Most international visitors to Malawi arrive at Lilongwe, the capital; hence their first view of the country is the Central Region. It offers quick access to the remaining part of Malawi, including the beautiful Lake, and as well being a thrilling area on its own. Gently rising and falling landscapes offer the area the look of a plain, although it is actually a section of the Central-African Plateau at a towering altitude of about 4, 000 feet or 1,200 meters. in the east, near to the Lake, right where the escarpments of the plateau descend into the great Rift Valley, do the rarely steep slopes reveal the reality.
The plateau is interspersed with a number of rivers which make their different ways heading to the beautiful Lake and, in all directions, secluded hills, known as inselbergs, interrupt the moderate landscapes. Though not quite as high or dramatic as in other regions, Central Malawi has its fair share of highlands and forests. Dzalanyama Forest Reserve lies west of Lilongwe and is known for its birdlife. The Dowa Highlands, Dedza Highlands, Thuma Forest Reserve, Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve,as well as Ntchisi Forest Reserve just the east of the capital-city entend south-north all along the rim of the great Rift Valley.
North of Ntchisi is the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a genuine wilderness area of miombo woodland on the Rift Valley escarpment cut by the magnificent Bua River. Just beginning to open up, it is also home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including a number of large mammal species. Central Malawi’s other protected area is the Kasungu National Park. A large area of woodland, bush and grassland and once Malawi’s main National Park, poaching and general neglect have seen animal numbers reduce.
Senga Bay is the closest point on Lake Malawi to Lilongwe, just an hour and half’s drive from the airport. It has a range of hotels & lodges overlooking lovely beaches, and a small forest reserve. Further north, these the beaches extend, via Nkhotakota is recognized more for its fascinating history as a hub for the slave trade at the same time as Dwangwa has developed as a result of the extensive sugar estate in this place.
If it doesn’t quite have the natural diversity to match the other regions, in cultural terms, it is perhaps the most interesting region. Lilongwe, the nation’s capital, is a 20th Century creation of modern office blocks in a garden setting, though with a distinct, vibrant Old Town. But to the south-east is evidence of Malawi’s inhabitants from centuries past at the Chongoni Rock Art Area – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the densest cluster of stone age rock art found in central Africa. Nearby is Dedza, a pleasant forestry town overlooked by Dedza Mountain and home to the Dedza Pottery, where today’s artists and craftsmen can be viewed producing a variety of items then found all round Malawi or sold for export. Artistic skill is also on display at Mua Mission, almost directly down the escarpment from Dedza. Mua is a mission station whose students create the finest wood carvings in the country, if not the whole of Africa, and is also home to a fascinating cultural museum.