“The warm heart of Africa” boasts countless lakes, gorgeous, varied scenery and friendly, smiling locals. Malawi is a long, thin, landlocked country with numerous national parks and game reserves all home to an impressive variety of wildlife and birds. Though not a Big Five destination, the 11 national parks and game reserves throughout Malawi still offer a uniquely African experience.
Renowned for the friendliness of its people, Malawi enjoys a relaxed pace of life that is almost impossible not to get caught up in. The easygoing nature of Malawi means that it’s an incredibly safe place to visit and one can happily roam the streets, exploring the markets and alleyways for hidden gems.
Be sure to sample the local fish dishes – they are a national specialty and are delicious!
With a geographic diversity that belies its size, Malawi has several spectacular mountain ranges that offer superb hiking and trekking, such as Mount Mulanje – central Africa’s highest peak. The birdlife in Malawi is renowned, particularly in Liwonde National Park where hundreds of species sing the sun up and down. The Malawian crown jewel though is of course the breathtaking Lake Malawi – one of the great lakes of Africa.
Teeming with more fish species than any other lake on Earth, Lake Malawi supports many local livelihoods and is a major tourist attraction. With its crystal clear waters and massive coastline, Lake Malawi provides a full array of beach activities such as sailing, scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The quaint fishing villages surrounding the lake are well worth a visit too, where local fishermen carry on the techniques handed down to them from generations before. Against a magnificent mountain backdrop, Lake Malawi is the center of all activities in Malawi and has a variety of accommodation options to choose from.
The most picturesque part of Lake Malawi is in the south where Lake Malawi National Park is; home to hundreds of fish species, including the colourful cichlids. Inside the park the scenery is scintillating. Steep hills carpeted with trees tumble down into the deep blue water of the lake, while the shoreline is punctuated by islands, bays and large granite boulders. The clarity of the (not salty!) water and the great abundance of marine life make it ideal for snorkeling and diving, while the absence of currents ensures it is wonderful for swimming, sailing, kayaking and watersports.
Further up the Shire is Liwonde National Park and although fairly small in comparison to the rest of Malawi’s Wildlife parks, is a very popular park to visit. Wildlife includes large numbers of elephants, buffalo, hippos and crocodiles as well as kudu, sable and bushbuck. Predators include leopards (not frequently seen) and hyena. It also has an impressive variety of birds. Game viewing is enhanced because the Shire River flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris as well as the usual ones on foot or in 4x4s.
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. It is one of the big success stories in African conservation, as after decades of poaching, hard work has turned the reserve back into a sustainable development as well as the only official Big 5 Game Park in Malawi. Now previously-endangered species live and breed there and you can look forward to amazing encounters.
Beyond the magnificent Lake, the floor of the Rift Valley rises steeply resulting in mountains and plateau which form a dramatic yet scenic contrast to Lake Malawi, Nyika National Park, the largest park in Malawi. It is a cooler area, covered in montane grasslands and has some of the most spectacular vistas. With a high concentration of leopard and a variety of other game including roan antelope, it is a great safari destination. The park also offers a lot for birders, with over 400 species recorded.