Malawi: a diamond in the rough

Approximately one sixth the size of neighbours Mozambique and Zambia and five times smaller than Botswana, relatively speaking, Malawi is a slither of a country. Despite this modest stature the region actually enjoys incredible natural and cultural diversity, a characteristic which is quickly establishing it as a rising star of African tourism.

Many of those visitors who are lucky enough to experience Malawi only enjoy a transitory encounter with this colourful nation, spending a few days there as they migrate onwards to Africa’s ‘big’ landmarks and more popular destinations. This partiality is a real shame but one that seems all too common. Malawi has an awful lot to offer the enthusiastic traveller; fantastic wildlife, fascinating culture and a landscape which encompasses grand lakes, grasslands, mountains and some of the best hiking and walking trails on the whole of the continent.

The Great Rift Valley dissects much of the country with that unmistakable scar-like trench meandering from North Africa to the central plains of Mozambique. A similarly linear geographical landmark is the colossal Lake Malawi which accounts over three quarters of Malawi’s eastern border with the rocky outcrops of Mozambique’s Niassa Province. The lake is itself a major draw for locals and tourists alike with its shimmering clear waters promising excellent conditions for snorkelling, diving and boating. Although it represents the second deepest body of water in Africa, the northern shore is extremely shallow meaning that families and young children especially can happily and safely enjoy swimming and other water sports. The tropical and fertile ecosystem that exists here reportedly supports the most diverse cohabitation of fish species in any lake on Earth; this fact seems to epitomise what Malawi stands for, a place that at a casual glance might appear placid but beneath its surface there exists a world thriving with life and vibrancy.

Perhaps the most spectacular scenery in Malawi is to be found in the southern Highland regions of Mulanje Massif and the Zomba Plateau; the former being home to the largest peak in Central Africa Mt Sapitwa. The unusual syenite granite topography makes this area of the country a must see, breathtaking rocky outcrops rise up out of the Phalombe Plains producing a truly dramatic panorama.

For wildlife enthusiasts Malawi does not disappoint either; Nyika National Park to the north of the country is abundant with countless large mammal and bird species as well as over 500 different types of wild orchid. Antelopes, zebras and one of the largest populations of leopards in Central Africa can be found here and Nyika was also one of the pioneers of the horseback safari which is becoming increasingly popular across the continent. Throughout Malawi the big five (lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos and elephants) can be seen as well as large numbers of hippo which due to their frequency have almost become an emblem of Malawian ecology.

Malawi is a truly spectacular part of Africa; a beauty succeeded only by the charm and warmth of its people. Despite being subject to many trials and tribulations, historically and contemporaneously, Malawians are a fascinating and welcoming people who will make your experience utterly memorable. Malawi for a long time has stood in the shadows of other, more established African destinations but now, hopefully, this diminutive domain will begin to realise its true potential as a tourist haven; as the saying goes, diamonds are not made as big as bricks.

Greg Fox is a Director at luxury travel specialists Mahlatini.

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Comments (1)

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  1. irene says:

    a friend of mine visited malawi to see her partner who was working there and loved it, the people were fabulous and the scenery amazing and unspoilt by too much tourism she sould ecertainly recommend a trip there!

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