Holidays to Malawi from an Africa Specialist. My old home and favourite place in Africa! Malawi is rightly known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. It might be one of the poorest countries on the planet but the people are so engaging and friendly that you would never know it! Ask me about the best way to get to Malawi from the UK and to plan your trip for you – whether it’s simply to relax, to do some hiking or biking or visiting as part of a work trip.
Wherever you go, there is always someone happy to engage in a chat, show you their village, fishing boat, school, markets or whatever is of interest! A stunningly beautiful country, the vast majority of it is covered in water by Lake Malawi, sometimes called ‘the calendar lake’ as it’s 365 miles long and 52 miles wide!! The lake is home to hundreds of endangered cichlid fishes which are protected in the Lake Malawi National Park to the south around Cape Maclear. Snorkelling and diving here is like being in a tropical fish tank! At places like Mumbo Island, when the water is calm and flat you can see the colourful fish from your balcony above the lake without even getting in the water! North along Lake Malawi are plenty of gorgeous beach lodges, some simple, some swanky! Stop at Chintheche Inn for a great family friendly beach and lots of activities and local community interaction or nearby Makuzi Beach with it’s lovely private sheltered bay and fabulous food. and you can fly to Likoma Island (in Mozambique waters) to step back in time on this remote island and stay at luxurious but rustic Kaya Mawa with it’s plunge pools, huge rock boulders on the beach and ancient baobab trees. You can also access Nkwichi Lodge on the Mozambique shores from Likoma. Honeymoons are popular on Lake Malawi with some of these beach options offering romantic rooms, plunge pools and a remote getaway experience.
It is also possible to get married in Malawi, indeed this is popular for a lot of people who grew up here and I’m often arranging holidays for trips down memory lane! A popular lakeside hotel for weddings with visitors from the UK is Makokola Retreat (formerly Club Makokola) on a gorgeous beach to the south of Lake Malawi. This also links well with boat trips down the Shire river to Liwonde National Park – add on a few nights safari.
Lake Malawi is the lifeblood of the country with most of the population living in fishing villages along the shores. The capital city of Lilongwe is centrally placed and gives main road access into Zambia or south to Blantyre and Zomba, the old capital – now a great place to climb to cooler air on the Zomba Plateau and maybe enjoy some mountain biking or hiking. Also in the south of Malawi is Mount Mulanje and it’s surrounding Massif, a great place to spend a few days hiking in beautiful scenery and this southern region is coated with emerald green tea estates, where you can stay in colonial guest houses and enjoy various activities such as tea tours, horse riding and village visits.
To the far south towards Mozambique in the Shire Valley are large sugar plantations and several small and recently re-stocked national parks and reserves. Majete Wildlife Reserve is the latest jewel in Malawi’s crown with a luxury safari camp Mkulamadzi opened in the summer of 2011.
Just south of the lake is Liwonde National Park, with the huge meandering Shire River drifting passed with it’s masses of birdlife and plenty of hippos and huge crocodiles! Liwonde has good numbers of elephant and a rhino sanctuary too. Stay at the gorgeous Mvuu Lodge on a lagoon off the main river. In Liwonde you can enjoy fabulous boat safaris, walking (seasonal) and traditional game drives. There is a rhino sanctuary in the middle of the park and there are lots of interesting species found here, such as the seldom seen Pangolin. In the green season, access to Mvuu is by boat and you leave your vehicles down at Hippo Point where the main road meets the park boundary and enjoy an hour or so boat safari transfer. Have a read of my blog page about a safari at Mvuu in the wet season!
The Nyika Plateau in the north of the country is more like Scotland than Africa and a fabulous place to escape the heat of the lake shore and take time out, far from human settlements with rolling hills and masses of spring flowers and orchids, great cycling and riding country and an interesting history of the days of Livingstone, the explorer – stay at Chelinda Lodge with stunning views and log fires.
There are lots of excellent community projects in Malawi where you can get involved with volunteer projects such as teaching people skills and see how money from tourism is helping the local economy. One of my favourite places to experience this is at Ntchisi Forest Lodge. Within 2 hours of Lilongwe, but feeling like another planet, this rural community is the hub of many collaboration projects between the villages surrounding Ntchisi Forest Reserve, one of Malawi’s last remaining indigenous rainforests. The forest itself has a maze of trails and is a fabulous birdwatching destination. From the lodge and at various viewpoints around the reserve and the villages are views over the rolling hills below and if it’s clear you can see right to Lake Malawi! There are monkeys in the trees and rarely seen leopards.
The Community Trust established by Ntchisi Forest Lodge in 2008 aims to fight illegal logging by helping the communities generate income through projects which are funded by guest donations. These include chicken farms, bee-keeping, tree nurseries and macadamia farms. Wandering through the village you will be surrounded by friendly people who happily show you their businesses which have been built through the Trust. The lodge itself is cosy and provides good home cooked food in the style of a traditional guest house. If you go to Ntchisi, make sure you take a foraging trip with 70 year old Estone who is a wise, wonderful man with an extensive farm of his own near the lodge where he grows everything from coffee to apple/pear trees he has invented himself (he even has some fish in a pond for eating!).
Malawi combines really well with Zambia, ask me about a Zambian safari and Malawi beach holiday. Let me put together a special tailor made trip for you, whether you want a trip down memory lane, a beach honeymoon or a cultural safari, I can create a magical Malawi holiday you will remember forever.
Mumbo Island Camp is the perfect getaway experience! Superb diving and snorkelling and amazing views and tranqulity. Natural and inspiring – go to Mumbo to relax and unwind with friendly Malawi hospitality.
Nyika National Park in the north of Malawi is a haven for birdwatchers or botanists. Rolling hills, wilderness and a luxury lodge! Mountain biking and fishing are popular pastimes here.
Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi is an African conservation success story! Visit this beautiful park for a taste of real rural Malawi and stay at the wonderful Mkulumadzi Camp.
Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, Lake Malawi is one of the most idyllic island and beach getaways in the world. Perfect to combine with an African safari or for a honeymoon of a lifetime.