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Malawi is known as the “Warm Heart of Africa” for good reason, everywhere you go smiling faces greet you with a warm welcome, generous hospitality and a desire to be of service to the visitor.
The country is dominated by the vast Lake Malawi that covers approximately a fifth of the country, This Rift Valley lake that forms Malawi's eastern border with Mozambique and Tanzania is home to the world's greatest number of lake-dwelling fish species. Offering superb fresh-water fishing and snorkelling opportunities and bordered by sandy beaches, the lake is the mainstay of the country's economy and tourist industry. Lake Malawi is tidal but the waves are small so it is ideal for all types of water sports. Sporadic hotels along the unspoilt lakeshore provide the necessary kits for boating, snorkelling, sailing and kayaking. Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear are favourite destinations. There are several high forested areas, mountain ranges and grassy plateaus.
A relatively small country, Malawi has one of the highest population densities in Africa. About 90% of
Malawians live in the countryside and are involved in subsistence farming. The main agricultural exports are tobacco (over 60%), tea, cotton and sugar. Clothing and timber also play a small part, but the country has one of the least-developed economies in the world. Tourism plays a vital role in bringing foreign currency into Malawi.
English is the official language and widely spoken though the dominant local language is Chichewa, spoken by nearly 60% of the population. Music and dance are popular in the Malawian culture and many traditional ceremonies and festivals occur throughout the year. It is also a deeply conservative and religious country where manners and modesty are highly prized.
Malawi tourism highlights include diving and snorkelling in Lake Malawi National Park; boat safaris on the Shire River at Liwonde; hiking and mountain biking at Nyika; and bird-watching – there are over 645 recorded species. Nyika Plateau offers visitors a wide range of antelope species, elephant, leopard and buffalo while Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve are the best Big 5 destinations.
Lilongwe replaced Zomba as the capital in 1974 and has grown rapidly. It has now also overtaken Blantyre as the biggest city in the country. Blantyre, which is home to the Museum of Malawi, is the country’s commercial and industrial hub.
Other areas to explore include:
Nkothakotha Lodge, in the northern part of the lake, gets you away from the crowds in the busy season and offers some of the most impressive drives along the lake shore under the towering cliffs of the Great Rift Valley.
Salima was an Arab trade centre in the mid-1800s and still retains that particular Muslim character.
Likoma and Chizumulu are the only two inhabited islands in Lake Malawi. The former boasts the vast Anglican Cathedral of St Peter, built with materials imported at great expense from around the world.
Mvuu camp (Wilderness Safaris) offers a high quality lodge and comfortable campsite with excellent food.
Mpale Cultural Village, near Mangoche in the south, looks at the traditions and culture of the Yao people and studies how they were influenced by the ways of the Arab slave-traders.
Nyika National Park at 2 600 metres, as well as having a small wildlife population, is an orchid paradise with over 120 different species having been recorded.