As a year-round destination, Malawi is truly a gem in the safari destination landscape. Also known as “The Warm Heart of Africa”, its diverse scenery, wildlife, and culture make this landlocked country in the southeastern part of the continent a favourite among visitors. The shining diamond of the country is undoubtedly Lake Malawi. This inviting body of water occupies a third of the country and is regarded as one of the most fertile grounds in the world, where fish species flourish. Not to mention the hundreds of other mammals, birds, and plant species in the surrounding areas.
Apart from abundant wildlife, visitors can also participate in adventure activities like mountain biking, hiking, and a variety of watersports. When indulging in the varied and traditional cuisine, the gentle and affectionate demeanor of the local people adds to the allure of the country. Getting to Malawi is easy enough through airports situated in and near major cities like Lilongwe, the capital, and Blantyre. Additionally, there are car rental companies on site. Chartered services are available for getting to and from destinations and are a bit further out.
When packing for a trip, visitors should ensure they pack a bit of everything. The array of activities and experiences on offer range from the bush to the beach and everything in between. Lake Malawi offers the best of both worlds with a scenic landscape, where various wildlife species roam as well as crisp, clean beaches along the water’s edge. Days can either be spent just soaking in the tranquil surroundings, while visitors take in the impressive setting aboard the Ilala ferry. For the more adventurous, there is a myriad of sporting activities including kayaking, waterskiing, and scuba diving.
The eight other national parks and reserves scattered throughout the country. which include Kasungu, Lengwe, Liwonde, Nyika, Majete, Mwabvi, Nkhotakota, Vwaza, provide ample opportunity for remarkable game viewing, mountain biking, and hiking. There are various cultural and historical sites worth a visit. The Livingstonia Mission tells the story of the great explorer, Dr David Livingstone, while The Society of Malawi, in Blantyre, paints a complete picture of the country’s rich history. The Stone Age Chongoni Rock Art site, close to Dedza, is another worthwhile stop.
Even though Malawi is a tenth the size of a country like South Africa, at just under 120,000 square kilometres, it certainly doesn’t lack when it comes to its abundance of wildlife. There are five national parks and four national reserves, as well as a specially protected wetland and a staggering 72 forest reserves, of which the oldest dates back more than a hundred years. This includes two areas listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites—Lake Malawi National Park and the Chongoni Rock Art Area.
Known for astonishing biodiversity, the country offers unparalleled game viewing opportunities in and around its unspoilt wilderness areas. Safaris are conducted in open vehicles, by boat, or on foot. Apart from the usual wildlife suspects like the members of the Big 5, Malawi is abundantly blessed with an estimated 1,000 fish species, most of which are found anywhere else in the world. For the twitchers, the country is a birder’s paradise with around 650 bird species.
Accommodation options in Malawi cater for everyone, from the most seasoned traveller to those who prefer the most basic of necessities. Whether on the beach or the lake, in a national park or reserve, there are plenty of establishments that range from luxury hotels, guesthouses, and villas to self-catering chalets, holiday homes, and camping sites.
Despite two distinct seasons in Malawi, there isn’t a bad time to plan a safari to the country. From May to October, drier weather prevail with temperatures in the mid to high 20s. This makes for optimum game viewing when animals gather around available water sources. In the wet season, from November to April, Malawi is lush and green thanks to thunderstorms and equatorial rains. This is an optimum time for bird watchers to glance skywards.
|Time Zone||GMT + CAT|
|Language||English and Chichewa|
|Power||Plug G & 230V/50Hz|
|Dress Code||Neutral for Safaris|
|Wi-Fi||Most lodges have Wi-Fi|
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From May to October, drier weather prevails with temperatures in the mid to high 20s. This makes for optimum game viewing when animals gather around available water sources.
Whether on the beach or the lake, in a national park or reserve, there are plenty of establishments that range from luxury hotels, guesthouses, and villas to self-catering chalets, holiday homes, and camping sites.
Safari-goers to Africa need to make sure about visa requirements for the specific destination in their country of origin. Passports need to be valid for at least six months from the planned date of departure and there should also be enough blank pages for the necessary visas and stamps to be applied.
The World Health Organisation recommends the following vaccinations for Malawi: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia and influenza. It is recommended that visitors check with a reputable travel clinic before departure as requirements may change.
Don’t drink tap water unless it has been boiled or filtered. Bottled water is widely available, except in very remote areas.
There will be no shortage of adventure when choosing Malawi as the destination for a family safari. Excursions include game viewing, kayaking on Lake Malawi and informative discussions with local guides around the campfire.
The level of fitness is dependent on the type of safari to be undertaken. For walking safari stretching over a couple of days, one has to be of at least moderate fitness while other activities like game viewing can be enjoyed by everyone.
It is advisable to make getting travel insurance as part of the planning of any safari. That ensures travellers are covered for unforeseen circumstances leading to the cancellation of the trip, as well as medical cover and repatriation should anything happen while on safari. If adventurous activities, such as hiking, mountain climbing, gorilla trekking, hot air ballooning or white water rafting, are part of the safari, comprehensive travel insurance is a must.
An International Driving Permit allows foreigners to drive in Malawi and must at all times be carried with the visitor’s national drivers license. Driving is on the left side of the road. The maximum speed limit is 80 km/hour with a speed limit of 120 km/h on the highway.
To show respect in any situation and especially when greeting someone, the left hand should be placed over the right hand when shaking the other person’s hand.