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Located in southeastern Africa bordering Tanzania and Mozambique, the relatively small country of Malawi offers many reasons to visit. Despite its size, it’s home to the world’s fourth-largest lake by volume and all sorts of exotic wildlife. Experience the best it has to offer by heading to these must-visit places.
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Set high upon the Khondowe Plateau, Nyika covers 1,235 square miles as the largest of Malawi’s national parks. Ideal for wildlife watching, its grasslands are home to everything from leopards and zebra, to spotted hyena, eland and antelope, along with 425 bird species. Sightings of elephant and lion are possible too.
One of the most popular places for spotting wildlife can be found in Liwonde National Park along the shores of the Shire River and part of Lake Malombe. It’s a vast reserve with wetland swamps, grass fields, flood plains and baobab trees. Both walking and vehicle safaris are available bringing relatively close encounters with baboons, impalas, elephants, hippos, crocodiles and even endangered black rhinos. The flora is impressive too, with everything from serene lily-filled ponds to huge and colorful orchids.
There are countless beaches that line the shores of Lake Malawi, but the stretch on the northern shore in Chintheche is often said to be the very best. A tropical paradise, the fine white sands and lush surroundings might make you feel as if you’re in the Caribbean. Take a stroll along the crystal-clear water to view rock formations, jump in for a swim or snorkel, or take a boat trip snorkeling to boat trips and mountain biking. Just a short drive south are horse stables where you can enjoy horseback rides ranging from a few hours to two-week-long excursions.
Livingstonia not only offers panoramic views of Chitimba Bay and the Livingstone Mountains in Tanzania beyond, but it’s a place of historic and cultural interest, located near Nyika National Park. The small town is peaceful and atmospheric with charming old stone buildings, lovely churches and farms. It also hosts a fascinating museum, Stone House, which tells the story of the European arrival in Malawi and the first missionaries. Impressive Manchewe Falls is just outside of town, plunging over 400 feet into a valley below.
This park tucked among the rolling plateaus of western Malawi near the borderlands with Zambia, was once well-known for its significant population of elephants, but in recent decades poaching problems have caused their numbers to plummet from 1,000 to just 70. The better news is that ecotourism is helping to increase them. Going on a safari here will not only aid their cause, but it will bring opportunities to witness antelopes, kudus, impala and hartebeest, plains zebra and African buffaloes that live among the bush, savannah, woodland and dusty plains.
Nkhata Bay is a natural harbor and hub for the local fishing industry. Watch the locals leap into the water and perhaps join in for a swim. The main reason to come is the crafts market where you’ll see the results of the local artisans’ impressive creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Just some of the items typically include necklaces, masks, decorative bowls, nativity sets and chief chairs, one of Malawi’s signature products.
Lake Malawi National Park is nestled among the verdant hillsides that surround the country’s largest lake. Watch for the antelopes and baboons that walk along the shore and explore the relics of old missionary settlements. The park draws lots of bird enthusiasts with the highest concentration of African fish eagles on the continent. Their cries can often be heard echoing across the skies.
One of Malawi’s largest protected areas, two rivers converge in Majete Wildlife Reserve, the Shire and Mkulumadzi Rivers. Lots of game gather around these water sources, especially during the drier months, June through November. Just some of the creatures you might spot include elephants, zebra, kudu, eland, baboon, black rhino and monkey. There are predators lurking around too like leopard and spotted hyena, while bird watchers can keep an eye out for around 250 species, including lappet-faced vultures.
Mount Mulanje, just a stone’s throw from the border with Mozambique, is a must for any visitor to Malawi who wants to hike or climb. At nearly 9,900 feet, Sapitwa Peak is the highest point in south-central Africa and the area that surrounds it is considered some of the most scenic in the entire country. On the steep slopes are unique Mulanje Cedar trees, some of which grow to over 200 years old. Forming part of the Mulanje Forest Reserve, there are marked hiking routes as well as camping huts spread throughout the mountain with basic camping gear, cooking facilities, fireplaces and mattresses. Cool drinks are provided at some of the huts, and water and firewood are available too. The small town of Mulanje serves as the center of Malawi’s tea-growing industry.
The UNESCO-protected Chongoni Rock Art Area is in central Malawi near the town of Dedza. It’s made up of 27 sites that are spread through the forested hills and granite outcrops of the Malawi plateau. It’s the richest concentration of such art in central Africa, the work of farming communities from the Late Stone Age and the Iron Age. The images are often associated with women’s initiation, rainmaking and funerary rites, traditions the Chewa society is still known for today. The highest concentration of rock art can be found in the region’s largest mountain, Chongoni mountain, with several rock panels that are easily accessible.