The Republic of Malawi also known as Nyasaland, is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa and is bordered by Zambia in the north west, Tanzania in the north east, and Mozambique in the south east and south west. Malawi is one of the smallest countries in Africa. It measures about 45,747 square miles or 118,484 square kilometers which makes it about half the size of the United Kingdom. The name “Malawi” is believed to have been derived from the great Maravi Empire which stretched from western Zambia through Malawi to the coast of Mozambique. Also known as the warm heart of Africa because of its friendly people, the country is covered mainly in plateaus with rolling plains coupled with some hills and mountains like the Mulanje massif which is the longest rock climb in the continent.
The highest point of the Mulanje massif is the Chamber peak which stands at…. The massif was created by magma when it was intruded in the crust of the earth some 130 million years ago. Centuries of soil erosion washed away much of the land until the erosion resistant massif was the only one left. David Livingstone was the first European to see the mountain but archeological evidence showed that there had been humans there as far back as the Stone Age. The rainforest within the plains of the ranges are so significant that they support a whole timber industry though it has rendered the endemic Mulanje trees to near extinction. The mountain also helps with creating rainfall since it is high enough to rise beyond the clouds and catalyze the relief rain cycle. These rains on its slopes support agriculture and also feed the rivers which have an origin from the mountain. Furthermore the Mulanje massif also has biodiversity with species of birds like Cholo Alethe, white winged Apalis and other animals like the screamer frog.
The population of Malawi is estimated at 16.4 million Malawians in 2015 and growing at a steady rate since each Malawian woman is estimated to have 5 to 6 children. The capital city is Lilongwe and has a population of 1,077,000 city dwellers with a population density of 6119 people per square mile. Lilongwe is the country’s biggest city and was historically a small fishing village which the British colonialists made their capital. Today, the city has two parts. The southern part called the Old Town which was the old fishing village and is now full of restaurants and cafes, and the northern part called the New Town which was created after President Kamuzu Banda shifted the capital from Zomba to Lilongwe. This part is the administrative city and if made up of government departments.
Malawi experiences a sub tropical climate with the rainy season falling between November and December to April or May and the dry season stretching from around May to November. Their official language is English though they also have many ethnic languages.
A third of Malawi’s total area is taken up by the great lake, Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is a freshwater lake and is the third largest of its kind in Africa. It is also one of the deepest owing the fact that it lies in the Eastern African Rift Valley. Although lakes are thought to have a lifespan of about 10,000 years dues to the soil that gets dumped in by soil erosion, Lake Malawi is said to be about 3 million years old! It measures 364 miles in length and 50 miles in width. It has been found to harbor more species of fish than any other lake on the planet! it’s wonderful diversity of it underworld caused it to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its endemic species like the Mbuna fish also known as the aquarium fish because of it’s beautiful colors. Other unique species include the Mchena, Matembe and Usipa which is as small as a finger. The lake’s importance to the study of evolution is compared to that of the finches of Galapagos Island. Owing to Lake Malawi’s isolation from other water bodies, the fish there have developed unique adaptations and speciation which are a spectacle to evolutionists.
The Lake was christened Lake Nyasa by David Livingstone in the descriptions he sent back to Britain though this was just a mistake in translation since “nyasa” Means Lake This means he simply called it ”Lake Lake”.
Lake Malawi sustains most of the economic activities in the country like fishing and agriculture on its shores which have very well watered and fertile soils. The farmers grow a range of crops including sugarcanes, cotton, tobacco and tea most of which are the country’s main exports like tea, tobacco and sugarcane. The fishermen on the lake work all day even into the night which prompted explorer David Livingstone to name it the lake of stars after he got mesmerized by the fishermen’s night lamps which looked to him like stars against the backdrop of night and water. Lake Malawi also has minerals which the government seeks to explore to relieve the pinch of poverty in the country. It has been found to harbor uranium, and is believed that there is also oil.
Malawi has many ethnic groups within its borders with their own specialized customs and cultures. History accounts stated that Malawi was settled by Bantu ethnics as they migrated from Southern Africa around the 10th century. Some of these ethnic groups include the Chewa, the biggest in Malawi who descended from the Maravi Empire. They revere their woman as bringers of life into the world and the ones who continue their lineage. They make up 36% of the Malawians. There are also the Nguni who originated from the Zulu and the Ngoni of South Africa, the Lomwe who are the second largest, the Wayao or Yao who barter traded with the Arabs and Portuguese and became the most influential group in Southeastern Africa, the Yao were already highly educated even before the coming of the British and Portuguese to Malawi with skills in arithmetic and the Arabic alphabet which they used to trade with Arabs in places like Zanzibar. Other ethnic groups also include the Tumboka, Nyasa Tonga, Ndonde, Hamba and Nyanja among others. The Amaravi or Malawians first contact with foreigners was through trading ivory and slaves to the Portuguese and Arabs before David Livingstone came and initiated Britain’s colonization of the Malawians. Malawi gained independence from Britain on 6th July 1964 with Kamuzu Banda as the first president.
Malawi is also well known for being the country from which Madonna adopted two children.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN MALAWI.
Mount Mulanje massif is the longest rock climb in Africa. The highest peak is Chambe peak. The massif was created by magma 130 million years ago and centuries of soil erosion washed away much of the land until the erosion-resistant massif was the only one left. Archeological evidence has shown that there had been humans there as far back as the Stone Age. The rainforest within the plains of the ranges are so significant that they support a whole timber industry though it has rendered the endemic Mulanje trees on the brink of near extinction. The mountain also helps with creating rainfall since it is high enough to rise beyond the clouds and catalyze the relief rain cycle. These rains on its slopes support agriculture and also feed the rivers which have an origin from the mountain. Furthermore the Mulanje massif also has biodiversity with species of birds like Cholo Alethe, white winged Apalis and other animals like the screamer frog. It is a good place for bird viewing some of the countless bird species in Malawi. You can also enjoy rock climbing, hiking, and a tour of the farming villages around the mountain.
Lake Malawi Safari :
Lake Malawi s Malawi’s poster child and is perhaps its most popular attraction for tourists all year round. The lake is 29,000 square kilometers in surface area and 300 Meyers deep which make it the third largest fresh water lake in Africa and one of the deepest in the world. It lies in the Eastern Africa Rift Valley which is a 6,000 mile opening in the earth’s surface. It was previously called Lake Nyasa when David Livingstone asked locals about it and they told him that the mass of water was called “nyasa” meaning lake. The lake has more than 1000 species of cichlid fish including the popular aquarium fish called “Mbuna” which is very colourful, Matembe, Macheni and Usipa among others. The lake also harbors many cichlid fish. With all this diversity of fish, Lake Malawi has the most number of fish species on the planet! This abundance of fish also attracts an abundance of birds which make Lake Malawi a hub for bird watchers also. Some bird species on the lake include Kingfishers, ducks, herons and eagles among many more. Lake Malawi is also Malawi’s main sustainer of economic activities like farming and fishing. The fertile soils on the shores allow for growth of tea, tobacco, cotton among others. The fishermen who work day and night using lamps to lure the fish to the surface are the reason the lake was called the lake of stars. Have a blast with activities like boat rides, fishing, diving, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, and bird watching to mention a few. The lake is also the world’s first marine reserve
Liwonde National Park:
Liwonde National Park is considered as Malawi’s premier national wild life reserve because of its diversity of animals and varied terrain. Measuring 548 square kilometers, the park is made if marshlands, woodland and grassland which makes for an encompassing ecosystem that supports many different kinds of animals and thus a haven for wildlife enthusiasts. The park has countless hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and black rhinos which have recently been reinstated. It also has diverse species of birds including Fish Eagles and Fish Owls and Lillian’s Love Bird which also makes it a hub for bird watching enthusiasts. On the park’s western border, the amazing Shire River runs through the park as it voyages to the Zambezi River in Mozambique. Shire river is Lake Malawi’s only outlet and has its own interesting ecosystem including warthogs, crocodiles, bushbacks, baboons and many other species of birds.
You can also have a blast visiting the only Carlsberg Brewery on the planet outside of Denmark. The beer is a Danish brand and was set in 1967. The beer also happens to be the sponsors of the Malawi National Football team. It has helped in boosting the country’s economy by providing employment and infusing money into the economy.
At 1,600 meters above sea level, Dedza is Malawi’s most elevated plateau. The town is located 84 kilometers south east of the capital city of Malawi. You can view the Dedza mountain and you can even go ahead and hike, rock climb among other things. You can also visit the Chongoni Rock Art Area which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The site preserves rock paintings from the Stone Age era of the Neanderthal who were in Malawi thousands of years earlier. You can also visit the Dedza pottery lodge where artisans showcase very creative cultural artifacts like cultural masks, and stools and then move on to the Kungoni Cultural Centre and the award winning Chamera Museum which documents the ancient customs of the Yao, Chewa and Ngoni who were Malawi’s greatest ethnic groups.
Visit the capital city of Malawi which was instated since 1975. Tour the historic “Old Town” which was a fishing town and later became the British colonialists’ capital. Today it has some fascinating throbbing markets. Also visit the “New Town” which is where most of the government departments are. You can also visit Lilongwe Wildlife Trust which is the only wildlife rescue centre in Malawi and specializes in rehabilitating victims of poaching. You can see Bella the lion and Kambuka the leopard.
The Bandawe Mission was Robert Law’s second attempt at setting up a Presbyterian Church in Malawi. However, they were taken down by attacks of Malaria and so they had to move up north to Khondwe. The church still has the priests’ graves that you can tour.
Livingstonia in Khondwe plateau was yet another attempt by David Livingstone’s follower, Robert Law to set up a Presbyterian church in the country. This time he succeeded and it was established in 1894 making one of the earliest Christian Missions in Malawi.
Some other places that may be worth a visit are Nkotakota Wild Life Reserve, Kasungu National Park, Chitheche beach good for snorkeling and diving, Nkata bay, and Nyika National Park .
WHERE TO STAY IN MALAWI.
Nkwitchi lodge is a hand built lodge on the shores of the lake at the edge of the rift valley. The chalets or lodgings are built behind the forest line so as not to spoil the view on the shore. They provide barbecue on the premises with a restaurant and bar which serve snacks and soft drinks and alcohol. The view of the horizon is breathtaking and varying at various heights on the rift valley. They provide 2 room chalets with bathroom and patio to relax and enjoy relaxation. They also have loungers on the beach.
Pumulani Monkey Bay:
Pumulani bay is a series of ten villas set on the shore of Lake Malawi and has been called the brightest star on the lake of stars. Each villa is equipped with a deck and patio on which guest can enjoy the view of the stars of the lake as the fisherman go about their work. They also have a restaurant and bay on the premises, spacious swimming pool. Some activities for guests include snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, and bird watching. An airport shuttle is provided for transporting guests.
Madzi Kwala Lake Resort:
This lake resort is a lake house that is rented out to guests on a self catering basis. It comes with a ready staff to help with house cleaning and cooking. It has six bedrooms and four bathrooms and is big enough for 13 adults. It also has a patio for relaxation and enjoying the views, swimming pool and satellite TV.
Danga Bed and Breakfast:
Danga is located in the city of Blantyre in southern Malawi, a city throbbing with economic activity. The lodge offers beautiful views of the mountains and the city. It provides 5 spacious bedrooms, daily breakfast, barbecue, restaurant and bar, parking and airport shuttle to transport guests.