Tag Archives: malawi

The 2019 wish-list (continued): mad about Malawi

Malawi is a rising star on the safari scene. Known as the ‘warm heart’ of Africa, visitors can enjoy idyllic lake shore stays along with exciting safari options,  ranging from ‘Big Five’ breaks in Majete to wild weekends in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

Malawi also offers adventure – climb Mt Mulanje, Malawi’s answer to Kilimanjaro. This huge slab of mountain south of Blantyre is surrounded by tea plantations and is incredibly scenic. Best explored on foot, there are trails suitable for all abilities, including 21 peaks to walk (or climb). Venture to Viphya for mountain biking and walks on the stunning plateau or Zomba, an 1800m high mountain range with forest, lakes, waterfalls and abundant wildlife.

Why go now? Malawi has transformed in recent years with concerted conservation efforts. Wildlife is thriving.  Black rhino have returned to Majete and cheetah to Liwonde (after an absence of 20 years). Lion were re-introduced in 2018,  while an ambitious elephant re-location was completed in a mission to see herds once more in Nkhotakota.

In Majete. tourism has increased 14 percent from last year, with over 9,000 visitors bringing valuable money to the reserve and communities. African Parks has maintained a 15 year track record of zero poaching of elephant and rhino. In Liwonde, numbers are up 25%.*

Quick Fire Malawi

shutterstock_554639089 national parks/wildlife reserves: Malawi has 5 national parks (Lake Malawi, Nyika, Liwonde, Kasungu, Lengwe) and 4 wildlife reserves (Nkhotakota, Majete, Vwasa, Mwabvi).

Here is a short guide to help you get to grips with Malawi:

Nyika National Park in the North is Malawi’s largest park with over 400 species of birds including Denham’s Bustard and the wattled crane and the highest density of leopard in central Africa. The park is especially good in the rainy season when wildflowers and orchids cover the plains. Varied scenery includes a waterfall and lake as well as a neolithic rock shelter. Chelinda Lodge  provides classic accommodation.

Liwonde11eLiwonde National Park in Malawi’s south is dominated by the Shire River and has an excellent population of  elephant as well as hippo, buffalo, zebra, crocodile and antelope. It is also now a sanctuary for more than a dozen black rhino. It was founded in 1973 and is one of Malawi’s most beautiful and most popular parks. Boat and 4×4 safaris are both excellent ways to explore. The river draws good numbers of elephant.  Mvuu Lodge and Camp on the River Shire’s bank offers four large ensuite tents and one stone and thatch honeymoon suite with views over the lagoon and there is also a natural rock hewn swimming pool. The camp has 12 units – a mix of stone and thatch chalets and family tents. Lovely Kuthengo Camp is a new addition to the park – a small seasonal tented camp, also on the river.

Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi
Robin Pope Safaris, Malawi

Majete, also located in the south has a fascinating back-story. It was once a prolific game refuge but by the 90s much of the big game had been eradicated due to poaching, logging and agriculture. But in 2003 African Parks  took over management of the reserve and it is now an inspiring model of sustainable development and biodiversity. Many different species have been reintroduced including lion, black rhino, elephant, antelope, zebra and leopard making this a Big Five destination once more.  Today there are more than 12,000 animals in Majete. We love Robin Pope Safaris new Mkulumadzi as a fantastic base for exploring the reserve.

Tongole
Tongole

Nkhotakota is Malawi’s oldest reserve and also under the management of African Parks. The beautiful Bua river flows at its heart. Dense rainforest gives way to miombo woodland rich with flora and fauna. The best way to see the reserve is by kayaking down the river or walking with a guide.  Birdlife is fantastic with over 280 species recorded,  and you may even be lucky enough to spot elephants coming to drink at the river or antelope in the woodland. Leopard and lion are more tricky to see.  Tongole Wilderness Lodge is a fantastic lodge, recently opened and nestled in the dense foilage. Open-fronted suites with panoramic views and raised decks allow you to soak up the majesty of the reserve.The park sits in the east of Malawi near the lake. Nkhotakota used to have more than 1,500 elephants but, after years of poaching, less than 100 of them remained. African Parks has successfully translocated 500 elephants from  Liwonde and Majete to Nkhotakota in recent years .

Kaya Mawa
Kaya Mawa

Lake Malawi: Malawi’s lake shore stretches some 500km. It is a paradise of small communities, sandy shores and small islands. Lake Malawi National Park was the very first freshwater national park declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.  Cape Maclear, located on the southern shore of Lake Malawi, is the busiest resort on Lake Malawi with a wide range of accommodation to suit most tastes.. We like the simplicity of Mumbo Island, just a few kilometres off the coast, a good value, eco-friendly, rustic and laid back little lodge perfect for downtime. If you enjoy a few more luxuries then Pumulani Lodge is also in this area on the western side of Cape Maclear,  conveniently accessible via Lilongwe. Right on the north eastern shore of the lake is idyllic Likoma Island with its stunning beaches and luxurious accommodation in the form of Kaya Mawa. The lodge is beautifully designed. This is a special spot for relaxing, indulging and soaking up the dreamy views of the Mozambique coast just 40km away.

Practical points: British citizens require a visa to visit Malawi. (USD $75). Malaria is present  throughout Malawi so anti-malarials are recommended. The unit of currency is the Kwacha. The rainy season runs from November/December to March. Between April and October Malawi’s weather is perfect for holidaying offering cool nights, and warm clear days. There are currently no direct flights to Malawi. The main gateways of Lilongwe and Blantyre can be reached via Johannesburg (using South African Airways or BA to J’Burg) although depending on season and offers other routes are also available.

Malawi offers good value. One of the reasons for this is the relatively compact nature of the country and good network of tarmac roads ensuring guests can combine key areas easily. To give some idea of driving times in the south, please see below:

Lilongwe to Liwonde – approximately 4 hours

Lilongwe to the lake – approximately  3 hours.

The lake to Majete  – approximately 5 hours.

Majete to Blantyre – approximately 2 1/2 hours.

(Flights are also available with Ulendo Airlink,  for example Lilongwe to Likoma Island…)

Summary

Malawi is a fantastic and very rewarding holiday destination – you can enjoy a safari as well as time on the lake in one holiday. Malawi offers lovely weather from Easter right through to Halloween making it a good choice for families looking at getting away during the main holidays.  The people are incredibly warm and friendly and there is increasing choice when it comes to accommodation.

Malawi is an inspiration when it comes to conservation – wildlife continues to thrive; visitor numbers are on the increase and through eco-tourism,  more and more jobs are created for people in the community.

Because predator numbers in Malawi’s parks and reserves are not as high yet as in other safari destinations, we think Malawi is a hugely rewarding choice for repeat visitors to the continent, or to visit in combination with its wild neighbour, Zambia.

 

Find out more about holidays to Malawi, see sample itineraries,  or speak to us about travelling to Malawi on 01603 964 730.

*Source: African Parks

 

Malawi Dreaming – why Malawi should be on your wish list

Real Africa has long been a fan of Malawi. Varied scenery, ranging from the dramatic peaks of Nyika National Park, Malawi’s oldest national reserve, to the stunning lake shore which separates Malawi from its eastern neighbours, along with friendly locals, a low crime rate and good network of roads means that Malawi really is ‘the warm heart of Africa’.

This compact and very beautiful country provides the opportunity to visit enriching community projects,  spend time on safari spotting the Big Five and enjoy lazy days by the lake fishing, snorkelling and swimming easily all in one holiday. It was no surprise to us to see Malawi Tourism inundated with enquiries at the recent Times Destinations Show in February. Malawi is certainly a rising star in Africa.

Families

For families in particular, Malawi promises much. The dry season runs from May to October covering the May and October half term period as well as the long summer school holiday. A trip can incorporate adventure and excitement, with game drives or activities like hiking in the Mulanje Mountains or canoeing on Lake Malawi, with educational visits, such as one to an historic tea estate or  to a community project like the one in Zomba where visitors can dance Malawi style with the local youth group or help with the ‘feeding’ project. To top it all off,  you can then chill out on the beach – what could be better?

Variety

A visit to Malawi can combine nights in  luxurious lodges like Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, Lake Malawi or Tongole Wilderness Lodge in the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve with a simple village homestay, fly camping beneath the stars, or a pre-hike night in a mountain hut if you wish. It really can be that diverse.

Safari

Malawi also offers ample safari opportunities with nine national parks. Nyika National Park in the North is notable for its good density of leopard.  Liwonde National Park, dominated by the Shire River, in the South has excellent populations of hippo, elephant, buffalo, crocodile and antelope.  Majete, also in the South has a fascinating back-story. It was once a prolific game refuge but by the 90s much of the big game had been eradicated due to poaching, logging and agriculture. But in 2003 African Parks Majete took over management of the reserve and a decade later, it is a model of sustainable development and biodiversity. 13 different species have been reintroduced including black rhino, elephant, antelope, zebra and leopard. Lion have just been re-introduced here and to Liwonde making Majete a Big Five destination. In addition Robin Pope’s beautiful new lodge Mkulumadzi has opened in the reserve.

Beach

Malawi’s lake shore stretches some 500km. It is a paradise of small communities, sandy shores and small islands.

Highlights

This compact and beautiful country lends itself perfectly to tailor-made itineraries, Real Africa’s speciality.  You can now view sample itineraries online, including a Northern and Southern circuit which take in the main highlights, and give an excellent overview of what is possible.

  • Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

1800 square kilometres of rugged terrain are criss-crossed by rivers, the largest one being the Bua River which supports a healthy salmon population. The rainforest gives way to miombo woodland rich with flora and fauna. The best way to see the reserve is by kayaking down the river or walking with a guide.  Birdlife is fantastic and you may even be lucky enough to spot elephants coming to drink at the river or antelope in the woodland. Leopard and lion are more tricky to see.  Tongole Wilderness Lodge is a fantastic lodge, recently opened and nestled in the dense foilage. Open-fronted suites with panoramic views and raised decks allow you to soak up the majesty of the reserve.

  • Viphya Plateau

This scenic plateau is 1700m above sea level and is sandwiched between the sandy shores of the lake and an area of flat scrubland in Northern Malawi. It offers a wonderful tranquil , getaway. From Luwawa Forest Lodge you can enjoy the solitude of the river valleys, the birdlife and a range of activities from mountain biking and rock climbing to sailing and walking.

  • Ntchisi Forest Reserve

This small pocket of natural beauty, of  around 75 square kilometres, is relatively undiscovered. It is excellent for birding, with Malawi’s last remaining indigenous rainforest, abundant orchids, and elusive leopards. Ntchisi Forest Lodge offers simple accommodation in an historic colonial building complete with roaring log fires and spectacular lake and mountain views.

  • Nyika National Park

Malawi’s largest park with over 400 species of birds including Denham’s Bustard and the wattled crane and a good density of leopard. Especially good in the rainy season when wildflowers and orchids cover the plains. Varied scenery includes a waterfall and lake as well as a neolithic rock shelter. Wilderness Safaris Chelinda Lodge and Camp provide excellent accommodation.

  • Liwonde National Park

Boat and 4×4 safaris are both excellent ways to see Malawi’s most popular park. The river draws good numbers of elephant, as well as hippo and crocodile. You also have the chance of seeing leopard, lion and black rhino here. Mvuu Lodge and Camp on the River Shire’s bank is the only lodge within the park and excellent quality. The luxurious lodge offers four large ensuite tents and one stone and thatch honeymoon suite with views over the lagoon and there is also a natural rock hewn swimming pool. The camp has 12 units – a mix of stone and thatch chalets and family tents

  • Majete Wildlife Reserve

Malawi’s Big Five park! Animal re-stocking continues with hopes of making this Malawi’s number one attraction. Over 3000 animals have been re-homed here in recent years including lion, elephant, hyena, buffalo, antelope, hippos and leopard.  The introduction of Robin Pope’s stunning Mkulumadzi lodge has aided the new found popularity of Majete.

  • Zomba Plateau

This 1800m high mountain range has forest, lakes, waterfalls and abundant wildlife. In Zomba there is the chance to visit a variety of community projects.

  • Likoma Island

Right on the eastern shore of the lake is Likoma Island with its stunning beaches and luxurious accommodation in the form of Kaya Mawa. The lodge is beautifully designed, effortlessly managing to achieve a shabby chic style. This is a great spot for relaxing, indulging and soaking up the dreamy views of the Mozambique coast just 40km away. We love it.

  • Mount Mulanje

This huge slab of mountain south of Blantyre is surrounded by tea plantations and is incredibly scenic. Best explored on foot, there are trails suitable for all abilities, including 21 peaks to walk (or climb).

With so many options available, we think Malawi should definitely be on your wish list!

By Sara White

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Malawi: Seasonal Spectaculars

Malawi’s offerings of seasonal natural highlights are extensive and a variety of interesting occurrences take place throughout the year. Each season offers a shift in dynamics and an abundance of wildlife activity occurs across areas of pristine wilderness. Our list below highlights just a few of many interesting wildlife and botanical occurrences which take place throughout the year in Malawi.

Orchids bloom in Nyika National Park During these months over 200 orchids bloom across the grasslands in Nyika National Park. In February particularly, many terrestrial orchids come into bloom across the valleys and they can be seen in patches across the plateau.  January – March .

Lillian’s Lovebirds gather in flocks of hundreds in Liwonde National Park – Lillian’s Lovebirds congregate in large flocks of hundreds from June to August in Liwonde National Park. This is a phenomenon mainly due to the fact that the Candelabra Euphorbia are flowering, which provides a feast for the birds. June – August.

The regrouping of eland herds in Nyika National Park – The majestic eland is the world’s largest antelope. Smaller herds can be seen across the plateau throughout the year. During the months of October and November however, the eland herds start regrouping for the breeding season. The larger herds vary in size from 100 to 320 animals in one group. October – November

Elephants gather in herds of hundreds in Liwonde National ParkThe elephant population in Liwonde National Park, group together in the drier periods around a fixed water source (the Shire River) for water and for the more nutritious vegetation along the river’s edge. Sightings of larger elephant herds during these months are plentiful and often reach into the hundreds. June – July

Crocodile courtship season (Liwonde National Park). The courtship process begins with males bellowing, bubble-blowing and fighting, thus establishing dominance. Males also swim with their head up for display purposes. The female usually mates with the most dominant male in the vicinity: the older the male, the bigger and thus the most dominant. May – July

Lakefly clouds can be seen across Lake Malawi (Chintheche)Swarms of adult lake flies (looking like dense clouds of smoke or occasionally spiraling columns that look like waterspouts) are a very common sight over the northern part of the lakeshore.  The fly larvae live on the lake bottom where they feed. When they form pupae they float to the surface and hatch all at once causing the giant swarms. These swarms attract fish and many species of birds that feed on the flies. Winds often blow them to the shore and women from local communities catch them in baskets and squash them together to create a local delicacy (a burger like lakefly patty which is then deep fried). July – January

Green Season birding Birding all year round is incredible in both Liwonde National Park and Nyika National Park with nearly 400 species occurring in both Liwonde and Nyika. The beginning of the rains (the green season) usually coincides with the arrival of many migrant birds who come back from the less hospitable climates north of the equator. The ideal time for spotting Nyika’s migrant birds is between February and March. October – April

Crocodile hatchlings are bornThree months later (around December), high-pitched chirping sounds alert the mother that the incubation period is over. She then breaks open the sand-covered chamber and assists the hatchlings out of their shells by rolling the eggs between her tongue and palate. The mother crocodile then delicately transports the hatchlings in her mouth to the water’s edge, and continues guarding them for 2 more weeks. At birth, the hatchlings are usually around 30cm long, and feed on small insects and other aquatic invertebrates until they are big enough to start eating fish. December.

The Best Beaches in Africa Revealed

This week as winter arrived in the UK and Christmas decorations hit the shops, here in Head Office we were all dreaming of sunny beaches in faraway places. Over a nice hot cup of tea we were chatting about places we’d been to and the places still on our to-do list. It turned out to be quite an eclectic mix but then we are quite an eclectic mix of people! That got us to discussing the merits of beaches in Africa versus the rest of the world and we came to the conclusion that Africa offers some truly world beating beaches.  So here is our Top Ten:

1. Nungwi Beach, Zanzibar

Found in the north-west of the island this quiet and unspoilt beach has few hotels along it making it a hidden gem. The beach offers glorious white soft sand and an amazing aqua-marine coloured water – truly a tropical paradise.

2. Mnemba Island, Tanzania

This is a very small, privately owned island of the coast of Tanzania surrounded by a coral reef and amazing underwater life. The interior of the island is totally unspoilt and wild and covered in pine trees. The lodge on the island is a truly luxurious retreat and it’s a great place for a getaway honeymoon.

3. Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

This is not a swimmers beach but to my mind it’s one of the most scenic. The rough, crashing breakers hit the shore having travelled across the Atlantic creating a very dramatic scene. The beach is long and sandy surrounded by greenery and is fantastic for walking or horse-riding. One to blow the cobwebs away.

4. Quirimba National Park, Mozambique

Another glorious white sandy beach with turquoise waters on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa. This area is little known outside a few Africa aficionados but it boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world combined with a fabulous laid back atmosphere. Being a national park the scenery is unspoilt and teeming with wildlife.

5. Oualidia, Morocco

North Africa surprisingly offers some great beaches. Those who fancy some water-sports such as wind and kite surfing should head to the Atlantic coast around Essaouira for some world beating action. However if you are looking for somewhere calmer this natural lagoon, protected from the Atlantic rollers by enormous cliffs offers a great beach destination.

6. Lamu Beach, Kenya

This is a huge 8 mile stretch of warm, soft, white sand with inviting turquoise waters, teeming marine wildlife and peaceful tranquillity. The waters of the Indian Ocean tickle your toes as you float by on a traditional dhow. This area is known for its “barefoot” or rustic luxury. (At the moment we are not recommending travel to Lamu as close to the Somali border.)

7. Laguna, Bay of Dahab, Egypt

Unlike most of the heavily built-up resorts on the Red Sea, Laguna is quieter and more laidback with Bedouin cafes and a hippy atmosphere. The beach is a glorious stretch of sand about 30 miles north of Sharm and is a good base for water-sports. You still feel you are in Egypt as you are surrounded by the amazing Egyptian scenery of the desert and the Sinai Mountains.

8. Île Aux Nattes, Madagascar

If you are after a true Robinson Crusoe getaway then this maybe your island. There are no cars or roads and only a couple of cafes on this tiny island but it’s home to some truly glorious wild beaches with the Indian Ocean all yours.

9. Djerba Island, Tunisia

A more familiar Mediterranean gem perhaps but this one offers the taste of Africa too. The beaches are white sand, the waters calm and blue and the atmosphere very laid back and friendly. This is a popular place so has a lively atmosphere especially in peak season. There are lots of cafes and restaurants to enjoy some fabulous seafood as well as some historic buildings such as forts to visit.

10. Likoma Island, Malawi

Now this one offers beaches on a lake rather than the coast but they are still of the white sand, turquoise water variety! Lake Malawi is an absolutely enormous lake, more like an inland sea. Likoma Island is just one of many areas to visit but it stands out with its gorgeous white beaches and two eco-friendly laid back resorts. It is very quiet with a handful of cars and limited accommodation. You can also do some watersports such as kayaking or snorkelling here.

And an extra one because we couldn’t go without mentioning it!

11. Curralinho Beach, Boa Vista, the Cape Verde Islands, West Africa

These islands lie off the coast of Senegal in West Africa but have a distinctly Brazilian – Portuguese flavour. With fabulous food, music and a very friendly, warm welcome these islands are a great place to visit to escape a European winter. The best beach is the huge, white-sandy Curralinho beach on Boa Vista with its warm waters, great diving and surfing opportunities. Boa Vista means great view in Portuguese and it’s truly apt as this place is stunning.

Blowing up a storm in Malawi…

Malawi’s senior judges are currently studying the wording of a new bill and while they do the whole country is holding its breath. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say they are holding everything. The new Public Decency Bill has been said by the Justice Minister George Chaponda to criminalise flatulence, meaning it would now be an offence to “break wind” in public.

A storm is brewing. His remark on local radio that you should “just go to the toilet if you feel like farting” have led to much debate over the exact wording of the Local Courts Bill.It says “Any person who vitiates the atmosphere in any place so as to make it noxious to the public to the health of persons in general dwelling or carry on business in the neighbourhood or passing along a public way shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.” Local chiefs will be responsible for dealing with informers.

It has led to heated debate as to how a culprit will be identified. Perhaps they should add “Who smelt it dealt it” to the small print of the bill… It would certainly be an unusual way to get a Criminal Record.