Africa has no shortage of options when it comes to adventure travel. Places like Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa have been luring visitors for decades with the promise of active excursions and great wildlife viewing. But there are plenty of other countries that are worth your time as well, including Malawi, a place that is often overlooked, even by the most adventurous and informed travelers.
Dubbed the "warm heart of Africa," Malawi is famous for its hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and potent local gin. It also offers visitors a chance to experience some unique adventures, too, some of which aren't found anywhere else on the continent.
With that in mind, here are our picks for the very best adventures to experience while in Malawi.
Go on Safari in Liwonde National Park
No visit to Africa is ever quite complete without going on safari. Malwai's Liwonde National Park offers the best wildlife viewing experiences in the country, giving visitors a chance to spot elephants, monkeys, baboons, warthogs, crocodiles, antelope, and hippos. Lots and lots of hippos. The park recently reintroduced lions, leopards, and rhinos as well, but they can still be a bit elusive at times. In the future, they are expected to take center stage, enhancing the wildlife experience even further. That said, sharp-eyed travelers will still spot them while exploring the park's wild landscapes.
While visiting Liwonde, the Mvuu Lodge serves as a great base camp, allowing travelers to experience the wildlife on foot, 4x4 vehicle, and boat, making it a diverse and unique safari environment. The comfortable, tented cabins at Mvuu are the perfect place to retire at the end of busy day, often with wildlife just off your secluded deck.
Climb Mount Mulanje
When trekkers think about African climbs, Kilimanjaro is the peak that most likely comes to mind, but there are other places to hike on the continent as well, with Malawi being home to one of them.
Mount Mulanje is the tallest mountain in the country, rising 9,849 feet above the surrounding landscape. The mountain beckons hikers to test their legs on its flanks while taking on one of 18 different routes to the summit. There are plenty of guides willing to lead travelers to the top, and most treks take three to four days to complete. Along the way, hikers pass through some diverse ecosystems and there is even some wildlife to be spotted.
Run Mount Mulanje
If a simple hike up Mount Mulanje doesn't sound challenging enough, why not run to the top instead? Each year, the Mulanje Porters' Race gives runners a chance to truly test their strength and endurance with participants scrambling up to Chambe Plateau, located at about 8,200 feet above sea level. Originally the race was only open to the guides and porters who actually work on the mountain, but in recent years, it has expanded to include anyone adventurous enough to enter. Since expanding the field, hundreds of international runners now come to Malawi each year to take part in this difficult but rewarding event.
Go Camping on Zomba Plateau
Malawi's Zomba Plateau offers visitors excellent hiking and stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. Numerous streams flow across the table-top plateau itself, turning into tall waterfalls when they reach the edge of the mountain. Wildlife is common throughout the area too, with baboons, eagles, and even the occasional leopard putting in an appearance.
A large campsite found at the top of Zomba Plateau can be reached by car. Bring a tent, some sleeping bags, and your sense of adventure, and you'll have the chance to spend the night outdoors in an African paradise.
Go Scuba Diving and Snorkeling on Lake Malawi
You wouldn't think a landlocked country like Malawi would offer good opportunities to go SCUBA diving or snorkeling, but you would be completely wrong. Lake Malawi is one of the largest lakes in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This spectacular resource helps to set Malawi apart from many other African countries, giving travelers a chance to experience some of the best freshwater diving on the planet. Additionally, the lake is one of the most biodiverse bodies of water as well, offering more than 500 different species of colorful fish to spot, including red and blue zebras.
Not SCUBA certified? You can do that there as well by joining Aqua Africa in the stunning Nkhata Bay. The company leads a number of diving excursions into this stunning part of the lake, even offering night dives that are out of this world.
Race Sailboats on Lake Malawi
Sailing is another common activity on Lake Malawi, which is massive enough to generate some surprisingly large waves and fast winds. The sport is so popular, in fact, that each year the Lake Malawi Yachting Marathon takes place there, sending sailors on a 250-mile odyssey that is called the longest freshwater yachting race in the world.
The Yachting Marathon has been around for more than 30 years, attracting teams from across Africa and other continents. While skill and experience play an important role in the race, the marathon is often described as more of an endurance event, testing the resolve of competitors throughout.
If you're more interested in a leisurely outing, Danforth Yachting can help arrange that too.
Enjoy a Kayaking Adventure
For those who prefer to explore the lake under their own power, there are plenty of opportunities to go kayaking too. Paddlers can set out for just a few hours or a few days, depending on just how adventurous they'd like to get. There are numerous islands to explore, and even the shoreline provides some great scenery.
With its big waves and shifting winds, paddling on Lake Malawi is much closer to sea kayaking rather than taking a boat out onto a regular freshwater lake. It can provide a good workout and will keep even experienced kayakers on their toes, mixing a healthy dose of adventure into the entire experience.
Kayak Africa offers a number of different itineraries for those who would like to explore the lake in this fashion.
Have a Multi-Sport Adventure at Blue Zebra Island Lodge
Travelers looking for diverse adventures will find plenty to see and do at the Blue Zebra Island Lodge. Situated on the Marelli Island Archipelago in Lake Malawi, visitors will be convinced they've left Africa behind and arrived in the Caribbean. Once there, visitors can choose to be as active as they'd like, hiking or running a trail that circles the entire main island or choosing to circumnavigate by kayak instead. The Blue Zebra has a lovely swimming pool for those looking to take a dip, but a freshwater lagoon gives them the chance to plunge into the lake itself. Afternoon boat excursions and snorkeling tours are available as well, and the island is a wonderful destination for birdwatchers looking for some hard-to-find African species.