Nicknamed the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’, Malawi is renowned for being one of the world’s friendliest destinations. In fact, this southeastern nation has grown in popularity over the years, with Lonely Planet ranking it among the best destinations to visit twice – in 2014, and again in 2018. But what is it that makes the country so attractive?
Despite increasing interest, this rugged Africa nation is still considered a country less travelled, meaning a volunteer project in Malawi could be the perfect way to take a holiday with a difference. With fewer crowds, Malawi is not only a peaceful destination, but it’s home to an abundance of incredible animals – in fact, one of the country’s main draws is its impressive efforts towards wildlife conservation. Malawi is home to an array of animals, making sightings of elephants, jackals and wildcats relatively common!
If you want to guarantee an animal sighting or two, consider visiting one of Malawi’s wildlife sanctuaries. The Great Projects are proud to offer volunteers the opportunity to assist in animal conservation efforts at the popular Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary, either as a volunteer or as a veterinary student. Work with baboons, zebras and more whilst also making a difference to the local community – what better way to leave a positive mark on this fantastic country? Become a Malawi volunteer today!
With no fewer than nine national parks in Malawi, the nation is melting-pot of biodiversity. Home to 187 species of mammal, some 648 species of birds, and around 500 species of fish (many of which are endemic), Malawi is proud of its wildlife and has dedicated 20% of its land to national parks and reserves. Keep your eyes peeled for animals such as:
• Lillian’s Lovebird – a species endemic to Malawi!
Venturing away from dry land could lead you to Lake Malawi, which in itself is a haven of species diversity. As well as attracting larger animals from far and wide to drink from its waters, Lake Malawi hosts such species as the large kampango catfish and many endemic freshwater crabs!
As previously mentioned, Malawians are some of the friendliest folk in all of Africa – and they’d be more than happy to share their culture with you! Get to know the true Malawi by learning all about the following cultural aspects:
• Food – Malawi has a number of scrumptious delicacies to its name: Kachumbari (a type of tomato and onion salad), Kondowole (a sticky dish typically served with fish), and Mkhwani (a relish created with peanuts, pumpkin leaves and tomatoes) are all popular throughout the country, so no matter where you go, you’ll have something tasty to snack on!
• Music – thanks to its triple-cultural heritage (British, African, American), Malawi has a number of influences which can be recognised through mediums such as music. Jazz, folk, hip-hop and reggae are all prevalent, as is Malawian pop/fusion! While the world is yet to fully embrace Malawi’s musical exports, an international presence is slowly gaining traction, with 2004’s ‘Lake of Stars’ Music Festival being voted one of the top 20 music festival in the world – an accolade given by none other than The Independent and the Times.
• Crafts – African arts and crafts are some of the most distinctive of all, and the items created by the Malawian people are no exception. In fact, art pieces created by the craftsmen of Mua can even be found at the Vatican, at Buckingham Palace, and at other palaces around the globe!
If you’re looking to enjoy a spot of tourism before joining one of Malawi’s wildlife sanctuaries, there are a few places we’d recommend visiting as to get a real feel for this wonderful destination. From national parks to mausoleums, Malawi offers a variety of sights for you to see. First off, though, consider kicking back by the water’s edge…
• Nkhata Bay – with something of a Caribbean essence to it, Nkhata Bay is a brilliant place to unwind either after a flight or at the very end of your Malawian adventure. The area is a charm for the senses: reggae music and the scent of barbequed fish fill the air, fishing boats hum as they buzz along the green bay, and the warmth of the sunshine bathes the whole area. Snorkel, kayak, dive or take a stroll by the bay or through its neighbouring forests. However you choose to spend your time, a trip to Nkhata Bay is never time wasted.
• Kamuzu Mausoleum – this important Malawian landmark may be altogether more sombre than the likes of Nkhata Bay, but a visit is worthwhile nonetheless. The Kamuzu Mausoleum is the final resting place of the ‘lion of Malawi’, otherwise known as Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. A man regarded as Malawi’s ‘president for life’, Banda ruled from 1961 to 1994 before passing away in 1997, just shy of his 100th birthday. Banda was not only hailed for his values (‘unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline’), but for the fact that he was Malawi’s first ever president. A complex character, Banda was both revered and feared: he led Malawians to independence from the British; he spoke out against racism and generally supported women’s rights; but he was also a dictator responsible for the torture and murder of some 6,000 people, many of which were political opponents. You can learn a little more about Banda and his resting place by tipping a guide at the mausoleum’s entrance, who will then be happy to show you around.
• Liwonde National Park – situated in southern Malawi, Liwonde National Park is the perfect place for animal lovers. Witness waterbucks, hippos, and some 500-plus elephants enjoying life by the Shire River in the west, or join a night drive in search of bushbabies, jackals and hyenas. Who knows – you might even be lucky enough to spot a black rhino!