Malawi

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Malawi

Malawi is a warm and welcoming country that offers visitors wonderful scenery, fascinating parks and some of the friendliest people in Africa.

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A long and narrow landlocked country it covers more than 1,000 kilometres from north to south while Lake Malawi, nearly 600km long and up to 80km wide, dominates the countryside. When David Livingstone arrived at the lakeshore in 1861, he was the first European explorer to see the Lake, and was so awestruck that he started missions here.

There is no country in all of Africa that has its geography so sculptured and determined by Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the largest single geographical feature on Earth. This ancient 5,000 km-long geological formation bisects much of Africa from Egypt to Botswana and boasts a bewildering array of habitats and lush vegetation. Towering mountains, lush, fertile valley floors and enormous crystal-clear lakes are hallmarks of much of the Rift Valley – and Malawi displays them all. Fertile soils are a result of the Rift Valley and evidence of this is to be found everywhere in Malawi. Throw a seed to the ground and a plant grows.

The country is known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ for its friendly people and any visitor to Malawi cannot fail to be overwhelmed by the colour, vibrancy and generosity of its urban and rural residents. Swimming, sailing and snorkelling in the warm waters of the lake is the perfect add-on to any southern African safari.

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Quick Facts

Capital
Lilongwe

Population
18 million

Area
118,484 sq km (45,747 sq miles)

Major Languages
English, Chichewa (both official)

Major religion 
Christianity, Islam

Monetary Unit 
Malawi kwacha

Flight time from London
14.5 hours via Addis Adaba

Time Difference 
GMT + 2

When to go 
The best time to visit Malawi is during the dry season from May to mid-November.

From May to July the landscape is attractive and vegetation green and lush, and temperatures cooler.

The months of October and November, at the end of the dry season, are the best time for wildlife viewing however the temperatures can be uncomfortably hot.

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Highlights

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest and second deepest lake. Measuring just short of 600km north to south and 80km wide in places, it dominates the eastern side of Malawi and constitutes roughly 20% of its surface area.

For the people of Malawi, the lake is an integral part of their cultural heritage and vast trove of natural resources – with fish species such as chambo forming the primary protein source of the nearly 20 000 people that live on the lakeshore and beyond.

On the surface a number of islands pepper the lake, separated from the mainland by alternating bands of sandy flats and deep water. Palm fringed beaches and soaring mountains surround the warm crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi. Picturesque fishing villages dot the shoreline, their cultures unchanged for thousands of years.

On the shores miombo woodland and baobabs occur, and mammals such as baboon, vervet monkey, dassies and hippo are most commonly sighted. Bird life is abundant, with over 100 bird species – particularly waterbirds. Lake Malawi is dominated by the ubiquitous African Fish-Eagles, but enthusiasts will be rewarded with sightings of the shyer and less common forest birds that inhabit the bush, such as the north-eastern hypoxanthus variety of Sombre Greenbul. Other species seen include African Harrier-Hawk, Trumpeter Hornbill, White-breasted Cormorant, Water Thick-Knee, African Paradise-Flycatcher and a variety of herons, weavers, doves and starlings.

Beneath its waters a wide range of underwater habitats, including sandy, weedy, rock-sand interface and reed beds, harbour an abundant wealth and diversity of mostly endemic aquatic life. Lake Malawi supports over 2000 species of freshwater – a greater variety than any other lake on Earth, more than all of Europe and North America combined. The majority of these are colourful fish called cichlids (locally named mbuna) of which Lake Malawi contains more than 400 types, or 30% of all known species. Much of this astounding underwater diversity is protected within the Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear in the south, the first in the world set aside for the protection of freshwater fish and a World Heritage Site.

Majete Wildlife Reserve

Majete is one of the outstanding success stories of African conservation. Granted protected status in 1955, it became the subject of extensive poaching in the 1980s and 1990s. But a concerted joint effort since 2003 by the African Parks Network and the Malawi government – including the reintroduction of endangered species – has turned it into a model of sustainable development and biodiversity.
Located in the south of Malawi close to the city of Blantyre, Majete is an area of 70.000 hectares, part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The reserve is made up of mature miombo woodlands and granite topped hills that contrast with picturesque river valleys and lush riverine forest.

For connoisseurs of wildlife many exciting encounters lie in store, with the chance to view many species including black rhino, elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, sable, suni, klipspringer, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and zebra.

Restoring the reserve to its former beauty is not merely an exercise in attracting tourists. The stated aim is to benefit the people of Malawi and, in particular, the local communities in Majete. Poachers will, literally, turn gamekeeper. The growth of tourism will be strictly controlled, making the experience for visitors to Mkulumadzi all the more special.

Before the agreement between African Parks and the Malawi government in 2003, Majete was in a sorry state. Although the flora was intact, years of under-investment and rampant poaching had emptied the park of most of its large mammals. The rejuvenation of the reserve began with law enforcement. Scouts received new equipment and training, and a 160km electrified fence was erected around the perimeter to protect local villages from marauding elephant, buffalo and hippo. Elephants in the reserve were captured, darted and collared, and a new GPS mapping and monitoring system allows scouts to record each patrol on a handheld device, noting vital information such as wildlife sightings, water sources and illegal activities.

The reintroduction of more than 3,000 animals from other areas of Malawi and neighbouring countries began in 2003 and included black rhino, elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, zebra, warthog, sable, waterbuck, impala and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. In 2006, a total of 70 elephants were imported from Liwonde National Park. Two years later their numbers had grown to 82, and further introductions increased the elephant population to 144.

The black rhino – listed by CITES as a critically endangered species – was introduced at about the same time, with scouts monitoring their progress on a daily basis. In July 2008 the first rhino calf was born and further successful births have brought the total number to nine, second in Malawi only to Liwonde National Park.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde was proclaimed as a National Park in 1973 is considered the most prolific wildlife area in Malawi, despite its size – only 548km2.

This is largely because the Shire River – the country’s largest river and Lake Malawi’sonly outlet – forms the western boundary of the park. Nearly a kilometre wide in places, with floodplains extending to three times that width in the south, the Shire River is a magnet for wildlife.

Named after Chief Liwonde who had championed its protection, the Liwonde National Park harbours very diverse landscapes. Relatively dry mopane woodlands cover the eastern half of the Park where they are interspersed with unworldly candelabra trees, while patches of miombo woodland occur on the limited hill slopes in the south and east. Palm savannah and numerous baobabs abut the extensive floodplains of the Shire River where dense riverine vegetation adds a tropical feel to the habitat.

Liwonde National Park is home to the largest remaining elephant population in Malawi and one of only two breeding nuclei of black rhino reside here. Liwonde National Park also boasts large numbers of impala, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and the majestic sable – which is rare anywhere else in Africa today.

Kudu and impala, together with sable herds, haunt the woodlands beyond the floodplain, while yellow baboon entertain with their social antics.

Buffalo, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, zebra, roan and eland were historically hunted to extinction in the area, but have since been introduced into what is known as The Sanctuary – a substantial 4 000 ha fenced area within Liwonde National Park that serves as a reservoir for rare species. It is here that Liwonde’s black rhino find refuge too. A dense population of hippo can be found in the Shire River and monstrous Nile crocodile are found lazing on the sandbanks.

The birdlife here is prolific – probably the best year-round birding in Southern Africa. Over 300 of the country’s 650 bird species occur in the Liwonde National Park, with gems such as Böhm’s Bee-eater, African Skimmer, Palmnut Vulture, White-backed Night-heron and Dickinson’s Kestrel often sighted. Others such as Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pel’s Fishing-owl and Spur-winged Lapwing can also be found in the riverine strip. Liwonde National Park is home to the only population of Lillian’s Lovebird in Malawi and also plays host to the rare Brown-breasted Barbet.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest and second deepest lake. Measuring just short of 600km north to south and 80km wide in places, it dominates the eastern side of Malawi and constitutes roughly 20% of its surface area.

For the people of Malawi, the lake is an integral part of their cultural heritage and vast trove of natural resources – with fish species such as chambo forming the primary protein source of the nearly 20 000 people that live on the lakeshore and beyond.

On the surface a number of islands pepper the lake, separated from the mainland by alternating bands of sandy flats and deep water. Palm fringed beaches and soaring mountains surround the warm crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi. Picturesque fishing villages dot the shoreline, their cultures unchanged for thousands of years.

On the shores miombo woodland and baobabs occur, and mammals such as baboon, vervet monkey, dassies and hippo are most commonly sighted. Bird life is abundant, with over 100 bird species – particularly waterbirds. Lake Malawi is dominated by the ubiquitous African Fish-Eagles, but enthusiasts will be rewarded with sightings of the shyer and less common forest birds that inhabit the bush, such as the north-eastern hypoxanthus variety of Sombre Greenbul. Other species seen include African Harrier-Hawk, Trumpeter Hornbill, White-breasted Cormorant, Water Thick-Knee, African Paradise-Flycatcher and a variety of herons, weavers, doves and starlings.

Beneath its waters a wide range of underwater habitats, including sandy, weedy, rock-sand interface and reed beds, harbour an abundant wealth and diversity of mostly endemic aquatic life. Lake Malawi supports over 2000 species of freshwater – a greater variety than any other lake on Earth, more than all of Europe and North America combined. The majority of these are colourful fish called cichlids (locally named mbuna) of which Lake Malawi contains more than 400 types, or 30% of all known species. Much of this astounding underwater diversity is protected within the Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear in the south, the first in the world set aside for the protection of freshwater fish and a World Heritage Site.

Majete Wildlife Reserve

Majete is one of the outstanding success stories of African conservation. Granted protected status in 1955, it became the subject of extensive poaching in the 1980s and 1990s. But a concerted joint effort since 2003 by the African Parks Network and the Malawi government – including the reintroduction of endangered species – has turned it into a model of sustainable development and biodiversity.
Located in the south of Malawi close to the city of Blantyre, Majete is an area of 70.000 hectares, part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. The reserve is made up of mature miombo woodlands and granite topped hills that contrast with picturesque river valleys and lush riverine forest.

For connoisseurs of wildlife many exciting encounters lie in store, with the chance to view many species including black rhino, elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, sable, suni, klipspringer, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and zebra.

Restoring the reserve to its former beauty is not merely an exercise in attracting tourists. The stated aim is to benefit the people of Malawi and, in particular, the local communities in Majete. Poachers will, literally, turn gamekeeper. The growth of tourism will be strictly controlled, making the experience for visitors to Mkulumadzi all the more special.

Before the agreement between African Parks and the Malawi government in 2003, Majete was in a sorry state. Although the flora was intact, years of under-investment and rampant poaching had emptied the park of most of its large mammals. The rejuvenation of the reserve began with law enforcement. Scouts received new equipment and training, and a 160km electrified fence was erected around the perimeter to protect local villages from marauding elephant, buffalo and hippo. Elephants in the reserve were captured, darted and collared, and a new GPS mapping and monitoring system allows scouts to record each patrol on a handheld device, noting vital information such as wildlife sightings, water sources and illegal activities.

The reintroduction of more than 3,000 animals from other areas of Malawi and neighbouring countries began in 2003 and included black rhino, elephant, buffalo, eland, kudu, zebra, warthog, sable, waterbuck, impala and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. In 2006, a total of 70 elephants were imported from Liwonde National Park. Two years later their numbers had grown to 82, and further introductions increased the elephant population to 144.

The black rhino – listed by CITES as a critically endangered species – was introduced at about the same time, with scouts monitoring their progress on a daily basis. In July 2008 the first rhino calf was born and further successful births have brought the total number to nine, second in Malawi only to Liwonde National Park.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde was proclaimed as a National Park in 1973 is considered the most prolific wildlife area in Malawi, despite its size – only 548km2.

This is largely because the Shire River – the country’s largest river and Lake Malawi’sonly outlet – forms the western boundary of the park. Nearly a kilometre wide in places, with floodplains extending to three times that width in the south, the Shire River is a magnet for wildlife.

Named after Chief Liwonde who had championed its protection, the Liwonde National Park harbours very diverse landscapes. Relatively dry mopane woodlands cover the eastern half of the Park where they are interspersed with unworldly candelabra trees, while patches of miombo woodland occur on the limited hill slopes in the south and east. Palm savannah and numerous baobabs abut the extensive floodplains of the Shire River where dense riverine vegetation adds a tropical feel to the habitat.

Liwonde National Park is home to the largest remaining elephant population in Malawi and one of only two breeding nuclei of black rhino reside here. Liwonde National Park also boasts large numbers of impala, reedbuck, waterbuck, warthog and the majestic sable – which is rare anywhere else in Africa today.

Kudu and impala, together with sable herds, haunt the woodlands beyond the floodplain, while yellow baboon entertain with their social antics.

Buffalo, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, zebra, roan and eland were historically hunted to extinction in the area, but have since been introduced into what is known as The Sanctuary – a substantial 4 000 ha fenced area within Liwonde National Park that serves as a reservoir for rare species. It is here that Liwonde’s black rhino find refuge too. A dense population of hippo can be found in the Shire River and monstrous Nile crocodile are found lazing on the sandbanks.

The birdlife here is prolific – probably the best year-round birding in Southern Africa. Over 300 of the country’s 650 bird species occur in the Liwonde National Park, with gems such as Böhm’s Bee-eater, African Skimmer, Palmnut Vulture, White-backed Night-heron and Dickinson’s Kestrel often sighted. Others such as Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pel’s Fishing-owl and Spur-winged Lapwing can also be found in the riverine strip. Liwonde National Park is home to the only population of Lillian’s Lovebird in Malawi and also plays host to the rare Brown-breasted Barbet.

Where to stay

These are just a selection of the properties we can personally recommend. Please get in touch to hear more about our full portfolio.

Kaya Mawa

Translated as “Maybe tomorrow”, the lodge uses the stunning natural surroundings to create an idyllic island lodge of unique character and imagination with a very special ambiance. Kaya Mawa sits in a pretty bay, covered with mango trees and ancient baobabs, encircled by glorious sandy beaches and rocky coves.

take me to Kaya Mawa

Mkulumadzi Lodge

Set in 7,000 hectares of private concession, Mkulumadzi enjoys an ideal location at the confluence of two rivers just a few kilometres from the point where the magnificent Shire River plunges into the Kapichira Falls. Guests arrive by a footbridge to discover a friendly welcome and many home comforts.

take me to Mkulumadzi Lodge

Pumulani

Pumulani is situated on the westside of the Nankumba Peninsula in the South end of Lake Malawi and the beautiful sparkling colours shimmering over the water, the clear blue skies and the panoramic vistas truly make one feel like they are in paradise.

take me to Pumulani

Get in touch with us now to start planning your journey

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