Quality tailor-made holidays at the heart of Africa

Malawi

Known as "The Warm Heart of Africa",Malawi is a tiny, landlocked country just south of Tanzania, east of Zambia and north-west of Mozambique.

Although small by African standards, the country has an immense diversity of scenery and wildlife. Although little known and upstaged by its more famous northern neighbours, Malawi offers the visitor unparalleled African beauty - unspoilt wilderness coupled with its warm and friendly people and varying landscapes makes this a beautiful holiday destination like no other.

The main attraction is its inland sea, the freshwater Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest lake and unique habitat to the worlds greatest collection of fish, including the famous Malawian cichlids (known to those who have aquariums at home).

However Malawi also has its shares of beautiful highlands, with a series of escarpments in the Central African plateau, and the Shire River which is in the Great East African Rift Valley. The Nyika plateau, Dowa Highlands and teh great massifs of Zomba and Mulanje (central Africa's highest peak) are all part of Malawi's beautiful landscape. Then there are the tranquil forest, streams and waterfalls which add to the natural beauty and are home to diverse wildlife and plants.


ACTIVITY & ADVENTURE



Activity & Adventure

Malawi Mountain Biking
Culture and History - Malawi is steeped in history, from pre-historical sites in the Karonga district and the Stone Age rock paintings near Dedza to the more recent colonial history preserved in buildings dating from David Livingstone's era (hence the strong connection between Malawi and Scotland) and the defeat of the Arab slave trade documented in the museums at Blantyre.

The country is rich in culture and the people warm, friendly and welcoming. There is plenty of opportunity to visit local villages and learn about tradition and culture and first-hand experience of daily life in a typical Malawian home.

WILDLIFE SAFARIS



Wildlife Safaris

Unlike their more famous northern neighbours, Malawi boasts large areas of unspoilt wilderness where one can get up close to hippo, elephant and other animals and birds. Malawi is fabulous for bird watching as its unique and diverse landscapes are home to more than 500 endemic and migratory species of birds. Apart from traditional safaris in 4-wheel drive vehicles, one can observe wildlife via boating safaris particularly on the Shire river, where one can observe a whole range of wildlife coming to drink - from hippo and elephant to a variety of antelope and birds.

There are also walking and cycling safaris which allow you to explore areas off the beaten track.

WATER SPORTS



Water Sports

Lake Malawi provides the opportunity for many different kinds of water-based activity - the lake boasts the best freshwater snorkelling and scuba diving sites in the world. Most of the lodges and hotels along the lakeshore are equipped for different water-based activities and there are several PADI dive centres dotted around the lake.

The lake is home to the biggest collection of freshwater fish and visibility in the clear waters of the lake is up to 30 metres particularly during the months between June and December. Kayaking and sailing are other water based activities that are available, and if one wants to sample the more traditional way of getting across the lake, then take a trip on the famous MV ILALA, the local water-bus!

SPECIALIST ACTIVITIES



Specialist Activities

Mountain biking and Horse riding safaris are amongst the most popular outdoor adventures and wonderful ways of exploring Malawi's diverse landscapes. There are also trekking and walking activities to be enjoyed. Rock climbing is also available on Mount Mulanje.

Other specialist activities include yoga holidays and art safaris. Pottery classes are also available. For keen botanists,Malawi offers visitors unique displays of tropical plants and endemic orchid species.

Central Malawi

Central Malawi - Surfing
Most international visitors to Malawi arrive at Lilongwe, the capital; hence their first view of the country is the Central Region. It gives easy access to the rest of the country, including the Lake, as well as being an exciting region in its own right.

Anyone staying in the Central Region and not venturing outside its limits could be forgiven for being unaware that the region is actually part of the Central African Plateau. Gently undulating landscapes give the area the appearance of a plain and its altitude of some 4000ft (1200m) is not immediately evident. Only in the east, close to the Lake, where the plateau forms the edge of the Great Rift Valley, do its occasionally steep sides reveal the truth.

The plateau is crossed by numerous rivers making their separate ways to the Lake and, here and there, isolated hills, called inselbergs, punctuate the gentle landscapes. North-east of Lilongwe is Dowa, a steep–sided plateau adding another 1000ft (300m) to the general altitude. To the south a narrow upland rib forms the border with Mozambique – this is the Dedza Highlands.

The scenery in Central Malawi is less dramatic than elsewhere in the country but it has the same attractive variety that makes Malawi a wonderful place to tour. Its importance stems largely from the fact that its regional centre, Lilongwe, is also the national capital. This, and the pivotal position of the region, give central Malawi a status which distinguishes it from the rest of the country.

Though not in Malawi's Central Region, or actually in Malawi at all, Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, one of the continent's greatest game reserves, is most easily accessed from Lilongwe.

Lilongwe became Malawi’s capital in 1975, a role previously filled by Zomba. It owes its status to Dr Hastings Banda, the country’s first President, who was born just north of the town. The Old Town is distinct and separate from the new Capital City. While the former has all the appearance of a traditional African settlement, the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world. Its gleaming modern buildings in their spacious garden-like settings, contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Old Town. Both of these different parts of the town are worth touring. The modern shops of the City are complemented by the exciting street and walled markets of Old Town. Lilongwe’s range of services and facilities is unsurpassed except, possibly, in Blantyre. The State House is now the seat of parliament and the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary lies between the Old and New towns. Within the Sanctuary is the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - a new and exciting 'People and Wildlife' animal rescue and education facility.

National Parks and places of interest...


DEDZA



Dedza

Lying just over 80km south-east of Lilongwe, Dedza is a town of interest for a variety of reasons. At 1600m (5300ft) it is the highest town in the country. It sits in a beautiful landscape of forests and highlands, with the tree-covered Dedza Mountain rising up immediately behind the town.

The area has been settled since pre-historic times and artistic traditions old and new are still to be found. At the Dedza Pottery craftsmen can be viewed in the workshops and factory, producing a variety of items, from mugs and dinner services to table lamps and tiles. Many are decorated with brightly coloured designs or local scenes and all are sold at the factory shop. Dedza Pottery products are found all round Malawi, as well as being sold for export. With a charming tea shop selling delicious cakes, the pottery centre is a popular stop between Lilongwe and Blantyre. New in 2007 is the Dedza Pottery Lodge - offering the chance to stay at Dedza, and see something of this wonderful area, including visits to a local village.

In the forested granite hills around Dedza is the Chongoni Rock Art Area. Numerous natural shelters house ancient rock paintings which constitute the densest cluster of rock art found in central Africa. They reflect the comparatively scarce tradition of farmer rock art as well as paintings by BaTwa hunter-gatherers who inhabited the area from the late Stone Age. The symbols in the rock art, which are strongly associated with women, still have cultural relevance amongst the Chewa, and the sites are actively associated with ceremonies. The area has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, to the east of the region and near the Lake, is one of the two large game areas in the Central Region. Its vast 700 sq miles (1800 sq km) is of rugged terrain crossed by a number of rivers which tumble down the edge of the escarpment as they make their ways to the Lake. Most of the reserve is miombo woodland with large patches of tall grasses and occasional areas of rainforest. This is a wonderful example of true wilderness which particularly attracts those who wish to enjoy a walking safari, fishing and climbing. The reserve is difficult to access because there are few roads or driveable tracks. The range of mammals is as good as anywhere in Malawi although the environment makes viewing difficult. Birdlife is prolific with giant kingfishers and palm nut vultures among the 130 recorded species

DZALANYAMA



Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

This Reserve is approximately 40 km south-west of Lilongwe in a range of hills which bear the same name. The forest is a great place for exploring, trekking, and mountain biking. The birdlife is very good, including a couple of rare species, the olive-headed weaver and Stierling’s woodpecker. The variety of flora is interesting and includes some wonderful ferns.

KASUNGU



Kasungu National Park

In the west of the Central Region, and bordering Zambia, is Kasungu National Park, an 800 sq mile (2100 sq km) area of natural woodland andbush with occasional stretches of more open grass. Poaching has reduced the number of some species of animals but there is still of wildlife to be seen. Elephants and antelopes are common, as are small herds of buffalo and zebra. Predators include leopards, hyenas, servals and jackals. There is a significant number of hippos in the lake at Lifupa and, as elsewhere in Malawi, the birdwatcher is well catered for.

This is a park which is relatively easy to drive around. Access to the park has been greatly improved in recent years and it is relatively easy to reach from Lilongwe (approx. 100 miles/160km).

SALIMA & SENGA BAY



Salima & Senga Bay

Standing back from the central lakeshore is an important service and trading centre, the town of Salima. Close to the junction of the M14 road to Lilongwe and the lakeshore highway (M5), the town is 10 miles (16 km) inland from Senga Bay. This is a very busy little town with an interesting market and all the usual services.To the east of Salima town is Senga Bay. The beautiful bay is only one and a half hours' drive from Lilongwe.

NKHOTAKOTA



Nkhotakota

Often, but confusingly, described as the largest traditional village in Africa, Nkhotakota is rich in history. Visited by Dr Livingstone in 1863, it was then a major centre for the slave trade. From the lakeshore here, tens of thousands of slaves were shipped across the Lake and then force-marched to the coast. The slave trade, with its strong Arab connections, has meant that the Muslim faith is well represented in today’s town. In 1960 Dr Banda chose Nkhotakota for his first political rally on his release from prison and prior to Malawi gaining its independence.

The modern-day Nkhotakota Pottery is an off-shoot of the more famous Dedza Pottery. As well as being able to see potters at work and buy items from the shop, it is also possible to take a pottery course. Thirty miles north of Nkhotakota is the settlement of Dwangwa which is split in two by the M5 road. This town is greatly influenced and determined by its giant sugar estate but, by the lakeshore, is a fishing community.


Northern Malawi

Northen Malawi
North Malawi has so much to offer the visitor. Less well known than the rest of the country and with a lower population density, it is a region for those who wish to experience Africa at its most unspoilt. Its quite astonishing beauty is the lasting memory of all who explore this unique area of central Africa.

The north of Malawi has been described as the country’s forgotten region. It has a different character from the rest of the country and this is recognisable in its scenery, its people and even in its politics.

Except for that part of the region which is occupied by Lake Malawi, the north is characterised by its great highlands. Most magnificent of all is the Nyika Plateau, towering to no less than 8000ft (2500m). The rolling landscapes of the centre of the plateau are described as whalebacks but the edges of this granite core are scarp-like especially where, in the north-east, it forms the edge of the Great Rift Valley. The other great highlands area is Viphya. This undulating plateau rises to 6000ft (1800m) although some peaks stretch a further 1000ft (300m) higher.

West of the Viphya Highlands are the Mzimba Plains, a modest 4500ft (1400m) high and drained by two large rivers, the South Rukuru and the Kasitu which effectively separate Nyika from Viphya. On the borders with Zambia and with Tanzania, in the north, other significant ranges include the Malingu Mountains and the Misuku Hills rising to over 7000ft (2100m) and 6500ft (2000m) respectively.

National Parks and places of interest...


NYIKA NATIONAL PARK



Nyika National Park

Nyika

Malawi’s largest park with an area approximately 1250 sq miles (3200 sq km). It extends across the great plateau which is essentially a granitic dome. The name, Nyika, means "where the water comes from" and it is, indeed, one of Malawi’s most important catchment areas. The rolling scenery is at its best in the rainy season when over 200 types of orchid are in flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons.

Nyika is wonderful for trekking, mountain biking and horse riding safaris, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive duiker to eland and roan. Zebra are common. The park has one of the highest densities of leopard in Central Africa and there are a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthog and bushpig. Elephants and buffalo usually keep to the lower ground on the northern edge of the park but lions and elephants have recently been seen on the high plateau.

For the birdwatcher, the park has a lot to offer: over 400 species have been recorded. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin - endemic to Nyika.

There is such a lot to see in the vast park: waterfalls, a neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a ‘magic lake’ are just some of the attractions.

Mzuzu, is the capital of the north and is a settlement along the junction of the lakeshore road (M5) and Malawi’s main north-south highway (M1). The town, which has grown rapidly in recent times, has one quality hotel, and a number of simple small hotels/lodges. There is an airport with scheduled flights to Lilongwe and elsewhere, and a host of other facilities in the rather crowded town centre.
Vwasa Wildlife Reserve, an area of marsh and plain, with a few rocky outcrops, is approximately 400 sq miles (1000 sq km) and lies along the Zambian border north-west of Mzuzu. The reserve has a wonderful mix of vegetation: forest and grassland, thin woodland and marsh. It is this rich habitat which attracts a splendid range of birdlife. Nearly 300 species of birds have been recorded including stork, heron and the white-faced tree duck. Herds of thirty or forty elephants are regularly to be seen and there are large numbers of hippos. Lake Kazuni, near the main entrance to the reserve is famous for its hippos. Buffalo are present in the reserve but their roaming habits make their sightings less easy to predict. As on Nyika, there are plenty of smaller mammals.

A particularly interesting place to visit is the Livingstonia Mission. Sited high above Lake Malawi at 3000ft (900m) there are views of incredible beauty across the lake to Tanzania. Livingstonia is a mission settlement dating from 1894 and established by Robert Laws, a disciple of David Livingstone. The Old Stone House, which was the home of the Laws family, is now a resthouse and museum.

MANDA WILDERNESS



Manda Wilderness

A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve. This is a genuine unspoilt wilderness - brachystegia and riverine forest, savannah, swamps and streams, mountains and miles of beaches with crystal clear fresh water. The reserve has been set up and administered with the commitment and active involvement of the local communities.

In and effort to encourage the return of big game, the communities have agreed to stop the practice of burning the forest and savannah, tree felling, snaring and hunting with dogs. The ecosystem is already starting to recover. Species found in Niassa Province ionclude buffalo, zebra, elephant, lion, leopard, sable, roan antelope and African wild dog. The birdlife in Manda Wilderness is rich and varied. The crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi provide spectacular snorkelling and diving, with about 1000 species of brightly coloured tropical fish. Marine animals include two species of otter and occasional crocodiles.

Easiest access to Manda is obtained from Malawi's Likoma Island.

VIPHYA HIGHLANDS



Viphya Highlands

The forested Viphya is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude. It is an ideal area to unwind but there are also opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.

LIKOMA ISLAND



Likoma Island

Off the eastern shore of the Lake is Likoma Island: a little piece of Malawian territory in Mozambican waters. Its history – the setting up here of the headquarters of the University Mission to Central Africa (Livingstone’s mission) in the 1880s – caused it to be retained by Malawi when the Lake was divided politically after World War II.

Likoma’s claim to fame is its cathedral (the size of Winchester’s) on which work began in 1903. This vast building has some most interesting features including stained glass and carved soapstone.

The island is otherwise somewhat barren although it has some pleasant beaches. Nearby is another tiny island, Chizumulu, also Malawian territory. Access to Likoma is currently by boat or charter aircraft.

NKHATA BAY



Nkhata Bay

Better described as a large village rather than a town. It is at the most northerly point on the Lake reached by David Livingstone. Its small sheltered harbour is a focus for the Lake’s fishing industry but it is also becoming increasingly important as a tourist centre

Southern Malawi

Central Malawi - Surfing
The southern third of the country is its most populated, developed and varied region. It is also the part which shows the greatest European influence. With Blantyre-Limbe forming the commercial "capital" of Malawi, it is the region best known and most visited by those coming from overseas.

South Malawi is a region of physical contrasts. Much of the area is dominated by the River Shire (pronounced shiray) which snakes its way southwards from the Lake still running through the rift which is occupied by the Lake. The river falls some 1300ft (400m) from its exit from the Lake to the point in the south where it crosses into Mozambique. This fall brings it to just 125ft (40m) above sea level. On its journey southwards, the Shire crashes over falls and rapids (which hindered David Livingstone’s upstream journey in the past) but has its more leisurely stretches though broad plains.

There are two substantial lakes in the region: Malombe and Chilwa. The River Shire flows through Lake Malombe which is just 6ft (2m) below Lake Malawi. The lake has attracted a number of fishing villages to its shores. Chilwa, east of Zomba, is part marsh and part lake. It is accessible from Zomba and is an interesting place to visit.

South Malawi is certainly not all plains and valleys. This is the region of central Africa’s highest peak, Mount Mulanje, which rises to nearly 10000ft (3000m). Impressively, Mulanje is only seventy miles from Malawi’s lowest point, just over 100ft (30m). Not too far from Mulanje is the region’s other great massif, the Zomba Plateau. This table-like mountain is over 6000ft (1800m) above sea level with sheer scarp-like edges.

To the west of the Middle Shire Valley is the continuation of the Dedza Highlands and to the east is a high ridge, the Shire Highlands, a plateau area standing at 3300ft (1000m). Blantyre stands on this plateau but is surrounded by isolated peaks which stretch to over 5000ft (1500m).

The Lower Shire Valley is a broad flat plain of which there are excellent views as one descends the Thyolo escarpment from the plateau on the southern route out of Blantyre. Much is cultivated, including sugar estates, and the scenery greatly contrasts with that in any other part of Malawi. A national park and two game reserves are to be found here. At the southern end of the valley is Elephant Marsh, once the home of thousands of elephants but now famous for its birdlife. This natural marsh changes in size as rainfalls fluctuate. One day it may be drained to provide agricultural land.

Without the cooling effect of high altitude, the Lower Shire Valley is where Malawi reveals its tropical location by high temperatures, especially in November-December.

National Parks and places of interest...


MANGOCHI



Mangochi

Mangochi is actually sited between Lakes Malawi and Malombe but it is still seen as especially associated with the former. Previously called Fort Johnston, it was established to limit the slave traffic moving northwards towards the Lake and on to Zanzibar. Today, Mangochi has a number of historical monuments dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. These include a clock tower erected in memory of Queen Victoria and a Hotchkiss gun taken from the Gwendolen, a gun boat which patrolled Lake Malawi from 1889 to 1940. Alongside the clocktower is a simple stone memorial to the 145 lives lost when the mv Viphya sank in 1946. There is also a museum and modern Catholic Cathedral in the town. Although just off the main M3 road, Mangochi is certainly worth visiting.

BLANTYRE-LIMBE



Blantyre-Limbe

is the country’s commercial capital and the largest urban area in Malawi, with a current population in excess of half a million. This settlement has its origins with the Scottish missionaries from the time of David Livingstone (It is named after Livingstone’s birthplace in Scotland.) Today it is unquestionably the centre of Malawi’s industry and commerce. Strictly two towns, Limbe and Blantyre form a continuous urban area yet retain their individualities and separate cores. Blantyre has the status and much of the administrative functions but Limbe is the more industrial.

The centre of Blantyre is conveniently compact with most of the services and shops around its triangular central core. This compactness belies the suburban sprawl reaching up towards the surrounding hills.

Blantyre has a number of historical buildings of interest. These include the original town hall (Old Boma) and Mandala House, built in 1882 as the headquarter of the African Lakes Company. It was Malawi's first two-storey building and is believed now to be the country's oldest house. Perhaps the most impressive is St Michael and All Angels church, built by men with no training in architecture, construction or even brick-making.

Visits can also be made to the Museum of Malawi and Carlsberg Brewery, which lie bewteen the two town centres, as well as the tobacco auction floors on the edge of Limbe. Both towns have a good range of shops, markets and services. Blantyre-Limbe has its own international airport at Chileka.

KASUNGU



Kasungu National Park

In the west of the Central Region, and bordering Zambia, is Kasungu National Park, an 800 sq mile (2100 sq km) area of natural woodland andbush with occasional stretches of more open grass. Poaching has reduced the number of some species of animals but there is still of wildlife to be seen. Elephants and antelopes are common, as are small herds of buffalo and zebra. Predators include leopards, hyenas, servals and jackals. There is a significant number of hippos in the lake at Lifupa and, as elsewhere in Malawi, the birdwatcher is well catered for.

This is a park which is relatively easy to drive around. Access to the park has been greatly improved in recent years and it is relatively easy to reach from Lilongwe (approx. 100 miles/160km).

ZOMBA



Zomba & The Zomba Plateau

Zomba is the former capital of the country and seat of government, just forty miles north of Blantyre. In a beautiful setting below the plateau of the same name, this was the first settlement of the colonial administration. It has some interesting buildings and monuments. The Cobbe Barracks are home to what were the King’s African Rifles (now the Malawi Rifles) and a clocktower serves as their World War I memorial. The Gymkhana Club and old Residency of the first commissioner of Nyasaland are wonderful relics of the town's colonial past.

Zomba is also home to the University of Malawi, the old parliament buildings and one of the country’s State Houses. A small botanical garden and wonderfully sited golf course make the most of the lush low slopes of the plateau. Some 15 km (9 miles) or so outside Zomba is the notorious Mikuyu Jail, where Dr Banda incarcerated many of his political prisoners. There is simple accommodation in the town but the Zomba Plateau is often the choice of tourists.

The Zomba Plateau is a unique great slab of a mountain rising to 6000ft (1800m), it has vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress but elsewhere the vegetation is wild and mixed. The plateau top is criss-crossed by streams and there are tumbling waterfalls and still lakes. There are driveable tracks right round the top from which are views of such splendour that they were described in colonial times as "the best in the British Empire". Whether walking or driving, there is always something to see. Wildlife includes leopards, although sightings are rare. More in evidence are giant butterflies and, on the lower slopes, baboons. Birdlife includes the long-crested eagle and the augur buzzard.

LIWONDE



Liwonde National Park

Although only 220 sq miles (580 sq km), Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all the game parks. It is about 100 miles (160 km) north of Blantyre and only rather more than half that distance from the hotels on the southern Lakeshore. Additionally, game viewing is enhanced because the River Shire flows along its western border.

Wildlife includes quite large numbers of elephants and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Antelope include kudu, sable and bushbuck. There are lions and leopards and, more recently, the black rhino has been re-introduced. Birdlife is exceptionally varied. The river attracts fish eagles and weaver birds build their nests in the thin woodland. Pel’s fishing owl is often seen at dusk along the river’s edge

LOWER SHIRE VALLEY



Lower Shire Valley

South west of Blantyre, the Shire river enters its final phase before leaving the country and joing the great Zambezi in Mozambique. This is the Lower Shire Valley, an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves. The river descends to the lower valley via a series of rapids and waterfalls before broadening out to meander along a wide floodplain utilised by vast sugar plantations. These are Malawi's lowest areas, with altitudes below 50 metres above sea level. Access down to the Lower Shire Valley is along the M1 south of Blantyre and down the steep Thyolo Escarpment, which affords glorious views into the valley. Once in the valley, game vieiwng is offered in the Majete Wildlife Reserve, Lengwe National Park and Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve.

Another important element of the Lower Shire Valley is its cultural heritage. The Lower Shire Heritage Trust’s objective is to preserve and promote the culture of the Lower Shire Valley and the traditional ways of life of the people of the area. At the gate of the park is a heritage centre – Tisunge! (which is the Chi Chewa for ‘Let us preserve!’) – Lower Shire Heritage Centre – boasting a small museum, an arts & craft shop, a library, and there are plans for a children’s club, a repository and a weaving area. Many ethnographic objects, from traditional and modern culture, have been collected in the villages with the aid of staff from the Department of National Parks, the Department of Culture and many volunteers. These objects, together with archaeological findings and the history and environment of the park, shall form part of the exhibit which is in the process of being set up. The Trust, through Tisunge! has also initiated several projects relating to the preservation of culture and the environment.

Before Livingstone’s arrival the Lower Shire Valley was famous for its weaving industry using locally grown cotton. In colonial times the raw cotton was sold to the English and shipped to England where the cloth was made and hence the weaving industry in Malawi completely disappeared. The cotton is still locally grown and the Trust, with the aid of the National Museum of Malawi in Blantyre, has reintroduced the traditional weaving, spinning and dying in the villages surrounding Lengwe National Park. The people have picked up the trade and this locally made, beautiful, cloth is now sold at the Tisunge! arts & craft shop.

The Trust also aims to assist in the preservation of the environment by planting indigenous trees along the Nkhombedzi river to strengthen its banks. This river that runs through the park and the surrounding villages is prone to flooding. The planting and care of the trees is the responsibility of the local football and netball teams. This year the Trust hopes to start a small plantation of 10,000 indigenous trees on land made available by one of the local Group Village Headman – Chief Singano – who himself is an ardent conservationist. Visits and guided tours to Tisunge! and other cultural sites in the area can be arranged.


MOUNT MULANJE



Mount Mulanje

Mount Mulanje
The scale of this truly magnificent mountain has to be seen to be appreciated. Its bare rock flanks tower to almost 10000ft (3000m), dwarfing all that surrounds it. It lies to the east of Blantyre and is easily accessible. Visitors can drive round the foot of the massif in a day but even more attractive is to trek and camp on the mountains. There are choices between quite gentle walking and serious climbing. Arrangement can be made to hire camping equipment and the services of guides.

Once on the mountain the vegetation changes with altitude and there’s plenty of wildlife from the klipspringer, a tiny antelope, to various other small mammals and, of course, a variety of birds. The latter include buzzard, the black eagle and countless white-necked ravens. Fishing for trout is possible in the River Lichenya which drains the south-western slopes.

THYOLO TEA ESTATES



Thyolo Tea Estates

Between Blantyre and Mount Mulanje are the Thyolo (pronounced "Cho’lo") tea estates. Tea has been grown here since 1908 and the primly trimmed bushes (strictly trees) give the whole area the appearance of a neatly kept but vast garden. By arrangement it is possible to tour some of the estates and see something of the work of these plantations.

Malawian tea can now be found in many local supermarkets in the United Kingdom particularly in the Fairtrade products section.

LAKE MALAWI



Lake Malawi National Park

This is the world’s first freshwater national park and a World Heritage Site, and is situated at Cape Maclear. The park includes a land area around the cape and bay as well as the Lake and islands up to 100 metres (330ft) off shore. Here is a veritable aquarium of tropical fish providing a colourful kaleidoscopic display. The countless thousands of freshwater fish, the mbuna, are more abundant and varied here than anywhere else in the world. Boats are available for hire and the fish will feed directly from the hand. Away from the Lake, the park has baboons, antelope and hyrax, and, of course, there is a great variety of birdlife including fish eagles, cormorants and hamerkops.

Excellent new up-market operations at Cape Maclear combine accommodation with lake activities. Danforth Yachting have a lakeside lodge as well as a 38ft catamaran; while Mumbo Island and Domwe Island Camps offer idyllic island getaways. Cape Mac Lodge offers accommodation and activities from Chembe village. However the new Pumulani Lodge, already world renown is one of Lake Malawi's top lodges.

On the southern lakeshore is the evocatively named Monkey Bay, but the visitor is more likely to see signs of industry rather than monkeys. This is a little Lake port with a sheltered harbour behind the Cape Maclear headland. It is a construction and repair centre for the Lake’s limited shipping.

The greatest concentration of lodges and hotels is on the Southern Lakeshore between Mangochi and Monkey Bay. Along this stretch are half a dozen or so hotels, most with adjacent camping sites. They vary from sophisticated properties, with golf course and airstrip, to more simple resorts. All have excellent uncrowded beaches and offer a range of activities on the Lake. These hotels are all low rise and quite separate from each other, giving the visitor a sense of privacy and isolation. Their locations, just off the M10 road, make them readily accessible from Lilongwe or Blantyre. Most impressive is the recently refurbished Club Makokola, neighbour to the popular Sunbird Nkopola Lodge.

MWABVI WILDLIFE RESERVE



Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve

Located at the southernmost tip of Malawi. Under 350 sq km it is the smallest of the Malawian reseerves, and also the least accessible. Nevertheless it boasts a variety of habitats unequalled by the larger reserves, and, because of its remoteness, a wilderness atmosphere that is redolent of the old Africa of Livingstone and Stanley.

Travel through the park is only possible by 4-wheel drive, or on foot, but the reserve is manned, and game walks can be arranged with the staff. Sadly, wildlife has declined in this area, although lions do occasionally still visit from neighbouring Mozambique and the intrepid hiker may still see Nyala and other antelope, and buffalo can be heard bathing in the Mwabvi river of an evening.

However, a recent welcome development is the establishment of Project African Wilderness (PAW). This is an organisation formed to protect and restore the Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve. Its aim is to work with local people and the Government of Malawi and integrate social, economic and environmental solutions to create a sustainable future for the reserve and improve local community development.


Further Information


GETTING TO MALAWI



Getting to Malawi

Most visitors arrive by air, landing at Lilongwe or Blantyre. Lilongwe International Airport lies some 26 km (16 miles) north of the capital and Chileka Airport is just 13 km (8 miles) outside Blantyre.

For intercontinental flights from Europe, the only direct flight is offered by Air Malawi, once a week between London and Lilongwe. South African Airways operates connecting services through Johannesburg most days of the week. Kenya Airways has a similar frequency connecting through Nairobi from London; also operating in conjunction with KLM from Amsterdam through Nairobi. British Airways has a weekly service connecting through Nairobi as well as operating with Air Malawi via the regional hubs of Johannesburg, Lusaka, Dar es Salaam and Harare. Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airlines offer similar connecting services through Harare and Addis Ababa respectively.

Regional links between Malawi and Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe are provided by Air Malawi. Links from neighbouring countries are also provided by an air charter company based in Malawi, the Nyasa Air Taxi. There are also road routes into Malawi from Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.

VISAS



Visas

A full valid passport is required for entry into Malawi. For tourist visits, visas are NOT required by citizens of most Commonwealth countries, the USA, most European Union countries and certain other countries. Please refer to your nearest Malawi diplomatic mission/high commission.

In the United Kingdom, The Malawi High Commission is situated at:
70 Winnington Rd
London N2 0TX
Tel: +44 (0)20 84555624
Tel (visas): +44 (0)20 32351077
Email: malawihighcom@btconnect.com

BEST TIME TO VISIT



Best time to visit

For most people the dry (winter) season is most attractive (i.e. April/May to October/November). However, some of the best birdwatching can be had from November to April and the orchids of Nyika are best seen from December to March/April.

CURRENCY



Currency

The Malawi unit of currency is the kwacha (abbreviated to MK internationally; K locally). The kwacha is divided into 100 tambala. Practically speaking, only the kwacha is used. Banks in the towns are open weekdays from 0800 to 1300. Mobile banks operate along the Lakeshore and in more remote areas (check days/times locally). US dollars is however the most preferred currency (cash and travellers cheques) There is no limit to the amount of foreign currency brought into Malawi but it must be declared and accounted for on departure. Only MK200 may be exported.

CLIMATE



Climate

Malawi’s tropical climate is moderated across much of the country by altitude. Two seasons can be recognised; the dry season lasts from April through to November while the wet season lasts some four months, December to March. Squeezed in between these two seasons is a hot and rather humid period which generally characterises November and early December. Over the last decade or so, the wet season has often been delayed. Rains which used to start in early December now, quite regularly, don’t occur until the New Year.

Even in the so-called wet season, the rains are usually short-lived storms, as is typical of the tropics, and at no time does the climate seriously inhibit the traveller. Much of the country is at an altitude which keeps potentially high temperatures down to very acceptable levels. Only in the Lower Shire Valley can temperatures become unpleasantly high, and then only in the summer months.

Although the period May to October is often described as the ideal time to travel in Malawi, the rainy season is attractive for the displays of orchids on Nyika Plateau, for birdwatching in some of the Reserves and for seeing Malawi’s vegetation at its most lush. The main drawback of a visit in the wet season is in driving the dirt roads including those within the game parks. It also has to be borne in mind that, as everywhere, game viewing is best towards the end of the dry season.

Temperatures vary from below freezing (at night on the high plateaux in July) to 38°C/100°F (in the Lower Shire Valley in December). To generalise is difficult but through much of the year, and in regions visited by travellers, temperatures during the day are usually in the mid-20°C/mid-70°F. In the short hot season, November-December, maximum temperatures may rise to the lower 30°C/upper 80°F. Lake Malawi’s surface temperatures vary from about 24°C/75°F to 28°C/82°F.

Rainfall varies greatly. Some years in the early 1990s were exceptionally dry. Really high figures are rare. Parts of the Lakeshore can receive 50 to 60 inches (1270 to 1525 mm) a year but Lilongwe’s and Blantyre’s figures are less than half that. Much of the rain falls in short but heavy bursts.