Home | Africa | Things to do in Malawi

Landlocked in south-eastern Africa, Malawi is a study in diversity with a topography characterised by highlands, the Great Rift Valley and the mighty Lake Malawi.

This small African country is endowed with great natural beauty and has earned a place for itself on the world tourism map with very good reason. Malawi is renowned for a laid back lifestyle and various unique opportunities, ranging from a delightful stay at one of the many beach resorts to an adventurous safari in a nearby wildlife park, a rejuvenating stroll along picturesque tea estates to a snorkelling trip in Lake Malawi itself.

Offering the opportunity to become a part of the local communities through volunteering on different social projects, Malawi is the perfect place to immerse yourself in an exotic culture, experience unexplored places, create unforgettable memories and also contribute on a social level at the same time.

Malawi offers the traveler a multitude of experiences. Whether you are a beach bum, a conscious social crusader, a nature lover or an adrenaline junkie, you will find some amazing things to do in Malawi. Here is a list of our favourite Malawi activities.

1. Nkhata Bay

Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi (© JackyR, CC-BY-ASA-3.0) Fishing at Lake Malawi (© Steve Evans - Malawi 2, CC-BY-2.0) Lake Malawi from space

Nkhata Bay, the top attraction in Northern Malawi, is a vibrant port town known for its fishing industry.

Also referred to as the gateway to the islands, Nkhata bay forms a brilliant green spectacle against the topaz blue sky. Its Caribbean spirit is evident in the colourful boats buzzing around on the waters, the throng of stalls on the coast and the smell of barbecuing fish wafting in the air along with strains of Caribbean music.

Nkhata Bay has become especially popular among backpackers because it offers a number of budget accommodation options against the visually stunning backdrop of a cliff. Moreover, one can choose to stay in the lakeside huts in the adjoining Mayoka village and enjoy a night looking up at the stars, getting to experience first-hand the culture of real Malawi.

The beach is located just three kilometres away from the town centre and offers a number of activities to indulge in, right from snorkelling and kayaking to diving in the pristine waters of the bay.

You can even opt for an idyllic forest walk, if you can tear yourself away from the gorging on the delicious local cuisine and enjoying a siesta on a hammock, that is. However, no matter how you spend your time in Nkhata Bay, you will soon learn why a visit to this port town is one of the very best things to do in Malawi.

 

2. Warm Heart of Africa

The countryside in Malawi (© Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, CC-BY-ASA-2.0) A farmer working on the outskirts of Lilongwe (© Stephen Morrison/AusAID, CC-BY-ASA-2.0) The Nile Crocodile at Mana Poolw National Park in Zimbabwe (© Larre, CC-BY-ASA-3.0)

The genuine hospitality and simplicity of the Malawian communities have earned this small African country the nickname: the Warm Heart of Africa.

Although the country is endowed with natural resources, it is one of the least developed nations in the continent and thus attracts a large number of international NGOs who work with the local community for the socio-economic development of the disadvantaged classes.

These NGOs are mainly engaged in providing voluntary medical, teaching and healthcare services in both rural and urban Malawi. Moreover, volunteers are also engaged in projects to conserve the vibrant wildlife that the country possesses.

Most of the Malawi population resides in villages. Thus, small towns and villages like Chikwawa and Mangochi are especially popular among volunteer organisations who want to engage themselves in rural upliftment initiatives. 

Lilongwe, the capital city also offers a number of community service opportunities in its old age homes and orphanages and many international volunteers choose to live and work in the city in order to contribute towards the holistic development of the country’s population.

Some organisations working in the country in recent years include GoEco, African Impact, Conservation Travel Africa and Naturally Africa. Malawi indeed is a preferred international destination for volunteers who want to make a difference in the world, immerse themselves in the local culture and also enjoy the natural exuberance of the tropics.

Whether you have come to enjoy the serenity of the lake itself or solely to make a lasting difference in Africa, volunteering is such a worthwhile thing to do in Malawi which allows the visitor to leave a footprint which will stay long after they have left.

3. Lilongwe

Old Town Lilongwe (© Brian Dell) A clothing market in Lilongwe (© Brian Dell) An aerial photograph of Lilongwe

Lilongwe was declared the capital city of Malawi in 1975.

It offers the traveller a taste of two different worlds, from the urban sophisticated feel of the new city with its modern gleaming buildings, malls and glass walls to the charming spirit one would expect in a traditional settlement that one can still encounter in the old town.

The old town of Lilongwe offers an unparalleled shopping experience in its streets and walled markets where you can pick up local artefacts and jewellery. The city also offers a number of volunteering opportunities for travellers wanting to make a positive impact of the country they are visiting.

One can also experience a taste of Malawi’s heritage in the exhibits of Central Africana’s galleries, visit the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary and Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, where injured and orphaned wild animals are rescued and rehabilitated.

Although the capital is relatively small, a visit to Lilongwe is a must in terms of things to do in Malawi and it also makes the perfect base from which to start exploring the nearby lake.

4. Kande Beach

A diademed Sifake in the Andasibe Mantadia National Park, Madagascar (© Karen Coppock, CC-BY-ASA-3.0) Jungle in the Mantadia National Park, Madagascar (© Heinonlein, CC-BY-ASA-3.0) A Pygmy Kingfisher in the Andasibe Mantadia National Park, Madagascar (© Frank Vassen, CC-BY-ASA-3.0)

If you love walks on the beach and how the sea breeze tousles your hair, you need to head on to Kande Beach.

Located on the northern shores of Lake Malawi, its brilliant blue waters, pristine white sand and unobstructed seabed offers an ideal spot to go swimming, scuba diving, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, sailing and even just spending a lazy day on the beach on a Caribbean hammock.

A number of accommodation options are available, from budget campsites to beach chalets. Thus, one can relax by the day on the beach, get a gorgeous Caribbean tan, go horse riding or even enjoy an idyllic stroll in the adjoining Tonga village. There is no dearth of activities that you can engage in to keep yourself entertained.

However, the best part is experienced only after the sun goes down and the entire beach comes alive with the beats of live music. The Kande Beach Bar serves a wide selection of local and international brews and the party gets started at the campsite.

The beach nightlife is famous throughout Africa, and if you miss out on it, you will be missing out on a quintessentially Malawian experience.

5. Kuti and Majeti Wildlife Parks

The Nosy Be resort (© Saidfaid, CC-BY-ASA-2.0) Scuba diving at Nosy Be A chameleon at Nosy Be (© LyWashu CC-BY-ASA-3.0)

Can a trip to Africa ever be really complete without a wildlife safari?

Of course not. And Malawi boasts of some brilliant wildlife reserves teeming with unique species of flora and fauna. We recommend that you visit either of Kuti and Majeti Wildlife Parks to finish off your Malawi vacation in style.

The Kuti community wildlife reserve is a laudable initiative. Run by a Dutch couple, this wildlife reserve works with the adjoining villages for wildlife conservation and also the upliftment of local villages. The reserve is run by local staff and international volunteers who work with an infectious enthusiasm.

A large number of wild animals can be spotted in the park ranging from baboons, waterbuck, zebras and sables to water hogs and stray ostriches and camels. In this wonderful community reserve, you will be escaping into nature’s lap and experiencing a sense of tranquillity like never before. There are a number of accommodation options, a bar and a restaurant within the reserve so that you can kick back with a drink and enjoy the sunset.

If the Kuti Reserve does not suit then the Majete Wildlifie reserve is another story of successful restoration of biodiversity and a superb choice of things to do in Malawi. Located in south-western Malawi, Majete had once been a great wildlife refuge but due to unrestricted poaching and illegal activities, the number of animals in the reserve started dwindling in the 1990s.

However, with recent restoration efforts from African Parks Majete (APM), radical infrastructural developments including the introduction of perimeter fences and new technologies and support from volunteers all over the world, a number of endangered species have been reintroduced to their natural habitat.

Majete is thriving today and in this national game reserve you can view a large number of animal species from elephants, antelopes and leopards to lions, buffalos, zebras and rhinos. Following a successful lion translocation project that had been taken up in 2012, today Majate Wildlife Reserve is one of those highly popular tourist destinations where you can view the Big Five in their natural habitat.

Malawi is a vibrant destination, not just because of the idyllic beaches and stunning scenic beauty, but also because it gives you the opportunity to actively participate in local community life, contribute to sustainable development projects and extend your helping hand to the underprivileged classes.

Malawi has gained popularity because it gives one the chance to give back to the world, to make a difference. Thus when one packs their bags and sets off to this beautiful Sub Saharan country, they are not only heading towards experiencing the beauty of African sunsets but also to priceless experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime.