Reach for the Stars in Malawi

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Christopher Pillitz / Ubuntu

Small is beautiful Lake of Stars is known for its conviviality and intimacy

It isn't in the premier league of music festivals, but then that's probably why the annual Lake of Stars,, held on the palm-fringed beaches of Lake Malawi, is so darned enjoyable. A world away from muddy fields and hour-long queues for overpriced fast food, the five-year-old Lake of Stars offers a magical combination of world and African music, top international DJs, scenic beauty, philanthropy (portions of festival proceeds are used to fund development projects in the immediate area) and intimacy — the crowd typically numbers just 3,000 lucky travelers, expats and locals.

This year's event takes place Oct. 15-18 on Lake Malawi's southern shores, at Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi, a three-hour drive from Lilongwe, the capital. Headlining are English indie band the Maccabees, while other acts on the roster include DJ Nihal, hip-hop artist Sway DaSafo and Malawi's home-grown reggae band, the Black Missionaries. A detachment from the U.K.'s National Young Volunteers Service — a personal-development and service organization for young people — keeps things running smoothly over the course of the event.

The organizers lay on coach transport from the airport, but if you're planning some postfestival touring it might be a good idea to hire a car: Sputnik Car Hire, www., offers reasonable rates. With music still ringing in your ears, you can drive out to somewhere like Cape Maclear, about 60 miles (100 km) away from Mangochi. There, Kayak Africa,, will ferry you across to either Mumbo Island or Domwe Island and their superb snorkeling or diving. Their self-catering, fully furnished safari-tent accommodations are a far cry from camping in the soggy fields of Glastonbury.