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Malawi with Kids

Malawi with kids
September 07, 2000 04:24PM
Anonymous User
We're considering a trip to Northern Malawi with two pre-schoolers and would be interested in any views especially from families who have already visited.
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Malawi with Kids
September 08, 2000 03:55AM
Anonymous User
Hi Helen

I lived in Malawi from the age of 5 to 17 and most of that time was spent in Nkhata Bay -

If you can provide a bit more detail - i.e: what kind of information are you looking for, particular questions you have, how you will be travelling around, whereabouts in the north you are planning on visiting, what time of the year, how long and where you will be staying etc. I can try and help you with some information that may be of use.

You can email me directly.

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Malawi with Kids
September 09, 2000 06:08AM
Anonymous User
Hi Helen

I got your email this morning and have replied to the address you gave but the mail has been returned with the message -

The user's email name is not found

This is what my email said:

"Hi Campbell & Helen

I haven't personally spent much time in Mzimba but if you're visiting friends they'll have a good idea of what's worth visiting.

If you kids like to swim, the lake is excellent and very safe. They are no harmful animals (apart from hippos down in the Southern part of the lake). There is no tide to worry about and best of all it is freshwater although the lake can get a bit rough at times. Malawi is not an extremely popular tourist destination, which personally I think makes it more appealing, and along the lakeshore there are many small accommodation establishments but not many large 5 star hotels with full leisure facilities. So you won't find a hotel with a swimming pool unless you go further south to Salima and the only place I know of is the Livingstonia Hotel - which is fairly expensive. I used to spend all my school holidays camping at the lake and loved it as a kid.

You didn't say what time of the year you are planning on visiting or how old your kids are. Depending on the time of the year - if it's school holidays there will be more children around for your kids to mix with, as many South Africans come up to Malawi for their holidays. Malawian children are very friendly, playful and extremely resourceful.

Game Reserves: there are many game reserves in Malawi but do not expect it to be like Kenya, Tanzania. You may have to look a little harder for the game, but it's there. Again this depends on the time of year you are visiting. Some of the game reserves become impassable in the wet weather (January February). During the dry season you will see more game as they come to the waterholes to drink and the bush is not so dense. My website has good information on the Game Reserves at the following web page

As you are up north, the Nyika National Park is a good one to visit - it is one of the few that you can walk around in. Trout fishing is big here during the fishing season - you won't see elephants but there is plenty of other game to be found here, particularly the majestic Roan Antelope. If you are visiting Malawi during the hot season, October/November this is a fairly good choice as it is located at high altitude and has cooler temperatures. But during the rains (January, February) some of the roads can be in poor condition and even impassable. Another game park I use to frequent as a kid is the Kasungu National Park, (between Lilongwe and Mzuzu) it has a large population of elephant and lots of other game - again it is seasonal. This park has excellent accommodation facilities, although I think they are quite expensive.

If you are planning on visiting during the school holidays you will more than likely have to pre-book accommodation in the game parks. Your friends in Malawi can do this for you.

October/November is the hottest/driest time of the year and some people can find it a little unbearable, particularly along the lakeshore (I love the heat). During the raining season it can rain for a few days at a time and although it's warm, it can restrict your activities.

I would advise that you have your own form of transport. Local buses do run throughout the country but they are often slow, overcrowded and not pleasant for the kids. If you hire a car, please check the contract very carefully and make sure you know what your insurance covers you for. I did hear a story about someone who was in a game park and his vehicle was overturned by an elephant (whilst it was parked up I hasten to add) but his insurance did not cover him... It is worth being aware that African elephants are wild animals and if you are in a game reserve do not be tempted to get out your and photograph them, they can get very wild particularly when they are protecting their young.

Personal safety in Malawi is like any place in the world - usual common sense goes a long way. Don't display jewellery, cameras, money belts or anything of value and lock your car doors. It is best not to travel at night. Many drivers in Malawi have this belief that if they don't put their headlights on they'll will extend the life of the car battery... and many of them drink drive. Some roads have many large potholes. I don't want to put you off in any way but I should mention that there have been more incidents of muggings, since Malawi has taken in a lot of refugees from neighbouring countries, there simply isn't enough land and food to support them all and tourist are seen as an easy target and all African are opportunists - but like I say if you are careful (without being paranoid) I'm sure you will be fine.

Compared to other African countries Malawi is, and always has been very stable on the political front - although I understand the people are disappointed in the unkept promises of the fairly newish government. It is best not to discuss the government and political issues unless you know the people you are speaking to really well.

Communicating (phone calls) abroad from Malawi can be difficult to make and expensive... I have found (with my parents still living there) that email is by far the best way of communicating with the rest of the world, provided, of course, that you can get access to a computer.

Health - Malaria is prevalent in Malawi particularly during the wet season - I would strongly suggest you obtain the latest advise from your local doctor (of if possible) a tropical diseases hospital about the form of antimalarial drugs you should take. Drinking water - do not drink from a tap or the lake - all water should be boiled and if you can stand the taste use purification tablets or drink bottled water. Vegetables should always be washed and have all the recommended injections. Again get this latest from your doctor

As good source of information on health is this website:

as well as information on illnesses, it also provides gives medical advise on travelling with children.

I would say that you have made a good choice of country to visit - I have travelled overland across the Sahara, through West Africa, Central Africa and East Africa and Malawi is my favourite country. Because it has not yet reach the large tourist industry it remains unspoilt but it easy to travel around. English is widely spoken. The people are very friendly and the country although small has everything, a beautiful lake with sandy beaches and rocky coves, game parks, mountains, rivers and a good climate.

As you are visiting friends so much the better - they can suggest the best places to go and things to do. Make sure you visit a curio (African Arts) market and be prepared to spend a bit of money - Malawi has some of the best carvings in Africa - most still hand made and highly sought after. Don't forget to bargain hard - they love it - it's a part of their life but once you have agreed a price do not re-neg on it.

I am myself visiting Malawi for three weeks in November but I will be in the Salima area which is where my parents live (I am based in the UK so this will give me a great break from our forthcoming winter).

I hope that this has information has helped you a little. If you have any particular questions at all please let me know. If I don't hear from you - have a great holiday.

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Go For It!
March 29, 2001 12:08AM
By kristin
Registered: 9 years ago
Posts: 6
My daughter was born there and we stayed until she was 2 and a half. I still own Mwaya Beach Lodge near Chintheche. We returned due to personal and family reasons but it is the most wonderful place in the world for children. Most local children roam around freely with their friends until their tummies tell them it's time to head back home to eat or the sun goes down! The water in the northern region is shallow, warm, and bilharzia free! I also have three "mzungu" (non-African) friends who either had their babies in northern Malawi or are raising them there -- along with many I met who passed through the lodge and, of course, all the local Malawians. One (professional, W. European) couple even had their little boy in the midst of their trip and carried on... didn't tell their parents in case kicked up a fuss and tried to stop their dream trip to Africa! It is an incredible, peaceful, natural place for young people. My best advice for taking kids to this part of the world is to stock up on loads of snacks wherever you can ... every major town has a PTC "superette" (Chintheche, Nkhata Bay, Mzuzu, Karonga, Nkhotakota, Salima, etc.) with cheese, milk, basic packaged meats, bread, crisps, even popcorn!? and every village has a "grocery" with bread buns and various things. Food takes ages to prepare in Malawi. Even at Mwaya a plate of chips or a banana pancake can take 45 minutes -- which is a lifetime to kids! If you're travelling with a vehicle a small fridge is invaluable, otherwise you won't be the first people to travel with children on the chicken bus! It's important to get children ready for bed and "mossied up" around 4 or 4:30 pm. Malaria is prevelent but with precautions it can be easily avoided! A travelling mosquito net gives you alot of freedom to stay wherever you want -- including places which don't provide them. You can buy curtain lining material at any fabric shop and have a huge one made for very cheap either in Malawi or before you leave. Just make sure air can get through and it is "breathable"! I hope these tips help and please feel free to contact me if you have more questions! All the best and good luck planning your trip.
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