Malawi – it’s called the warm heart of Africa and it’s really as they say. This wasn’t my first time in Africa either – I had been on a long safari for several months a few years ago which resulted in me writing my first book, called Savannahs and Sunsets: An African Overland Adventure (available at Barnes & Noble online). I travelled from Kenya to South Africa and all the way in between and Malawi was one of the countries I visited at that time.
Malawi is a gentle country and quite safe to travel in, especially if you are a beginner to Africa or a female solo traveler. The people are friendly and warm and there is so much to see. When I went to Malawi the first time, I spent quite a bit of time camping at Lake Malawi which of course is a must-see when you visit the country. However, this time I was going to visit different parts of the country – namely Mumbo Island (a private island within Lake Malawi), Liwonde National Park and also have more time to spend exploring Lilongwe. I’m going to give some basic tips in this post and go into further detail into separate posts on activities (read my post about how I feel back in love with Mother Nature HERE) and things to see and do because I just have so much content to share that it’s too much to cram into one post!
How to Get There
So how do you get to Malawi? By plane of course, depending on where you are traveling from. I travelled from London Heathrow by Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa where I then changed planes to head directly to Lilongwe. I had never flown on Ethiopian Airlines before this trip and learned on my journey that they are one of the top carriers in Africa. My flights were all on time, smooth and the planes were new and modern, ensuring a comfortable ride.
Addis Ababa is an interesting airport to have a layover in as well – I would suggest if you have hours to kill to bring a good book and get yourself a strong Ethiopian coffee to keep you going. The airport is busy and is undergoing expansion – on its way to becoming a major hub in Africa.
Where to Stay
In Lilongwe there are a few options for hotels. We stayed at the Sunbird Capital which is a business hotel. It’s really conveniently located and the rooms are comfortable as well. My room overlooked a lovely garden and there is also a pool too. The restaurant serves a really nice breakfast and for dinner I would recommend trying the Chambo fish which is from Lake Malawi. Also, if you are aching from the long travel it’s worth noting that this hotel does offer massages – $15 per hour and my lady was very good. I had to ask around but it is worth doing if you have the opportunity. Those long flights can be exhausting! The Sunbird has properties all over Malawi and I am super keen to visit their property in Majete National Park. Perhaps on a future visit!
If you are looking for a boutique hotel then Latitude 13 in Lilongwe will NOT disappoint. This hotel is gorgeous and super chic. The rooms are an Instagram dream and a lot of the décor is made using recycled materials. This hotel is where Madonna likes to stay when she is in town (her son is adopted from Malawi) and you can see why. The food is also DIVINE. I had probably the best pumpkin soup of my life here and I would recommend even if you aren’t staying here to stop in and have lunch, sit by the pool or have a coffee in the restaurant. The hotel is super boujee and if you have been traveling and just need a little bit of luxury, even if only for a day then Latitude 13 is definitely a place to stop by.
Kumbali Lodge is another gorgeous property just outside of the city limits if you are looking for that safari lodge feel but don’t want to venture too far out. This would be an ideal place to stay if you were in Lilongwe a bit longer and wanted a bit of time to relax outside of the city. Kumbali has everything you expect of a safari lodge with the convenience of being not too far out of the city.
What to Do in Lilongwe
I visited the Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilongwe and unfortunately when I went there weren’t many animals there which is probably a good thing simply as the animals they take in have been rescued from places like circuses etc. The guides are really good at taking you around however and we met monkeys rescued from a life on a chain to now being able to be as wild and free as they could within the sanctuary. The Wildlife Sanctuary is endorsed by the Born Free Association as well and fully vetted so it is worth a visit and a donation if you can. If anything it’s a nice day out and a stroll in the woodlands as the park is quite spread out.
I didn’t actually make it to the craft market in the end but I did drive by it and having been to Lilongwe before I do think it’s worth a visit simply to pick up all those African handmade items that you might want – animal carvings, basket bags and lots of fabric. In fact, when it got towards the end of my trip I counted four rolls of fabric – just couldn’t resist it!
I’ve written a whole post on my time at Liwonde National Park at Mvuu Lodge where I fell back in love with nature. I hope you give it a read, even if only to browse through the photos because I am telling you they are magical!
To follow my adventures through Malawi and see some of my amazing pictures you can also find me on Instagram @beautyrocksblog!