Malawi is a hidden gem! It is the unique combination of landscape, wildlife, lake and, of course, the people which makes Malawi one of Africa's most amazing countries. This is one of the safest and friendliest countries in the whole of Africa, offering the visitor a fascinating variety of sights and experiences. The diversity of landscapes, the huge lake and the national parks and reserves provide the foundation for the unrivalled choice of safaris, water sports and outdoor activities on offer!
Malawi's national parks and wildlife reserves cover a great variety of landscape and vegetation types, and include areas of genuine unspoilt wilderness. The Big Five can be seen in Malawi as well as a splendid range of antelope and the smaller cats such as caracel and serval. Hippos are to be found in large numbers, so much that they are almost symbolic of Malawi's wildlife. A safari in Malawi is about memorable experiences, not tick lists, plenty of game in beautiful surroundings but no convoys of vehicles characteristic of some African game parks.
Malawi is truly an ornithologist's paradise. Few countries in the whole of Africa can rival Malawi's range of bird species coupled with the relative ease of birdwatsching. Around 650 species have been identified with over ten per cent not being seen in other parts of southern Africa. Best known is the fish eagle to be seen at the Lake and along rhe River Shire but, as with the Lake's fish, the range of species is breathtaking. The variety of fish, up to 1.000 species, to be seen in Lake Malawi Park is unequalled anywhere else in the world.
Nyika National Park is Malawi's largest and longest established. It extends across the great plateau which is essentially a granitic dome rising to 2.400 metres with an environment like none other in Africa. The rolling landscapes of the central plateau are described as whalebacks and are rich in wildflowers. Over 200 types of orchid flower can be found in the rainy season. Nyika is wonderful for trekking and mountain biking and for conventional 4x4 safaris.
The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive duiker to eland and roan. Zebra are common and leopard, hyena and jackal also live on the plateau. The leopard population is one of the densest in Africa and sightings are regular. Elephants and buffalo usually keep to the lower ground on the edges of the park. For the birdwatcher, the park has a great deal to offer, with over 400 species recorded, including the rare Denham's bustard, wattled crane and red-winged francolin. Other things to see in the vast park include waterfalls, a Neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a "magic lake".
Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes a land area as well as the lake waters and islands. Here is a veritable aquarium of tropical fish providing a colourful kaleidoscopic display. The countless thousands of freshwater fish, the mbuna, are more abundant and varied here than anywhere else in the world. Boats are available for hire and the fish will feed directly from the hand. Kayaking, sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving are just some of the activities on offer, as well as relaxing on a beach.
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is 1.000 square kilometres of marsh and plain, with a few rocky outcrops. The reserve has a wonderful mix of vegetation: forest and grasslands, thin woodland and marsh. It is this rich habitat which attracts a splendid range of birdlife. Nearly 300 species of birds have been recorded including stork, heron and the white-faced tree duck. For safaris, Vwaza offers the more traditional "bush game" experience - a perfect complement to Nyika's rolling grassland hills. Herds of thirty or forty elephants are regularly seen and there are large numbers of hippos - particularly found in Lake Kazuni, near the main entrance. Buffalo, various antelope, baboons and many smaller mammals are also to be seen. Lions are the main predators.
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve is an extensive area of highlands cut by rivers and cloaked by woodland. Most is Brachystegia but there are significant areas of evergreen forest. There are animals to be seen though mammal populations are much reduced from days gone by. The forest does, though, provide some of the best birdwatching in the country - a veritable ornithologist's delight just an hour from the capital.
Although only 310 square kilometres, Liwonde National Park is the most popular of all Malawi's game parks. It is about 160 km away from Blantyre and about half that distance from the Lakeshore. Game viewing is enhanced because the River Shire flows along its western border. This allows boat sfaris as well as the usual ones by 4x4 and on foot. Wildlife includes quite large numbers of elephants and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Antelope include kudu, sable and bushbuck. There are lions and leopards and black rhino have been re-introduced. Birdlife is exceptionally varied.