Malawi, nicknamed The Warm Heart of Africa!
The name ‘Malawi’ comes from Chichewa for flames of fire. This is because of the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that is seen over Lake Malawi. Despite being the smallest country in Africa, it contains Africa’s 3rd largest lake also known as the Calendar Lake because it’s 365 miles from top to bottom, 52 miles at it’s widest point and 12 main rivers flow into the lake.
Every time anyone talks about Malawi, I remember the overwhelming memories from my childhood – the school I went to, my friends, our frequent visits to the lake and wildlife safaris. The Malawians greet all visitors with a beaming smile, and with a genuine, disarming warmth. They will go out of their way to be friendly and helpful to anyone who has done them the honour of visiting their country. People travel to Malawi for a variety of reasons – the Lake, the diverse Wildlife, the Landscape! And few who visit escape with their hearts unscathed.
There are two major cities in Malawi. Lilongwe, the capital city and Blantyre, the commercial city of Malawi. Two other cities are Zomba, the former capital and Mzuzu, the city in the northern part of Malawi.
The Capital City – Lilongwe
Lilongwe, the city where I spend my childhood, is located in the central region of Malawi, with an estimated population of 1,077,116 – bordering with Mozambique and Zambia. The Old Town has quiet the buzz, and most people/visitors spend their time visiting cafes, craft stalls and markets. It is situated at the crossroads of the major highways – it’s streets remind the visitors of an old African Market, filled with vendors selling all sorts of crafts – foods – hardware – clothes. On the other hand, the City Centre, situated north of Old Town, has streets that contain government offices, banking and shopping. Lilongwe is hot through out the year with a little variation. The wet seasons lasts from December until March.
The Commercial City – Blantyre
Rich in historical significance, the city was named after the birthplace of Dr David Livingstone. It is also an industrial city with many manufacturing plants. Blantyre lies by the Shire Highlands, which is ringed by low hills and three mountain peaks, the landscape around Blantyre is more appealing than the area around Lilongwe. Whilst this doesn’t mean that it’s a busy tourist attraction, it is a central focus for travel in southern Malawi. The central triangle of the city is where you’ll find most shops as well as restaurants and some offices. It is within walking distance from Mount Soche and the Ryall’s Hotel in Blantyre and offers plenty of opportunity to get hold of some souvenirs.
Getting to Malawi
A valid passport, with at least six months to expiry date from intended exit date, is required to enter the Republic of Malawi. Australian citizens do not require a visa. All foreigners entering Malawi must possess a return ticket or onward ticket with the necessary travel documentation for the next destination. They must also have sufficient funds to cover expenses while in the country. Malawi is a small, land-locked country. Hence, the most convenient entry from Australia is by air. There are two international airports in Malawi; Kamuzu International Airport serving the capital Lilongwe, and Chileka International Airport serving the former capital Blantyre.
Once in Africa, the main border crossings are to and from South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Convenient road access to all these countries is by car or by bus. By Western standards, bus fares are incredibly cheap. Malawi has a dense and, comparatively well maintained road network. Many main roads and even frequently used minor roads have been tarred, and bridges have been renewed and upgraded. Tar roads are generally in good shape and potholes are seldom found.
Lake Malawi – Lake of stars
When ever I think of the Lake, all I can think of is the clear waters and beautiful white beaches and oh not forgetting the glorious sunrises and sunsets we used to enjoy. We always used to spot few hippos here and there, depending on what part of the Lake you are lodging at which was very exciting. Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world, so snorkelling is amazing and it’s a top destination for freshwater scuba diving. The most popular parts of Lake Malawi are its Central and Southern regions, this is where you will find family friendly beach resorts and lodges. To name a few places in Southern Region known as Mangochi district are; Club Makokola, Cape Maclear, Monkey Bay and Mumbo Islands, and the Central Region known as Salima district are; Grand Beach Hotel, Senga Bay and Livingstone Hotel. We used to visit the lake through out the year, however, the best time to visit is between early May to late October – this is when the climate is mild to warm and the risk of malaria is at its lowest. If you like bird watching, and a big game wildlife safari, then Liwonde National Park is the place to visit.
What to eat
When in Malawi, trying out the local cuisine is a memorable experience. Nsima, a local dish made from ground corn, can be served with a side of meat or vegetables and can be enjoyed throughout the day. Lake Malawi is the source of delicious seafood including the popular chambo which is a bream-like fish. Tea is a Malawian specialty and can be enjoyed with.