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A guide to Malawi

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Craving watersports, enormous lakes or fabulous beach resorts in Cape Maclear? Malawi has this and more. Explore the wildlife reserves and National Parks for an enthralling experience. With a very popular tourism industry, finding a great place to stay is easy all year. Check out our top hotels & resorts in Malawi here...
Fishing on the lakes in Malawi

Malawi is a modest-sized country of around 120,000 square kilometres, which borders Tanzania to the north, Mozambique to the south and east and Zambia to the west. A large proportion of the eastern region is taken up by Lake Nyasu, providing around 12 million, English speaking, South African people with much tourism, due to the lakes abundant supply of water sports. Originally descended from the Chewa and Tumbuko people, most of the population are of Christian or Muslim religion, who strive to make a living from products such as tea, cotton and sugarcane, trading with countries such as the USA and Zimbabwe.

Founded in 1891, the British settlement of Nyasaland became, in 1964, the independent country of Malawi. After 30 years of dictatorial rule under President Banda, Malawi, in 1994, held combined elections, under a temporary statute, which came into total effect in 1995. Today’s President Muluzi, came into rule in the 1994 elections and was re-elected as president in 1999. His efforts to change the constitution to permit for a third term have been futile and rising fraud, population expansion, pressure on agriculture and HIV/AIDS present key problems for the Malawi.

When it comes to fun in Malawi, there’s a bountiful supply of water sports to enjoy, which is no surprise with the humongous size of lake that runs through the country! Scuba diving and snorkeling will provide visitors with a clear view of the lake’s enormous array of colourful fish, with windsurfing, water skiing and sailing on offer at the trendier areas of the lake. When it comes to wildlife, the country has many safari parks, where visitors can view the animals, either from a vehicle or on foot. Bird enthusiasts will find the Elephant Marsh, on the Shire River, 40 miles south of Blantyre, the perfect place to see many a species of bird life, but binoculars are a must! Land lovers will also get time to hike or rock climb at the Nyika Plateau in the north and Mount Mulanje in the south, with routes available for every level of climber or hiker.

After all the physical activity, visitors should head to Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe, whose New City area is filled with structures such as ministries, embassies, airline offices and a shopping centre, with the old area named Old Town scattered with markets, cafes, eateries, a bus depot and good hotels. Between these two towns is the 370-acre Nature Sanctuary filled with beautiful woodland trails, a river, the Lingadzi River, home to a family of crocodiles and of course other animals such as leopards, tigers (sadly caged) and hyenas. Lastly, visitors should check out the highly interesting public gallery at the Auction Holdings warehouse, especially the tobacco auction floors, a space the size of numerous aircraft hangars, full of purchasers, vendors and hundreds of bales of tobacco weed, which stretch right across the floor! The place gets pretty chaotic with people buying bales continuously, with around 15,000 bales per day getting sold.

There are all sorts of ways to get about Malawi from road to air to boat. The good news is that the travel between major towns is short and with such good roads in Malawi, even car rental is an option. Flying via Air Malawi is the quickest route around the country, a bit more expensive but time is not on a visitor’s side, and many hours could be wasted traveling by road. To get around any town, taxis are the best bet, taking visitors anywhere their heart desires, morning, noon and night, with local buses also picking up folk, but only during the day. The buses range in quality and distance, so visitors need to look into what they want and where they need to go. The trains are best left alone, as they are slow, overcrowded and in short supply…need I say more! Getting about on the water is also a slow process, via the weekly Ilala ferry, which travels between Monkey Bay and Chilumba, on Lake Malawi.

The best way to travel to the country is by direct flight from Europe or various regions of Africa, to Lilongwe International Airport. British Airways has flights once a week from London to Malawi and other countries can arrive via connections with Europe or Australia. The driest season is from April to October, with the land in full bloom from May through July. Bird watchers will find April or May the best time to arrive in Malawi, with the latter parts of the dry season being a favourite time for wildlife lovers.