Awarded Top 10 country to travel to in 2022About Best In Travel 2022
Apart from the legendary Malawian friendliness, what captures you first about this vivid country is its geographical diversity. Slicing through the landscape in a trough formed by the Great Rift Valley is Africa’s third-largest lake: Lake Malawi, a shimmering mass of clear water, its depths swarming with colorful cichlid fish. Whether for diving, snorkeling, kayaking or chilling out on beaches and desert islands, a visit to the lake is a must.
Suspended in the clouds in Malawi’s deep south are the dramatic peaks of Mt Mulanje and the mysterious Zomba Plateau, both a hiker's dream, with mist-cowled forests and exotic wildlife. Further north is the otherworldly beauty of the Nyika Plateau, its rolling grasslands resembling the Scottish Highlands.
Malawi was once dismissed as a safari destination, but all that changed with a lion-reintroduction program at Majete Wildlife Reserve, which is now one of a few worthwhile wildlife-watching destinations nationwide.
Malawi: Voted Top 10 Country as Best in Travel 2022
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Malawi's oldest reserve is easily one of the most magical experiences in any trip to the country. Towering over 2000m above sea level, the Nyika Plateau is enigmatic; one moment its rolling grasslands recall the Yorkshire Dales, but then an antelope leaps across your bonnet, you note the nearby mound of steaming elephant dung and you remember you're in Africa (and that Nyika is home to a very large population of leopards!).
With its lodges and safari activities, Liwonde is the closest thing Malawi has to a traditional wildlife park. Dominating the west, the Shire River overflows with hippos and crocodiles and is a favourite stomping ground for the 500-plus elephants. Waterbucks are also common near the water, while beautiful sable and roan antelopes, zebras and elands populate the floodplains.
If you only visit one thing here, make it the Chamare Museum, beautifully decorated with murals depicting scenes from Malawian history. The first room covers the history of Mua and the Roman Catholic Church in Malawi; the second delves into Chewa, Yao and Ngoni culture, with a depiction of a traditional Ngoni dance; and the third is a total knockout…
Since African Parks took over management of this rugged wilderness on the western bank of the Shire River in 2003, things have really been looking up. There are now more than 3000 animals in the reserve, most translocated from other parks in Malawi and elsewhere in Southern Africa, including lions, hyenas, sable antelope, nyalas, black rhinos, buffaloes, elephants, hippos and leopards.
Much of the area around Cape Maclear, including several offshore islands, is part of Lake Malawi National Park, one of Africa's few freshwater aquatic parks and a Unesco World Heritage Site. When organising activities on the lake, check if prices include the park entrance fee.
Part of the Mua Mission, this fascinating cultural centre is made up of several exhibitions, workshops and even a botanic garden. Set up in 1976 by a Canadian, Father Claude Boucher (who still directs the centre), it has developed into an important focal point for cultural information and training.
Likoma's huge Anglican cathedral (1911), said to be the same size as Winchester Cathedral, should not be missed. Its stained-glass windows, crumbling masonry and sheer scale are testament to the zeal of its missionary creators' religious conviction.
This 1.1-sq-km wilderness area is Malawi's only sanctuary for orphaned, injured and rescued wild animals, and plays an active role in conservation. Local residents include a one-eyed lion rescued from Romania, a python, two cobras, baboons, duikers, servals, and blue and vervet monkeys. The entry fee includes a one-hour tour of the enclosures.
Comprising 1800 sq km of rough, inhospitable terrain – dense miombo (moist woodland), bush and evergreens – and a couple of navigable roads, this reserve has been undergoing a renaissance. Once poached, abandoned and encroached upon by human settlements, its fortunes have improved thanks to increased funding, two lodges, and management by African Parks, which was halfway through a historic reintroduction of 500 elephants in late 2016. There are also roan and sable antelopes here, buffaloes, baboons, waterbucks, leopards and even occasional itinerant lions.