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The Ilala Ferry: Bring Your Mom!

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The Ilala Ferry: Special Advertising Feature

Tired of the well-trodden tourist trail? Looking for something different, something uniquely African, and maybe just a little bit disgusting? Look no further than the Ilala ferry – a working cargo ship plying the clear blue waters of Lake Malawi from Chilumba in the north all the way to Monkey Bay in the south, stopping off at all sorts of curious backwaters along the way. For many, the Ilala’s affordability and authentic African atmosphere have made it the highlight of their entire trip.

Some of the main attrractions:

Terrific Views

Gaze out over the vast expanse of blue water. Take pleasure in the haunting images of distant Mozambican mountains. Experience the stark humanity of children being dangled overboard to defecate. Revel in the austere beauty of barren Chizimulu Island. Feast your eyes on the dramatic multi-coloured sheen of the trailing oil slick.


A Flexible Timetable

Our exceptionally relaxed attitude toward both scheduling and efficiency is specifically designed to maximize your time on the lake. There are no clock watchers on our crew! If we say we’ll be there at noon, there’s a good chance you won’t have to deal with us until 7 that night. And if we tell you there will be around 3 hours turnaround time and we’ll be pulling up anchor at 10 pm, don’t worry about it. There is no way we’re leaving before 2 am. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the ship, pick up some last minute snacks, or even kill and pluck a clutch of chickens. Always remember the Ilala Guarantee, “Just because 6% of our trips arrive on time doesn’t mean this one’s leaving any time soon.”

A Festive Atmosphere

Join dozens of sweaty drunks dancing, opening bottles with their teeth, falling down while practicing Asian martial arts and arguing in unreasonably loud voices. Be sure to sing along to some songs you’ve never heard before and, obviously, get your fill of limp, moist handshakes.

Like Lilith Fair for Africans

A Competitive Spirit

Feed your competitive fire jockeying for places to sit, sleep and urinate. Hone your sporting instincts by pouncing on recently vacated areas of shade or breeze. Remember to keep fighting to the final bell – spots on those commuter boats to shore don’t come easy, as those robust ladies with huge bags of produce and plenty of dead livestock ask no quarter, and give none.

A Chance to Make New Friends

Everybody knows a drunk man is a horny man – ready for some action girls? Of course you are. And the best part is, most of your new admirers will be glassy-eyed, over-tired and practically incoherent so say whatever you want, and paying attention is very optional! And the next time a guy with a ripped hat and badly infected toe stumbles over your leg, don’t be annoyed, just look at it as a great opportunity to be rude to someone who will only look bewildered and later forget the whole thing.

"To disembark is human"

Several classes to choose from to suit any travel style:

1st Class

Spend the night under the stars, enjoying the fresh air, waking up with the sun and mainly just experiencing life as a homeless person. Sleeping on the ground next to complete strangers, lulled into slumber by the soothing sounds of drunken arguments and the tinkling of piss into the water far below. Get there early for a chance at one of seven stale, crumbling mattresses, three of which come pre-dampened.

2nd Class

Here those more economical passengers will be pleased by the 24 hour shade and an even closer proximity to the kitchen and toilets. Is that the constant aroma of deep fried poultry and raw sewage I smell? Iii thiiink sooo. And don’t overlook the shared access to the 1st class restaurant where you’ll be treated to runny eggs, hastily rinsed cutlery and waiters who’ll do their apathetic best not to impose on you by taking orders or bringing your food.

3rd Class

Perfect for those on a tight budget or people who crave continuous contact with human skin. You’ll sleep on throne-like boxes of dried fish amid sticky heaps of unspecified mammal organs and your senses will be dazzled by the outrageously pervasive odours of fish, blood and diesel. Go ahead, try to pick a favourite!

The sleep of the damned

But we’re not all about segregation here on the Ilala. Regardless of what class of travel you choose you’ll still get to enjoy these wonderful perks:


Don’t think you’ll only see chickens, goats and dogs, because domestic animals are only part of the Ilala fun. Hardly a night goes by where a precocious rat doesn’t scurry past your resting head, and we can practically guarantee you’ll get to share the bathroom with large groups of jittery, fun-loving cockroaches.

What a perfect size for a box

Heated Bathrooms

It doesn’t matter if it’s a balmy 35 on deck, or a nippy 29, all our cozy, damp toilets are within spitting distance of the engine room and maintained at a pleasant 45 degrees Celsius. In addition, they all feature high-efficiency sinks that drain directly onto the floor, and disabled locks – people in the slums of India never had it so good!

The 3rd Largest Freshwater Rubbish Bin in Africa

Don’t waste time hunting around for someplace to dump that empty bottle, that Styrofoam container or that soiled diaper – that’s what the lake is there for. Trust us, it’s plenty big. So go ahead – use it, crumple it, now give it a good chuck.

The old girl waits patiently

… And A Great Story to Tell

Last, but certainly not least, just wait until you get home and tell your friends and family all about it. Watch closely – you may just spot the briefest hint of admiration peeking through all those layers of mystified disgust! Finally you’ve got some stories even your racist Grandma will love.


“I broke my own personal mark for beer drank, tore the buttons off two shirts and lost one of my shoes….classic.”

“I can honestly say that nothing compares to the feel of sweaty strangers against your bare arm.”

“I used to think undercooked chicken was just unsafe, but now I know that it tastes gross, too.”

“18 hours on the Ilala taught me that a dry bathroom floor is merely Western vanity.”

“I can’t remember the last time I got to watch so many unattractive women breastfeed their children.”

“Hello. How are you? I want to make white friends, not black friends.”

“I had been oversleeping for weeks, but one night on the Ilala fixed all that.”

“It was great to finally get a chance to use all that hand sanitizer I’ve been carrying around.”

“Oh my god, I think a rat just took my baby! Oh never mind, there he is.”

“You can’t really put a price on spending the night with nature, or listening to another man piss.”

So the next time you’ve got a trip to take in Malawai, join us for the ride of a lifetime!

The Ilala Ferry: Bring Your Mom!

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