Travel

The Lake of Stars Festival will return to Lake Malawi in September 2018 for its fifteenth anniversary

About

Malawi is a beautiful and unique country in southern eastern Africa, sitting between Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. The Great Rift Valley runs the whole way through the country and it encompasses one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world. Due to its laid-back and friendly inhabitants, Malawi is often referred to as the Warm Heart of Africa. All these factors culminate in making it the perfect place to soak up local and international culture on the stunning shores of Lake Malawi.

The Lake of Stars Festival last took place in September 2016 at Chintheche Inn on the northern lakeshore:



Accommodation, Transport, & Travel Itineraries

If you want to make the most of your trip, consider combining the festival with a longer itinerary taking in the diverse landscape and activities that Malawi has to offer. Whether hiking up the famous Mount Mulanje, going on safari in one of the national parks or enjoying the multiple water sports available on the lake, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained. We have travel partners that can offer itineraries around Malawi that take in the best the country has to offer for a range of budgets. You can also find plenty more info on the Malawi Tourism website.

TRAVEL PARTNERS

CAWS-Logo-text-02Central African Wilderness Safaris, with thirty years of crafting the finest safaris in Malawi, are offering four short safari options based around the festival, concentrating on Malawi’s finest wildlife destinations. Choose from one of two northern Malawi itineraries, which take in Luwawa Forest Lodge and the Nyika National Park, or one of two southern trips focusing on the wonderful Liwonde National Park. All trips are accompanied by experienced field guides and include transportation in quality vehicles. Prices start from $910 per person. Contact info@cawsmw.com for more information.

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The Adventure Office
 is your one-stop-shop for all things travel in Malawi, whether you need full logistical support for the adventure of a lifetime, or you simply want to book a budget safari as part of your trip. They have over twenty years’ experience living and working in Malawi – and because their contacts in the region range from exclusive lodges to niche backpackers, they can truly tailor-make your trip. Contact them for your Lake of Stars package to include safaris, scuba diving, kayaking, and much more.

Kiboko elly

The Kiboko Safaris Experience has been set up to give you the opportunity to compose the personalised safari you want which will suit your travel expectations and budget. Combine various safari destinations in Malawi and Zambia, the way you want to be accommodated and transported around. Kiboko Safaris give you the flexibility you need to enjoy your holiday in Malawi and Zambia. Email them or call them on +265 999 878 685. 

Getting There

Malawi is a landlocked country and is easily accessible via land borders with Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. There are several international bus companies that run from regional capital cities to Malawi. If you’re flying, the main international airport is in the city’s capital Lilongwe which is serviced by Malawian Airlines as well as Kenya Airways, South African Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Proflight Zambia. Blantyre’s Chileka International Airport also receives numerous domestic and international flights each week. For car hire and private festival transfers, we can recommend Barons or Kwacha Dawn.

Travel Green

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Offset the carbon emissions from your journey for just $20! In 2016, Lake of Stars partnered with Root to Fruit to offer the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions from travel to and from the festival.

How does it work? Return flights from Europe to Malawi, for example, generate approximately two tonnes of carbon emissions. Root to Fruit is offering you the chance to offset those emissions by buying ten trees for just $20. Root to Fruit will plant and monitor your seedlings over the course of ten years, enabling you to offset the emissions from your travels and make a long-term commitment to combatting climate change.

What’s the science behind it? Carbon is the building block of all life on earth. Unfortunately, it is also one of the main contributors to global warming and modern climate change. Planting trees is one of the simplest ways to offset carbon emissions because each tree sequesters 20kg of carbon a year, leading to 200kg over the course of our ten-year guarantee.

What exactly do you get for your $20? For the special price of $20 for ten trees, Root to Fruit will issue a certificate giving you the carbon-offsetting rights to your trees and will provide you with the GPS co-ordinates of where your trees are planted. An additional 30% of trees will also be planted for every order. Aside from ensuring that your travels to and from the festival are 100% carbon neutral, the trees you plant will also support the reforestation of Malawi (the home of the festival), while assisting local communities across the country.

Who’s running the project? Root to Fruit is a dynamic social enterprise that has been operational in Chintheche since 2012. A partnership between Central African Wilderness Safaris and Southbound Travel, the project is facilitated by forestry expert Master Banda and his team of 20 staff members. The project exists to provide environmentally-conscious individuals from around the world with an opportunity to be carbon neutral when it comes to their daily lives, businesses, and travels. All trees that are planted are closely monitored and the project has achieved an incredible tree survival rate of over 75%.

Convinced and ready to travel green? If you’re willing to make this small investment to ensure that your journey to the festival is completely carbon neutral, please follow these payment instructions:

• visit PayPal and choose to make a transfer;
• choose ralf@roottofruit.net as the receiving email address;
• choose the amount USD 20 to transfer and write your name, email address, and the text ‘Malawi travel compensation’ in the message box;
• finalise your transaction using a credit card or your PayPal account.

Once the payment is confirmed we will issue your certificate and send it to you via email. Questions? Email Ralf.

Geography

NORTHERN MALAWI

Stunning mountain peaks and plateaus, endless pine forests and the pristine tropical lakeshore make this part of Malawi truly special! The historic town of Livingstonia boasts fabulous views, waterfalls, and fascinating permaculture projects. Luwawa Forest Lodge is set amongst the sprawling pine forests and offers some great activities – including abseiling, climbing, and mountain-biking. If that is not enough there is the unique Nyika Plateau where leopard, zebra, and antelope wander through stunning montane grassland. Once you’ve finished all that action you can relax on the white sandy beaches of Chintheche or do some amazing diving in the lake.

SOUTHERN MALAWI

This region is renowned for its stunning rock formations and high peaks including south-central Africa’s biggest peak: the Mulanje Massif. From the high peaks the country descends rapidly to the white-sand beaches and palm trees of Mangochi and Cape Maclear. It is also home to two of Malawi’s best populated game parks, Majete and Liwonde.

National Parks and Game Reserves

Malawi has a number of national parks and reserves across the country offering excellent game-viewing and birdwatching opportunities.

LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK

Arguably the best national park in Malawi based upon the shores of the meandering Shire River (pronounced ‘shee-ray’), it houses a high concentration of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and antelope, plus many other mammals all living in beautiful river scenery. Dense swaying palm trees and tropical reed groves house a multitude of colourful birdlife, with over 400 recorded species and unique populations only found in this area – this makes Liwonde a must-visit for all bird enthusiasts. This is a must for anyone craving the true safari experience: if you dream of gazing at a herd of elephant from the back of an open-topped Land Rover or sipping a cold beer whilst the hippos bathe in the limpid water of the Shire River, this is the place for you.

MAJETE GAME RESERVE

This co-operatively run reserve lies west of Blantyre with the Shire River forming its eastern boundary. The park contains about 4,000 animals, including elephant, rhino, buffalo, zebra, leopard, hippos, and many species of monkeys. This is the best place in Malawi to see the Big Five. Majete is very dry and hot in the summer, and several man-made watering holes have been constructed to maintain the wildlife population and makes a great place to see the game interacting together.

NYIKA PLATEAU

The Plateau lies in northern Malawi, it towers above Lake Malawi itself is at elevation of 475m, with the parks highest point at 2605m. Nyika is unlike any other national park in Africa as it’s renowned for its rolling highland hills, populated by elephant, zebra, various antelope, and some of the best views in the country.

VWAZA MARSH

In contrast to the Nyika Plateau much of Vwaza is located on low-lying flat ground, which centres on a marsh. The variation in animal numbers may vary from season to season as they cross the border with the North Luangwa National Park in Zambia. Typically the reserve has large herds of buffalo and elephants, and a large variety of antelope including roan, greater kudu, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, eland, and impala. The reserve is best suited to those self-sufficient campers wanting to get away from it all. There are basic rooms on site with staff to do some cooking if required.

KUTI WILDLIFE RESERVE

Just an hour from Lilongwe and half an hour from the shores of Lake Malawi lies a little-known wildlife reserve called Kuti. This stunning bush retreat is home to all sorts of wildlife like zebra, impala, sable, and giraffe. Explore by car, bike, or on foot – just make sure you’re at the deck overlooking the lagoon in time for the best sunset in Malawi.

Activities and Adventures

As well as all the game-viewing opportunities available in Malawi there are also lots of other activities to try. Lake Malawi offers some of the best freshwater scuba diving in the world, from the clouds of colourful cichlids to large catfish and the aptly named dolphin fish. For complete beginners, it’s one of the cheapest countries to learn how to dive. And there are plenty of other water sports on offer around the lake from sailing, snorkelling, and kayaking to jet skiing and speedboat rides! On dry land, there’s numerous ways to get active, from fantastic walking and hiking options, to cycling, horse riding, and other sports activities. Cultural visits to local villages and participation in community projects are also widely available and offer a chance to see a different side to life in Malawi. And a number of lodges in Malawi offer specialist activities such as pottery lessons for those who want to try something a little different.

Money

The currency used is the Malawi Kwacha and ATMs are fairly widespread in the cities and bigger towns. There is also one on the festival site. Credit cards are not widely accepted although Visa is more popular than Mastercard. All lodges used to international tourists will accept US Dollars although the exchange rate will sometimes vary.

Weather

During September and October when the festival takes place Malawi is experiencing its ‘hot-and-dry’ season. This lasts up until the rains come in November/December. During this time expect temperatures between 25°C and 35°C with the lake warming up to a balmy 28°C! So pack plenty of sun screen and don’t forget your hat and sunnies.

Food and Drink

Malawi is better renowned for its beautiful beaches and fantastic people than its cuisine. However nsima is the widespread staple across the country and has an almost mythical place in Malawian society. It’s made from maize flour and is served with a ‘relish’ that varies from basic pumpkin leaves to groundnut stews with beef, fish, or chicken. It’s well worth a try and is probably the most filling substance on earth! However if this isn’t to your taste there are always lots of western choices available. Carlsberg is the main beer of choice, but do try the local Malawi Gin which is renowned for its great flavour. Of course there is also always the ubiquitous Chibuku – a local maize beer, similar to alcoholic porridge. 

Health and Safety

Malawi is in a malarial area so you should organise prophylaxes before you come; if you forget you can buy some upon arrival. It’s also recommended to get vaccinations for rabies, polio, tetanus, typhoid, and hepatitis A. There is a risk of contracting bilharzia (a parasite that lives in the gut) if bathing in some parts of Lake Malawi but the risk is negligible and medication is available over the counter and can be taken as a precautionary measure after exposure. As with most of Africa, Malawi has high levels of HIV amongst the population and precautions should be taken accordingly. The culture of Malawi is naturally incredibly friendly but where dress is concerned is still very conservative. It’s not advised to where swimwear/short skirts/hot pants away from beach areas as you may attract unwanted attention. Malawi is considered a safe country for tourists and Malawians are rightfully known for their friendliness. However, as anywhere, be sure to keep an eye on your valuables.