Safari Holidays in Malawi

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Home to the sea of stars

Malawi is a small, land locked country between Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. Its defining feature is the spectacular Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake, which runs almost the whole way down the east of the country. The fresh, clean waters of lake are fringed by wonderful, sandy beaches.

 

Besides this amazing inland sea, Malawi also has evergreen forests, mountain peaks and riverine lowlands, grasslands, rolling pastures, sugar and tea plantations, lovely wild flowers and wonderful game. Parts of the country have been likened to the magnificent Highlands of Scotland. Indeed, it is thought of by many as the most beautiful country in Africa. But there is even more to Malawi than its scenery, flora and fauna. The Malawians are some of the friendliest, kindest and most welcoming people you will meet anywhere in the world.

 

It is a great country to visit if you have already been to Africa before and want to try something different. Having said that, it has also been a first time safari destination for a number of our clients who have wanted to experience a different side to Africa from the classic big game country of Kenya and Tanzania.

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Great Places You Can Visit

We recommend three different regions of Malawi as must-visit locations, and they couldn’t be more different from each other.

Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is the country’s single biggest geographical feature and stretches 365 miles long and 52 miles wide earning it the name ‘Calendar Lake’. It is a very beautiful expanse of water, dotted with small islands and fringed by many stretches of clean, sandy beach and palm trees, making it a superlative beach destination.

 

Elsewhere along the shoreline, steep cliffs and a plunging escarpment in the east create a more dramatic landscape and the neighbouring hills of Tanzania and Mozambique form a stunning backdrop that is particularly beautiful at sunrise and sunset.

 

The waters of the lake are crystal clear and teeming with shoals of brightly coloured, small fish. Bird species here are in abundance, which include white-breasted cormorants, hamerkops, fish eagle, pied kingfishers and weavers, especially the lesser-masked and yellow weaver are just a few ever present.

Liwonde National Park

To the south of Lake Malawi is the country’s best game-viewing area, Liwonde National Park. The Shire River (pronounced ‘sheery’) runs out of Lake Malombe and right through the western edge of the park attracting great numbers of game.

 

Liwonde has a healthy elephant population as well as small herds of beautiful sable, buffalo, wildebeest, zebra, hartebeest and, very excitingly, a number of black rhino. The river is home to crocodiles, mud turtles and an extraordinary density of hippos – approximately 40 per mile!

 

Elephants are frequently seen at the water’s edge as are bushbuck, waterbuck, reedbuck, oribi, kudu, klipspringer and sable. Leopard and hyena live here too but are rarely seen, unlike genet, civet and serval who are all regularly spotted. Warthogs, bushpigs, vervet monkeys and mongoose also abound.

Nyika Plateau

In the very north of Malawi is the Nyika Plateau (and the Nyika National Park), a beautiful and uninhabited wilderness on a dome-like massif with numerous rivers and amazing scenery.

 

The plateau is about 50 miles long and 35 miles wide and slopes gently down from 8,000 feet high in the west to 7,000 feet high in the east. It is characterised by a giant landscape of enormous ‘whale-back’ hills covered by montane grassland and patches of evergreen forest. In the lower lying parts of the park such as in valleys and on the edges of the escarpment savannah woodland begins to dominate. There are steep escarpments surrounding the plateau, where waterfalls emerge as rivers and springs from this giant catchment area make their way down towards Lake Malawi.

 

The range of vegetation on the plateau attracts a great diversity of animals and birdlife and at the same time the lack of obstructive, tall trees means that any game is easily spotted. Reedbuck, bushbuck, zebra, roan, warthog and eland are commonly seen. There are also klipspringers, jackals, duikers and hartebeest. Predators include spotted hyena and leopard. There are elephant and buffalo here as well but they are often confined to less accessible parts of the park.

 

The flora of Nyika Plateau is also incredible. There are over 200 recorded species of orchid, around a dozen of which are found nowhere else in the world. In the south east corner of the park is a protected evergreen juniper forest, with some trees reaching an astonishing 160 feet high – a super place to go on a walk.

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Amazing Experiences You Can Have

There’s just so much you could do in Malawi, and we’re full of ideas to suit you. In the meantime, here are a few of our favourites.

Lake Malawi Activities

Lake Malawi is a wonderfully rich environment and if you enjoy watersports, particularly diving and snorkeling, you are certain to be enticed by the lake’s warm waters and its colorful inhabitants. Kayaking makes a fascinating way to explore the lovely islands and bays – and there are also great opportunities to go sailing in these gentle, current-free waters. Also, don’t forget to dhow Dhow Sunset cruise!

Birding

To some, a minor part of a safari, to others, the most important bit! Lots of people go to Malawi purely for the amazing birding opportunities. There are over 400 recorded species of bird making the Nyika Plateau alone, which is specially known It’s renowned for being a birdwatcher’s paradise. Species include the rare Denham’s bustard, the wattled crane and one of its sub-species, the red-winged francolin. Bar-tailed trogons, cinnamon doves and the orange-fronted starred robin can also be found here.

 

Nyika Plateau aside, other regions also boast a surplus of birdlife. Liwonde National Park for example is also home to over 400 species. The river here is the favoured locality for fish eagles, cormorants, herons and hamerkops. In the grasslands there are many different kinds of bee-eater – and in the wooded areas there are many beautiful sunbirds as well as the migratory European swallow. And Lake Malawi also carries a high volume of species, which are stunning to view against the dramatic lakeside scenery.

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When You Should Visit

Timing is everything, and when you choose to visit will play a huge part in the experience you have. Here’s some advice to help.

JANUARY

Heavy rain with high humidity levels.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 230mm

FEBRUARY

A wet and humid month.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 209mm

MARCH

One of the wettest months of the year.

Average Temperature: 19°C

Average Rainfall: 204mm

APRIL

The rain subsides gradually, and the temperatures fall a little.

Average Temperature: 17°C

Average Rainfall: 93mm

MAY

A very fresh, green month; some rain but also clear weather.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 22mm

JUNE

Start of Malawi’s peak season with increasing game sighting.

Average Temperature: 17°C

Average Rainfall: 9mm

JULY

Cold nights, but during the days it warms up quickly.

Average Temperature: 16°C

Average Rainfall: 7mm

AUGUST

Like July, the days can be hot, but the nights cool down.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 2mm

SEPTEMBER

Temperatures are warming up.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 2mm

OCTOBER

Hot and dry month with little rain.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 14mm

NOVEMBER

An unpredictable month; can be hot and dry, but first downpours possible.

Average Temperature: 19°C

Average Rainfall: 67mm

DECEMBER

Start of the rainy season.

Average Temperature: 18°C

Average Rainfall: 193mm

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Did You Know?

 

Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest lake.

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LAKE MALAWI

 

Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world including 30% of all known cichlid (‘sik-lid’) species, perch-like freshwater fish.

 

The lake is home to a staggering 400 species of cichlid with all but 5 being endemic.

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