Malawi – ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’

Malawi is well known to travellers for its Lake that stretches from one part of the country to another. The country is also commonly referred to by many travellers and locals as the “warm heart of Africa”. What people don’t realise is how much Malawi has to offer. I visited Malawi in December last year for three weeks and I could not believe how beautiful it is. Not to mentioned how affordable – most of the time we stayed in rustic camps or pitched our own tent and it was incredible value for money. Occasionally we ‘splashed out’ at a more up market camp and it definitely was worth it.

We headed straight to Cape Maclear as soon as we arrived in Malawi. This is a small village located on the lake in the South of the country with stunning views of the nearby islands dotted around the lake. We spent some time on one of these islands, Domwe, in a rustic beach camp all to ourselves. The island takes no more than 10 people so you have nobody else to bother you. The camp is run by local staff who cooked our food and cleaned our tents, and all we had to worry about was what we were going to do each day. The waters off the island are pristine and teeming with thousands of blue cichlids (a type of fish) so the snorkelling is amazing. We also rented a kayak and kayaked around the island, which took about 3 hours. Along the way we spotted Otter, plenty of fish eagle and water monitors. On our return we climbed up to the top of the mountain – a strenuous 1 hr hike in 40 degree heat – but the views were worth it and we felt completely remote in this untouched paradise.

Another highlight of our stay in Malawi was the Ilala ferry. It is the only regular means of transportation from one end of the lake to another and it is definitely an experience. We boarded the ferry for our 24hr trip to Likomo island, located in the middle of the lake, and all went well…..until it started raining in the middle of the night and we were sleeping on the deck under the stars. We should have booked a cabin! Oh well all part of the adventure. Huddled under a small section of the roof next to the bear we waited until the rain stopped. Many of the locals spend all day and night drinking “greens”, also known as Carlsberg Beer, all day and night, so the boat can get rowdy. Getting off the ferry was a real adventure …we had to take a lifeboat ashore, but before we managed to get off, about 50 locals tried to pile onto the boat on top of us so there was a lot of pushing and shoving to say the least. We somehow survived the experience….!

Likomo Island, our ferry stop, is located in the middle of the lake close to Mozambique and is so relaxed. The people go about their day in a laid back fashion and everybody greets each other on passing. There is always time for a chat and a smile. We stayed at a small backpackers located in a stunning beach and really didn’t do much each day besides snorkel and swim, and watch life go by. We managed to get a look at the new Kaya Mawa lodge that is currently being renovated and the location is breathtaking. If I was on my honeymoon, this would have been the perfect spot for me to spend a few days.

From Likoma Island, we were lucky enough to get the chance to pop over to the Mozambique side of the lake for a few days. Nkwichi Lodge is where we stayed, an eco-friendly lodge that gives back to the community and is run sustainable principles. I have never seen a more pristine beach as this…hard to believe that it is located on the lake. We spent our days canoeing, walking in the forests, swimming and snorkelling. For anyone visiting Malawi, a trip over to Nkwichi Lodge is well worth it and they need as much support as they can get. Being so remote they do not get as many visitors as they would like to.

Back in Lilongwe, the capital, we boarded our flight and bid farewell to Malawi. I was looking for a holiday where I could relax and unwind, and this is exactly what I found. Nobody is in a hurry here and there is no rush to get anywhere or do anything in particular. Malawi is definitely one of Africa’s gems and, although it does not offer the big game of other countries close by, it has its own special attraction.