Malawi, the Essence of an African Experience

Meeting Malawi, the Essence of a Complete African Experience

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Malawi is the epitome of a vast continent, the very essence of Africa. .

Not quite east, central or southern African, it has elements of each: a touch of East Africa’s sensual magnetism, some of the mystery of Central Africa’s tropical forests, and the sheer delight of southern Africa’s exuberance.Malawi is a country of startling contrasts. Landlocked, it is a nation of fishermen, one fifth of the country taken up by Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. Trapped in the Great Rift Valley, it laps like an inland sea at the foot of wooded escarpment hills, in a setting of haunting beauty. In its uplands, the undulating plains of the central African plateau give way to dramatic inselbergs and spectacular highlands - the Mulanje massif, the highest mountain in central Africa, and Zomba Mountain in the south, and northwards, the forested Viphya plateau and the superb rolling grasslands of the Nyika.

The many and varied habitats are protected by nine separate wildlife reserves. Offering more experiential than conventional game viewing, there is a range of thrills for nature lovers, from the orchids of Nyika to the cichlid fish of the lake, from Pels fishing owl in the Shire Valley to the blue flycatcher in the rain forests. The least exploited of African tourist destinations, Malawi has now been “discovered”. It has all the traditionally prized features, such as sun-drenched beaches and sparkling palm-fringed water, as well as scuba diving, rock climbing, mountain biking and other adventures for the young at heart. Its exceptional scenery lends itself to road travel, for the main roadwork is in excellent condition. This provides the best of all opportunities to experience the real warmth of Malawi, its wonderful people. You are bound to leave a part of your own heart in the Warm Heart of Africa.

Photo: By Swathi Sridharan-CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14888046

National Parks

Malawi is Africa’s newest big 5 destination. Its nine national parks and Wildlife reserves offer a unique and intimate game viewing experience. Whether by 4by4, walking and trekking, or boat, Malawi offers undoubtedly memorable game viewing experiences. Malawi boasts of having over 650 species of birds and 10% of which cannot be seen in other parts of southern Africa.

Photo: Department of E-Government - Malawi

Nyika National Park

This is Malawi’s largest park at 3250 sq. kms, the longest established and one of the most unusual in Africa and at a magnificent 2500 metres above sea level is mainly high rolling grassland. Home to over 200 types of orchid flower, proteas, irises, aloes during the rainy season, over 400 species of birds recorded including the rare Denham bustard and other wildlife such as elephants, zebra, antelopes, the highest population of leopards in central Africa, and buffaloes. Activities include trekking, mountain biking, 4x4 excursions and bird watching.

Photo: By Dr. Thomas Wagner,CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3280409

Kasungu National Park

This is Malawi’s second largest park and the closest to the capital, Lilongwe. It is home to various species of rare painted hunting dogs, sable, impala, kudu, roan antelopes and birding. Elephants and Hippos can be easily spotted too. Liwonde National Park Malawi’s most popular national park. With Shire River, Lake Malawi’s only outlet running through the park, thus enhancing its beauty and tranquillity, is a great spot for boat safaris. Wildlife includes elephants, antelopes, black rhino, leopards, lion and impressive bird life with nearly 300 species.

Photo:By Dr. Thomas Wagner,CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3280409

Lake Malawi National Park

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, and the world first water marine park, boasts of its richness in biodiversity. The colourful tropical fish, cichlids are concentrated around this park making it a perfect site for kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling and sailing. The islands of Mumbo, Domwe and Maleri make this park’s experience magical and memorable. Lengwe National Park This birdwatchers paradise is about 50kms from Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city. It has over 300 species of bird life. Guests can also spot other wildlife such as warthogs, buffaloes, baboons, bushbuck and impala.

Photo: Kevin Walsh, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2900763

Liwonde National Park

Malawi’s most popular national park. With Shire River, Lake Malawi’s only outlet running through the park, thus enhancing its beauty and tranquillity, is a great spot for boat safaris. Wildlife includes elephants, antelopes, black rhino, leopards, lion and impressive bird life with nearly 300 species.

Photo:Brian Dell, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5182867

Lengwe National Park

This birdwatchers paradise is about 50kms from Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial city. It has over 300 species of bird life. Guests can also spot other wildlife such as warthogs, buffaloes, baboons, bushbuck and impala.

Photo: Dr. Thomas Wagner, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7578645

Landscapes

Malawi’s natural scenery is stunning. The diversity of landscape is breathtaking and dramatically changes from the Great East African Rift valley, which constitutes the entire length of Lake Malawi and the Shire river, to the highlands, tracts of forest and wilderness, high plateaus, hills and mountain peaks, riverine lowlands, grassland and vast plantations of Tea and Sugar cane. The highest peak in Malawi, Sapitwa, touches over 3,000m while the lowest point, at Chiromo, Nsanje, is barely 37m above sea level. This wide range of altitudes, in a small area, help to make the landscape of Malawi one of the most varied in all Africa offering various opportunity for both hard and soft adventure.


Photo: Department of E-Government - Malawi

Waterways

Linking the southern tip of Lake Malawi with the Zambezi system, is the Shire River at 402km long and is part of the Great African Rift Valley. The middle part of the river drops approximately 400m through a series of falls and gorges.
The Shire River is part of 1859 Zambezi Expedition Dr. David Livingstone, a great Explorer and Missionary.  

Must See and Do:

  •     Walk in the footsteps of Dr. Livingstone
  •     Heritage Tours
  •     Game viewing
  •     Mbona Shrine, Khulubvi
  •     Festivals
  •     Birding

Upper Shire

The upper shire runs from Mangochi to Nkula Falls, Blantyre. It drains Lake Malawi and swells into Lake Malombe, an Oxbow Lake. It meanders through Liwonde National Park

Things to see and Do:

  •     Boat Safaris/ River Cruises
  •     Birding
  •     Game Viewing
  •     Sport Fishing
  •     Village Tours
  •     Walking Safaris

Mountain Climbing

Are you strong and adventurous enough? Like running up mountains? Then the Mount Mulanje Porter’s race may be the ideal challenge for you. Originally, the Porters’ Race was a competition limited to the superfit porters and guides, who escort tourists up the mountain. It has now become an annual event attracting any interested runner, male or female over 18 years old, who feels fit enough to run a rocky and rough route up the mountain for a distance of about 25 km. Hundreds entered in 2009 which was sponsored by the local NBS and others. The Race starts at Likhubula Forest Office and climbs to Chambe Plateau, about 2500m a.s.l, before proceeding (via Chambe plateau) to Lichenya Plateau and back to Likhubula. For the less dedicated, Mulanje offers equally great rewards. Spectacular views across tea plantations to Mozambique, sheer drops down gullies laced with waterfalls; glades shaded by forest trees where purple crested loeries and sun squirrels scuttle along the branches; montane grasslands dotted with ground orchids and gladioli and alive with butterflies; forests of fragrant Mulanje cedar trees.

Photo: Department of E-Government - Malawi

Watersports Haven

A visit to Likoma, on the ubiquitous m.v. Ilala or by private air charter, is unlike any experience anywhere else. Here the heart slows to a different rhythm. Opposite Likoma and Chizumulu islands (right) is the bustling port of Nkhata Bay. There and around Chintheche to the south are dozens of other small, often simple, lodges built of local materials and right on the lovely silver sand beaches. Activities here include snorkelling, wind gliding, kayaking, diving, fishing, boat trips, bird-watching, mountain biking and equestrian sport/horse riding. Government trained guides are available at Nkhata Bay but best check their identity cards before hiring.

Photo: Department of E-Government - Malawi

Lilongwe - Capital City

The Capital City of Malawi and one of the major entry points into the country. It is the seat of government and is located in the central region. Lilongwe started as a small village on the banks of the Lilongwe River, and became a British colonial administrative centre at the start of the 20th century. Lilongwe is sometimes referred to as the green city because of its well tendered gardens and abundant trees, exotic and indigenous. The City Centre and Capital Hill, where banks, Diplomatic missions and Government ministries are located, are worth visiting.

 

"In the centre of the city, near the referral Kamuzu Central Hospital, is the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary and Wildlife Centre, an area covering 120 hectares established to give visitors an idea of what the place looked like before construction of the city began. The sanctuary has some animals." The city has seen unprecedented development since it assumed capital status. Buildings of modern architectural design are mushrooming everywhere, complimented by the city's breathtaking landscape. Lilongwe as a tourist destination has been greatly enhanced, thanks to three multi-million dollar landmark projects under which an International Conference Centre, and the country's first five-star hotel and a modern 40, 000-seat stadium have been built. With the expansion of most of the city's roads into dual carriageways to improve the flow of traffic and ease congestion, a visitor to Lilongwe no longer finds it difficult to travel within the city as was the case in the past. The capital is served by the Kamuzu International Airport, located about 25 Km north of the city. The airport, offers regional and international flight connections.  Malawian Airlines is the national flag carrier. The airport is also serviced by South African Airways, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, among others.

Photo: Department of E-Government - Malawi

Must See and Do in Lilongwe

  •     Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary
  •     Lilongwe Wildlife Centre
  •     Botanical gardens
  •     War Memorial Park and Kamuzu Mausoleum
  •     Kumbali Cultural Village and Permaculture Centre
  •     Mbona Shrine
  •     Nightlife, Casinos and Entertainment Joints
  •     Dzalanyama Forest and Malingunde dam
  •     Agri-tourism and village tours

General Tips

Country roads are sometimes challenging to negotiate during heavy rains. You are therefore advised to use high clearance vehicle. Game viewing is best in the hottest times of the dry season when the animals are forced to visit water sources, but the countryside is more attractive in the wetter, greener months. Bird watchers enjoy their best sightings in October and November. Check for school holiday dates, particularly for those in South Africa when more tourists visit Malawi and resorts fill up.

What to Wear

Beach resorts are very informal, however it is important to remember that Malawians are generally conservative people. Visitors should respect local customs and traditions when visiting villages and public places. Business meetings are usually formal and those combining work with pleasure should keep this in mind.

Best time to visit

Malawi is always beautiful. The cooler months (May to August/September) are more comfortable for travelers from the northern hemisphere, but the lush, green summer. (November to April) is also a good time to visit. Remember to use insect repellents. May and June combine the best of both seasons - cooler, still green with great visibility - and are especially good for photography.

Health Tips

Check on immunization and anti malaria medication well in advance. Whilst First Aid kits are available in most tourist accommodation units, you may wish to pack a reasonable first aid kit to enable you to deal with small emergencies. You are encouraged to use licensed accommodation units and restaurants at all times.
   

 

Lilongwe
Malawi

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