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Malawi: 10-Day Tour

When I was planning our grand tour of Africa one of the countries I really wanted to visit was Malawi. This is a small country and is largely off the tourist map. In our opinion is much underrated – it is a beautiful place and the people are very friendly. It is peaceful and democratic and is a much safer place to visit than many countries in central Africa.

There are many beautiful places to visit from glorious mountains and green rolling hills to Lake Malawi, which covers one-third of Malawi’s land mass. Like several countries, Malawi’s wildlife suffered from years of poaching to the point where many species became locally extinct. Luckily, Malawi handed the management of some of its National parks and wildlife reserves to an organisation called Africa Parks, which has introduced professional management and restocked the wildlife. Today, these parks are well worth visiting and you will find them a lot less busy than those in Tanzania and South Africa.

We planned an 11-day tour which covered a couple of the popular wildlife reserves, a visit to an island on Lake Malawi and some laid-back stays in the regional capital of Zomba and on a tea plantation.

There are several companies offering tours of Malawi. When we looked at these they were quite expensive, so I decided to book directly everywhere we stayed, which was very easy. We rented a car from Avis for our tour of Malawi, which we picked up at the airport in Blantyre. It was not very cheap, but it made our journey possible. We rented a 4×4 vehicle, but in truth, we didn’t need it. If you go in the rainy season then a 4×4 may be necessary.

Malawi is a large country with a large population of around 20 million people. As you travel through the towns and villages you will see how densely populated the country is – and how many of these people live in poverty. If you have not been to a developing country before the sights and sounds can be overwhelming – but it is all part of the richness of the travel experience.


Arrive at Blantyre International Airport. Despite the name, it is tiny and you will be through in no time. If you are arriving from outside the country you will need to clear immigration. There are only a few planes a day and they are small aircraft so there are not likely to be any problems or delays if your travel papers, passports and visas are in good shape.

If like us you rent a car these are picked up from inside the terminal. There are not a lot of choices for car rental, so we went with the local Avis company, The process was not long, but make sure you note any damage to the vehicle when you pick it up and take photos of the damage – if possible send copies to the local Avis agent. You can also pick up a SIM card for your phone here. Getting a SIM in many African countries is more complicated than you will have experienced in Europe or the USA, so it might take a little time. Don’t be shocked if they have to take a picture of your passport – this is a requirement of the government.

The drive to Majete will take around 2 hours. The road is in fairly good condition, but you might see some erratic driving. Before reaching the Shire valley, about half an hour away from Majete you will descend off the plateau. This a long and windy road (with some amazing views) and you will need to be aware of large trucks. These come down the hill at a scary pace – and crawl the other way. So, anything could happen! Also, these trucks break down with frightening regularity, so you may come around a bend and find one stopped right in front of you with little warning.

The last section of the drive from the small town of Chikwawa is mostly along a gravel road. This road is in good condition but may be not so great in the rainy season. In the dry season, you will not need a 4×4 vehicle.

We reached the reserve and had to check in at the front gate. It is only a couple of kilometres from the gate to Thawale Camp where we were staying. Our schedule meant we arrived in time for a late lunch and settle in before an afternoon game drive.

For a full review of Majete Wildlife Reserve see our Blog Post.


Today, there will be time for an early morning game drive that will get you back for breakfast at around 9 am, after which you can relax until 3:30 pm when you will do an afternoon game drive. Return to Thawale Camp before 7 pm in time for dinner.

A 'tower' of Thornicroft giraffes at Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi
A 'tower' of Thornicroft giraffes at Majete Wildlife Reserve


Before leaving Majete there is time for one more early morning game drive, after which you can have breakfast, get a shower and pack your bags.

The trip to Zomba is about 140 km and will take about 2 hours and 45 minutes on mostly good roads. You will have to drive back up the winding road to the top of the escarpment. There is a danger of getting behind some slow-moving trucks. Be careful if you decided to try and overtake them. The journey will take you back through Blantyre, which is a good place to stop and refuel and get any provisions at the shops.

Zomba was the former colonial capital of Malawi, the country’s capital was later transferred to Lilongwe after independence. It is a small town with limited infrastructure to support the approximately 2.5 million people who live in the area.

Stay at Zomba Forest Lodge high on the hills above Zomba. Getting there requires going up on steep, gravel roads with drop-offs to the side, but it is worth it. The lodge is off-grid, a positive rather than something to worry about. The hosts, Tom and Petal and their staff somehow produce the most amazing meals in this remote location. From the lodge, there are walks you can take or simply enjoy strolling around their amazing gardens.


Today is an opportunity to explore the Zomba Plateau. From the Zomba Forest Lodge, you can drive or get a ride to the top of the plateau where there are several hiking options. The hikes can vary from easy to strenuous, and take 2 to 6 hours depending on what you are looking for. There are many interesting things to see along the way, and you can get to viewpoints on the rim of the plateau that looks down on the city of Zomba and the surrounding landscape. See our full blog post on visiting the Zomba Plateau and our stay at the Zomba Forest Lodge

Spend a second night at Zomba Forest Lodge. If the weather is playing ball, take a sundowner with you to a view point a minute or two from the lodge to watch the sunset.


From Zomba drive to Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi. The journey from Zomba to Cape Maclear takes about 4 hours. The last 15km is on a dirt road, with some tarmac sections, that in places is not much better with deep potholes along the way.

Lake Malawi, a UNESCO World-Heritage site was stumbled upon by David Livingstone in 1859, and when he asked the local fisherman the name of the lake, they said ‘nyasa’ so he named it Lake Nyasa, not knowing that nyasa itself means lake. The lake is believed to be between three and twenty million years old, and at 600km long and 80km it is the ninth largest lake in the world. It is also the fourth deepest at 740m. Most of the lake, including the southern and western shores, falls in Malawi. The northeastern shore lies in Tanzania and the rest of the eastern shore in Mozambique.

There are several resorts along the shore of Lake Malawi, but we recommend staying on an island on the lake to get the full experience. One beautiful place to visit and stay is Mumbo Island.

Mumbo Island is a very small island with an exclusive resort made up of 5 lakeside cottages and a forest, self-catering cottage. Like Zomba Forest Lodge, it is totally off-grid. 

See our full blog post on Mumbo Island.

The chalets on Mumbo Island clinging to the rocks - Lake Malawi, Malawi
The chalets on Mumbo Island clinging to the rock


Spend a second day relaxing and enjoying Mumbo Island and Lake Malawi.

Spend another night on Mumbo Island.


It is time to leave the peaceful serenity of Mumbo Island and take an early morning boat back to the mainland.

Our next destination is Liwonde National Park, which is around 220km southeast of Cape Maclear, which will take you about 4 hours to drive. The last part of the journey, which is 10km or so, is on a gravel track through several small villages. You will arrive at a very unimposing gate to Liwonde National Park. There is a car park, where you’ll be leaving your car for the next couple of days. From the car park, you will take a boat across the Shire River to Mvuu Camp and Lodge. 

If you left Mumbo Island early in the morning, you will probably get to the Mvuu resort at around lunchtime. 

Although only 220 sq miles (580 sq km), Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi’s game parks. Wildlife includes quite large numbers of elephants and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Lions, cheetahs and wild dogs have been recently reintroduced into Liwonde with the aid of African Parks who took over management of the Park in 2015 and who continue to turn Liwonde into a first-class safari location. Antelope include kudu, sable and bushbuck. Leopards, hyenas and black rhinos are also occasionally spotted. Birdlife is exceptionally varied. The river attracts fish eagles and weaver birds build their nests in the thin woodland. Pel’s fishing owl is often seen at dusk along the river’s edge.

In the afternoon take a boat trip on the Shire River where you will see hippos, crocodiles, lots of waterfowl and if you are lucky elephants and other mammals.

A grazing hippo in Liwonde National Park, Malawi
A grazing hippo

Spend the night at Mvuu Camp

For a full review of Liwonde National Park see our Blog Post.


Rise early for a game drive in Liwonde. If you are lucky you might get to see lions, cheetahs, elephants and a lot of antelope.

Return to Mvuu Camp for lunch and a siesta.

A lioness with here cubs in Liwonde National Park, Malawi
A lioness with here cubs in Liwonde National Park

In the afternoon take another game drive or head back on the river for a boat safari. Enjoy a sundowner on your boat and enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Spend the night at Mvuu Camp

Sunset over Liwonde - Liwonde National Park, Malawi


Before leaving Liwonde there is time for one more early morning game drive, before returning to Mvuu Camp for breakfast and then pack up and leave.

The impressive male kudu with its spiral horns. Liwonde National Park, Malawi
The impressive male kudu with its spiral horns

For the final few days take a change in pace and visit a tea plantation. One of the more popular to visit is the Satemwa tea plantation, a few kilometres south of Blantyre. The journey from Liwonde takes around 3 hours.

You can stay at Huntingdon House on the Satemwa Estate, which is a beautiful location for a couple of days of rest and relaxation. 

Huntingdon House was the family home of the Kay family, who to this day run the Satemwa tea plantation, where the house is located. In 1923 Maclean Kay arrived from Malaysia where he had been growing rubber since 1910, having originally emigrated from Ayrshire, Scotland. He decided to start growing tobacco, which was a traditional crop in the area. In 1924 he planted his first tea bush, and by 1926 he had a field of tea – which is still in production today. When the great depression sucked life out of economies worldwide, he went to work on another tea plantation, where he got married and had three children. In 1934 the family moved back to Satemwa and the house, now Huntingdon House was rebuilt, having burnt down.

Huntingdon House is now a 5-bedroom boutique hotel set in the heart of the Satemwa tea estate. It is a five-mile journey down an unpaved road to reach the house, passing seemingly endless fields of tea bushes.

See our full blog post on Satemwa tea estates and Huntingdon House.

The patio outside the Chapel Room - Huntingdon House, Satemwa Estate, Malawi


The main order of the stay at Huntingdon House is to take it easy, but if you want to explore there are walks you can take and they also have mountain bikes you can borrow.

One fun thing to do is do a tea tasting and factory tour. You will be taken to the factoty to a tasting room, where there will be a man in a white coat who will serve you a dozen on more types of tea. Like wine tasting this is not about drinking a whole cup of each, you just take sips and move on.

After the tea tasting you will be taken around the factory to see how the tea is processed, from the drying of leaves right through to packaging and shipping.

Having finished the tour you can return to Huntingdon House.

Another fun thing to try is taking afternoon tea on the lawn, which has to be ordered in advance. If you do this we advise skipping lunch as the amount of food served is enormous. There is an extra charge for this, but it is a lovely experience.

Spend a second night at Huntingdon House

Tea has arrived! - Huntingdon House, Satemwa Tea Estate, Malawi


Today, it is time to leave Malawi and return home or continue your adventure somewhere else.

Head back to Blantyre to catch your flight. 

Best time to visit Malawi

The best time to visit Malawi is during the dry season between May and October. It’s a cooler time of year, with bright sunshine, lush green landscapes, fresh evenings, and temperatures anywhere between 64°F and 91°F.

Temperatures start to rise in September and remain in the eighties throughout the rainy season, which runs from November to April. The heaviest rains are often in December, January and February.

Because of Malawi’s varied landscape, regional variations in weather are significant. The lower-lying lakeshore areas are warmer all year round. Temperatures in the highlands are refreshingly cool during the day, with chilly evenings, particularly in winter.

Malawi – Month-by-Month

Visiting Malawi December to March

These are the wettest months, characterized by torrential downpours in the afternoon. Afternoon temperatures are around 29°C/84°F and the humidity is high.

Visiting Malawi in April

Rain is dwindling and so are the temperatures. Daytime temperatures still reach 27°C/81°F but evenings and early mornings can be chilly.

Visiting Malawi in May

This is the end of summer and the rain has stopped. Temperatures are relatively cool, typically 16°C/61°F in the morning and 26°C/79°F in the afternoon. Nighttime temperatures start to drop.

Visiting Malawi in June – August

The average morning temperature is 14°C/57°F. Bring warm clothing for the cold morning game drives in open vehicles. Afternoons will be more pleasant, with temperatures around 25°C/77°F. Nyika Plateau with its high altitude is much colder.

Visiting Malawi in September & October

he heat gradually builds, and the first rains bring relief from very dry conditions. Daytime temperatures will be around 29°C/84°F in September and 31°C/88°F in October, the latter being the hottest month. Peak temperatures can be much higher.

Visiting Malawi in November

This month is unpredictable – the rain starts in the afternoons. Temperatures are between 20°C/68°F in the morning and 31°C/88°F in the afternoon.

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