and the environment is as genuine as the Robinson Crusoe character you feel when you set foot on its singing sands.
Nkwichi Lodge lies right in the centre of one of Africa’s last true wildernesses. And wilderness it is in every way. The words ‘pristine’ and ‘untouched’ come to mind almost immediately. Life is simple, there is no cell phone reception and limited other contact with the outside world. Energy is completely off grid and food is fresh, all grown organically at the community farm, the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project. Best of all, there is no time and no schedule. Visitors experience this special place on their own terms and at their own pace, exploring this majestic lakeside retreat and the surrounding wilderness.
And yet there is luxury in the smaller comforts we have come to neglect. In many ways the luxury of this place lies in the isolation and the beauty of the untouched. Above all, you feel like you are part of something by contributing to something greater than just minimising your stress levels. Without Nkwichi Lodge, many members of the 16 surrounding communities wouldn’t have paid employment, there would be no place to sell locally grown and hand-made artisan products, and the lake-shore and other natural landscapes would very possibly not be protected.
The overriding presence is the Lake with water so clean and fresh you can drink it. The Lake, with her sometimes calm and sometimes wild mood, left me realising the importance of clean drinking water and how incredibly important it is for our survival. I could not help but admit that even I have been taking it for granted. The time spent on Nkwichi’s singing sands made me realise how simple life should really be and how much we can learn from those who tread lighter and quieter – my so-called reality of life soon faded away and a whole new version of it stepped in: I should love and protect what I have. It is my right, but more than anything, it is my duty.
Nkwichi made me cross borders and explore new frontiers towards simplicity and responsibility. I crossed frontiers in my heart and in my soul. I came home having learned great lessons about my shared destiny with water.
The purpose of our travels, both inward and outward, is not merely to see the unseen, but to bring those visions home, to share with those we love.
When last have you thought about your relationship with water?
Words and pictures: Daréll Lourens
INSPIRED TO READ MORE?
See the film Daréll produced for Nkwichi | browse The Good Holiday’s Nkwichi gallery for more pictures | learn about the Manda Wilderness Trust | Watch the film Daréll produced about Permaculture on this lakeshore | Read more of Daréll’s contributions to the weekly The Good Holiday #tuesdaytravelstory