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Under-The-Radar African Safari: Malawi

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First-time visitors to Africa tend to gravitate toward well-known destinations like South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania, but in this new travel series, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen sheds light on five of southern Africa’s other great safari destinations. The first three posts covered Zambia, Rwanda and Namibia. Now we visit one of Africa’s aquatic wonderlands, Malawi.

Malawi's major draw is Lake Malawi and all the aquatic adventures it offers. Photo credit: Robin Pope Safaris.
Malawi’s major draw is Lake Malawi and all the aquatic adventures it offers. Photo credit: Robin Pope Safaris.

As inspiration for travelers looking to experience something new, this series shares each country’s major safari areas and what wildlife you’re likely to see, as well as suggesting some places to stay. Be sure to consult Allied Passport & Visa for visa guidelines, and the CDC for info on vaccinations

MALAWI

Although it does not have huge game reserves, what sets Malawi apart from the other countries in this part of the world is the lake of the same name, which covers about 20% of the country and is home to hundreds of rare species of fish and birds. Visitors can snorkel or scuba from the shores of the lake (hippos and crocodiles are not widespread here), and there are any number of lodges situated in private coves and islands throughout the region.

Among the top picks for a lake sojourn are the luxurious Pumulani Beach Lodge run by Robin Pope Safaris, the family-run Makuzi Beach Lodge, Chintheche Inn on the western shore, and Mumbo Island eco-camp. Likoma Island is another popular destination thanks to its unique fisherman’s village and St. Peter’s Cathedral, which was built from 1903-1905 and is of the largest in Africa. You can make this a (long) day trip from Chintheche, or stay at Kaya Mawa Resort.

Stay at Kaya Mawa luxury resort on Likoma Island. Photo credit: Kaya Mawa.
Stay at Kaya Mawa luxury resort on Likoma Island. Photo credit: Kaya Mawa.

Malawi also offers more traditional safari experiences in several reserves throughout the country. The Majete Wildlife Reserve is among the best of these thanks to aggressive wildlife protection. It is located in the rugged bush country of Malawi’s south, along the Shire River, which flows from Lake Malawi to the Zambezi.

Tracking elephants on a walking safari in Majete. Photo credit: Robin Pope Safaris.
Tracking elephants on a walking safari in Majete. Photo credit: Robin Pope Safaris.

The wildlife you are likely to spot here includes elephants, buffalo, a variety of antelopes and rhino, with the possibility of a few lucky leopard sightings. If you are interested in a visit here, Mkulumadzi is a top choice. It is run by Robin Pope Safaris, who also operate Pumulani, and other top-tier safari camps in the region.

Snack alongside hippos at Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park. Photo credit: Central African Safaris.
Snack alongside hippos at Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park. Photo credit: Central African Safaris.

Liwonde National Park is an almost tropical setting along the Shire River, where you are sure to spot hippos, crocodiles, elephants, waterbuck and impala as well as abundant birdlife for the ornithologists out there. Though not one of Africa’s prime safari destinations, the more leisurely pace and the uniqueness of the setting are big draws. Your best bets for accommodation are Central African Safaris’ Mvuu Wilderness Lodge and the more budget-friendly Mvuu Camp.

The next and final post in this series will be on Botswana, so stay tuned for that next week!
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