Malawi

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Malawi is a country in Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the south and east, Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west. Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, runs along most of its eastern border. It's described as the "Warm Heart of Africa", referring to the friendliness of the people.

Population: 16,777,547 people
Area: 118,484 km2
Highest point: 3,002 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 52.78 years
GDP per capita: $900
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  • Education Education
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About Malawi

History

Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi on 6 July 1964. After three decades of one-party rule by Hastings Banda, the country held multi party elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which took full effect the following year. National multi party elections in 1999 and 2004 elected president Bingu wa Mutharika. When he died in 2012, Joyce Banda (no relation to Hastings Banda) was elected as the first female leader.

Climate

Much of Malawi is plateau, often reaching to 1,000 m (3,000 ft), and the temperature in these highlands is moderate, with the hottest period occurring during the autumn rainy season and the coolest and chilliest in winter. The hottest region in the country is the lower Shire River Valley well south of Blantyre. Temperatures along scenic Lake Malawi are generally warm, but with a cooling breeze, especially in the evenings. Winters (May till July) are dry. The rainy season begins in mid-October to early November and generally runs until March.

Geography

Much of Malawi is plateau, often reaching to 1,000 m (3,000 ft), and the temperature in these highlands is moderate, with the hottest period occurring during the autumn rainy season and the coolest and chilliest in winter. The hottest region in the country is the lower Shire River Valley well south of Blantyre. Temperatures along scenic Lake Malawi are generally warm, but with a cooling breeze, especially in the evenings. Winters (May till July) are dry. The rainy season begins in mid-October to early November and generally runs until March.

Activities

For a small country, Malawi has a quite remarkable array of activities to offer its visitors. The magnificent Lake Malawi is a haven for boat activities and watersports, as well as having some of the best freshwater diving sites in the world, right in Nkhata Bay. Eight land-based national parks and wildlife reserves offer all type of safaris in a wide variety of natural wilderness environments. Liwonde National Park, along the Shire River, has hippos (including an albino one!), crocodiles, lions, elephants and even leopards (apparently). The mixed terrain and varied landscapes also provide for excellent outdoor activities, including trekking and mountain biking, particularly in the highland areas. Those seeking cultural experiences are also well served by sites of historical interest and simple village visits to meet the ever-smiling Malawians in their daily life. You can visit the Carlsberg factory in Blantyre, climb Mt. Mulanje (a series of high hills, mountains - making a good trek), drive up or climb Zomba Plateau, go horseback riding in Kande or Nyika, or just relax on the beaches of Cape Maclear.

Specialist tours/activities include yoga holidays, tea factory tours and art safaris. Pottery classes are available at two centres in Dedza and Nkhotakota. In the summer months of Malawi (September/October) there is the Lake of Stars international music festival on the beaches of Sunbird Nkopola Lodge in Mangochi. 2011's festival included Foals, Freshlyground, The Black Missionnaries, Lucius Banda, Beverley Knight and Chris Baio from Vampire Weekend. 2010's festival included The Noisettes, Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. and Oliver Mtukudzi. This is a good festival, where you can relax in the sun on the beach having a few drinks and listening to some good music. Camping is the prominent form of accommodation, however many people do chose to stay in Sunbird Nkopola rooms themselves, or in rooms or cottages of nearby lodges.

Food

Traditional Malawian food revolves around one staple, maize, served in one form, nsima (n'SEE-ma). Nsima is basically a type of thick porridge, rolled into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of stews known as relishes. Those who can afford them eat relishes of beef, chicken or fish, but the many who can't make do with beans, tiny dried fish (usipa), pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) and other vegetables. At breakfast, nsima can be served watered down into a soup, maybe with a little sugar. Local restaurants will serve nsima and relish for less than MK500 (US$3).

Food options in the major cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre are good. Fast food — to include burgers, pizza, and fried chicken — is very popular in Malawi. For sit-down meals, ethnic eateries (thanks to a significant ex-pat population) are popular. Do note that, in many restaurants, pork products are not served to accommodate the Muslim population.

Outside the larger cities, however, you might be a little underwhelmed with food options. Along the major roadways, you will find "tuck shops" featuring packaged cookies or Take Away Meals — meat pies or sausage rolls, for instance — which may or may not satisfy you.

Finally, in terms of hygiene outside the major cities, you are unlikely to find a proper washroom with running water. You will probably be given a bowl of water, a piece of soap, and a (damp) towel. Therefore, some travellers bring small bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap with them.

Drinks

Tap water in major cities like Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu is generally safe. Ask at the lodge/house you're at. Some travellers with weaker stomachs may be advised to avoid this drinking water. Bottled water is plentiful in all the major shops.

Soft drinks

A traditional local drink worth trying is maheu, a somewhat gritty and vaguely yogurty but refreshing beverage made from maize meal. Factory-produced maheu is sweet, comes in plastic bottles and is available in a variety of flavours including banana, chocolate and orange, while home made versions are usually unflavored and less sweet.

The variety of soft drinks in Malawi is very popular - there's Coke, Sprite, Tonic, Ginger Ale, Soda Water, Cherry Plum, Cocopina and the very tasty, sugary Fanta's (coming in Orange, Grape, Exotic, Passion and Pineapple flavours). These are manufactured by SOBO, the glass bottles are on a deposit system. Expect to pay MK25 extra per bottle unless you bring some 'empties' with you.

Alcohol

The only beers you will generally find are brewed in Blantyre by Carlsberg, and its products are available in restaurants and stores throughout the country. A normal Carlsberg is known as a 'green', but the company also produces Special Brew, Stout, Classic, Elephant, Light and Kuche Kuche. You can also buy imported drinks such as Heineken, Kronenbourg, Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer and some ciders in certain bars. Malawi also produces its own spirits - notably Malawi Vodka, Malawi Gin, Malawi Rum, Gold Label Brandy and the cane spirit Powers. Malawi Gin & Tonic is a very nice, popular expat drink in the country.

Shopping

The local currency is the Malawi kwacha, sometimes abbreviated MK, for which the ISO 4217 international currency code is MWK. The currency is freely convertible (but impossible to get rid of outside the country) and, as of September 2013, trades at approximately:

"Hard" foreign currencies (Forex) will also be accepted by almost everybody, particularly for larger purchases. For the current exchange rate, visit MCT.com. If you bring foreign currency (forex) into the country and break the law by exchanging on the black market - in Lilongwe this is by using the people standing outside Metro (opposite Spar/Shoprite), they can give you an extra 40-50 kwacha (use that as a general idea of how much you should get) to the dollar, pound or euro. Get the taxi to stop by here on the drive from the airport! You can swap Malawian kwacha to Zambian kwacha at the border, either at the banks or on the black market too. Larger foreign bills are favoured and can get much higher rates. At times, it can be easier to not even go to the black market and simply make purchases with the foreign currency.

Credit card acceptance is spotty but improving. Visa and MasterCard are accepted by larger hotels, including some ATMs, but you can leave AmEx or anything else at home. ATMs are becoming much more common and can be used at many banks in major cities, though most notably, VISA is the card of choice and many times the only option.

Travellers' cheques can be changed in banks, forex bureaus and in some high-end hotels. The number of hotels accepting payment by travellers' cheque seems to be shrinking. Don't rely on them unless you have spoken to the hotel. Also, banks often want to see your original paperwork from your bank when you purchased the traveller's cheques. Without it, you may not be able to exchange them. US dollars cash is your best bet, and it gives a better exchange rate.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Malawi on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Malawi

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Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi.

Interesting places:

  • Civic Stadium
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Blantyre is the economic capital of Malawi.

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  • St. Michael and All Angel\'s Church
  • Kamazu Stadium
  • Museum of Malawi
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Salima is a city in Central Malawi, located on the coast of Lake Malawi.

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Mzuzu is the largest town in the North of Malawi. For most it's just a stop for cash and internet en route to or from Nkhata Bay or further south, and the Tanzanian border.

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Zomba is a small town in Malawi about 1 hr from Blantyre. It is the former capital of Malawi until Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the first President, moved the capital to Lilongwe. Most travelers visiting Zomba are coming for the plateau. The town itself has little for tourists but the people are welcoming, and ... (read more)

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  • University of Malawi
  • Lake Chilwa
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Likoma Island, along with its sister Chisumulu Island, is in the Mozambican territorial waters of Lake Malawi/Nyasa. Both Likoma Island and Chisumulu belong to Malawi.

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Malawi

Malawi has a massive diversity of beautiful landscapes. The highest peaks in Malawi touch 10,000ft (3,000m) while the lowest point is barely above sea level. This range of altitudes in a small area help to make the landscape of Malawi one of the most varied in all Africa. It is generally a green, lush country, with plateaux, highlands, forests, mountains, plains, escarpments and dramatic river valleys.

The Rift Valley is the dominant feature, providing the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills, and extending to the south of the country following the Shire River that drains the Lake. The flatter areas of the Rift Valley in South Malawi are home to some important wetlands, including Elephant Marsh, down in the Lower Shire Valley.

To the west of the Lake and either side of the Shire Valley in the south is the Central African Plateau. The transition from Rift Valley floor up to the Central African Plateau is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, such as at Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, a protected area of rugged, unspoilt wilderness. The Central African Plateau itself is gently undulating land between 1,600ft (490m) and 5,000ft (1,500m), with the occasional lake (such as Lake Chilwa) and punctuated by more dramatic hills and forests.

It is the widespread highlands and forests that provide the most impressive of the Malawi's varied scenery. Up where the air is fresh and cool are clear mountain streams, heaths, rolling montane grassland and evergreen forests.

The southern part of Malawi has the best known highlands - Mulanje Massif and Zomba Plateau. The former is a massive wilderness plateau of syenite granite rising from the Phalombe Plains. It has a number of peaks, including the highest in both the country and the whole of central Africa: Sapitwa, at 3,000 metres (10,000 feet). The tea estates that stretch west of Mulanje as far as Thyolo, are also wonderfully scenic. Zomba Plateau is not as high as Mulanje, but nonetheless impressive. It is slab-like with a gently undulating plateau top which is accessible by road.

The Dedza-Kirk Highlands extend the rise from the Rift Valley on its western edge between Blantyre and Lilongwe. The northern part of these highlands is marked by the Dedza-Salima Forest Reserve and then the Thuma Forest Reserve. South-west of Lilongwe, the Dzalanyama Forest Reserve covers a range of hills at the border with Mozambique. The Dowa Highlands, north of Lilongwe, have their most notable peaks at Dowa and the Ntchisi Forest Reserve.

The Viphya Highlands - undulating hills swathed in evergreen forests - stretch north-south in north Malawi and reach the edge of the Rift Valley. Finally, in north Malawi is the Nyika Plateau, a rolling whaleback grassland plateau unique in Africa. Much of this highest and most extensive high plateau surface in central Africa is gazetted as the Nyika National Park.

Lake Malawi National Park - Monkey Bay

University of Malawi - Zomba

Liwonde National Park - Liwonde

St. Michael and All Angel\'s Church - Blantyre

Mount Mulanje - Mulanje

Majete Game Reserve - Chikwawa

Satemwa Tea Estate - Thyolo

Kasungu National Park - Kasungu

Chongoni Rock Art Area - Dedza

Kamazu Stadium - Blantyre

Lake Chilwa - Zomba

Lengwe National Park - Chikwawa

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

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