Off the Beaten Path: Malawi, the “The Warm Heart of Africa”

Me: I am traveling to Malawi.
Most of my friends: What? Where?
Me: Malawi!
Most of my friends: Never heard of this country before! Where is it and what to see in Malawi?
Me: Malawi is in Southern Africa and it has the third biggest Lake in Africa, Lake Malawi.
Most of my friends: Okay a lake…

By now we reach the point where I have to show images of Lake Malawi in order to make them understand what this lake and country is all about and immediately everyone is on track.

Lake Malawi.

To be honest, before I came to Africa, I haven’t heard of this country with the stunningly beautiful lake and welcoming people either. One of my college’s that is from Malawi made me want to go to “The Warm Heart of Africa.”

Malawi is a combination of lake, wild life, landscape and culture and one of the most amazing travel destinations off the beaten tracks. After traveling in Malawi for about 3 weeks, I put together a list of all the important information that you need to make the most out of your trip.

The Malawians

Malawi’s nickname is “The Warm Heart of Africa.” In general, the people are super friendly and welcoming. Chat to as many as possible because you are going to learn a lot of their culture, traditions and the country. You might experience that they give themselves strange names. We met Chicken Pizza, Happy Coconut, Planet, Sweet Pineapple… just to mention a few.

What to see

Elephants roaming in Liwonde National Park.
  • Cape Maclear: Malawi’s version of the Cote d’Azure at the southern end of Lake Malawi
  • Liwonde National Park: the most famous National Park in Malawi
  • Mount Mulanje: ideal for those that are passionate about hiking
  • Senga Bay: a beach and fishing village 1 1/2 hours away from the capital Lilongwe
  • Kande Beach: one of the best places to chill; besides that this village has one of the most beautiful beaches in Malawi
  • Nkhata Bay: a small bustling fishing village
  • Likoma Island: beautiful island in Lake Malawi (to get here, take Ilala Ferry going from Nkhata Bay to Likoma)

Related Read: Malawi Geography and Wild Life.

What to eat

Don’t miss out on trying the Malawians’ favorite food. The stable food is nsima, which is sort of a porridge made from maize meal. It usually comes as a side for the following dishes:

  • Nsima and local chicken/beef
  • Nsima and chambo/kampango (fish)

What is delicious as well is the following street food:

  • Fried cassava (sort of a potato)
  • Fried banana
  • Bonya (dried fish)

Where to stay

  • Cape Maclear: The Funky Cichlid
  • Liwonde National Park: Liwonde Safari Camp
  • Senga Bay: Cool Runnings
  • Kande Beach: Kande Beach
  • Nkhata Bay: Mayoka Village

My advice: Instead of staying in hostels and lodges, stay with locals. We made friends with locals everywhere, and they invited us to their houses. This is definitely the best cultural experience you can ever have.

Other things to note:

Malaria

Yes, Malaria is an issue. Get yourself precaution, spray yourself and get malaria medicine to take home with you to be on the safe side in case you get it.

Blackouts/water supply

The abovementioned are issues Malawi is dealing with, but you will get used to it.

Bilharzia

When traveling in Malawi and swimming in the lake you have to consider one thing: Bilharzia. It is a parasitic infection caused by a tiny flatworm. This flatworm appears in parts of Lake Malawi and can cause severe sickness. Read up on this before you go on your trip to Malawi, but please don’t overthink it. I took praziquantel 600 mg pills with me from Malawi to treat myself after my stay. You should consider doing the same and speak to a doctor after your trip.

How to get here: Malawi, Southeast Africa

Getting to Malawi by plane is a bit time consuming as you need to switch planes quite often, but it’s worth it. Time consuming is a trip by bus as well. You can reach Malawi quite conveniently coming from Zambia or South Africa (e.g., Intercape, Kobs Bus).

Visa

Most nationalities need a visa to travel Malawi. My recommendation: sort out your visa in one of the embassies or get it straight at the airport in Lilongwe. Be aware that they only accept credit card or US dollar at the airport.

Cash/money

The local currency is Malawian kwacha. One of the best advices I can give is to withdraw cash once you are in the bigger cities like Lilongwe or Blantyre. Especially at Cape Mclear, Kande Beach and Nkhata Bay, we had serious problems to withdraw money. The ATM wouldn’t accept Master Card (only visa) or wasn’t working or there was no ATM at all. What you can take with you as well is US dollar as it is accepted almost everywhere.

How to get around

The public transport in Malawi works pretty well. There are mini buses and other buses (Axa Bus) going everywhere. The only thing you need to bring again is a lot of time as the distances are far.

P.S. In the following posts I am taking you on a road trip through “The Heart Warm of Africa” with getting to know the culture, traditions and the people that live there. Don’t miss out my posts and vlogs of my 3 weeks trip:

The Ultimate Guide: Malawi Part 1 and The Ultimate Guide: Malawi Part 2

 

About the author: Hi, I am Claudi from Germany. In 2015, I left my career in search of new places, people and experiences. Ever since I have started traveling I have been in a state of perfect happiness, “on cloud 9” you may say! That’s why my blog is called “on Claudi 9.” I want to give advice like travel bloggers as well but I decided to focus more on experiencing unfamiliar cultures, traditions and the people that live in the countries I am travelling to. I want you to experience countries like a local. I want you to stay with locals, move with locals, eat with locals, get to know locals — really, just to get the most out of your travel experience.

Follow Claudi on On Claudi 9, as well as her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for the mention of Funky Cichlid here Claudia! We’re so glad you found us and look forward to you coming back.. great piece here and thanks for spreading the word of Malawi!

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