Image: Kelly Amdur

Undiscovered Destinations: Malawi

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Hidden within the world’s second largest continent, amongst 53 other countries, lies Malawi: the warm heart of Africa. Often is the case that when travellers are deliberating over where to visit in Africa, top attractions like Morocco, South Africa and Kenya are usually favoured. Kenya is one of the best places to go on a Safari, South Africa is home to popular cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town and whilst I can personally vouch for the beauty of the souks in Marrakech, so can millions of other people, and that is precisely the point. Malawi is a country that has so much to offer, yet several travel guides and blogs do not even have it listed as a destination; so here is why I think it deserves recognition.

Like the majority of African countries, Malawi is home to several safari parks and Majete Wildlife Reserve was where I embarked on my first one. I enjoyed watching the cheetahs snoozing under the trees and the monkeys swinging around up above. It was a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Blantyre, Malawi’s second largest city and another worthwhile place to visit. Liwonde National Park is another popular place for tourists visiting Malawi for the first time. Whilst there, I stumbled upon a sign warning me to beware of hippos and other wild animals, because unlike at Majete, the monkeys were not playing in the trees, but in our tents, stealing the biscuits. Although the game drive is the main part of a safari, relaxing amongst the beautiful scenery and vast landscape of a national park is an experience in itself. I went from taking pictures of hippos to sunbathing by a pool, surrounded by a group of warthog and thinking about how happy my younger self would have been to be face to face with a real life Pumbaa. It was exciting experiencing all of this in a location that many others had overlooked on their journey to the most popular or highly recommended wildlife reserves in Africa.

I went from taking pictures of hippos to sunbathing by a pool, surrounded by a group of warthog and thinking about how happy my younger self would have been to be face to face with a real life Pumbaa.

As Liwonde is located alongside the Shire River, this national park affords the opportunity for visitors to go on a boat safari, where crocodiles become a little too close for comfort. My personal favourite part was when the boat stopped next to a herd of elephants. It proved entertaining when I noticed the birds perched on their backs, appearing to get a free ride across the river. In addition to a game drive and boat safari, Liwonde National Park also offers night safaris, this time going in search of nocturnal animals. The beauty of this, of course, is that these three excursions all happen within the same park, whilst simultaneously creating the feeling that several places have been visited. Whilst you can go on safari in various other countries in Africa, the fact that considerably less people visit Malawi, means that you are engaging in a more unique experience, set against a contrast of highlands and lakes, that lots of other people have not had the pleasure of seeing.

Image: Kelly Amdur

you are engaging in a more unique experience, set against a contrast of highlands and lakes, that lots of other people have not had the pleasure of seeing.

The town of Cape Maclear is situated on the southern shore of Lake Malawi (the second largest lake in Africa), and provides visitors with its beautiful scenery and a variety of entertainment. It offers markets, where a local man designed and made an outfit for me out of traditional materials, to restaurants and water sports. The highlight of my visit here was a trip to Domwe, Lake Malawi’s only unpopulated Island – a truly unique adventure that sets Malawi apart from several other overpopulated African countries that have become tourist hotspots. With access to the island largely carried out by kayaking, people are allowed to stopover, with the foundation of the island being that even the basic amenities there can be removed, so that no trace will ever ruin the beauty of the island. There is no electricity there, so solar lamps and water that is pumped from the lake contribute to the feel of the experience. If you needed any more persuading, waking up on a hammock overlooking the clear water, or camping out under the stars, is sure to make you feel like you’re a million miles away.

If you needed any more persuading, waking up on a hammock overlooking the clear water, or camping out under the stars, is sure to make you feel like you’re a million miles away.

These places only scratch the surface of what Malawi has to offer. As I found out, the appeal lies largely with native Malawians, who welcome visitors with open arms, and make the country so memorable. So whilst it is largely an undiscovered destination, those of us who have discovered it appreciate its authentic beauty. For such a small country, Malawi certainly has enough on offer to compete with the popular picks that typify people’s experience of Africa.

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