To stay one month in one country in one place, and you truly soak up the environment. I went to Malawi to visit my friend Claudia. She was running the Mushroom farm for a year, where I stayed with her. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful episodes of my life, Malawi is an amazing country.
What to expect?
Although it’s been 3 years, that I visited Malawi, not that much should have changed. The reason I loved the country, is because of her diversity and the way people spend their day to day life.
Malawi isn’t a country many tourists go. This is one of the few countries left where locals are excited to see ‘strangers’, want to talk to you out of curiosity and otherwise, leave you to yourself. There are no tourist buses, shops, streets or anything like it. Instead there are little ‘islands’ where western people have set up a camp and where other western people tend to hang out.
You will see that many tourists visit Malawi with so called ‘overland trucks’ which stop at the same places each time. Even when everything in Malawi looks like ‘of the beaten track’, you will stick easily to this small tourist route.
Where to go?
Malawi got it all, beautiful beaches, snorkelling, waterfalls, jungle, lovely inhabitants, interesting culture and many wildlife to spot. Even some party’s at hostels if you are really keen on it.
Because I stayed in Livingstonia, I’ve seen the most of the Northern part of Malawi. I will tell you about my recommendations:
Top things to do, being in Malawi
– Enjoy the beach (hostels) and feel like being on tropical holiday. For example: Mayoka village (Nkhata Bay), Chitimba beach camp or Sangilo sanctuary lodge (8km north of Chitimba). Last one being my favourite, because it’s more quiet and has an absolutely stunning little beach with a cute restaurant aside.
– take the mini bus to get around. A literally freaking experience. Although I thought I would die not only one time, I wouldn’t have to miss this. Getting squeezed in a 12 person van with sometimes 30 people, dodge aside for monkeys or cows on the way, and the best of all: admiring the views
– counting animals. There are so many animals to see. Different monkey species are everywhere, just as fluffy chickens walking along the road. In wildlife reserves I saw hippo’s and tons of monkeys and herds. You can also spot elephants, lions, crocodiles, giraffes and cheetahs in Malawi.
– to continue about animals, sleeping in Vwasa national park between the hippo’s. I stayed in a strong wooden hut, with a terrace overlooking a lake. When it got dark you could hear the hippo’s walking around. Amazing! Also very nice was the cute ranger who made us dinner with our own brought ingredients.
– cuddle with local kids while visit the colonial settlement Livingstonia. The walk to Livingstonia from either Chitimba (2hrs) or the mushroom farm (30 min), is already great. You pass small clay houses, a market, walk through farm land and can stop by at the nice Manchewe Falls. Some kids can guide you to the bottom of the fall if you like.
– When already being up the hill, walk to the Chombe plateau (1 hr) to catch the best views over the lake. You will again walk pass small settlements where time has stopped. When finally on the plateau you can see the lake and Tanzania on one site and on the other side a beautiful bush valley.
How to get there and get around
To book a direct flight from anywhere but Africa to Malawi, is expensive. It might be an option to fly to Tanzania first, and cross the border of North Malawi by train or bus. For your transport within the country, you can rely on the bus network of AXA, neat coaches that are used by the more wealthy locals and an occasional tourist. This buses depart on set times and have their own stops. Otherwise, you get to use the far more crappy (mini) buses that depart from bus stations. This ones depart when full, and it’s no exception that there are multiple buses waiting with the same destination all partly full… obviously, nobody’s in a rush. I thought it was great fun to travel around with this buses! The most convenient way to travel is with your (own) rented car though. Malawi has one paved ‘highway’, so using a four wheel drive is no luxury.
When people are happy, they wont harm anyone. This is the case in Malawi. There’s no criminality, robberies or anything like it. Especially in the more rural parts, they will choose to steel a tomato over your Iphone. However, in the cities your valuables are more vulnerable. Locals know that tourists have more money than they will ever have, so they can sometimes be pushy to get you on a cap or let you buy a piece of anything. The difference between cities and rural parts are very notable. In the former surrounding, you shouldn’t take pictures of people, they get very offended by it. But overall, Malawi is very safe.
I asked my friend Claudia to meet me at the Mc Donalds at the airport and she was laughing in my face. When I arrived I could understand why, even the capital Lilongwe is like an airport on a random Greek island: tiny and basic. You will not find any retail stores in this country. Tampons are just introduced, and the shelves of supermarkets are filled with green soap and flour. So bring anything you might need for personal care like bug repellent, shampoos, medical equipment etc. There’s a kind of shop offering household supplies and other basics like socks, witch we would refer to as ‘Zeeman’. Here you can buy some essentials as well. The locals will continually ask you for pens and empty plastic bottles, so you can make them happy with this. Of course inform yourself about the necessary vaccinations.
have fun in Malawi 🙂