History : Formerly Nyasaland, Malawi was once named Maravi, or 'reflected light', perhaps referring to the brilliant glitter on Lake Malawi as the sun shines on it. The shores of Lake Malawi have been inhabited for thousands of years and recent archaeological excavations have revealed evidence of settlements dating back to the late Stone and Iron Ages. The majority of the present population descends from Bantu tribes (ancestors of the present Chewa, Nyanja, Lomwe, Yao, Tumbuka, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni and Ngonde tribes) who arrived in the region some time before the first Arab slave traders and Portuguese explorers. British colonial settlers and missionaries, men such as the famous Dr David Livingstone, moved into the area in the late 1850s.
Malawi is becoming well known for the number of activities it can offer visitors. Wildlife and game viewing in the national parks are especially attractive to those wanting to experience trekking and viewing in entirely natural surroundings without tarred roads filled with convoys of 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Malawi has nine national parks and wildlife reserves but six are especially recommended for visitors. There are also many attractive and accessible forest reserves. All the parks and reserves are uncrowned and give visitors an excellent experience of uncoils wilderness.
TOP THINGS TO DO: Malawi is becoming well known for the number of activities it can offer visitors. Wildlife and game viewing in the national parks are especially attractive to those wanting to experience trekking and viewing in entirely natural surroundings without tarred roads filled with convoys of 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Nyika National Park: Situated in the far north of the country, the park's unique rolling grassland covers most of the Nyika Plateau, which lies at an altitude of 2500m (8200ft). The whaleback hills are broken by deep valleys and occasional patches of evergreen, natural forest and bubbling streams. Nyika is known to sustain many rare birds and butterflies, game and a multitude of flowers, including an incredible range of orchids. At Chelinda there is a variety of accommodation, including new luxury log cabins. The lodges and camps are set high up on the edge of a pine forest, overlooking trout-filled lakes. The enormous plateau has zebra, antelope, leopard and hyena as well as elephants on the lower slopes. A specialty of Chelinda is its horse safaris. There is an airstrip for visitors arriving by air.
Vwasa Marsh Wildlife Reserve: Located to the west of Mzuzu. A camp with luxury reed huts has been established, overlooking Lake Kazuni. There is a variety of game including elephant, buffalo and hippos, as well as a large number of bird species. There is a mix of woodland, open grassland and marsh. This is a totally unspoilt reserve.
Kasungu National Park: Situated in the northwest of the central region, 154km (96 miles) from Lilongwe, Kasungu National Park consists of some 2000 sq km (770 sq miles) of woodland. The park is best known for its elephants, which appear in the early morning and evening to drink from dambos (river channels). The grasslands support large herds of buffalo, as well as a variety of antelope such as kudu and reedbuck. Predators such as lion and leopard may be seen. Accommodation in the park is easily accessed at Lifupa, where there are luxury rondavels as well as a separate self-catering camp.
Liwonde National Park: Situated in the Shire Valley, south of Lake Malawi and north of Zomba, Liwonde is the most popular of the national parks. The River Shire flows along the eastern border of the park allowing for boat safaris. The river is frequented by vast numbers of hippo, and elephants and crocodiles can also be seen. There is a wide range of game in the park, including rhino and various antelope. Through introductions, Liwonde now has the 'big five' for visitors to see. The birdlife includes one of the greatest varieties of species in Africa. There is accommodation in the park at Mvuu, including a luxury lodge and a separate permanent camp and camping site. Walking, boating and driving safaris (in 4-wheel-drive vehicles) are on offer. There is a landing strip for visitors coming by air. A second safari lodge has been opened on a hill site in the southern part of the park.
Lake Malawi National Park: Close to Monkey Bay, this reserve lies towards the southern extremity of the lake. Opened in 1980, it was the world's first freshwater national park and its setting and attractions are world-renowned. Tropical fish, which can be viewed by snorkelling or scuba-diving, are a specialty of the park, while further inland klipspringer, bushbuck and vervet monkeys may be seen. Access to the park is easy throughout the year. In the past, only budget accommodation was available but there are now excellent camps on two deserted islands in the park, as well as a luxury guest house, which is also linked to an upmarket yachting operation. Many visitors make day-trips from the hotels on the lakeshore south of Monkey Bay.
Lengwe National Park: Lengwe National Park is in the Lower Shire Valley and is only 130 sq km (80 sq miles) large. The park has the distinction of being the farthest point north where the rare Nyala antelope can be found. Also here is the diminutive Livingstone's Suni, one of the smallest of antelopes, as well as the rare Blue or Samango monkey. These and other game can be viewed from concealed hides. New accommodation is being developed here and it is possible to visit the park in a daytrip from Blantyre.
Of the other wildlife reserves, the vast Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is little developed and lacks drivable tracks. However, there is a good range of game including lion and elephant. Accommodation can be had nearby along the lakeshore. Majete and Mwabvi Wildlife Reserves are in the Lower Shire Valley. Majete has little viewable game and Mwabvi is difficult to access.
Lake Malawi offers a range of water sports along its whole length. Snorkeling and scuba-diving are increasingly popular in Lake Malawi because of the attraction of seeing the brilliantly colored fish, the mbuna.
Fishing is especially attractive on the southern lakeshore north of Mangochi and at Senga Bay. Tournaments take place each year and catches include the delicious Sungwa. There are also opportunities to fish for yellow fish, lake salmon and lake tiger. Elsewhere, angling for trout is easily arranged at Chelinda on Nyika Plateau and on Zomba Plateau. There is also good fishing for lake-salmon (mpasa) in the rivers of the Nkhotakota Game Reserve.
The Nyika Plateau is popular for trekking and walking. Guides and porters are available for one to six-day wilderness hikes. The same arrangements apply on Mount Mulanje where huts are available for hire. There is excellent walking on the Zomba and Viphya Plateau. There is plenty of scope for climbing. Rising to a height of 3000m (9850ft), Mount Mulanje is the highest mountain in central Africa and has proved to be an irresistible lure to climbers. The massif has the longest sheer rock face in Africa. Dedza, south of Lilongwe, and Michiru, Ndirande and Chiradzulu, near Blantyre, also offer challenging slopes.
Horse riding is a specialty on Nyika Plateau, where safaris on horseback are popular, and on Zomba Plateau, where there is a dressage school.
Cycling has more recently been added to Malawi's list of activities for tourists and has also attracted the interest of charity organizations. Popular areas include Nyika, Luwawa Forest and along the lakeshore.
MVUU in Liwonde National Park with five en suite tents and private viewing platform built over the water, Lodge facilities include a dining room, pub, lounge area and natural rock swimming pool. Activities to be enjoyed are boating, walks, bike rides and traditional game drives by day & night. Rated as one of the planets most romantic destinations, Kaya Mawa is locate don the south-western tip of Likoma Island in the east-central part of Lake Malawi, close to Mozambique. Eight stone and teak cottages have private views of the lake and direct access to the water. Each has en suite bathroom facilities, a four poster bed, shower and sunken bathtub.
From the unique highlands of the Nyika Plateau to the peaceful tranquility of Lake Malawi; from the cultural and historical highlights of the one-time capital at Zomba to the prolific wildlife of Mvuu, this Exploration displays the essence of the “friendly heart of Africa.” Along with these outstanding attractions, this experience is enhanced by local guides with tremendous local knowledge. An exceptional aspect of a Malawi safari is the “journey between” – along the road, guests gain an authentic insight into the land: the friendly people, superb scenery, and there is always something of interest to stop off and see.
The wild, open nature of the plateau attracts visitors who come to view the birds and animals, study the flowers, walk or ride across the hills and valleys, or simply sit in the sun and absorb the magnificent scenery. Laurens van der Post described the 2607 metre high Nyika Plateau, where the rolling montane grasslands stretch as far as the eye can see, broken only by the occasional patch of evergreen forest, whilst the lower slopes are hidden by extensive miombo woodlands. "It was so unlike anything else. It was deep in the heart of Africa, filled with the animals of Africa, and yet it was covered with the grasses the flowers and colors of Europe."
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