There is no country in Africa that has its geography so sculptured by the Great Rift Valley: towering mountains, lush, fertile valley floors and the crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi are the hallmark of this little visited region. Malawi is a beautiful country, with an exceptionally wide diversity of wildlife and cultural attractions for its size, although it has so far avoided the large numbers of visitors found elsewhere on the continent.
Lake Malawi is the country’s main attraction, stretching more than 600 km from north to south and up to 80 km across at its widest point. Lying in a trough formed by Africa’s Great Rift Valley, this is the third largest lake in Africa covering almost a fifth of Malawi’s total area.
On the water you will often see fishermen in their bwatus (dugout canoes) fishing for chambo, a sought after tilapia, with their boat lights twinkling at night.
The lake boasts more species of fish than any other inland body of water in the world, with a total of more than 600 discovered so far, many of which are endemic. The largest family of fish in the lake is the Cichlidae (cichlids), which includes the small, brilliantly coloured and remakably varied mbuna species favoured by aquariums worldwide. They are relatively easy to spot around rocky shores and islands, making them the prime attraction for scuba divers and snorkellers.
When viewed from the southern shore the shimmering waters of the lake seem to stretch on forever and there are several first class hotels offering a variety of recreational activities including sailing, snorkelling, windsurfing, canoeing, boat trips and water skiing.
Our recommended lodges & camps include:
Kaya Mawa & Ndomo Point House
Nkwichi Lodge (in Mozambique)
Mumbo Island Camp
Liwonde National Park
Situated just to the south of Lake Malawi, Liwonde National Park covers some 500 sq. km and is the country’s finest and most important wildlife reserve.
The variety of habitat is immense ranging from open savannah, hills and miombo and mopane woodland to lush and richly vegetated marshes, lagoons and general riverine environment along the broad and slow flowing Shire River. The consequence of this diversity is a prolific number of animals and in particular, birds, which thrive in this type of mixed ecosystem.
Elephant, hippo, crocodile, impala, sable and waterbuck can all be seen in large numbers, whilst other species that can be seen include zebra, black rhino, Liechtenstein’s hartebeest, buffalo, leopard and occasionally the rare oribi. This park is generally regarded as one of the finest in southern Africa for birds with over 400 species recorded here including the African Fish Eagle, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Bohm’s Bee-eater and Brownbreasted Barbet just a few of the specials to be seen.
Our preferred lodges & camps include:
Nyika Plateau National Park
Nyika National Park is Malawi’s most spectacularly scenic wilderness area.
It boasts an incredible mixture of dramatic landscapes – pristine brachystegia woodland, mature mountain forest patches, crystal clear streams and miles and miles of open rolling grassland.
Days can be spent enjoying walking, game drives, trout fishing and relaxing at the lodge. Animals such as Burchell’s zebra, roan antelope, common reedbuck, eland, bushbuck, warthog, leopard, hyena, side-striped jackal and serval can all be found in the area, whilst bird life is prolific: specials include churring and mountain cisticolas, the red-tufted malachite sunbird, Fulleborn’s black boubou, the bar-tailed trogon, mountain nightjar and several species of bulbul which occur deep in the canopy of the forests.
During the dry season from May to October eland congregate in herds of up to 200 strong. Leopard are regularly seen in the daytime thanks to the cool climate. Between September and April a myriad of wild flowers and orchids burst forth across the plateau in a dramatic and vivid display of colour.
Our preferred lodge is:
Livingstonia Trail (walking & camping)
This huge granite outcrop rises to the western edge of Zomba town and was originally developed by the British colonial administration as a cool retreat in the heat of the summer.
The plateau has several narrow ridges along the edge of the escarpment with dramatic views of the plains below, as well as a network of paths and tracks in the centre of the plateau through silent pine forests and patches of indigenous woodland, passing waterfalls and small lakes.
This is ideal country for short strolls or a full day’s hike. Although you can walk on Zomba at any time the best months are generally in the dry period from May to October.
You also have the option of exploring the town of Zomba itself, formerly the seat of Parliament until 1998 and still the home of the University of Malawi’s main campus. This is an attractive and colourful town with a vibrant market area and impressive colonial and government buildings, set against the backdrop of lush and peaceful foothills and the dominant plateau.
Our preferred lodge is:
Ku Chawe Inn
Majete Wildlife Reserve
Majete Wildlife Reserve covers some 700 sq. km lies to the west of the Shire River and consists mainly of miombo woodland with dense patches of riverine forest.
The rugged, wild, fenced reserve is home to the elusive black rhino, as well as elephant, buffalo, nyala, sable, eland and hartebeest. Leopards have recently been reintroduced as part of a pioneering conservation project.
This is also a great area for birding: specials include a breeding population of Rock Pratincole that inhabits rocky islands in the Shire River, and Pels Fishing Owl can be found in the riparian forest of the river systems. Other interesting species include Arnotts’ Chat, the White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Racket-tailed Rollers.
Our preferred lodge in the reserve is Mkulumadzi, which is situated within a private concession of 7,000 hectares and enjoys an idyllic location at the confluence of two rivers shaded by giant leadwood trees. Game viewing can be enjoyed by 4×4 vehicle, on foot, by boat and from a hide overlooking a waterhole.
Our preferred lodge is:
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is Malawi’s largest reserve at 1,800 sq. km covering a broad area of miombo woodland, hills, escarpments and riverine forest along the banks of the Bua River.
Large mammals found here include elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and sable, whilst there are plans to re-introduce species such as giraffe and black rhino. Birdlife International has classified the Reserve as an Important Bird Area (IBA): with over 280 species of birds already recorded it is believed that further exploration of this largely uncharted area will likely increase this figure considerably.
Tongole Wilderness Lodge offers luxury accommodation within the park and the opportunity to enjoy walking safaris, fishing, fly camping and canoeing.
Our preferred lodge is:
Tongole Wilderness Lodge
Location: Lake Malawi
Rooms: 8 cottages + 2 family houses
Activities: Snorkelling, kayaking, diving, cycling, waterskiing, sailing, quad biking.
Facilities: Swimming pool, dive centre, watersports centre, boats, mountain bikes
Children: Children of all ages are welcome at Kaya Mawa.
Our View: Kaya Mawa means “Maybe tomorrow”. It is a lovely quirky & rustic lodge on Lake Malawi. The amosphere at the lodge is very relaxed and friendly which makes Kaya Mawa a great place to visit after a safari in Zambia.
Location: Lake Malawi
Rooms: 9 villas + 1 Family villa
Activities: Snorkelling, kayaking, diving, fishing dhow cruises, village trips.
Facilities: Swimming pool
Children: During peak season, children above the age of 7 are welcome at Pumulani. Children of all ages are welcome during the low season.
Our view: Pumulani works very well as an add on to a safari in Zambia. The accommodation in Malawi is traditionally simple and rustic. With its modern villas, clean lines and sleek infinity pool, Pumulani is the most luxurious lodge on Lake Malawi.
Malawi’s landscapes and habitats are extremely varied: from the rolling hills and moorland of the Nyika Plateau to the palm-lined lagoons of Liwonde National Park and the sandy shores of the lake, each of the many different ecosystems is protected within the country’s eleven national parks and game reserves.
As well as offering excellent game viewing, bird watching, horse riding, walking and watersports opportunities, Malawi is probably the best country on the continent to learn about and experience African culture.
Today Malawi is a wonderful, warm and friendly country that offers visitors exceptional scenery, fascinating parks and some of the friendliest people on the continent – for this reason it is respected as the ‘warm heart of Africa’.
Day 1 – Fly from London Heathrow via regional hub
Day 2 – Arrive Lilongwe & fly to Blantyre. Road transfer to Satemwa Tea Estate – Huntingdon House – 2 nights
Day 3 – One full day – estate tours, tea & coffee tasting, mountain biking, guided bird walks & trails – on Satemwa
Day 4 – Drive to the Zomba Plateau – Sunbird Ku Chawe Inn – 2 nights
Day 5 – One full day – mountain biking, hikes & walking trails, horse riding, 4×4 jeep trips & visits to Zomba town
Day 6 – Road & boat transfer to Liwonde National Park – Mvuu Lodge – 2 nights
Day 7 – Full day game activities – game drives, nature walks & boat trips on the Shire River – in Liwonde National Park
Day 8 – Drive to Lake Malawi & boat transfer – Mumbo Island – 2 nights
Day 9 – One full day land & water based activities – snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking & birding – around Mumbo Island
Day 10 – Boat transfer to mainland – yacht Mufasa – 3 nights
Day 11 & 12 – sail & explore Lake Malawi en route north includes beach barbeque, swimming, snorkelling & diving
Day 13 – Drop off on Likoma Island – Kaya Mawa – 2 nights
Days 14 – One full day of land & water based activities – walking, mountain & quad biking, swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, waterskiing, kayaking, windsurfing & visit the cathedral, market or textile workshop – on Likoma Island
Day 15 – Light aircraft flight back to Lilongwe – fly to regional hub for onward connection to London
Day 16 – Arrive London Heathrow
2015 price from £ 4,575 per person sharing
(Price based on four people sharing twin/double rooms & excluding the cost of international flights London/Lilongwe/London via Johannesburg, Nairobi or Addis Ababa).
Bush & Lake
Day 1 – Fly from London
Day 2 – Arrive Lusaka via regional hub & fly to Lower Zambezi National Park – Chongwe River Camp – 3 nights
Days 3 & 4 – Two full days of game activities in the area
Day 5 – Light aircraft flight to Mfuwe & South Luangwa National Park – Luangwa River Lodge – 3 nights
Days 6 & 7 – Two full days of game activities in this area
Day 8 – Light aircraft flight to Lilongwe & then to Likoma on Lake Malawi – Kaya Mawa – 6 nights
Days 9 – 13 – Five full days of activities
Day 14 – Light aircraft flight back to Lilongwe – fly to Nairobi for connection to London
Day 15 – Arrive London Heathrow
2015 price from £ 6,485 per person sharing
(Price based on two people sharing a twin/double room excluding the cost of international flights London/Lusaka/Lilongwe & Lilongwe/Nairobi/London).