Part 2 of Travelling Malawi: The warm heart of Africa

Quite a few tour operators cover Malawi: Malawi is an intriguing part of the tapestry of Africa. And there are professionals on hand to make a visit possible. Including Expert Africa, Steppes Travel, Timbuktu Travel, Robin Pope Safaris, Explore and Cox & Kings. Expert Africa rather sums up the country with the following commentary: “Malawi has few safari areas, and none are very famous. There is relatively little tourism in Malawi. Watching local children play around the lake, you’ll quickly understand why Malawi is promoted as the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.” But that’s rather the point. If you want an unseen side of Africa, this is your place. There’s a wealth of extra details through the local tourist board too, at http://www.malawitourism.com.

Is Malawi safe to visit: Walking in the middle of the night, going out for drinks to the local pubs – you will most likely never get into a situation where you feel your security is threatened?  Nevertheless, use common sense and remember Malawi is the poorest country in the world. Make sure you don´t display valuables as it might attract people to take chances.

Nightlife: This text provides an overview of the live music scene in Malawi. When Malawi gained its independence in 1964, there was no such thing as recording studios – so it was live music that dominated. The country’s first president, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, would invite people of various ages from all over Malawi and musicians had to perform before him and his colleagues. Live music performances were so powerful in the country because there was no single recording studio in the country, so talented musicians were forced into live performances to make a living. Malawi has also become quite a popular destination on the international touring circuit, with artists from other countries coming in to perform. Some of the recent big names to have performed in the country include Pop Dogg, a Malawian based in the US, Zambia’s Dalisoul, Nigeria’s Davido and P-Square, and South Africa’s Mafikizolo, Professor, DJ Cleo and Zahara.

Music is performed at nightclubs, open grounds, restaurants, hotels, warehouses and in streets. Popular live music venues in Blantyre include Moth Club, Doogles Lodge, Motel Paradise, Dorvic Hotel, Afro Motel in Blantyre, Limbe Country Club, Robins Park , Club Mustang Sally, Ozone Refreshment Centre in Machinjiri, Shire Highlands Hotel and the Malawi College of Medicine. In the capital of Lilongwe, venues include Club 47, Waka waka Hotel and the Lilongwe golf Club . In the northern city of Mzuzu, live music can often be heard at the Grand Palace Hotel , Key Lounge restaurant and bar  and at Mzuzu University’s Boma Park . Elsewhere, in the small town of Balaka, the Zembani Lodge is owned by musician Lucius Banda.

Festivals:  Besides the venues where live music can often be experienced, Malawi is also home to several annual musical festivals. The biggest of these is the Lake of Stars festival, held annually around September or October since 2004 in various locations on the shores of Lake Malawi. This festival features a diverse and exciting line-up of musicians and attracts various sponsors to fund the event. Another major festival is the Blantyre Arts Festival, which focusses not only on music but attracts international and local artists. The festival takes place over three or four days, although its exact dates usually vary. A smaller, less established event is the Likoma Festival (Li-Fest) on Likoma island over the Easter weekend. It is aimed at promoting tourism to the island district (and the country in general) while providing locals with an opportunity to learn, earn, enjoy and advance their lives. Please check platforms like Trip Advisor for the latest information about some of the venues highlighted above. Some may have closed or liquidated.

Other things to do in Malawi include Visit Lake Malawi: Lake Malawi is one of the most impressive and beautiful lakes in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, it is the third largest in Africa. You’ll be forgiven if you think you’re on a sub-tropical island with its sandy beaches and palm trees, backed by towering mountains covered in rainforest. Lake Malawi’s waters are also home to hundreds of species of fish, giving life to rural fishing villages along its shores.

Freshwater diving and snorkeling: Malawi is possibly one of the best freshwater diving and snorkelling spots in Africa. It is also a great place to learn how to dive if you are a first-timer. Keen divers are often eager to “tick-off” a dive in this spot as the visibility is excellent, the water is warm and you don’t have to go out in a boat to see the nearest coral reef.

Biking in Nyika: The Nyika Plateau is Malawi’s largest National Park that boasts a stunning afro-montane plateau with plenty of plains game to view. Watch out for zebra, Roan antelope, eland and bush pig. In addition, there are 400 species of birds and over 200 orchid species to look out for. This is a truly superb environment for mountain biking in the bush!

Hiking: There are a number of magnificent hiking opportunities in this vast country. The Zomba Plateau, which rises to a height of 1 800metres (6 000 feet), presents relaxed hikes through lush forested areas. Experience incredible panoramic views and great bird-watching opportunities. Alternatively, Mount Mulanje is a huge granite massif in southern Malawi that provides wonderful hikes for families with its abundance of streams and peaks to explore. Another option is Nyika Plateau with its beautiful high rolling hills of grasslands dotted with zebra, antelope, orchids and butterflies – a hikers paradise!

Do Some Tea Tasting: The road to Mulanje Mountain is painted with amazing sights from the tea estates. Instead of just seeing the tea from a distance, add to your Malawi experience by awakening the Tea Sommelier in you. Estates like Satemwa, Lauderdale, Esperanza, and many more offer free tea tasting trips for tourists. For a full British Tea hangout, the 1874 Huntingdon House located in the middle of Satemwa Tea Estates will surely provide you with historical charm and a unique experience that cannot be recreated.

Partake in the local cuisines: Food is every part of the thriving culture of Malawi. To have an authentic Malawi experience, it is recommended that you try some of the local delicacies. Nsima, Malawi’s staple food made out of processed corn, is a must have. Make sure it is served with meat or fish and some greens, and if you can go all the way, a local chilli called kambuzi is a good side. Make sure you also try out Malawi’s biggest food export, the chambo, a tasty tilapia fish, which is arguably the best fish your palate ever come across. We recommend having chambo with a local rice called kilombero, an aromatic rice only grown in this part of the world.

If your stomach can handle it, be sure to try out the street food as well. Some of the popular street foods are deep-fried sweet fritters, or mandasi in the local language, and Kanyenya (Barbecued meat or fish). In almost every neighbourhood in Malawi, you will also find chiwaya, a mobile metal stove usually serving Malawi’s favorite alternative, chips and chicken. It is also common to find greasy fried pork and beef on a chiwaya. If you are in the deep southern districts, you can try out snacks like the notorious mice on a stick or ngumbi, a low-fat/low-sodium and high in lean protein African termite, which is superbly tasty.

Buy from the markets and Support local sourced goods: Whether you are a big fan of thrifting and arts and crafts, or you simply  love farmers markets, Malawi offers you unlimited market options.  The main cities of Blantyre, Mzuzu, Zomba, and Lilongwe have farmers markets where fresh fruits, legumes, and vegetables are sold. In addition to these markets, Kampepuza, Lizulu, Mbayani, and Limbe Markets also offer amazing second-hand clothes shopping, known as “Bendova” in local pidgin. The main cities also have arts and crafts markets that offer a lot of curios and African clothes. Whatever you are buying, be sure to negotiate the price down to avoid overpaying.

Volunteer: One of the biggest ways to immerse one’s self in the Malawi experience is by volunteering at local schools, community projects, children houses, and wildlife centres. With all Her beauty and charm, Malawi still struggles with issues like HIV/AIDS and poverty, among many others. By volunteering skills and time, you are helping to grow this amazing country, making your visit not only adventurous but impactful. Some of the popular volunteer places are the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, Tilinanu Orphanage, Kondanani Children’s Home, St John’s Hospital, Mulanje Orphan Care, Thyolo Recycling, and Crisis Nursery, as well as many others. You can get more ideas from bloggers like Ndaba Lungu at https://www.africa.com/10-things-to-do-in-malawi/, who are Malawian nationals that can offer more insight on Malawi.

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