Malawi is a little known gem of a country in the heart of Central Southern Africa that offers a true African experience at a relatively low cost. It is a long and narrow landlocked country, covering more than 1000 kilometers from north to south. Lake Malawi, nearly 600km long and up to 80km wide, dominates the country side.
There is no country in all Africa that has its geography so sculptured and determined by Africa’s Great Rift Valley, the largest single geographical feature on earth. This ancient 5000 km-long geological formation bisects much of Africa from Egypt to Botswana and boasts a bewildering array of habitants and lush vegetation. Towering mountains, lush, fertile valley floors and enormous crystal – clear lakes are hallmarks of much of the rift valley – and Malawi displays them all. Fertile soils are a result of the rift valley and evidence of this is to be found every where in Malawi. Throw a seed to the ground and plant grows.
Malawi’s scenery is diverse and the habitats are varied. And its lowest point, the country is only about 35m above sea level; its highest point, mount Mulanje, is 140km away and over 3000m above sea level. Between these altitude extremes, there are rolling hills, plateaus, cool misty mountains and wide ranging scenery. Each of the many diverse habitats protected within Malawi’s nine national parks and game reserves – from elephants to orchids.
For those keen on experiencing African culture in all its complexity and beauty, Malawi is a warm and welcoming country that offers visitors wonderful scenery, fascinating parks and some of the friendliest people in Africa. It is no wonder that it known as the “warm heart of Africa.”
Meet the People of Malawi
Malawi is one of the few places in Africa where you can really meet the local inhabitants or visit a rural community in an atmosphere totally devoid of either expectation or affection.
Over the years we have increasingly incorporated the country’s greatest asset; it’s amazingly friendly people, into our tours and safari.
The people we visit are not ‘genuine tribesmen’ in exotic traditional dress, or hunter-gatherers eking out existence in some pristine wilderness. Usually they are simple farmers and the like, living in close-knit rural communities and happy to share their life with visitors.
The experiences we offer, always optioned and always attuned to the sensibilities of both traveler and villager, take a variety of forms. This varies from a straight forward visit to a village with a guide from the area on hand to lead you through the local customs and courtesies, to a bike ride to a school to listen to local children’s choir, or the famous “cathedral walk” on Likoma Island.
As well as providing a glimpse into a world that is all too often only seen in passing from a car window, we believe that these contacts foster greater understanding of the challenges of the developing world and give a better perspective as to how tourism plays a part in making a difference down at grass roots level.
LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK
Liwonde national park is considered the most prolific wildlife area in Malawi, despite its size – only 580 sq km. however, the shire river – the country’s largest river and Lake Malawi’s only outlet – forms the western boundary of the park and is a magnet for wildlife. Nearly a kilometer wide in places, with flood plains extending to three times that width in the south, the Shire River harbors a dense population of about a thousand hippo, flotillas of crocodiles and large numbers of elephants – the largest remaining population in the country. Antelopes such as Kudu, waterbuck and bushbuck are common along the banks. Sable occur in one of the greatest numbers in all Africa and one of only two breeding groups of black-rhino in Malawi reside in the park. Lion and leopard occur but are rarely seen, while cape clawless and spotted-necked otters are an exciting sighting.
Named after chief Liwonde who championed the protection of this area, the park is generally flat with fertile alluvial soils accounting for its lush beauty. The floodplains that surround the Shire River have dense riverine vegetation which adds a tropical feel to the habitat, fringed in turn by palm savannah and numerous baobabs. In the east, relatively dry Mopane woodlands are interspersed with candelabra trees, while patches of miombo woodland occur on the few hill slopes in the south and east.
Nearly 300 bird species occur here, with specials such as Bohm’s Bee-eater, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pel’s fishing owl and the only population of Lillian’s Lovebird in Malawi.
Liwonde National Park is a place of extraordinary biodiversity and conservation potential. It is there fore the focus of many NGO’s and non-profit organizations, as well as the park in Malawi in which wilderness Safaris is most involved.
A great diversity of animals can be seen including large numbers of elephant, Sable, hippo, impala, waterbuck, and occasionally the rare black rhino. Huge crocodiles, leopard and serval are also fairly common and birds are prolific. This park probably offers the best year-round birding. African Fish Eagle and Pel’s fishing owl are frequently sighted, as well as Bohm’s Beater, African skimmer, palm nut vulture, white –backed night heron and a host of other “specials”.
At approximately 600 km from north south and in places up to 80km wide, Lake Malawi, the third largest water body in Africa, constitutes roughly 20% of Malawi’s surface area. It dominates the eastern side of the country and harbors a wide range of underwater habitats including sandy, weedy, rock-sand interface and reed beds. There are also a number of dotted islands across the lake, separated from the mainland by sandy flats and deep water.
On the shores miombo woodlands and baobabs occur, and mammals such as baboon, vervet monkey, dassies and hippo are commonly sighted. Over 100 bird species are found, particularly water birds such as African fish-eagle and large colonies of white breasted cormorant.
Lake Malawi is famed for the abundance and diversity of its fish life and holds a greater array of freshwater fish species than any other lake on earth and more than all of Europe and North America combined. The majority of these are colorful fish called cichlids (their local name is mbuna ) of which the lake contains more than 400 types, 30% of all known species. Other fish species such as chambo form the primary protein source of the nearly 20,000 people that live on the lake shore and beyond. Much of this astounding underwater diversity is protected with in the lake Malawi national park at cape Maclear in the south, the in the world set aside for the protection of fresh fish and a world heritage site.