Malawians market their country as ‘the warm heart of Africa’. With beautiful scenery they honestly are among the friendliest people you could meet. Lake Malawi is a magnificent shard of crystal water stretching some 500km along Malawi’s eastern border and separated by the wild and mountainous coast of Mozambique and Tanzania. At Lake Malawi’s southern tip is the highly regarded Liwonde National Park with the northern lakeshore peppered by isolated villages. With more or less 500 species of freshwater fish, diving and snorkeling here is excellent. Malawi’s diverse landscapes include more parks and reserves not forgetting the highland wilderness areas of Mt Mulanje and the Nyika Plateau, which offer some of the most enjoyable hiking routes in Africa.
Malawi tourism has a great potential as a foreign currency generator, as yet it has not been fully exploited, which makes it a destination to consider for the intrepid traveler. Being one of the world’s 10 poorest countries, with a per capita gross national product (GNP) of US$170, the economic conditions are not favourable. Malawi has the second-highest disparity between rich and poor in the world. Tobacco accounts for more than 60% of the country’s export earnings. It is grown on large commercial plantations and on smaller farms cultivated by single families. Tea and sugar make up another 20% of export earnings. The country’s main export, tobacco, has decreased considerably in cost which has not been to their benefit. Unemployment is also very high and it is estimated that less than 10% of young Malawians who enter the job market each year will be employed.
Most of Malawi’s attractions are relatively easy to reach. You could head north from Lilongwe, via the Viphya Plateau to Mzuzu, from where you can reach the wilderness areas of Vwaza Marsh and Nyika Plateau and the historical sights of Livingstonia. From there you could go to Nkhata Bay and enjoy Lake Malawi’s sun, swimming and socializing where after you could get on the Ilala ferry over to Likoma and Chizumulu Islands. From here you could return to Lilongwe either by charter flight or by the Ilala ferry. Further south from Lilongwe is Senga Bay, following Lake Malawi’s southern curve to Mangochi and seeing the best of Malawi’s wildlife in Liwonde National Park. Winding past the Zomba Plateau to Blantyre, you could then meander through Malawi’s stunning tea plantations to get into some hiking on Mt Mulanje.
Malawi Quick Facts
Location: Southern Africa, east of Zambia
Area: 118,480 sq km
Border countries: Mozambique 1,569 km, Tanzania 475 km, Zambia 837 km
Population: 11 million
People: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European
Language: English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally
Religion: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs 3%, other 2%
Independence: 6 July 1964 (from UK)
Head of State: President Bakili MULUZI
Currency: Malawian kwachas (MWK) – Exchange Rate(link popup window)
Export Commodities: tobacco 60%, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products, apparel
Agriculture – products: tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca), sorghum, pulses; groundnuts, Macadamia nuts; cattle, goats
GDP growth: 1.7% (2003 est.)
GDP per capita: $600 (2003 est.)