Why should I go on holiday to Malawi?
Malawi is an extraordinary country, and I actually think that the word holiday does not fit so well. Personally, I prefer to talk about experiencing Malawi during a special trip. Because that’s what it is, you don’t visit Malawi, you experience it. There’s something unique here in the air and in the soil, and I want people to come and feel that for themselves.
As a huge nature lover, I can enjoy the beautiful landscapes in Malawi for hours. From rolling hills to high plateaus, and from dense forests to of course the magical Lake Malawi. Also, this country is Africa’s newest Big 5 safari destination, with ever-increasing wildlife populations in the various parks. The longer I live and work here, the more I understand that conservation cannot succeed without involving the people in an area. Malawi has many challenges, but the people are very warm and hospitable and I believe they deserve many more opportunities for a better income.
By travelling to Malawi, you can contribute directly to job creation!
And then why shouldn’t I travel to Malawi?
Malawi is a relatively unknown destination. So there is no mass tourism here, which I think is fantastic. But it also means that you don’t have all the luxury or extensive facilities here that you will find in ”competing” countries such as South Africa and Kenya.
Do you want a lot of choices in accommodations and restaurants? Then Malawi is not for you. And also not if you prefer to drive on tarmac roads, like to go to shopping malls and want to pay with your credit card wherever you go. Do you panic when there is no electricity, running water or worse if there is no Wi-Fi? Then I advise you to make other plans…
Do you think it would be a great idea to come to Malawi to volunteer so that you can help poor people and take selfies with toddlers on your lap? Then I would urge you to remove not only Malawi, but every other country from your list for now and first take a look at this.
Are the people of Malawi poor?
There are several organizations that each in their own way calculate how rich countries around the world are. Malawi is almost always in the top 10 poorest countries. Between 60-70% of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.90 a day.
This creates major challenges, such as children who don’t go to school or only for a very short time and even have to marry young, limited access to health care and unsustainable use of natural resources. Money is needed to break this cycle. People want to develop their skills and I often hear how many people want to work as entrepreneurs to be independent and build a better life for themselves and their children.
However, this does not mean that it’s a big mess here. Malawians are proud people and are happy to show you their country. By making responsible, fair and sustainable choices during your trip, you contribute to a better future for the people in the Warm Heart of Africa!
Is it safe to travel independently through Malawi?
Yes! But… like anywhere else in the world; use your common sense. Although Malawi is one of the safest countries in Africa, that, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that there is no pickpocketing or carjacking. Mainly around busy places in the cities.
Of course, safety is not just about crime. Traffic can be quite a challenge for those who travel independently. The cities are not as crowded and chaotic as many other big cities, so in that sense driving there is doable. But people drive on the left in Malawi, and there are few to no road signs. Besides, Google Maps is not accurately everywhere and there are sometimes holes in the road. Also, be careful with suddenly crossing pedestrians and cyclists. And as soon as you get outside the city, goats, cows and donkeys walk all over the roads.
In short, it is certainly safe to travel through Malawi independently, but make sure you are well prepared in terms of your mindset. Don’t rush anywhere and avoid travelling in the dark, whether you drive yourself or not. There are no street lights, holes in the road you can see badly anyway and for many cars and cyclists lights, unfortunately, are a luxury…
Is public transport complicated?
On the main routes in the country, public transport is quite well organized in Malawi. There are daily different types of taxis, minibuses and large buses between and around the cities. For the large (night) buses you can buy a ticket in advance, so you can be sure that you have a seat. In other words, that you don’t have to sit on the floor in the aisle. Taxi’s and minibuses run off and on during the day, so when it’s full, just wait for the next one. Most do have a sign under the windscreen with the next destination, but always check this with the driver to be sure. He sometimes forgets to change that sign. Don’t rely on north or south, because I’ve heard a number of times that the sun is always in the north. So…
For smaller distances, so within and around the cities and villages, you can use a tuk-tuk, motor-taxi or a kabaza, a bicycle taxi. Before you jump on the back, discuss the route and price, because some kabazas avoid hills. Very understandable, because that is heavy pedalling. Especially with me on the back… But that means you will be on the road a lot longer than you had planned.
What are the tourist highlights? Name 3 to 5
Lake Malawi has been the number 1 highlight of the country for years. It is the reason why Malawi started getting travellers for the first time. You will mainly hear about Cape Maclear in the south, Senga Bay in central Malawi and Nkhata Bay in the north. You will find both backpackers and luxury accommodations here and can do various activities, such as kayaking and snorkelling.
Other tourist highlights of Malawi are Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to go on safari. The coffee and tea estates of Satemwa are also included in the most popular routes.
And where would you send travellers?
I also think you haven’t really been to Malawi if you haven’t spent time at the Lake. However, I’m not such a fan of the places I mentioned above. Lake Malawi is so big that there are a number of beautiful ‘hidden gems’ in terms of beaches, with super nice small and personal accommodations. If you really want something special, choose an island experience. Lake Malawi has a beautiful barefoot luxury lodge on a small island where you can relax 300%. If you want a cheaper option, there is also a simple eco-friendly tented camp on another island. In both places you are in the middle of nature, surrounded by all the beauty of both forests and clear water.
In terms of safaris in Liwonde and Majete, the same applies. The parks are too beautiful not to visit, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in a large lodge. There are more and more small accommodations from local owners who put a lot of energy and passion into it to give you an unforgettable time.
While you are in the south, don’t only visit the tea plantations, but also enjoy stunning hikes at Mount Mulanje. There are a few waterfalls with natural rock pools along the way to cool off. And it’s unlikely you’ll see other people here!
Northern Malawi is much more undiscovered than the rest of the country. But wow, how special it is there! The coffee farmers at Ntchisi help to protect the country’s only rainforest. In Vwaza Marsh you can sit for weeks, without running into anyone. While there are many elephants, buffaloes and hippos roaming around. And at the Mushroom Farm Eco Lodge, you can see with your own eyes what the real meaning of working with the community is. While enjoying the most spectacular views without seeing buildings anywhere!
I don’t think this African country is very big. When I travel for a month, do I have enough to do?
No, a month is far too long to come to Malawi if you, as a standard tourist, only want to take some quick photos everywhere. But do you want real adventures and the slow travel experience? Then a month in Malawi is even short! I advise people to stay in each place for at least 3 nights, but preferably longer. You not only have the advantage that you don’t have to pack your things every day and constantly feel stress and rush. By staying somewhere longer, you hear the most beautiful stories of people who sincerely want to get to know you. They give you the very best local tips on things you can see, do, hear, feel and taste. Give yourself time to really take it all in. Feel the space to go with the flow and be open to new experiences. That way you make memories for life!
Is there malaria in Malawi?
Yes, Malawi is unfortunately malaria-risk area. The highest mountains and plateaus are an exception. In all accommodations, you will therefore find mosquito nets. Fortunately, the people here know exactly how to deal with malaria. So don’t hesitate if you’re not feeling well and go see a doctor. Whether you are in the capital or in a remote fishing village, there are malaria tests and the right medication available everywhere. By putting on long clothes in the evening and using mosquito repellent, for example, you reduce the risk as well. Of course, you can also choose to take malaria prophylaxis during your trip. Remember that this does not offer 100% protection!
And finally, when I want to travel to Malawi, how can you help me?
With my tour company, I specialize in designing sustainable trips for people like you, who not only want to have a fantastic time but also want their money to be spent positively. You can always contact me because I like to chat about how your dream trip can have a positive impact on both the people and nature in Malawi. And would you rather choose and book everything yourself? Then you will definitely enjoy the e-book I’m busy finalizing.
I look forward to welcoming you to the Warm Heart of Africa!