Guest Post: 5 Malawi Top Destinations
Long overlooked as a top African destination, Malawi is a surprisingly diverse country that is just waiting to be explored. It contains Africa’s third largest lake – Lake Malawi which offers opportunities to dive, snorkel, kayak or plain relax by and is one of the highlights of the continent. In the south, the soaring peaks of Mt Mulanje and the hikes across the Zomba Plateau offer fantastic vistas enhanced by the exotic wildlife on offer. Called the “Warm Heart of Africa” in the native language, Malawi boasts some of the friendliest locals anywhere in the world and throw in the easy visa situation, there really is no reason for you not to visit.
Malawi Top Destinations
① Nkhata Bay
Diving through Aqua Africa, kayak trips through Kayak Dave (ask around for him, he’s well-known and much cheaper than Monkey Business) are just some of the things on offer. Mayoka Village, which is the party capital, offers free boat rides on Tuesdays which includes fish eagle feeding, cliff jumping and playing on the beach with locals. You can also get the ferry to Likuma Island where it is suggested to stay at Mango Drift (I never made it there but word on the street…). Just make sure the ferry is running as sometimes it breaks down. Try also to play drums with Rasta Kalvin just before the shortcut to Mayoka Village and learn how to play Bao which is a lot of fun. Every Sunday there’s a beach party at Chikala Beach, a 10-minute walk from Mayoka Village. It starts at about 15:00 and goes until about 20:00 or 21:00. Kaya Papaya has the best Thai food in town and Take Away Palace has the best Indian food. YazuYazu is the local bar an experience you’ll never forget no matter how much you’ll drink. Also, ask about Punki’s bar which has the cheapest beers in town.
To reach Livingstonia, you need to get off at Chilamb and either hike up the 8km to Mushroom Farm Eco Lodge or pay about 1,500 Kwacha for a ride. I opted to hike about 9 bends (total of 22) before I got a ride. There are shortcuts. Watch where the locals go. Some tourists have been attacked and robbed so watch yourself.
Mushroom Farm Eco-Lodge has the best views. It’s a cliff-hugging lodge with panoramic views of the lake. It’s located just 2km from Manchwe Waterfalls, the highest in Malawi at 120m (500 kwacha entry fee. Good luck shaking off the kids trying to play tour guides. Easily self-explorable). There’s also a cave/den behind the waterfall. The Zomba Plateau is located 5km from the Mushroom Farm. Take plenty of water and fruits. Great views and a steep, 500m ascent to the peak. Stop in at Manchwe Forest Reserve Restaurant where Mr Banda will serve the cheapest and best dishes I’ve ever sampled in Malawi (it takes about an hour to cook so have patience. It’s worth the wait).
③ Mt Mulanji
Mt Mulanji is the highest peak in southern Africa. Located about two hours east of Blantyre, a huge, sprawling city in the southern district. You must register at the Forestry Offices located at the base of the mountain (fees are 100 Kwacha per person or 200 per car) in the village of Likhubulu. It is possible to pitch a tent on the lawn. Ask first.
Robberies have occurred on the mountain but now that guides are a must, I think that’s been eradicated. You can’t go up without a guide. Only use a registered guide with the Mt Mulanji Guide and Porters Association. They work on rotation and can be picked at the offices. You’ll get hassled by locals claiming to be guides and porters. I wouldn’t trust them with eyes open. I highly recommend Chris who can be reached at: christopherjailos4[at]gmail.com. Guides are about $25 a day. Porters aren’t essential but they can make things easier (the Chambe Skyline track is the steepest). You can reach the top in two days but it’s a hectic six-hour climb. Or you can spread it out over a few days. There are huts at sites to fill up water and it’s customary to tip the caretakers. Cooking is on open fire or bring your own gas fire.
Sapitwa (meaning ‘don’t go there’) is the highest peak at 3,001 meters. It can only be climbed in perfect conditions. Rainy season is not the time to do it. I lucked out and missed the last 300 meters (people have died on the mountain). The weather is unpredictable. From blue skies it can turn to a foggy mist within minutes and then rain making everything dangerously slippery.
There are showers (cold using rainwater) and squat toilets but there’s no power on the mountain.
④ Thuma Forest Reserve
Located about 80km from Salima, Thuma Forest Reserve is a pristine forest area untouched by tourism. Home to elephants, buffaloes, kudu, duikers, warthogs, hyena, baboons, vervets and an abundant of insects and spiders. You can only reach it through WAG-Malawi – Wildlife Action Group. Contact Lynn or go through the website: www.wag-malawi.org. You can volunteer for a few days all the way up to six months or pay to spend the night in traditional mud huts.
⑤ And what would you recommend?
What should be our number 5 in your opinion? We are very curious to hear where you’ve been and what you liked, so please share your knowledge and experience in the comments!
We will add the best recommendations to our map!
Malawi Top Destinations Map
Simon’s experience of hitchhiking in Malawi
Malawians love to drink and party harder than you think.They are a proud nation and the people are always smiling and willing to help.The food and drink are cheap and the scenery ever changing and breath-taking.
You don’t really need signs as most people don’t read them. They’ll stop and ask where you’re headed.
Be open, friendly and greet everyone on the street. You’ll be surprised at the adventures you’ll end up having.
written by: Simon (The Nomadic Diaries)
Tired of society’s rinse ‘n’ repeat lifestyle, Simon has decided to dedicate the rest of his life to hitch-hiking the globe without flying or using money. Instead, he barters for food and board and adventures. Life is one shot. Go live it.
Check out his blog at: thenomadicdiaries.wordpress.com