Landlocked Malawi is often overlooked for African journeys which is unfortunate, because this country has incredible natural beauty and all the classic African experiences with none of the crowds. Malawi offers an exclusive yet affordable safari and beach experience that will appeal to adventurous couples and families looking for a go-with-the-flow African trip.
Lake Malawi is, of course, the pièce de résistance, but on this Classic Malawi trip you’ll also enjoy fantastic game viewing in Liwonde National Park, hiking or rambling through breathtaking highlands and bargain-hunting at authentic African markets in the cities.
Here’s a taste of what you can expect in magical Malawi…
Lilongwe is a vibrant city made up of different sections, each with its own charm and attractions. To the south is the Old Town, dotted with shops, bars and restaurants and a mix of industrial and residential buildings. This district is full of character and bustling activity - think street markets with plenty of souvenir shopping. The New Town lies to the north and is known as the city's centre, featuring more developments and government buildings.
Between the two towns lies the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary which is home to the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre - Malawi´s only sanctuary for rescued, orphaned and injured wild animals. It is also the world´s first accredited "People & Wildlife" PAW centre, working with the local people to promote nature conservation that will benefit both the people and wildlife of Malawi.
After a night in lovely Lilongwe, you'll head to the Zomba Plateau in the south, about a four and a half hour drive. Picturesque Zomba is the old colonial capital city of Malawi, while the plateau is quite unlike anywhere else in Africa. The winding roads twist and turn their way up the 1800m rise into this highland paradise.
The top of the plateau is an evocative place with truly beautiful natural scenery. Streams crisscross one another, fighting their way into lakes and waterfalls. An extensive network of paths meanders its way through the forests of cedar, pine and cypress, while leopards, giant butterflies, baboons and birds of prey swoop or amble among the rocky outcrops and trees. You can spend hours hiking or rambling along the twisty paths or drive right up to the top for some of the most memorable views you'll ever see.
Following your stay in Zomba, you will make your way by road to Liwonde National Park. Although Liwonde is quite small compared to other parks in Malawi, it has a wonderful array of wildlife. The Shire River borders the western edge of the park and is jam-packed full of hippos and crocodiles.
The fertile floodplains, dense woodlands and lagoons of the reserve sustain over 400 species of bird as well as zebra, antelope, warthog and even leopard. Here you'll find Malawi’s largest remaining population of elephant as well as the critically endangered black rhino.
Big game species are restricted in national parks due to an increase in poaching over the last decade, however lions were reintroduced to Liwonde in 2013.
Liwonde is dominated by mopane woodland, with the mopane trees creating a canopy 12 metres high. The landscape also is rich with ancient baobob trees and borassus palms.
We always say the perfect African trip includes both bush and beach, and the beach is exactly where you'll be headed today. You'll be transferred to the shores of Lake Malawi to one of two spectacular island locations.
Mumbo Island Camp in Lake Malawi National Park in Cape Maclear is Malawi's answer to the Cote d'Azur or the beaches of Mykonos. The camp is located on a pristine, deserted island 10 kilometres off the Cape Maclear Peninsula, itself a strip of honey-coloured sand lapped by turquoise water under a sunny, blue sky. The green camp is entirely off grid and the lack of permanent inhabitants means the tiny island (just 1km in diameter) has remained entirely unspoilt.
Option 2 - we know, it's nearly impossible to choose - is Kaya Mawa Lodge on Likoma Island, the larger of the two inhabited islands on the lake that lie just a few kilometres from Mozambique. Kaya Mawa means 'maybe tomorrow', and the lodge encompasses the natural beauty of the island's white sandy beaches, lush vegetation, Baobab tree forests and Mango trees. This is pure romance.
Despite being landlocked, Malawi has its own famous 'inland sea' in Lake Malawi. This enormous body of freshwater is one of the largest lakes in the world and Mumbo and Likoma Islands are the two most enchanting locations on its shores.
With a maze of massive underwater boulders, numerous species of colourful cichlid fish and calm, clear water, Lake Malawi National Park offers what many consider to be the best freshwater snorkeling and SCUBA diving in the world.
If you can tear yourself away from your hammock, you'll find fishing villages scattered along the lake's shore that are well worth exploring. As are the long stretches of uninhabited golden sand beaches which are perfect for reading, relaxing and reconnecting with nature.
It's hard to leave, but you can always come back. You'll be transferred to Lilongwe International Airport or Chileka Airport in Blantyre in time for your return flight, with magical memories to sustain you until your next African adventure.