Liwonde National Park
Occupying a long strip of woodland along the east bank of the Shire River, Liwonde National Park offers a one-of-a-kind safari experience.
Here, you can enjoy a boat safari, which runs along the course of the river. Hippos and crocodiles share these waters, and you may count yourself lucky to see these animals as they hunt for prey.
The river attracts a slew of other wildlife such as antelopes, warthogs, leopards, and hyenas. Lions have also taken up residence in the park. Black rhinos, while rarely seen, have been spotted foraging for food.
Birdlife is also flourishing here. The river attracts fish eagles and owls because of the abundance of fish.
The park is about 100 miles from Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre. It can be accessed by a ferry ride from the town of Liwonde. Accommodations at the Mvuu Lodge and Chinguni Hills Lodge & Camp – both within the park – are said to be exceptional.
Cape Maclear / Lake Malawi National Park
Jutting at the tip of a peninsula at the southern end of Lake Malawi is the fishing village of Cape Maclear. The village sits within the Lake Malawi National Park. The park and the surrounding islands have been collectively declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The park was created to serve as a sanctuary for the rich marine life that thrives in this part of the lake. A number of colorful cichlid species, such as mbuna, are more abundant and varied here than in any other lake on the planet. It is possible to rent a boat and feed the fish by hand.
In Cape Maclear, there is also a large baobab tree that is said to be over 800 years old. According to legend, the famed explorer Dr. David Livingstone gave sermons and speeches to the missionaries under this tree.
The islands off the coast of Cape Maclear remain unspoilt and unpopulated. There are private camps maintained there that offer water recreation activities such as kayaking, sailing, and snorkeling.
Lilongwe is a bustling city of one million people. It is the capital of Malawi and also the main gateway to the country.
While the economic and commercial heart remains in Blantyre, it is worth noting that the capital Lilongwe has its own charms to make it an ideal travel destination.
The city only became the seat of government in 1975, after the country’s first president, Dr. Hastings Banda, decreed that the capital be moved away from Zomba.
The bureaucrats, following the chief’s orders, quickly transformed the city center into a jumble of office buildings, banks, and embassies.
Fortunately, the old town retains much of its rustic appearance. Small wooden houses line the villages, while craft stores, drinking holes, and little cafés draw tourists from the modern areas of the city for a one-of-a-kind Malawi exposure.
The Old Town Mall is where the best quality souvenirs are sold. Check out the African Habitat store for local ornaments and furnishing.
Between the plateau of Nyika and the coast of Lake Malawi is the small town of Livingstonia. Established as a mission station in the late 1800s, the town was named after Dr. David Livingstone, whose death rekindled British support for Christian missions in East Africa.
For 52 years, the mission was run by Dr. Robert Laws. He established a school, which for a time was the best in the region. A university was also planned, but funds were limited.
Isolated and unspoilt, the town has some of the best colonial buildings preserved in the country.
Livingstonia sits on a mountain plateau, at 900 meters above sea level. The cool breeze and the panoramic view of Lake Malawi should be reason enough to visit. All buildings are made of red bricks, and the dusty, tree-lined streets invite tourists to have quiet strolls.
The Old Stone House, the former residence of the Law family, has been converted to a rest house and museum.
Nyika National Park
The Nyika National Park is the largest and oldest wildlife preserve in Malawi. Established in 1965, the park has a land area of 3,200 square kilometers.
It covers the entire Nyika Plateau, which extends from Livingstonia, near the coast of Lake Malawi, to the country’s borders with Zambia. The plateau features various landscapes such as rolling hills, dense pine forest, and grasslands that bloom with flowers during the rainy season.
Nyika, which means “where water comes from,” is slightly wetter than the rest of the country. During the rainy season, 200 species of orchids are in full bloom there.
The mountain vegetation also attracts a number of antelopes – and where the antelopes are, there the big cats will be. It is said that the park also has the densest population of leopards in Central Africa.
Nyika’s allure comes from the fact that it could be explored in different ways. Whether you explore it on foot or on bike or even on horseback, the plateau offers so much wildlife to see and enjoy.
Likoma and Chizumulu Islands
At the heart of Lake Malawi are two small islands of stunning beauty. Closer to Mozambique than to the Malawian coastline, Likoma and Chizumulu islands have attractive beaches that have surprisingly few tourists basking in their friendly shores.
In addition to its beach, one of Likoma’s biggest claims to fame is its grand cathedral, which was built in the early 1900s. The building has graceful soapstone interiors and stained glass windows that are very attractive to behold.
The azure waters around the islands are also known for their excellent diving spots. Cichlid fishes and other marine animals abound in these waters.
Access to the islands is possible with a chartered plane. There is also a ferry service between Likoma Island and Monkey Bay.
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
The Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is compact and accessible, with the main camps located just outside Lake Kazuni, where most of the animals gather to have a drink.
The reserve’s main tourist draw is the herd of elephants that call this place home.
The lake is also heavy with hippos that are willing to share the watering hole with dozens of other animals, including zebras, impalas, buffaloes, elands, hartebeests, and pukus.
A small fee is required to enter the park.
The best time to visit is between July and September, when a bunch of animals migrating towards their feeding grounds can be seen.
However, unlike other safari parks, which allow you to stay the night, there are no accommodations within the Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve yet, so don’t expect to camp out here. It is best to just include the visit in your mobile safari trip.
Rising above the plains of Southern Malawi is the majestic Mulanje Mountain. The summit is more than 3,000 meters above sea level, making it the highest mountain in South Central Africa.
The steep, vertical cliffs are perfect for rock climbing, and there are excellent hiking trails and well-maintained huts for tourists who wish to relax at the base.
Mount Mulanje is known by the locals as the “island in the sky” because the massive rock is often covered in mists, and only the peaks jut out from the clouds, which makes them look like celestial islands.
There is plenty of wildlife to see. Some of these include the klipspringer – a tiny antelope – and other small mammals.
Never go without a guide, though, for the mountain covers a large area, and the unpredictable weather may sometimes lead to some hikers getting lost in the mountain.
Zomba used to be the capital of Malawi until its first president, Dr. Hastings Banda, moved his government to Lilongwe in 1974.
Until today, the town has some of the best preserved colonial buildings in the country.
The Cobbe Barracks are home to the Malawi Rifles, also known by their former name, the King’s African Rifles. The town clock tower was a World War I memorial. The residence of the first commissioner of Nyasaland still stands as a testament of Malawi’s British influence.
There is also the University of Malawi, which makes Zomba an important center of learning.
Also in town is a small botanical garden that is perfect for late afternoon strolls.
For those interested to go hiking, the Zomba Plateau has some of the best views of the surrounding countryside.
The Mua Mission was established in 1902 by a missionary society called the White Fathers. A church complex was built to provide shelter for the Christian missionaries working in the area.
The mission started in 1976, when a Canadian priest arrived in Malawi. His name is Father Claude Boucher Chisale, and he spent his life researching, recording, and preserving Malawian culture.
His work bore fruit, and the Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art was born. The center provides training courses to young Malawian artists interested to improve their woodcarving skills. Artworks sold in the Mua Mission are known for their superb quality and affordable price.
Within the mission grounds is the Chamare Museum. The museum has various collections, which include artifacts and pictures describing the Chewa, Ngoni, and Yao cultures; their rites of passage; and their history. These three tribes lived in Malawi before the arrival of the Europeans.
Nearby is the mountain town of Dedza. Established during the prehistoric times, the town is home to the Chongoni Rock Art and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A trip to Dedza leads you to the best pottery workshops and villages in Malawi.
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