Detailed Map

Full Name
Republic of Malawi

Area
118,480 sq km

Capital City
Lilongwe

People
Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European

Languages
English, Chichewa, regional languages

Government
Multi-Party Democracy

President
Bakili Muluzi

 

 

The tourist brochures bill Malawi as 'the warm heart of Africa', and for once the hype is true. Malawi's scenery is gorgeous and varied and Malawians tend to be extremely friendly toward travelers. Nature lovers will adore the national parks and game reserves, mountain hiking and plateau trekking.

The massive Lake Malawi is great for diving, boating or lazing about. The country's reliable transport and compact size make getting about a snap.

Malawi's main highland areas are the Nyika and Viphya Plateau, and Mt. Mulanje in the south. Malawi's highest point is the summit of Sapitwa (3000 m/9840 ft) at the center of Mt. Mulanje.

The main river in the country is the Shire (pronounced 'Shir-ee'), which flows out of the southern end of Lake Malawi and eventually into the Zambezi River in Mozambique.

The country has many different kinds of indigenous wildflowers, due to the wide range of habitats. There are numerous varieties of proteas, aloes, gladioli and helichrysums (knows as 'everlastings').

Malawi is particularly famous for its orchids: more than 400 species have been recorded.

Vast animal herds of the popular easy-to-spot variety are lacking in Malawi, but there are plenty of large animals roaming about. Most are found in the country's national parks and game reserves. Liwonde, the main national park, is noted for its herds of elephant and antelope (including impala, bushbuck and kudu), and hippopotamus in the Shire River. Zebra, warthog, eland, jackal, leopard and hartebeest are more common in the north, especially in the Nyika National Park.

Wild animals and birds can be seen from the comfort of a vehicle, or from horseback or on foot. In addition to the parks and reserves, the Elephant Marsh is an excellent place for birding; it's a large area of seasonally flooded plain on the Shire River, about 60 km south of Blantyre.

Malawi is famous for its fish - Lake Malawi has more species than any other inland body of water in the world, with a total over 500.

There's plenty to keep you active in Malawi. As you might expect in a country dominated by a lake, there are many water sports available. The lake's population of colourful fish and warm, generally clear water make for great scuba diving and snorkeling. Many of the more up-market places along the lake have facilities for water skiing and windsurfing. You also can go sailing - there are even luxurious 'sail safaris' where all you have to do is dangle your toes in the water.

There's fine hiking in Malawi. The main areas include the Nyika Plateau (in the north of the country) and Mt. Mulanje (in the south). Rock climbing is very popular at Mt. Mulanje.