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Off the Beaten Track: Malawi

by Martha Hales

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In terms of drawing big crowds, Malawi is hardly overrun with tourists. It’s true that the south is fairly well developed - with the option of lakeside lounging around Cape Maclear and forays into Liwonde and Majete National Parks. The south of the country is also home to its commercial hub, Blantyre; Malawi’s highest peak, Mount Mulanje; and the bewitching surroundings of the Zomba Plateau - all widely considered Malawi’s most popular sites and well worth a visit. Nevertheless, there is much more to this emerald country of lakes and hills than these stops alone.

Perhaps you have already been to Southern Malawi and you’re looking for an alternative itinerary for your second trip, or maybe you want to head down ‘the road less travelled’ in this oft-overlooked country of beautiful landscapes. Whatever your point of view, here are some ideas for getting off the beaten path in Malawi.

Likoma island

Despite being surrounded by Mozambican waters, the islands of Likoma and Chizumulu are Malawian territory. Likoma is a truly delightful destination to visit, peppered with sandy coves and possessed of a charming and mellow atmosphere that consistently bewitches visitors. With a population of 9000, there is plenty of activity to keep you entertained if the twin temptations of beaches and water begin to lose their allure. It may be a bit of an effort to get there, but Likoma is well worth the trip.

Chizumulu island

Only 10 kilometres away from its neighbour island of Likoma, Chizumulu is even more blissfully remote and a real get-away-from-it-all destination situated in Lake Malawi. It's one of those segregated communities where only a couple of ferries run each week and electricity isn’t switched on at certain times of day. With no roads and only 4000 inhabitants on its five-kilometre-long landmass, there are beaches, baobabs and lots of chances to experience laid back island life.

NyikaNyika National Park

This highland reserve is far from urban bustle, situated 2000 metres high on the lofty Nyika Plateau. This extraordinarily scenic park is packed full of wildlife with some enticing trails for hikers and bikers alike. Among the grassy expanses and woodland you can expect to see leopards, elephants, antelope, bushbucks and zebras. Impressive birdlife includes rare species such as francolins and wattled cranes. The park is also known for its profusion of wildflowers including some exquisite orchids.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

This is a truly remote location and tourism is still in its infancy here. Swamps and marshland characterise the 1000 square kilometre reserve which includes two meandering rivers and Lake Kazuni. Miombo and mopane woodlands dominate the vegetation, while much of the park is vast and flat. Wildlife in the wetlands includes herds of roaming elephants and a pod of hippos in Lake Kazuni, as well as impala, kudu, roan and hartebeest. Birdwatching is another highlight, as these waterlogged habitats support a number of species of storks and herons. If you are keen to visit Nyika Plateau (above) it is fairly simple to combine it with a trip to Vwaza, which lies just at its foot.

Livingstonia town

More than 400 miles north of Malawi’s capital and sat at 900 metres altitude is the missionary station of Livingstonia. Malawi’s Scottish missionaries had attempted to set up in two other low-lying locations before settling in Livingstonia in 1894, but were defeated by malaria. The mission was led for more than fifty years by Dr Robert Law, and the house he lived in is now a small museum. What makes this town so appealing is the peace, the colonial brick built architecture, the leafy streets and the spellbinding views down to Lake Malawi.

NkhataNkhata Bay

Pristine white sandy beaches and turquoise water combine at Nkhata Bay to lend a Caribbean flavour to the area. Add in the perennial mouthwatering aroma of fish being grilled over charcoal, the various water-based activities on offer and the overwhelmingly picturesque surroundings, and you have a prime spot to unwind for a few days. Pack your snorkel to explore the clear, clean water teeming with fish, kick back and relax. It's what Nkhata Bay is all about.

Make it happen

Malawi has a lot going for it. Not only the beautiful lakes brimming with colourful fish, but epic landscapes trampled by big game, hundreds of pretty beaches, an intriguing culture and ever smiling people. What are you waiting for? Send your requirements to our local experts in Malawi and they will create your ideal trip.

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