Combine the 'Lake of Stars' with Malawi's remarkable scenery, wildlife and the most friendly of people.
All year round
Malawi is known as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. For many years, it was known more for its glorious scenery and the almost uncanny rich blues of the sparkling lake. It may not have been as game-rich as neighbouring African countries in the past, but the involvement of the African Parks NGO has revived the wildlife reserves. Malawi is now once again home to all the Big Five game animals.
Add in its marvellously friendly and laid-back people, superb flora and the beaches of Lake Malawi and you have a less well-known gem. So if you enjoy combining a safari with some relaxation beach. And if you like to meet the local people in an uncontrived way, then a Malawi holiday could be perfect for you.
This small sliver of a country is dominated by Lake Malawi, the most appealing of the great lakes of Africa. Indeed the ‘lake of stars’ is three quarters of the length of Malawi. Its crystal clear waters are teeming with colourful fish. (Lake Malawi is one of the most popular freshwater scuba diving locations in the world!) Plus its sandy beaches are a popular spot for relaxing after a Malawi safari.
Further south are the main wildlife reserves, the scenic Liwonde National Park – with its large herds of elephant – and the revitalized Majete Game Reserve, rich in magificent sable. In the southern lowlands are the tea plantations of Satemwe. Rising above them are the peaks of Mount Mulanje and the Zomba Plateau with hiking, mountain biking and walking trails on offer.
Travel within Malawi is relatively easy. Most of our clients use road transfers between Lake Malawi, Liwonde, Majete and the capital city of Lilongwe ( or Blantyre.) Light aircraft charters allow access to more remote destinations such as the Nyika plateau and Likoma Island.
Finally if you enjoy being active with bush walks, mountain biking or horse-riding all on offer, then try out one of our tailor-made Malawi holiday packages.
These are some of the best rated places to visit in Malawi based on popularity and experience rating by our travelers
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Mvuu Lodge is a thoroughly charming place and much recommended, as long as you have appropriate expectations as to what to expect from the game-viewing in Liwonde . The lodge lies between the Shire river and a small ox bow lagoon. It is a traditional safari camp but thoroughly comfortable and sufficiently zooty to be combined with smarter options elsewhere in Malawi such as Pumulani or Kaya Mawa...
The main lodge at Mvuu Lodge is raised on stilts and overlooks the river with lots of comical warthogs on view from the dining and sitting areas. There’s a small swimming pool close-by. The rooms all stretch along the lagoon. The original five are closest to the main lodge and thus ideal for people who don’t want to walk so far. They are large tented rooms with an en suite bathroom in stone with bath, basin and loo inside and outdoor shower. Lovely views over the lagoon from your deck or hammock. (I reckon hammocks should be compulsory for a safari lodge – they are the perfect way to relax between safari activities!)
Tent 5 is the honeymoon tent, similar in style but with a large bathroom under thatch with a deep circular bath for two. Nice concept but somehow it didn’t really grab me. Tents 6 to 8 are the new tents, quite a bit further away, (so a bit of a hassle if you forget something and have to walk back for 10 minutes), but larger and slightly more stylish. The bathroom is semi open-plan to the bedroom (wooden divide) with an enclosed toilet, indoor shower and outdoor shower. Though I preferred the newer rooms, the original ones are also great with better lagoon views and the benefit of proximity (which is especially nice in the hot spring weather.)
Liwonde Park is Malawi’s premier wildlife reserve but the reality is that, though Liwonde Park has a variety of game, it is by no means a Big Game safari destination. You will certainly see lots of elephant, you will plenty of stunning birds and plenty of general game including the rare Sable antelope. You're also likely to see herds of buffalo and perhaps be able to track down the black rhino on foot. But you'd be very lucky to see any predators even though there are lion and leopard around.
With that mind, part of the charm of Mvuu Lodge is the diversity of game-viewing activities. It offers game drives, bush walks, game-viewing by boat, sunset cruises, village visits by bicycle (great!) and rhino tracking on foot. I loved this variety – you are not just sitting in a game vehicle all the time. After a morning of game-viewing on foot and by vehicle, we transferred to a boat to enjoy some game-viewing from the river. We even enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the boat with a chef cooking omelettes to our specification, plus some of the most delicious cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted.
Bicycling to local school from Liwonde Park
One of the most enjoyable and educational experiences during my stay at Mvuu Lodge was a visit to the local village. This is done by bicycle, cycling first 1km through the park with an armed scout at the front and your ranger at the back. Then you continue another kilometers to the village where we cycled to the primary school, met the headmaster and learnt a lot about the education system in Malawi. This was fascinating, if somewhat depressing as you realize that only the hardest-working and luckiest children can get a secondary school education. You learn how various organizations are assisting this, and other schools, include an organization called HELP Malawi, as well as Wilderness Safaris. Then we visited some of the classrooms and chatted with the kids. I met one particularly spunky young girl in Grade 7 who wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. She asked us what we did and I explained, rather condescendingly perhaps, that “ I was here to learn all about Malawi so that I could bring visitors to their beautiful country”. “On bicycles?” She drily replied with a twinkle in her eye.
Never try to get one over a kid!
I really enjoyed the experience of cycling through the Malawian countryside, saying hello to everyone. As elsewhere, people are smiling, waving hello and the villages are generally very clean.
I enjoyed my stay in Liwonde Park. I would probably combine a safari here with either the Majete Wildlife Reserve or the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia for a more 'full-on' safari.
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