Defined by crystal clear Lake Malawi, this long and thin land-locked country offers visitors an outstanding freshwater beach experience, the ideal complement to a safari in neighbouring Zambia or in one of its own vastly improved wildlife reserves.
Originally named Lake Nyasa by David Livingstone, vsitors to Lake Malawi can choose from a selection of castaway boutique accommodation, ranging from eco lodges with hot water bucket showers to luxury villa-style properties with infinity pools and superb dining options. Most properties have wonderful lake views and guests can enjoy many water-based activities, typically including snorkelling, diving, kayaking, sailing, fishing and sunset cruises. Some of the best fresh water diving and snorkelling is found at Mumbo Island towards the southwest of the lake.
In Mozambican waters, but belonging to Malawi, Likoma Island is the largest of Lake Malawi’s inhabited islands and here you can visit the surprisingly grand Anglican St Peter’s Cathedral, built by missionaries following in the footsteps of David Livingstone. An exclusive beach lodge is also located on the north-eastern Mozambican shore of the lake and is easier to reach from Malawi. Ideal for those seeking the ultimate in luxurious seclusion, the lakeside setting here is exquisite, with stunning white sandy beaches and virgin wilderness backdrop. There is also a sleep-out option here.
Malawi’s most popular reserve, Liwonde National Park, is located on the east bank of the upper reaches of the Shire River, between Lake Malawi and the commercial hub Blantyre. The Shire Valley forms the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and game activities here centre on the river, where visitors should get good sightings of impala, kudu, waterbuck and other species of antelope, as well as elephant, buffalo and hippo. Bird watching is also outstanding, and as there are no lions in Liwonde, visitors can opt for a walking safari, bike ride or canoe trip along the river.
About four hours drive south of Liwonde, Majete Wildlife Reserve is a virtually undiscovered game reserve in the Lower Shire Valley. Majete is one of Africa’s huge conservation success stories, as large mammals have been successfully re-introduced in recent years. Here you can hope to see elephant, black rhino, leopard, buffalo, zebra, sable antelope, hartebeest, suni and eland, as well as many other smaller species. Lion have also recently been re-introduced to Majete, making it a big-five reserve once again.
The tea estates of the fertile Thyolo region in the far south of the country are found in the foothills of Mount Mulanje, Malawi’s highest mountain peak, and provide an interesting stop on an in-depth tour of the country. This area is a scenic wonderland of rivers, rolling hills, woodlands and forests.
The diversity and accessibility of different habitats, including residual montane rainforest in the south, makes Malawi a paradise for birdwatchers with around 650 recorded species. Notable species in Liwonde and the Shire Valley include Mottled spinetail, Livingstone’s flycatcher and Bohm’s bee-eater. The endangered chat, Thyolo alethe, can be spotted in the Mount Mulanje and Thyolo regions.
Beautiful Zomba Plateau and Nyika Plateau are situated high in the mountains, with breathtaking views.