Destinations

 

Welcome to Malawi

Malawi
Promoted as the 'Warm Heart of Africa', Malawi is a long, thin country renowned for the unequalled friendliness of its people, unspoilt national parks and wildlife reserves, and the beaches and tropical fish life of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The countries layout is dominated by the vast lake, as well as the Great Rift Valley that cuts through the country from north to south, creating fertile valleys, cool mountains and verdant plateaus. Lake Malawi is an irresistible attraction for travellers with its beaches, resorts, watersports and outstanding variety of fish life a magnet for divers and snorkellers. The lake is home to a bigger variety of fish species than any other freshwater lake on earth, most of them protected within the Lake Malawi National Park at its southern tip. Most visitors head for the small, restful village at Cape Maclear which, along with its offshore islands, is part of the park. Equally popular, Nkhata Bay to the north has bays, beaches and various water activities. Spread along the length of the lakeshore are numerous traditional fishing villages, and the fishermen in their dugout canoes form a quintessential postcard silhouette against the spectacular golden sunset.  Malawi is also blessed with numerous game reserves and national parks that are uncrowded, well stocked with animals and a renowned variety of birdlife, and offer a unique wilderness experience.
 
The Northern Nyika Plateau, at around 7,500ft (2,300m), is one of the world's highest game reserves and is a remote area located in the most unspoilt and least visited part of the country, with beautiful grasslands and waterfalls, the highest concentration of leopard in Central Africa, and famous for its abundant orchid species. To the south the best-known park is Liwonde National Park with thousands of hippos and crocodiles on the banks of the Shire River, as well as large numbers of elephants, zebra and antelope. The southern part of the country is the most developed and the most populated. Although Lilongwe is the capital, the region is home to Malawi's largest city and main commercial centre, Blantyre, which is a good base for visiting two of the area's attractions - the vast massif of Mt Mulunje, offering some of the finest hiking trails in the country, and Zomba Plateau. Malawi offers visitors a wealth of scenic highlights, culture and activities.
 
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Information & Facts

Attraction Overview

The beautiful landscapes of Malawi are diverse and offer a wide variety of things to see and do. Attractions in Malawi range from high (the Nyika Plateau is among the highest in central Africa) to the low of the majestic Rift Valley and Lake Malawi. Safaris are a popular activity in Malawi, and the game reserves are teeming with wildlife such as hippos, crocodiles, elephants, zebras, baboons, lions and leopards. Visitors can enjoy the outdoors in a number of ways, including trekking and mountain biking. Avid hikers can ascend Mount Mulanje, where steep mountain paths break into spectacular vistas. However, the most popular attraction in the country is far and away the long and narrow Lake Malawi. Situated in the Rift Valley, the lake (and the national park around it) provides visitors ample game viewing opportunities near luxury lodges and campsites that offer activities like canoeing, yachting, snorkelling, and other watersports along soft, sandy beaches. Cape Maclear, Salima, and Monkey Bay are some of the more popular sites along the lake.
 
Lake Malawi National Park: Established in 1980, Lake Malawi National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its importance in the study of evolution. The lake contains the largest number of fish species, nearly all endemic, of any lake in the world: over 1, 000 from eleven species with approximately half occurring in the Park area. The Lake Malawi National Park has some interesting attributes, including the fact that 4th century Iron Age sites have been found in the area. Mammals include baboon, vervet monkey, spotted hyena, leopard and the occasional elephant. The varied bird-life includes black eagle, fish eagle and many waders. Reptiles include the African python, crocodiles and abundant water monitor lizards, especially on Boadzulu Island.  At Cape Maclear, within Lake Malawi National Park, there are a variety of up-market operations combining accommodation with lake activities. Danforth Yachting has a lakeside lodge and a 38ft catamaran available to visitors while Mumbo Island and Domwe Island camps offer pleasant island retreats. Cape Mac Lodge also offers accommodation and activities from Chembe village. Pumulani has recently opened as one of the lake's finest lodge destinations. The National Park is on the scenic northern tip of the Nankhumba peninsula, which divides the southern end of Lake Malawi, with a number of sandy bays including a fine beach near Chembe and Otter Point. There are marked seasonal variations in wind, temperature and rainfall.
 
Monkey Bay:  A small port town on the southern end of Lake Malawi, Monkey Bay is Malawi's best-known resort. Despite this, the facilities are minimal, with only a supermarket and outdoor market, and a single bank. Popular with tourists headed to Cape Maclear, Monkey Bay offers sandy beaches with some diving opportunities, and there are diving schools available (though their quality is not considered great). Other popular activities in Monkey Bay include kayaking and cruises to Cape Maclear and Liwonde National Park. Of course, the bay gets its name from the large monkey population in the area, and spotting them can be great fun.
 
Mount Mulanje:  Mount Mulanje rises from the plains of southern Malawi with steep cliffs protecting a vast wilderness of granite peaks, dense forest, grassy meadows and trickling streams. Hire a guide (essential) and porters from Mulanje village, and buy any provisions that you may need. The first day's hike is testing as you climb steep mountain paths. Once you reach the top, you enter an enchanting landscape; there are wood huts where you can sleep and enough trails for days of walking. Climbers can scale some of the peaks and the prominent granite crags also provide a challenge. The best time to hike is in the early dry season (May to July) when temperatures are moderate (it can get reasonably cold at night on the plateau). Be prepared for rain whenever you visit.
 
Nkhotakota:  A basic African town on the shores of Lake Malawi, Nkhotakota has a traditional market and a few hotels and bars, but the main attractions are in the surrounding areas. The Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve has hot springs and hippo pools, and the beaches of Lake Malawi offer activities like kayaking, snorkelling and cruises. The Kassasa Club has a golf course as well. Nkhotakota played an important part in Malawi's history as the place where David Livingstone met with slave traders in an attempt to end the slave trade in Malawi, and knowledgeable guides conduct walking tours of historical points of interest around Nkhotakota.
 
Salima:  Salima, the easiest entry point to Lake Malawi, is 1-2 hours from Lilongwe. It has great resorts, such as Livingstonia Beach Resort, with lovely beaches. Signposted just before Salima is Kuti Wildlife Park which has campsites, A-frame chalets and a small restaurant, as well as bar and barbeque facilities. Animals found in the park include sable, nyala, zebra, wildebeest, ostrich, giraffe and waterbuck. If you plan to visit during the rainy season, be sure to take a 4x4 for bad roads.
 
 

Business

Business in Malawi is quite formal; business cards are usually exchanged on meeting, accompanied by a firm handshake. Punctuality is important and dress should be formal; lightweight suits with a tie are acceptable. English is Malawi's official language and all business is conducted in English. Malawians tend to be very polite and thoughtful, and expect the same treatment in return. Business hours usually start fairly early; from 7.30am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.
 

Climate

Variations in altitude in Malawi lead to wide differences in climate. The vast water surface of Lake Niassa has a cooling effect, but because of the low elevation, the margins of the lake have long hot seasons and high humidity, with a mean annual temperature of 24° C (75° F ). Precipitation is heaviest along the northern coast of Lake Malawi, where the average is more than 163 cm (64 in) per year; about 70% of the country averages about 75–100 cm (30–40 in) annually. In general, the seasons may be divided into the cool (May to mid-August); the hot (mid-August to November); the rainy (November to April), with rains continuing longer in the northern and eastern mountains; and the post-rainy (April to May), with temperatures falling in May. Lilongwe, in central Malawi, at an elevation of 1, 041 m (3, 415 ft), has a moderately warm climate with adequate rainfall. The average daily minimum and maximum temperatures in November, the hottest month, are 17° C (63° F ) and 29° C (84° F ), respectively; those in July, the coolest month, are 7° C (45° F ) and 23° C (73° F ).
 

Communications

The international dialling code for Malawi is +265. The outgoing code is 101 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 10127 for South Africa). There are no city/area codes required. The telephone system is not very reliable, but Internet, email and fax are available in most towns and tourist areas. The GSM 900 cell phone network gives coverage to most of the country and is compatible with most international operators.
 

Electricity

Electrical current is 220/240 volts, 50Hz. Three-pin, rectangular blade plugs are standard.
 

Getting Around

 

Airports
 
Lilongwe International Airport (LLW)
 
Location:  The airport is situated 12 miles (19km) from Lilongwe.
 
Getting to the city:  Minibuses are available to the city, however those travelling with luggage may find them too cramped and choose to take a taxi.
 
Time:  Local time is GMT +2.
 
Contacts:  Tel: +265 (0)170 0811.
 
Car rental:  Most major car rental companies are represented at the airport.
 
Airport Taxis:  Taxis are available to the city, the journey takes 30-40 minutes and fares start from around MWK4, 500.
 
Facilities:  Facilities are limited, but include an ATM, post office, restaurant, bar and duty-free shopping.
 
Parking:  Parking is available at the airport.
 
Departure Tax:  US$30 for passengers on international flights.
 
 
Blantyre-Chileka International Airport (BLZ)
 
Location:  The airport is situated nine miles (16km) from Blantyre.
 
Getting to the city:  A bus service is available to the city centre.
 
Time: Local time is GMT +2.
 
Contacts:  Tel: +265 (0)169 4322.
 
Car rental:  Car rental is available.
 
Facilities:  A restaurant and bar are situated in the terminal building.
 
Departure Tax: US$30 for passengers on international flights.
 
 
Road and Rail
 
Road travel fine with car hire readily available but off road vehicles most certainly required to get to the true tourist spots one wants to visit. Rail travel is available in parts but is for the budget traveller.
 

Language

English is the official language, but Chichewa is more commonly spoken.
 

Money

The official currency is the Malawi Kwacha (MWK), which is divided into 100 tambalas. Travellers cheques and foreign currencies are accepted by banks, authorised hotels and other institutions in the main town centres; bureaux de change are also available. The US dollar is the easiest currency to exchange. Credit cards are not widely accepted and ATMs are scarce and should not be relied upon. Exchanging currency on the black market is not recommended.
 

Passport Visa

All foreign passengers to Malawi must hold return/onward tickets and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination, and sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter Malawi, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area.
 
NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources. Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
 

Time

UTC +2.
 

Tipping

Service charges are not included in hotel and restaurant bills, and tipping is at the client's discretion. It is common practice to tip guides in the national parks.
 

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