Travel

 

The Lake of Stars Festival will return 28-30 September 2018 for its 15th anniversary. Find out more.

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.

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.

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.

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.