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’, offering glorious scenery and the almost uncanny rich blues of the sparkling lake. It is not game-rich as neighbouring Zambia. But the African Parks NGO has revived its wildlife reserves. Malawi is now once again home to all the Big Five animals as well as plentiful plains game including elephant.
Add in its marvellously friendly and laid-back people, superb flora and the beaches of Lake Malawi, and you have a real hidden gem! So if you enjoy combining a safari with some relaxation on the beach. And if you like to meet the local people in an uncontrived way, then a Malawi safari 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 this ‘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 make a great spot for relaxing after a Malawi safari.
Further south are the wildlife reserves. The scenic Liwonde National Park has huge herds of elephant. And the revitalized Majete Game Reserve, rich in magificent sable, offers a variety of game.
Also 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.) Seat-in-charter light aircraft flights give access to more remote destinations such as the Nyika plateau and Likoma Island for Kaya Mawa lodge.
So if you enjoy being active when on safari with bush walks, mountain biking or horse-riding all on offer, then opt for a tailor-made Malawi holiday package.
Alternatively you can combine Malawi with a safari in Zambia for the best of both worlds.
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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I love to be close to nature, in a wild and remote place, but I also like a bit of comfort. Mumbo Island Lodge is one of those special places in Africa which offer just the right balance between rusticity and comfort.
It sells itself as a Robinson Crusoe destination. Well all I can say is that if Robinson Crusoe ever had experienced Mumbo Island, he might not have rated a return to ‘civilization’. This is a perfect place to chill out - completely away from it all but still with access to running water, stunning beaches, delicious home-cooked food and a campfire in the evening. (Needed only for ambience and certainly not for heat-generation.)
The drive from Lilongwe to the village of Cape Maclear takes 3-4 hours. The roads are in good condition but you cannot drive fast because of people walking on the side of the road and goats on a death wish. The second half of the drive is particularly scenic as you descend down the Golomoti pass from the Malawi highlands into the Great Rift Valley in which Lake Malawi lies. Along the road are toy stalls where master craftsmen sell intricately carved wooden toys: cars, landrovers, tractors, bicycles, motorbikes – every little child's dream. One stall had an amazing bicycle with 27 working gears
On arrival at Cape Maclear, we transferred to our boat for the 40 minute boat cruise to the stunningly beautiful Mumbo Island. What a special place with a lovely ambience. It comprises 5 reed and thatch chalets on their own little island, accessed by an easy wooden bridge from the main island, plus one family unit in the forest. The five view chalets are very simply furnished with beds, tables, chairs and of course that all-important hammock. A short distance away is your own private bathroom with eco-loo and basin under thatch and an alfresco bucket shower which is filled with hot water whenever you want it. Note that the family tents are in the forest (as a child could easily fall from the boulders outside the view tents) so its fair to say that this does NOT have the same ambience.
The main area is very simple (perhaps a little dark) with a small reading/sitting room, dining area and bar. Below is a lovely sandy beach in a pretty little cove with hammocks under some much needed shady trees & sun loungers.
Activities at Mumbo comprise of swimming, snorkeling, kayaking and self-guided or guided walks around the island. There’s a small dive centre at the beach where you get snorkeling gear and the best places are close to the beach so you don’t have to swim far.
The guided walk around the island was lovely as well. I recommend trainers as the paths are steep in places and so it’s good to have some grip. Lovely tranquil forest paths lead you to view points down onto Lake Malawi.
There is no electricity or internet connection on the island. Cooking is by gas and lighting is provided by wind-up torches and a solar powered light for reading in bed. Hot water is provided by a solar geyser.
We had a stunning, if eventful, kayaking trip around the island. The wind had got up so that the kayaking was not as relaxing as we were expecting. My partner and I even managed to fall off the kayak much to our amusement. Have you ever tried to get back onto a kayak when you are laughing hard? It’s not easy. But our kayaking guide was right there with a helping hand – and amazingly, a straight face - and we were on our way again. The trip around the island takes about an hour and is very safe as you are always close to the shoreline (in case you are as accident prone as we were).
Later we enjoyed a more tranquil boat cruise around the headland to enjoy some sundowners as we watched the sun setting over Lake Malawi. I also had a happy time snorkelling around the boulders and enjoying all the fish. This is not the sub-tropical Indian Ocean in terms of variety and size of fish, but certainly a very pleasant snorkelling experience
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