Regions and Towns
The Northern Region
The Southern Region
Lake Malawi, is one of Africa's
most spectacular Rift Valley lakes, occupying one fifth of Malawi's total land
mass, stretching from Tanzania in the North to Mangochi in the south bordering
Mozambique on the eastern shoreline.
It is 365 miles long and 52
miles wide and reaches a depth of over 700 metres in the northern parts. It is
fed by fourteen rivers and drained by only one, the Shire River in the south.
Just about every visitor to Malawi will visit the lake which regarded
as a truly tropical paradise, and it not difficult to see why, with the
spectacular surrounding scenery, miles of golden beaches lining the shores of
the lake and the crystal clear water. From north to south there is are numerous
places to stay of great variety of accommodation that suit most peoples taste
and budget. The Lake has become a playground for tourists worldwide. The lake
is ideal for watersports, sailing or just relaxing in the sun.
Malawi has over 500 species of tropical fish, some which not found anywhere
else in the world. Scuba diving is very popular in certain areas providing
excellent visibility and safe conditions.
In recent years it has been
recorded that there is bilharzia in certain parts of the lake, mainly in the
south where the rivers flood in during the raining season from the villages
upstream. In these areas and during the raining season visibility can be very
poor and the lake appears slightly muddy.
The following section
follows the lakeshore from north to south:-
Koronga is the main town
in the far northern part of the lake and is the entry and exit point for those
travelling to and from Tanzania and Northern Zambia. It is also the only place
north of Mzuzu with a bank. The lakeshore stretch from Karonga, travelling
south to Chiweta has probably the most dramatic scenery of all the lake with
immense mountains rising to each side. The area has not seen much tourist
development to date although recently many establishments offering
accommodation are being built. The main road in the area, although sealed, is
extremely pot-holed and slow going.
Northern Lake Region
The main tourist attraction in the northern lakeshore if Livingstonia Mission
which was built in 1894 by Dr Robert Laws who named it in honour of Dr
Livingstone. Livingstonia is located in a small village, Khondowe, on top of
the west Rift Valley escarpment, 900m above the lakeshore. The road up to it is
a hair-raising experience, narrow and pot-holed with 20 hairpin bends, but the
scenery is spectacular and it is definitely worth the visit. Whilst here you
should leave yourself enough time to visit the Manchewe Waterfall, the highest
in Malawi surrounded by lush rain forest. There are times, particularly during
the rains, when the road is impassable to saloon cars but it is possible to
walk up if you have the energy.
Nkhata Bay lies
about 50km east of Mzuzu and is the most popular northern lakeshore resort, and
is one of the lakeshores most scenic villages consisting of two bays separated
by a long narrow peninsula. One of the bays is mainly a port where the Lake
Malawi steamer docks, the other, Chikale Beach is a backpackers heaven. The
sunrise and sunsets are quite picturesque and the atmosphere very laid back
Facilities in the village include a bank, a post office, numerous
small grocery stores and many establishments offering western food. There is
also lively market extensively selling curios and clothing, but bargain hard
for the best price.
Scuba diving courses are available and it is
reputed as being one of the cheapest places in the world to qualify, needless
to say they are very popular and you may have to book in advance.
recent years the whole area has become especially popular with backpackers.
There are numerous places to stay strung out along the main road, through the
town and on Chikale Beach. The most popular spot on Chikale beach is Njaya
lodge which is run by an English couple. The accommodation consists of bamboo
style huts, that blend in with the scenery, situated on the hillside
overlooking the bay. This is definitely a place where you can totally unwind,
the food on offer is good. At the other end of the beach is the Chikale Beach
Resort with offer concrete block accommodation at reasonable prices and
camping. When we last visited they were building new Rondavels.
child, some 20 years plus ago, I used to camp on this beach when, more often
than not, we were the only visitors here and there were no facilities
whatsoever. It has changed tremendously but I am pleased to say that it still
retains it's peaceful relaxing atmosphere.
Chintheche village lies about 40km south Nkhata Bay, and has a few small shops,
a market, mosque and bank that is only open twice a week. The lakeshore north
and south of the village has long, white stretches of fine sandy beaches. All
along the main road from Nkhata Bay to Nkhotakota, small dirt tracks lead to a
variety of camping sites, lodges and hotels suitable for all types of
14kms south is the village of Dwangwa with is dominated by
the Kasasa Sugar Estate, where I spent 2 years of my childhood. Visitors to
this area can stay at the Kasasa Club which offers a golf course, swimming
pool, attractive club house with a bar and restaurant, and self contained
chalets. Drinks are subsidised for the estate workers so are cheaper than
Between Nkhotakota and
Dwanga there is not many places to stay. Nkhotakota for much of the 19 century
was the centre of slave trading, with as many as 20,000 slaves being shipped
over the lake into Tanzania every year. This was only finally stopped in the
1890's when Dr Livingstone met with Jumbe, the local chief and persuaded him to
sign a treaty abondoning the slave trade.
There are several
resthouses to stay in within the town. There is little to see in this region
but venturing inland takes you through Nkhotakota
Salima & Senga Bay Area
located inland approx 20kms from the lake, it is the closest town to Senga Bay
where you can stock up on provisions. There is also a couple of fairly good
markets, banks, a post office and bus station. Asides from that there is not
much to attract to tourist to spend a night unless they are catching an early
morning bus. Most people head off to the Senga Bay where there are several
beach lodges along the lakeshore.
As a point of caution, when
swimming in this area watch out for Hippo's, although they don't normally
attack for no reason, they can be dangerous especially if they have young. Most
of the lakeshore establishments are able to arrange water sports, such as wind
surfing, water- skiing, snorkelling and boat rides to nearby islands. This is
an excellent area for bird watching and hiking, although it is advisable to go
with a guide. Along the main street you will find many curio sellers, and good
bargains can be had.
ACCOMODATION in the
THE NORTHERN REGION
Mzuzu is the gateway to the Northern Region
of Malawi and as such is considered the best base from which to explore the
spectacular scenery of the Viphya and Nyika Plateaux, Vwaza Marsh as well as
the Khondowe Plateau overlooking the Lake.
Mzuzu has a climate ideal
for agriculture and the two most important crops produced on the slopes of
surrounding mountains are coffee and rubber. With its high rainfall and many
pine plantations Mzuzu is noted for its greenness throughout the year.
As recently as the 1960's Mzuzu was difficult to reach, which explains why
the north is not as developed as the rest of the country. However the situation
is quite different today. The city is served by daily buses from most other
major centres. a regular Air Malawi service and fine tarred roads which link
Mzuzu with Lilongwe and Karonga in the north.
The northern road is in
fact one of Malawi's most spectacular. Rising from the rich Henga Valley, which
divides the Viphya Mountains from the Nyika Plateau and reaches a height of
1100m before winding down to the Lakeshore.
Whilst in the Northern
Region it is worth visiting the Nyika
National Park and the Vwaza Marsh Game
Accommodation in the
THE CENTRAL REGION
Referred to as the city with a split personality,
Lilongwe was named after the river which runs through it and which joins the
nearby Linthipe River on its Lakeward journey. Today this young City is known
both as the Capital City and the Garden City, add to those the Old and the New
Town and you'll know exactly where the nickname originates.
turn of the century it was decided to create a new administrative centre in the
area of present-day Lilongwe. Camp was set up on the west bank of the Lilongwe
River and soon after the settlement was joined with Dedza in the south. The
eastern bank, formerly part of a game reserve was rezoned in 1906 to allow the
settlement of the first Asian traders.
Lilongwe's initial population
of 30 grew to 20,000 and in 1966 the town became a municipality. Lilongwe, as
the second largest centre, was the obvious choice for the country's new capital
as it was centrally situated at the crossroads of Malawi's road and rail
Lilongwe nestles in the central African plateau, mountains
and hills dot the landscape around the City and many of these are well worth
visiting if only for the breathtaking panoramic views they afford. The City
itself has been carefully designed with modern architecture complimented by
carefully tended public gardens. These boast a wide array of brilliantly
coloured tropical blooms and plants. During March and April rows of dazzling
yellow acacia trees line the city streets and in winter bright red poinsettia
add splashes of colour to the landscape, soon followed by the lilac of
jacarandas in bloom.
In the centre of Lilongwe, between the Old and
New towns, the Lilongwe Nature Reserve, an area of 120ha, was established to
give visitors an idea of what the area looked like before construction of the
city began. The sanctuary is not a city zoo and when walking along the
footpaths visitors should be as alert as in the bush, especially as leopard and
hyena have settled here.
Many small animals can be spotted here,
including porcupine, civet, serval, vervet monkeys, bushbabies and squirrels as
well as larger game such as bushbuck, duiker and bushpig who now inhabit this
pocket of green surrounded by a growing city.
From the imposing
administrative centre of Capital Hill to the lively bustling atmosphere of the
Asian quarter, Lilongwe is a city of contrasts. Tailors decorate pavements with
colourful garments while at sunset the air is filled with the sounds of the
muezzin calling the faithful to prayer in the mosque.
No visit to
Lilongwe is complete without a visit to the old market in Malangalanga Road.
The air here is rich with the smell of dried fish mingled with fresh
vegetables. Here visitors can purchase anything from live chickens to dustbins
artfully crafted by tinkers on the spot.
Approximately 165km north of
Lilongwe lies the Kasungu National
Park, which is definitely worth the visit at the right time of the year and
115km north east of Lilongwe is the Nkhotokota Game Reserve
Accommodation in the region:
THE SOUTHERN REGION
290km south of Lilongwe and 72 km north of Blantyre. Up until the mid 1970's
Zomba was the capital city of Malawi. It lies at the foot of Zomba plateau,
amongst blue gum trees. Many of the buildings are of colonial style
architecture, the most prominent being the Gymkhana Club (Zomba's Golf Club
House). Most supplies are available in the town and outside the main shops you
can spend hours haggling for the best bargain with several of the many craft
sellers. Zomba also houses one of the largest, most colourful and liveliest
markets in Malawi.
The main attraction in the area is the
Zomba Plateau (more info). If you
venture just 60km north you can visit the Liwonde National Park
largest city, Blantyre is situated in the Southern Region and includes the two
communities of Blantyre and Limbe which are joined by an eight kilometre
stretch of highway. Blantyre, Malawi's oldest municipality is the country's
main commercial, industrial and communications hub and is set in the Shire
The city is surrounded by some of the most beautiful hills
and mountains in Malawi. A typical view from a city street could include
Michiru, the rain mountain, a glimpse of Mount Soche or a passing glance of
Ndirande, sleeping man mountain, looming behind a suburb.
which surround the City are in fact the first layer of an echo of hills which
stretch to the Kirk Range, the Zomba Plateau and Mount Mulanje. Blantyre's
hills all have something special to offer. Most have patches of evergreen
forest, wild orchids, aloes and numerous birds and always incredible views.
Perhaps the most interesting is Michiru with its Mountain Conservation Area.
The Michiru Mountain is in fact an ongoing experiment in conservation
where emphasis is placed on demonstrating wise land use. The Conservation Area
has been divided into three sections, a forestry reserve, farming area and
nature reserve for the improvement of natural resources. Visitors to the area
can drive to the summit to enjoy spectacular views of Blantyre itself, Zomba,
Mulanje and the Shire Valley.
The City of Blantyre has much to offer
visitors in the form of historical sights. These include the Blantyre Mission,
the place where the City came into being, and the beautiful church of St
Michaels and All Angels. Then there is the Mandala House, erected in 1882, the
oldest building in Malawi and March 3 House used by Dr Banda as a base from
which to lead Malawian's to independence.
Blantyre's position offers
easy motoring to a number of Malawi's most interesting places. These include
Zomba, renowned for its curio and produce markets and only 59km away, and
Thyolo's lush tea-growing estate 39km from the city. Other places of interest
which can be reached from Blantyre within an hour's drive is Mfunda Falls at
Matope and Lengwe National Park.
With its more temperate climate, Limbe was favoured as a residential site
for early settlers. The streets of Limbe are a continuous bustle of people and
traffic and there can be no doubt that commerce is the lifeblood of the town.
An abundance of Asian shops in close proximity, most selling either clothing or
hardware items, lead to much good natured haggling.
Mulanje is Malawi's premier hiking and rock climbing
destination offering some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The
Massif rises up to 3,000 metres, with the highest peak being Sapitwa at 3,002
mtrs and covers an area of more than 1,000 sq km. On its slopes grow the
Mulanje cedars, some of them over 200 years old. Deep gorges, impressive
waterfall and trout streams cut their paths from its heights, while in the lush
foothills are tea plantations. The Chambe, west face direct, is claimed to be
one of the longest rock climbs in Africa, offering 1675mtrs of roped climbing.
There are a couple of regular routes climbed, starting at Likhubula Forestry
Station these are the Skyline Path to Chambe Basis and the Lichenya Path to
It is worth spending a couple of days at the
forestry station, which is surperbly located close to rock pools and
waterfalls. A Guide to the Mulanje Massif is widely available in Blantyre and
the Map Sales office sells an excellent map of the Massif. Rock climbers and
hikers planning to use unusual routes are advised to contact the Mountain Club
of Malawi in Blantyre.
The M1 southwest of
Blantyre, takes you down the escarpment, giving breathtaking views over the
Rift Valley lowlands towards Mozambique. This area of Malawi is little visited
by tourists and can proof quite difficult for visitors without their own
transport, but it has some worthwhile attractions including two game reserves;
the Majete and Mwabvi as well as the Sucoma Sugar Estate and
the fascinating Elephant Marsh. Boat trips to explore the Marsh can be
organised in Mchacha James a small village approx 15kms from Bangula. This area
is home to the largest population of crocodile in the country and many hippo.
It is also bird watchers paradise with large numbers and many varieties to be
Accommodation in the