Marvellous Malawi

Posted on March 1, 2016 by Guest Writer
Person canoeing outside a lake house in malawi

Malawi – where is that? It’s the kind of question that might make many pub quiz pundits stroke their chins pensively as they ponder its whereabouts. On the other hand, many people might remember that Malawi is the country where Madonna adopted two children a few years ago.

But one man who could certainly point us in the right direction is animal aficionado, David Attenborough, as the country is renowned for its abundant wildlife, and to a lesser extent, its increasingly popular safaris.
For those of us who are still pondering, let us enlighten you. Malawi is a diverse and stunning country located in the south east of Africa and bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Its biggest draw is the enormous Lake Malawi, a UNESCO World Heritage site that stretches 360 miles (580km) along the country’s eastern border, separating it from Tanzania and Mozambique.

Staysure gives you six top reasons for you to visit this seductive, colourful country.

A family of elephants stood together

1. Go on a safari

If you are longing to see a lion or aching to watch an African elephant, then you’ve come to the right place. In fact, it’s possible to see the “Big Five” in Malawi – a historical term referring to the five most difficult animals to hunt in Africa: the lion, African elephant, Capte buffalo, leopard and the rhinoceros. However, you’ll also spy hundreds of hippos, antelope and several smaller cat species.
Although Malawi is not a traditional safari destination like Zambia or Tanzania, the advantage of taking a safari here is there are less crowds and the prices are more reasonable. Majete is Malawi’s only ‘Big Five’ park, following a sizeable investment from the African Parks Foundation a few years ago. You can experience a safari in a 4×4, by boat, on horseback, or even on foot if you are brave enough!
As David Attenborough once said, “Being in touch with the natural world is crucial.” Although you may want to refrain from ‘touching’ any of the beasts in this park, lest you want to make a claim on your safari insurance.

Malawian children waving at camera

2. Visit a community project

Why not follow in Madonna’s footsteps and visit one of the country’s orphanages? As part of the organised outing, you would spend an afternoon playing with children and generally helping out for a few hours. Prepare yourself for a huge welcome on your arrival with some eye-brow raising singing and dancing.

Two boats moored facing some forested mountains

3. Explore Lake Malawi

A trip to Malawi without visiting its famous lake would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower – it’s almost sacrilege! This epic lake is often described as an inland sea such is its vastness. In fact, it’s the third largest lake on the continent. Fringed with stunning beaches and bustling fishing villages, there are also plenty of water sports to indulge in including: kayaking, sailing, snorkelling, scuba diving and water skiing. Alternatively, you might want to soak up the sun on one of the virgin beaches that are lapped by crystal clear waters.

Lake malawi at sunset

4. Visit Likoma Island

And while you are bobbing up and down in Lake Malawi, why not float on over to Likoma Island? Although it’s actually in Mozambique waters, it’s still a Malawian island, and a stunning one at that! Likoma is home to around 6,000 people and is relatively small with just a few cars on the island. Without a doubt its biggest attraction is St Peter’s Cathedral. Built over 100 years ago, it’s the same size of Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire. The island is largely barren although there are many local villages, markets and some picture postcard beaches ripe for exploring. Alternatively, you could always kayak around the island, which is 6.9 sq. mi (18 km2).

aerial view of lake malawi

5. Cruise Lake Malawi on the MV Ilala

Or if kayaking around the island sounds too much like hard work, why not opt for a cruise on the MV Ilala? This large ferry crosses the lake once a week (a 300-mile/482 km jaunt) and stops at several points along the way, including Likoma Island. Although it’s not a luxury cruise so to speak, the ship does boast five double cabins in first class and the Captain’s Cabin has air conditioning. What’s more, you can get off at any point, or sail all the way back to the start point of Monkey Bay – making this a must for those with a taste for an African adventure.

aerial view of malawi mountains

6. Enjoy outdoor activities

A good way to see the best of what Malawi has to offer is to take part in one of the outdoor activities. These include climbing, abseiling, walking, trekking, horse riding, cycling and mountain biking, fishing, quad biking and much more.*

Malawi facts

  • Lake Malawi contains more fish species than anywhere else on earth
  • Malawi was formerly the British Central African Protectorate ‘Nyasaland’ before becoming an independent nation in 1964
  • Malawi’s capital is Lilongwe and has a population of around 781,538 people
  • The country is home to around 16 million people
  • The official languages are English and Chichewa but local languages are spoken in the districts
  • A popular drink is banana beer (Chibuku)
  • The best time to visit is during the drier winter months – from early May to late October

Are you itching to visit yet? Why not watch this video to get more of a flavour for the country?

*It is important to note that travel insurers may not provide cover for all of the above-mentioned activities. Check your policy documents to see which activities you are covered for.