The warm heart of Africa
Malawi is a landlocked country in South East Africa. In an amazingly diverse landscape the main attraction is the lake, and here you will find most visitors. Nicknamed ‘The Lake of Stars’, because of it’s 500km of shimmering crystal clear waters, it is home to 500 species of fish, and excellent for swimming, snorkling, scuba diving, or just relaxing on its shores. The famous steamboat, the Ilala ferry, takes passengers and cargo up and down the lake, once per week in each direction, dropping off at the secluded islands of Likoma and Chizamulu.
If you can drag yourself away from lazy days by the lake shore, Malawi is a hiker’s paradise. Visit the tea plantations at the base of Mount Mulanje and take a guide up the mountain where you can stay overnight in a number of remote log cabins, warming yourself by the campfire while your guide fills you in on local stories and customs.
Wildlife is abundant in Malawi, no more so than in Liwonde National Park. It is home to around 800 African elephants, and numerous hippo, crocodiles, warthog, and monitor lizards. It’s also delightful for birdwatchers, who can spot Fish Eagles, Heron and rare species of Kingfisher. See these up close from a river safari or take off into the jungle either on foot or by jeep.
Transport is varied, all the major destinations are catered for by a luxuary non-stop bus service, but to get to more rural destinations you may have to take an uncomfortable ride piled in the back of a ‘Matola’ (pick-up truck). Minibuses are a quick and efficient form of transport, but can be a hair-raising journey at times. Otherwise private taxi’s are usually available for hire.
When dining in Malawi then one has to try the Chambo, Malawi’s most famous dish. Freshly caught from the lake, barbequed Chambo is a dish Malawians are incredibly proud of. Guest houses serve a range of international food, varying in quality and price, and local restaurants are happy to serve you traditional Malawian dishes such as rice, beans, fish and nsima (a flour dough mix, tasteless but nourishing). The top hotels do of course serve a fine selection of international cuisine.
Shopping is best carried out in local markets, where clothing and crafts are handmade by Malawians. Department stores and shopping malls are only found in the major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe.
The sun goes down early in Malawi but the parties continue into the night, especially by the lake side. The main cities have a variety of bars and clubs and the ‘Lake Of Stars’ festival in October is a highlight of the year, hosting many top international DJ’s and bands.