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Malawi – Welcoming and Vibrant

Malawi – Welcoming and Vibrant

Malawi is a welcoming and vibrant country in the heart of central southern Africa and is known as the “warm heart of Africa” because of the friendliness of its people.

As well as the country’s beautiful crystal clear Lake Malawi, it has a wonderfully varied topography of mountains and lush valleys. Visitors can expect an irresistibly complete experience of relaxed safari, lakeshore beaches, colourful marine life, exciting water sport activities and mountain pursuits of hiking and cycling. As well as this, there are cultural visits to museums and missions, traditional fishing villages and long established tea estates and coffee plantations.

Malawi is not short of interesting accommodation either, boasting a collection of luxury lakeside eco friendly lodges, historic plantation houses and Robinson Crusoe honeymoon retreats – all at relatively low cost. Malawi is perfect for a “bush & beach” holiday, combining game viewing in Liwonde or Majete Game Reserve with a romantic escape to the lakeshore for tropical diving and dining under the stars.  A classic combination is Zambia and Malawi with superb game viewing in the South Luangwa and a short flight to reach the beach on Lake Malawi.

 

Introduction

Regarded as the warm heart of Africa, Malawi’s enchanting landscapes and friendly people deliver a unique and contrasting experience. This is a country for experienced travellers, less focussed on predator action and more interested in getting in touch with the subtle qualities Malawi has to offer. The physical and spiritual backbone of the country is Africa’s third largest lake; Lake Malawi. Stretching over 300 miles, the clear, mineral rich waters team with one of the world’s highest diversities of freshwater fish; 500 endemic species reside including the brightly coloured cichlid fish. The exciting aquatic life can be observed on a range of water activities; including diving and snorkelling. Additionally, the country’s 9 national parks offer good game viewing and excellent bird watching, rendering the country ideal for budding botanists due to 400 species of orchid and numerous other wild flowers.

Malawi has a fascinating history. Colonised by migrating Bantu tribes around the 10th century, the country later became a vital source of gold and ivory to coastal traders in the 14th century.  In 1861, David Livingstone sailed up Lake Malawi and was horrified at the ‘abode of bloodshed and lawlessness’ that had ensued as a result of a violent slave trade. Since, the country was under British colonial rule for over 60 years and today is a democratic, densely populated nation, scattered by traditional farms and some of the friendliest people on earth. Despite its troubled past, Malawi has come a long way, recently obtaining the title of being one of Africa’s true gems.

Malawi offers something for everyone and is an ideal combination of gentle game viewing with excellent snorkelling, wind surfing, freshwater scuba diving, sailing, fishing and cruising.

Population:  Estimate July 2014 – 17,377,468  Source:  CIA The World Factbook.  The majority of the country’s population live in rural areas, however Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu are the most populous cities.

Capital: Lilongwe

Religion: 80% of residents are Christian and 13% Islamic, although there are various other faiths and sects for the minority of the population

Languages: The official language is English and the national language is Chichewa which is most commonly spoken in the Southern and Central regions.

Time Zone: GMT +2

Country Dialing Code: +265

Electricity

The local voltage is 240 volts. Plugs used in the country have three square-pins. Many lodges are situated in rural or remote areas so facilities are limited. It is strongly advisable to bring spare batteries, adapters and transformers if necessary

 

Topography

Situated in the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, Malawi is bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Renowned for fantastic scenic diversity, the country’s rolling highlands of the Nyika National Park in the north are in stark contrast to vibrant tea plantations of the southern Zomba plateau which are lined with vast forests, waterfalls and lakes. Reaching an impressive 3,002 meters and towering over the Malawian plains is the highest peak in central Africa; Mount Mulanje. However, the real feature is Lake Malawi; the world’s deepest lake stretching 300 miles and covering more than 20% of the country in water. Meandering through the humid lowlands is the mighty Shire River which flows out of Lake Malawi and through the Liwonde National Park, home to sable antelope, waterbuck, bushbuck and hippo.

Climate

Malawi can be visited all year round due to its temperate climate. The country has three predominant seasons; May to August tends to be cooler and drier, while September to mid-November is more hot and dry. From mid-November to April, Malawi is hot and humid. The best time to visit Malawi is May to October for a more agreeable climate, hiking, outdoor activities and a higher chance of spotting game on safari. As Malawi has a varied landscape, regional variations in weather are significant. Low-lying lakeshore regions are warmer all year round whereas the highlands are cooler with chilly evenings in winter months (May to October). Precipitation is highest along the northern shores of Lake Malawi

 

Month

Conditions

January-February Rainfall in Malawi arrives in these months, though the rains arrive slightly earlier and leave slightly earlier the further north you are. Higher altitudes experience most rainfall. Average max temperature =  28°C with lows of 20°C at night. These are the wettest and most humid months as average rainfall is 185mm.
March The last month of the rainy season. Most of the rain has gone by the end of the month. Average max temperature = 27°C with lows of 19°C. Average rainfall is 125mm.
April-May The rains have virtually passed and temperatures begin to drop to highs of 27°C and lows of 16°C. Average rainfall is 43mm in April but dramatically drops off to around 9mm in May at the onset of the dry season. The reduction in rainfall leaves a green landscape which dries out progressively over the coming months. In higher and more southerly locations, night-time temperatures start to fall.
June-August These are considered the best months to visit as the days are cloudless and warm with cooler nights and very little rainfall. Average max temperature = 24°C with lows of 14°C at night. It is recommended to wrap up warm on a high game drive during these winter months. Relative humidity is lower in these months and average rainfall is 5mm.
September- October These are the last few dry months with the days becoming progressively warmer with averages of 24°C and lows of 18°C. Average rainfall is 20mm which increases towards the end of October. Low-lying areas around the lake become very hot
November November represents the transition from the dry to the rainy season so can be unpredictable. Average max temperature = 26°C with lows of 20°C. Average rainfall is 81mm. This variable month can be hot and dry like October but some year’s experiences the season’s first downpours.
December A wet and humid month due to the rainy season. Average max temperature = 25°C with lows of 20°C. Average rainfall is 164mm. This is not considered a good time to visit due to the heavy rainfall, however it is during the peak season for birdwatching.

 

Temperature & Rainfall

Climate Chart – Lilongwe

Climate Chart – South – Blantyre

Climate Chart – North – Chitipa

Passport & Visa

It is essential that your passport is valid at least 6 months beyond intended stay. At least two blank passport pages are required, otherwise passport entry will be denied.

Visas are not required for stays of less than 90 days for holders of US, UK and most Commonwealth and EU passports.

US$30 International Departure Tax per person is payable upon departure from the country. There is a charge for domestic departure of MK200 per person. These departure taxes may change without notice.

Health

It is vital to be up-to-date with the necessary immunisations, which often take 6 weeks to organise. As of 2011, Malawi was still not considered a yellow fever endemic area. However, proof of vaccination against Yellow Fever is needed for entry if you are coming from a yellow fever endemic area (such as Zambia). No immunisations are required by law for entry to Malawi however there are several precautions that should be undertaken before departure. It is wise to be up-to-date with tetanus, polio, diphtheria, hepatitis A and B and typhoid. It is recommended that vaccination against rabies is taken for travellers visiting remote areas. Immunisation against cholera is not usually required. Bilharzia can be found in certain areas of Lake Malawi. Malaria is one of the biggest threats to the health of travellers visiting Malawi so it is essential to take all precautions against the disease. It is unwise to travel in malarial regions if pregnant or with very young children. Please consult your doctor.

Drinking Water

Tap water in major cities is generally safe, however travellers with weaker stomachs may be advised to avoid this drinking water. In rural areas, it is strongly advised to only consume bottled water to guarantee safety.

Insurance

Visitors to Malawi are advised to take out a comprehensive medical insurance policy to cover them for emergencies.

Food and Drink

Camps, lodges and hotels that cater for overseas visitors serve a range of international dishes and the quality of food in the most remote camps in usually very high. Local beer is available and there are no real restrictions on alcohol.

 

Shopping, Tips & Extras

Malawi is a good place to buy curios, both in terms of quality and price and cheap surface mail enables shipping purchases home a viable prospect. The country is best known for hardwood carvings and wooden chairs, along with polished soapstone carvings, malachite jewellery and basketwork items.

Tipping is widely expected in tourist hotels and restaurants. Often a service charge is automatically added, but where not, a 10-15% tip is appreciated. Tour guides and game rangers often rely on tips for their income. It is recommended that guides are tipped US$4-US$6 per guest per day, and general staff tipped US$3 per day.

Luggage & Clothing

Smaller, privately chartered planes may have a maximum weight limit of 10-12kg for hold luggage which must be packed in a small, soft bag. Travelling with a hard suitcase may result in extra charges or separate transportation. International flights usually have a maximum limit of 20kg.

Clothing

Malawi’s dress code is usually conservative in urban areas, so long skirts for women and long shorts for men are advisable. However, these rules are redundant at safari camps, where dress is casual, however green, khaki and dust-brown cotton are best. Appropriate footwear such as walking boots are useful for safari outings.

Malawi Highlights

Beaches of Malawi

Beaches of Malawi

Beaches of Malawi

Lake Malawi’s vast inland body of freshwater is fringed by white sandy beaches. Cape Maclear lies ...

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Beaches of Malawi

Beaches of Malawi

Lake Malawi’s vast inland body of freshwater is fringed by white sandy beaches. Cape Maclear lies on the southern Shore and is best known for its water sports, beach bars & lively atmosphere. Suits honeymooners and families alike.

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Big 5 Majete Safari

Big 5 Majete Safari

Big 5 Majete Safari

A conservation success story with Majete now becoming a Big 5 game reserve. For connoisseurs of ...

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Big 5 Majete Safari

Big 5 Majete Safari

A conservation success story with Majete now becoming a Big 5 game reserve. For connoisseurs of wildlife many exciting encounters lie in store, including black rhino and Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and zebra.

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Star Gazing

Star Gazing

Star Gazing

The clear skies above Lake Malawi make for an unbelievable star gazing experience. Pumulani Lodge ...

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Star Gazing

Star Gazing

The clear skies above Lake Malawi make for an unbelievable star gazing experience. Pumulani Lodge has a state of the art telescope which never fails to leave guests in awe time and time again.

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Tea Plantations

Tea Plantations

Tea Plantations

Satemwa Estate Tea Plantation in the Shire Highlands of Southern Malawi. Huntingdon House is the ...

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Tea Plantations

Tea Plantations

Satemwa Estate Tea Plantation in the Shire Highlands of Southern Malawi. Huntingdon House is the original family home where guests can explore the estate, discover the multitude of teas produced and hear the fascinating history of Satemwa Estate.​

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Traditional Fishing Villages

Traditional Fishing Villages

Traditional Fishing Villages

Fishing villages are scattered along the shore and the traditional industry and practices are a ...

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Traditional Fishing Villages

Traditional Fishing Villages

Fishing villages are scattered along the shore and the traditional industry and practices are a particular attraction to visitors. The fishermens’ favourite catch is tilapia or Chambo as it is known locally.

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Water Sports

Water Sports

Water Sports

Lake Malawi is an adventure playground for water sports enthusiasts and families with activities ...

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Water Sports

Water Sports

Lake Malawi is an adventure playground for water sports enthusiasts and families with activities including water-skiing, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba, wakeboarding, sailing and speedboat trips.

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Mt Mulanje Hiking

Mt Mulanje Hiking

Mt Mulanje Hiking

Mount Mulanje is a huge granite massif, covered in forest and surrounded by lush tea estates. ...

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Mt Mulanje Hiking

Mt Mulanje Hiking

Mount Mulanje is a huge granite massif, covered in forest and surrounded by lush tea estates. Stunning scenery and easy access make this a fine location for climbing and trekking.

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Marine Life

Marine Life

Marine Life

Most of the endemic fish belong to the cichlidae family and are known locally as nub. They are ...

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Marine Life

Marine Life

Most of the endemic fish belong to the cichlidae family and are known locally as nub. They are brightly coloured and a wonderful sight to see in this fantastic body of freshwater.

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Snorkelling

Snorkelling

Snorkelling

During your stay a great excursion is to head out by boat to snorkel or dive to take in the clouds ...

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Snorkelling

Snorkelling

During your stay a great excursion is to head out by boat to snorkel or dive to take in the clouds of brightly coloured tropical fish that inhabit Lake Malawi.it It is some of the best freshwater diving and snorkelling in Africa.

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The Locals

The Locals

The Locals

One of the highlights of visiting Malawi is meeting its smiling and friendly people and ...

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The Locals

The Locals

One of the highlights of visiting Malawi is meeting its smiling and friendly people and experiencing Malawi’s rich cultural heritage.

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Romantic Chill Outs

Romantic Chill Outs

Romantic Chill Outs

Lake Malawi offers a choice of accommodation to suit every budget. Kayla Mawa is an exclusive ...

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Romantic Chill Outs

Romantic Chill Outs

Lake Malawi offers a choice of accommodation to suit every budget. Kayla Mawa is an exclusive luxury resort set on Likoma Island and voted by Conde Nast as one of the top 10 most romantic resorts.

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Colourful Birds

Colourful Birds

Colourful Birds

Malawi is an ornithologist's paradise. Around 650 species have been identified with over 10 per ...

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Colourful Birds

Colourful Birds

Malawi is an ornithologist’s paradise. Around 650 species have been identified with over 10 per cent not being seen in other parts of Southern Africa.

Photo credit: Robin Pope

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Lake Malawi and Likoma island

Lake Malawi is the country’s number one attraction.  It has warm crystal clear waters teeming with colourful marine life, sandy coves and age-old fishing ...Read More

Liwonde

Liwonde National Park is Malawi’s primary wildlife gem and considered the country’s most prolific game area. Malawi’s largest river, the Shire, ...Read More

Zomba and Mt Mulanje and the Majete

The Zomba Plateau and the Mulanje Massif are two areas of the Shire Highlands to the south of Lake Malawi. The Zomba Plateau is very dramatic, rising to an ...Read More