Malawi’s people are its greatest asset – friendly, welcoming, colourful and vibrant. It is impossible to visit the country and not to become engaged with the Malawians and most visitors to the country remember those engagements and interactions as the highlight of their trip. As well as the natural encounters on a daily basis, there are widespread opportunities to spend time in real villages (including staying overnight) for a first-hand experience of the cultures, traditions and daily life. This is an option pretty much everywhere in Malawi, and one well worth taking. Whether they are in a National Park, up on a highland or alongside Lake Malawi, most of Malawi’s lodges and hotels have close links with their local communities, to whom they are very supportive. They have engaged with local villages and chiefs to sensitise them to the interests of visiting tourists, and paved the way for genuine and truly interactive village visits for any guest interested in learning more about daily life in Malawi. Although there may be some demonstrations of cooking techniques or agricultural practises, these visits will be about experiencing day-to-day life in a real village, and not about being performed to in a newly created, non-genuine ‘cultural village’.
One of the longest established and best organised village experiences is the popular Njobvu Village close to Liwonde National Park. But almost any lodge around the country can arrange a village visit, even if they may not advertise the fact. For some of the best genuine community experiences, it is worth contacting The Responsible Safari Company, a local operator that has long been organising engaging and two-way interactive visits.
Places offering Village Visits
The largest urban area in Malawi, the conurbation of Blantyre & Limbe, is the country’s commercial capital.
Chintheche offers some of the best beaches on Lake Malawi, with a collection of luxury lodges right by the shore.
Thirty miles north of Nkhotakota is the settlement of Dwangwa, a useful place to stock up and refuel when travelling up and down the lakeshore.
Lake Malawi National Park is the world's first freshwater national park and world heritage site, situated at Cape Maclear.
Lengwe National Park is 350 sq miles of dense vegetation with good birdlife and a number of mammal species to be seen. It is only an hour or so from Blantyre.
Likoma Island sits on the far side of the Lake Malawi in Mozambican waters. The island is home to stunning beaches and lodges, with access by boat or aircraft.
Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital. The Old Town is distinct and has the appearance of a traditional African settlement, whilst the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world.
Livingstonia is a mission station established in 1894 by Robert Laws, a disciple of David Livingstone. Sited at 3000ft above Lake Malawi, there are stunning views across the Lake.
Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi's game parks. The River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris to discover the Big 5 and an array of birdlife.
The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors. An amazing success story of recovery and restoration, and now home to the Big 5.
A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.
The Mangochi Lakeshore is a strip of southern Lake Malawi where many popular hotels and resorts offer beachside accommodation.
The capital of the north is Mzuzu, with an interesting bustling market and is growing rapidly, with a selection of lodges close by.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is one of the two large wildlife areas in Central Malawi. A true wilderness, it has a promising future after recent mass restocking.
Ntchisi Forest Reserve contains some of the last remaining indigenous rainforest in Malawi. Some trees tower thirty metres overhead.
Nyika is Malawi’s largest park. Superb wildlife and landscapes in one, it offers breathtaking, unique, scenery combined with wonderful safaris.
Salima is an important service and trading centre set back from Lake Malawi whilst Senga Bay has a stretch of sandy beach with a range of hotels, lodges and campsites.
The forested Viphya is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude, with opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.
Known for its views, Zomba Plateau is a great slab of a mountain with vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress and criss-crossed by streams with tumbling waterfalls and still lakes.
Tea is Malawi's second largest export, with acres of tea plantations in the south of the country. The Satemwa Tea Estate at Thyolo is a tourist hotspot for those wishing to take part in tea tasting.
Malawi has a wide range of performance arts to show its visitors from traditional dance to up and coming hip hop artists.
There is much to see of Malawi’s history, beginning with the pre-history remains of the Karonga district and the Stone Age rock paintings near Dedza. Elsewhere, the colonial period is preserved in buildings dating from the David Livingstone era.
Malawi's bustling and colourful local markets sell everything from fruit and vegetables to arts & crafts, meat and traditional dress.
Becoming a volunteer in Malawi's communities goes along way to provide a better future for Malawian people.