The landlocked nation of Malawi doesn’t get as much press or as many visitors as its neighbouring countries – Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia or nearby Kenya – but it deserves a lot more attention – and more visitors. In fact, Lonely Planet named Malawi as one of its top 10 destinations for 2014 for “the Big Five and beach life without the crowds”.
This small country packs a mighty punch in terms of attractions, and part of its appeal is that it’s so ‘untouristy’.
Here are our 6 reasons to go to Malawi on your next African safari:
1. The beautiful lake
The ninth largest lake in the world, Lake Malawi is undoubtedly the country’s biggest drawcard. The lake stretches along the length of the country, with glittering blue clear waters and sandy beaches and over 1000 species of colourful cichlid fish. There are plenty of water activities on offer around the lake, including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, water skiing and kayaking, or you can just choose to kick back and relax on a hammock on the beach with a Malawian Carlsberg beer.
2. Friendly people
Malawi is known as the “Warm heart of Africa” because its citizens are some of the friendliest people you’ll come across anywhere in the world. Wherever you go in the country, you’ll be greeted with huge smiles, even if people can’t speak English.
A few years ago Malawi became a Big Five destination when Majete Wildlife Reserve added lion thanks to a wildlife relocation project, which was part of a major decade-long rehabilitation plan. In this beautiful park you’ll be able to spot lions, leopard, buffalo, elephant and other animals without the traffic jams and crowded roads of other more famous reserves.
4. Lake of Stars festival
This annual multi-day music festival is worth a trip to Malawi alone. Held on shores of Lake Malawi, it’s a non-stop beach party with local musicians, DJs and international acts (playing everything from afro-pop to indie rock on several stages shaded by palm trees. But it’s not just about partying: there’s a feel-good aspect to it too. Lake of Stars is a non-profit event aimed at promoting tourism to the country and supporting Malawian arts and culture, and it also raises money for community projects. In between swimming in the lake and watching performances you can get involved with the projects, from helping out at the mobile library or playing soccer with village kids.
5. Island hopping
Lake Malawi is home to some beautiful islands, from tiny Domwe and Mumbo islands, which you get to by kayaking from Cape Maclear and are uninhabited apart from small Robinson Crusoe-rustic camps where you can stay to Likoma Island, where there are bustling local communities and a handful of wonderful lodges. Then there are the three Marelli Islands, which are protected as part of the Lake Malawi National Park and are home to hippos, otters, bush babies and 300 species of birds, and the super laid back Chizumulu Island, which you can walk right around in under three hours.
6. Mountain hiking
Mt Mulanje, Central Africa’sa highest peak at 3000 metres, is a spectacular place to go hiking, with a wealth trails to choose from, which take you through dramatic green valleys, forests and waterfalls. There’s loads of wildlife to spot, from monkeys to dassies, and there are well-maintained huts along the way for you spend the night.
Inspired to plan a trip to Malawi now? We offer a range of budget overland tours to Malawi:
10 day Malawi rift valley escape
11 day Dar es Salaam to Victoria Falls (through Malawi)