Dubbed the friendliest country in Africa, Malawi offers a holiday that is the perfect add-on to any southern African safari. For a good dose of R&R, head to Lake Malawi. Known as the “Lake of Stars”, the shimmering expanse of water is one of the largest lakes on the continent – so big, in fact, that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were beside the Indian Ocean. Here, it’s time for freshwater diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking or just some good old-fashioned beach time on the sandy shores. For something more active, the dramatic peaks of Mount Mulanje and the Zomba Plateau in the south provide incredible hiking opportunities. Venture further north to the Nyika Plateau and some beautiful walking trails through the rolling grasslands.
Legend has it that when the explorer David Livingstone arrived on the shores of Lake Malawi, he observed thousands of lanterns on fishing boats shimmering across the vast expanse of water, and called it “The Lake of Stars”. Today you might not find quite as many fishing craft on the enormous, freshwater lake, but you will find hundreds of colorful cichlids flitting beneath the gin-clear water, crescents of golden-sand beaches and a smattering of idyllic lodges cocooned on the shoreline. Snorkeling, diving, boating and kayaking are all on offer to pass your days, or you can simply sit back and gaze at the sun-dappled lake in all its calm, serene and peaceful glory.
Liwonde National Park
For a dose of traditional safari in the “Land of the Lake”, make a beeline for Malawi’s most famous wildlife area, Liwonde National Park. An eccentric mix of classic Zambia (think stout sausage trees, palms and baobobs) and a little bit of southern Tanzania (swampy lagoons and pretty reed-beds), the park is not a tick-off-the-Big-Five sort of place. Instead, you’ll find yawning hippo and snoozing crocs on the banks of the Shire River, and sable, oribi, zebra and kudu roaming the plains. Leopard and lion make up the predator quota and excitingly there’s an excellent number of elephant, and even black rhino. And the icing on the cake? Liwonde is a birding paradise.
Majete Wildlife Reserve
If you were to find yourself in what is now Majete Wildlife Reserve in 2002, you wouldn’t have found very much: desolate landscapes, plenty of poachers and certainly not a sniff of an animal. Then, in 2003, along came the magnificent non-profit organisation African Parks, which has introduced more than 2500 animals to the rugged wilderness. In 2012, the reserve became the first in Malawi to house all members of the Big Five. Today, alongside elephant, buffalo and big cats, you’ll find sable, eland, zebra and hippo, enthusiastic guides with the biggest smiles on the continent, and a swanky new camp to complete the experience.