Enjoy the water – and waterside – activities
Like a shard of blue crystal creating a watery buffer between Malawi and the countries of Mozambique and Tanzania is Lake Malawi.
The famed lake is 560 kilometers long and 75 kilometers wide. It is dotted with small islets and isolated coves that could be reached by boat.
With so much water around, kayaking and canoeing are favorite recreational activities. You will find that some resorts already have their own fleets of kayaks ready to accommodate paddlers.
Bird watching along the coast of Cape Maclear is also a good way to pass time. Watch a variety of birds, including cormorants, hamerkops, and fish eagles, dive into the lake to hunt their food, and marvel at the amazing diversity of colors, shapes, and sizes flying in and around the area.
Lastly, the beaches along the coast offer peace and tranquility to those wishing to flee the crunches of modern living. Bask under the sun in solitude, or watch the locals as they fish for their evening meal in an almost meditative manner.
Try freshwater diving
Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa. Its serene tropical waters are known to harbor more animal species than the two larger African lakes – Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika – combined.
It is also regarded as one of the best freshwater diving spots in the world. One reason for this is the fact that this shark-free lake is home to 800 cichlid species.
Now the cichlid is by no means an unfamiliar sight to most of us. The fish’s bright colors and small size make it a favorite mainstay of aquariums all over the world.
But in fact, 52 cichlid species are already classified as endangered, and 106 are considered critically endangered. Therefore, putting these fishes in aquariums is not the most environmentally aware thing to do.
Lake Malawi is one of the few places where one could still see and appreciate this marine animal in its natural habitat.
The best time to take the plunge is between the months of August and December, when the waters are clear and visibility can reach 30 meters deep.
Malawi is touted in the West as “Africa for the Beginners.” Yet despite this nickname, the country is almost always bypassed in favor of the more popular game reserves in Kenya and Tanzania.
This apparent weakness is also Malawi’s strength, for as a result of many tourists’ neglect, Malawi’s wilderness remains largely unspoilt, giving the safari adventurers who do come to visit some real value for their money.
With nine national parks and wildlife reserves that cover a variety of landscape, expect to face different challenges on your land travel.
Hop on a 4×4 truck and watch the lions hunt for their prey. A boat safari along the Shire River might give you a chance to have close encounters with hippos. And a horseback safari at the Liwonde National Park may end up with you journeying alongside antelopes and zebras.
See what many have passed up, and be grateful for the small crowds and virgin environment that await you.
Visit the villages
Tourists who are searching for cultural experiences may find a treasure trove of knowledge when they try living in real mud houses in Malawi. Overnight stay with the host is possible. Pottery and art classes can also be taken up in some of the villages.
Most of the colonial buildings, including churches, have been preserved in these villages. These structures date back to the time when David Livingstone stayed in the region.
There are also Stone Age rock paintings near Dedza.
The importance of these relics has made the site part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Museums also abound in Malawi. While most of them are dedicated to showcasing the country’s way of life during the British colonial period, some museums, like the one in Blantyre, document the Arab slave trade that existed when Malawi was still part of the Maravi Empire.
Shop in Lilongwe
Malawians are known for their artistry and excellent craftsmanship. With the most basic tools and materials, a Malawian artist is able to impressively depict the peaceful scenes of everyday Malawi life.
From woodcarvings to pottery, from basketware to fine jewelry – vendors sell everything at the Craft’s Market and Old Town Mall in Lilongwe.
Pick what you like, and bring it home, and carry with you the memories of Malawi, to remind you to relax a little when you return to your workaday rat-race world.