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South Malawi

 

 For a list of Accommodation in South Malawi, click here.

The southern third of the country is the most populated and the most developed Economically dominated by Blantyre and physically by the great Shire Valley and Mulanje Mountain, there is great diversity in South Malawi.

Landscape

Snaking through the region, the Shire River (pronounced ‘Shri-ee’) drains Lake Malawi, and follows the Rift Valley southwards. The Lower Shire Valley is broad and flat as the river flows out to Mozambique in the extreme south of the country. This is the lowest point in the country, yet only just over one hundred kilometres away is Malawi’s highest peak, the great Mount Mulanje which towers to over 3000 metres (9850 feet) - the highest mountain in the whole of central Africa. It is actually a massif of peaks and basins, a huge forested ‘island in the sky’ accessible only on foot. The area between Mulanje and Blantyre is dominated by tea estates. Full of beautiful scenery and great colonial character, the estates at Thyolo are easy to visit. To the west of Mulanje is the region’s other massif, Zomba Plateau. This is a table-like mountain rising to over 2080 metres (6800 feet) with sheer scarp-like edges. It’s possible to drive the top of the plateau to explore the forested interior and take in the stunning views from the edges.

Wildlife

South Malawi has more National Parks & Wildlife Reserves than any other region. Three of them are in the low lying Lower Shire Valley, home to vast sugar estates and accessed by descending the dramatic Thyolo Escarpment south –west of Blantyre. Majete Wildlife Reserve stretches west from the Shire River and is currently being re-stocked to become a ‘Big 5’ destination. Lengwe National Park has a good variety of antelope, including the beautiful nyala, and is easy to explore on driveable tracks and using hides at waterholes. Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve is the most remote but is now being developed under a community-based conservation project. The area furthest south in the Lower Shire Valley is Elephant Marsh – notable now for its birdlife. Further north and on the upper reaches of the Shire River, is Liwonde National Park, Malawi’s premier game park, which offers boat safaris as in addition to the usual walking and 4x4 safaris.

Lake

The last of South Malawi’s National Parks if the Lake Malawi National Park at Cape Maclear. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the waters and fish are protected, making the lake here a veritable aquarium of tropical fish. Between the port of Monkey Bay and the historic Mangochi is Lake Malawi’s greatest concentration of hotels and lodges, with a long line of wonderful sandy beaches backed by a variety of accommodation options. This is known as the Mangochi Lakeshore. South Malawi has two other lakes of note, Malombe, which is a broadening of the Shire River shortly after it leaves Lake Malawi, and Lake Chilwa, a wetland area of international importance.

Culture

Blantyre is the regional capital and the country’s commercial heart. Sitting in the Shire Highlands, surrounded by peaks, it has modern shops and a number of interesting historical buildings. Zomba was the capital in colonial times and that legacy remains today with a gymkhana club, war memorials and colonial buildings to be visited. Sitting in the shadow of the Zomba Plateau, it’s also a great place to witness a modern-day African market.