Not far from the centre of Lilongwe is a largely undeveloped woodland which has been given over to wildlife as part of an education centre, a rehabilitation centre and a place where one can walk quietly in the hope of finding some wildlife. I visited the sanctuary twice and saw a pleasing array of mammals, birds and reptiles including a crocodile, bushbuck and duiker, mongoose, vervet monkeys and an eagle.
The sanctuary has several parts to it. There are large enclosures where various rescued animals are kept in the hope of providing sufficient care to them before they can be released back into the wild. If you want to go on a guided tour to hear about the work of the centre you have to pay more and follow the guide around at specific times. There are also children's play areas with wooden structures, ropes and nets; perfect for energetic kids. I chose to walk around the 'wilderness' area with my sandwiches, binoculars and bird book. I was very pleased to find a good range of birds which kept me happy. If you walk very quietly along the paths you'll almost certainly see the small antelopes and probably monkeys. Don't be tempted to ignore the signs about crocodiles in the river. I saw quite a large one. It swam toward some weaver bird nests where it waited in the hope that one of the nestlings would fall out and thus become it's next snack. My entrance fee was a MWK1000.
The sanctuary closes at 5.00pm so keep an eye on your watch as you wouldn't want to get locked in!
The photo shown above was taken in 1985 when I first visited Zomba. In 2013 I returned and although I couldn't remember where I had taken that first photo i thought I should take some more this time around.
On my 2013 visit I was accompanied by a guide whom we hired from the Africa Heritage café near the Cricket Club. He was very informative and a clever guide because he could always remember where he left off in the stories of Malawi's history.
We had a saloon car which was fine to get us to the top of the plateau but once we had left the tarred road behind we fairly quickly found some stretches that were just too much for our low-slung Toyota. I decided to park and walk the rest of the way to the Williams Falls. Further on there are viewpoints looking out towards the lake. Sadly we ran out of time to reach these.
The Sunbird Ku Chawe Inn is located on the top of the plateau. We were not staying there but it was quite interesting to have a quick look around the grounds.
With three weeks in Malawi I had the time to undertake the globally recognised PADI open water course which is the first level of scuba diving. I researched the various providers of the training who operated on Lake Malawi and found there were at least two. There may be more. In the end I chose to travel up to Nkhata Bay and spent six days there four of which were focused on securing the training.
Fortunately I had pre-paid before I left the UK which meant I didn't have to worry about all of that cash to carry around. The course fees were US$375 inclusive of all dives, equipment, training and certification.
My training was excellent and I was very pleased with my instructor who seemed to have endless amounts of patience with me when I still couldn't fit the inflator hose onto the BCD correctly or when I got muddled with the dive tables.
I felt the training package was pretty thorough and is most certainly not for anyone who is not committed towards succeeding. Most of the practical exercises, whilst not particularly physically demanding ( although you have to prove you can swim 200m and treadwater for 10 minutes), are still very challenging. You have to be able to remove your mask completely, return and clear the mask all whilst underwater. This, for some people, is especially challenging and you need to keep a clear head and focus on the breathing through the regulator otherwise you could easily become panic stricken. There are many other exercises but I think the mask removal and clearing is probably the one that most novices struggle with at first.
I had four open water dives following the practice sessions. These were all in a wetsuit and the deepest I swam to was 18m. I was never underwater for longer that 30 minutes. These dives were all logged in my dive log book.
There are a fantastic array of coloured fish in Lake Malawi. It's said to have the greatest diversity of fishes in any freshwater lake in the world. Most of these are from the family of fish called the Cichlidae and so you would need to be quite an expert to identify most of the species. I was very pleased to see a mouth-breeding cichlid. All her babies were swimming around but when she saw danger approaching - i.e. the divers - she must have signalled to her offspring because they all then swam into her mouth for protection. I also saw the blue upside -down fish which swam inverted in order to feed from the underside of overhanging rocks. Sadly we saw very few invertebrate animals amongst the rocks.
At the end of the four days I had to complete a test and the questions I got wrong were then discussed with me. I didn't have to re-sit the test. I finally received my completion of the training and I understand I will be sent a card to prove I have completed the training. I will be able to show this to any future diving operation. It all opens up countless opportunities for travelling to warm and sunny places to explore the underwater world. I can't wait!
I stayed for one night at the Hippo View Lodge just outside Liwonde town. The lodge is situated on the banks of the Shire River which flows out of Lake Malawi. Just a kilometre upstream from the lodge is the Liwonde National Park where there is a great selection of large game animals. I was on my way to Zomba and didn't have time to explore the National Park but I did manage to hire the use of the boat that took us from the lodge upstream to see the hippos, elephants and crocodiles that could easily be seen from the relative safety of the boat.
You need to hire the boat for at least one hour to give you time to see the elephants. I think the boat cost MWK40,000 per hour but it can carry up to 16 passengers.
We were thrilled to get so close to a large group of about 25 elephant. They were of all sizes including a tiny youngster that stayed well under it's mothers legs. The troupe were happily munching on the tall grasses growing near the river's edge and were not in the least bothered by our intrusion. What a privilege to watch them up close.
We also sidled up to several small groups of hippos and they didn't seem too bothered by our arrival although they did move on a short distance.
There were a few crocodiles lurking on the rivers edge as well.
In the centre of the Zomba town ( or is it city?) can be found the covered market. It's a friendly place where you can buy a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, dried fish, sundry electrical electrical goods, lots of clothes and african fabrics, live chickens and even a few tourist carvings. This is not the main tourist market as that is located a few hundred metres away but the authentic feel of this place is very real.
If you want to take a few photos it is polite to ask permission and naturally some Kwacha should be exchanged in the interests of international relations.
I bought two metres of fabric which I had converted into a shirt. I collected it from the tailor the next day. Fantastic value!
Malawi is known as The Warm Heart of Africa. Every holiday to Malawi should include visiting a local community. The Responsible Safari Company has linked with 4 different communities to offer visitors a chance to interact with local Malawians and learn more about Malawian culture. There is a community visit in Mulanje, Zomba, Lake Malawi and Blantyre.
Located alongside Lake Malawi Chitimba Beach has a great campsite where you can pull up for the night. The locals are friendly and smiling. especially the children. While I was there we witnessed the most amazing sunset over the lake, so it was well worth the stop. Visit my Chitimba pages for more photos and information
If you can get any oppertunity to see the wonderful Malawi National Dance Company you should! They are amazing dances. They came and danced for us, and truely it was one of the highlights of the trip! They are wonderful dancers and very different from Western dance companies as they let anyone join and dance regardless of their age or weight. Which truely allowed for a more amazing experince, as these men and women know how to dance. They do have dances that are representational of the entire country and even have dances interpretation of historical and cultural events.
You know that Lilongwe is the capital, and thats not because its big - its not, its a small city. But it sprawls and its bustling, there are buses and bikes, people and markets, big supermarkets and a few large shops. You dont seem to get anything like this is Africa unless you are in the capital city.
Our stop here was brief, we were here to get our Mozambique transit visas.
We arrived early as they were opening around 9am. We then spent about 5 hours waiting for our visas to be processed, and spent our time in the supermarket stocking up.
So, if you too need to stop in Lilongwe and get a Mozambique visa -
You need to pay in Kwacha, they wont accept USD under any circumstances.
You also need passport sized piccies - get these done before you arrive in Lilongwe.
You can get money in the city centre, there are ATMs and there is a foreign exchange bureau where you can get money off of your visa and change travellers cheques.
Every smal town in Malawi has a sherrif, and we were invited to his home one night with the kids from the local school.
Wow - the kids here are so full of energy - they danced all night for us, we sat and ate a locally cooked meal on rugs on the floor and then the kids sang for us - the Malawi national anthem in Malawi and then in English.
Mzuzu is a town inland some way down the lake.
It seems that for overland trucks in Malawi a stop at the local market is a rite of passage.
Mzuzzu Market is huge, it is crammed full of locals selling their wares, its not tourist market, most of the things on offer here are in the form of clothes, fabrics, shoes and bags.
We were having a fancy dress party and so on our way down the lake we stopped at Mzuzu to spend an hour or so at the market buying clothes to kit everyone out in!
The main thing I remember about the market is being called by locals waving hideous things at me! "Big moma, big moma - this fit you"!!!
This was and still is the most amazing surise I ever saw.
I was on Chitimba Beach on Lake Malawi, which is located on the north of the lake.
We had crossed the border from Tanzania the night before I never realised that the clocks had changed!
I was up and about early and went to sit at the beach and saw the sunrise.
The clouds over the lake with the sun as it gradually went up into the sky was such a wonderful sight.
Lake Malawi would be one of Malawis major attractions, and having been there I can see why.
I never imagined that a lake could be this big - you couldnt see anything on the otherside, it was just like an ocean to me! Even when we were back in Uganda and visited Lake Victoria - well I guess it didnt feel like a lake either - but this I know its a lake!
People will and do swim in here - seriously how can you resist its so beautiful - we swam in the lake a few times, and there are plenty of watersports, boat trips and diving courses to be had along the lake. It does have a risk of Bilharzia though, just be careful where you go in.
Swim from Kande Beach out to the Island. Should take about 40 minutes if the lake's calm. Once out there, hunt for some Monitors (massive lizards), jump off the rocks (3 different levels, from easy to damn scary), look at the multicoloured fishies swimming around the crystal clear rocks, go fishing and chill in the shade. Hitch a lift back with fishermen, if they're up for it, or even better, help them pull in their nets (which you'll fail at, miserably)
Liwonde National Park is a really a nice way to see African wildlife and feel like you are alone in the wilderness. Liwonde is a huge park almost 600 sq km and what is really nice is you can stay in a real African village a traditional rural Malawian village. The one and only lodge are tents in the Mvuu Wilderness Lodge it is a tiny cute place very cozy in stunningly beautiful setting. The Birdlife is just amazing, in fact along with the parks in Northern Botswana this is as good as it gets for Bird lovers. it is prolific with the park regarded as one of the finest birding spots in Africa. Lots of animals as well elephant, hippos, lions, reedbuck, oribi, leopard, serval. crocodile, sable antelope, impala to name a few.
I had a wonderful stay at Madidi Lodge in April 2011. The manager/owners are very friendly and...more
2 HANNOVER AVENUE, Blantyre, MA 1
Good for: Couples
We stopped here for lunch on a trip through the area. It was a beautiful setting on a patio...more
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