Journey to Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa
When you take long and beautiful trips, as we do, there is no chance you are going to get away without losing something along the way.
In our case, we somehow managed to lose our bathing suits, and then tried to find new ones.
This wouldn’t be a problem at home in America or somewhere along the coast of French Riviera, but it is a bit tricky in Africa, especially Zanzibar. Believe us when we say, it is a „mission impossible“ to find bathing suits here.
This shopping attempt was a sort of a treasure hunt for us, and it left us hungry and exhausted.
So, we went to grab some food and, of course, much-needed rest before the trip that we were so excited about - a trip to Malawi.
That journey itself was a bit complicated as well but totally worth it.
However, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Keep reading, and you will find out more about our trip and how we got to Malawi.
What Should You Know about Malawi?
Before diving into our trip, here are some basic information you should know about Malawi before coming here.
Malawi is a country in southeast Africa. Zambia borders it to the northwest, Mozambique to the east, south, and west, and Tanzania to the northeast. Lilongwe is the capital city, and also the largest one in Malawi. This country is proud to bear a unique nickname „The Warm Heart of Africa“ for the kindness of its people and being the safest state on the continent.
If you’ve decided to come here, you'd have to visit Lake Malawi, and you won’t have any problem finding it, as it takes up about one-third of Malawi’s total surface. This beautiful lake is one of the main reasons we decided to visit this heartwarming place. It is the ninth largest lake in the world, and the third largest in Africa. At the same time, it is the second deepest lake here. According to UNESCO, there are more different fish species here, than in any other lake on the planet.
Malawi, as a country that is located between some of the poorest countries on the planet, has been troubled by the rifle-shot destruction of their diverse animal population. Fortunately, African Parks, the conservation and management group which aids the rescue of failing reserves, currently has three Malawian enclaves in its protection - Majete Wildlife Reserve, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, and Liwonde National Park.
On Our Way to Malawi
Our journey to Malawi started with boarding on a plane in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Once we arrived at our destination, we took a taxi to the Malawian border. There was a train that we could catch in Tanzania as well, but it would take us two days to cover the same distance (from Dar es Salaam to Malawian border), so we decided it would be much more convenient for us to go by plane instead.
Afterwards, we took a two and a half hours long taxi ride which took us from the airport to the border town of Tanzania and Malawi that was surprisingly beautiful. We had a chance to gaze at gorgeous landscapes and meet local people who sell bananas and other kinds of fruits for meager prices!
Our plan was as follows – we would stay one night in a small village close to the Malawian border so we could recover from the long journey and get some sleep. After that, we would cross the border by foot and get to Malawi sooner than you think.
Of course, things didn’t go exactly according to our plan.
When we arrived at the village, we were exhausted and hungry, and yet we couldn’t find the accommodation we booked. Fortunately, we managed to find another one that would have us as guests, and we stayed the night.
As soon as we got a chance, we went to get something to eat as our stomachs were loudly growling from hunger. Corns on the stick, rice, delicious meat, and tasty vegetables is what we had for dinner.
The next morning, we got ready and went to the border. All we had to do is walk a little over two kilometers to cross over to Malawi! However, once we got in, we didn’t make it far past the border as Tyler was sick. We ended up staying in a small town close by, named Karonga.
To be honest, it felt like a middle of nowhere and it was in the middle of nowhere in Malawi, so we were happy we even found a place to stay. We got some food, which was surprisingly complicated because even five-star resorts didn’t have anything to offer on demand. We’ve been traveling for a few years now, and we’ve never been in such an odd situation.
Fortunately, in the morning we had an excellent American breakfast (bread, sausage, tomato, french fries, and an omelet). Here they use goat milk, instead of cow milk. It is really delicious and at the same time, healthier for you.
We’ve planned to go to Nkhata Bay by taxi, but then saw mini buses, and realized that our luggage would fit there much easier, so we took a minibus (Axa Coach Service). It had a lot of stops, because people had to get on and off, but it was an exciting ride. When we arrived, we took a taxi to the place we were staying at, and finally, after three days of this journey, we reached our destination at Malawi Lake.
What Can You Do for Malawi?
Let’s get serious for a minute.
In countries like Malawi, countless people and children need help. We tried our best to give something to everybody who needed it, but there are just so many people, and it breaks our hearts that we couldn’t reach them all.
If you come to Malawi, you will have to face poverty and hunger of people living here. At the same time, you will have to face even bigger tragedy, and that’s the fact that you, on your own, as a single person, cannot save them from the situation they are living in. For that awful inequity between western countries and Africa to be fixed, the world would have to undergo a systematic change.
Still, keep in mind – you can do something. You can make someone’s day or a month at least a bit better. You can make someone smile.
We gave away pens and clothes, but more than that kids and people here need better education. In the local school that we visited, there were 1000 children, and only 20 teachers, which is simply too few. So even kids who get a chance to learn are not provided with the proper care and curriculum.
As we already mentioned, daily blackouts are a regular part of their lives, so you shouldn’t be surprised by the fact that kids do not have the stuff to play with, or interact with, such as toys, puzzles, coloring books or anything similar. They grow up without many things that we take for granted as we consider them to be an indispensable part of everyday life, for both us and our children.
You have to be aware of one fact:
- According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data published in 2016, life expectancy in Malawi is only 61.4 years in men, and 66.8 in women, which is 64.2 on average. With leading causes of death being HIV/AIDS, influenza and pneumonia, this data is absolutely devastating. This means 312 per 1000 men and 203 per 1000 women die between the age of 15 and 60.
Just to give you the right perspective - the same statistics for the United States and Switzerland look like this:
- In the US, the average life expectancy is 76 years for men and 81 years for women. 142 per 1000 males and 86 per 1000 females die between the age of 15-60.
- On the other hand, in Switzerland, the quality of general health is even better. The average life expectancy is 81 years for men and 85 years for women. 63 per 1000 males and 36 per 1000 females die between the age of 15-60.
Fortunately, the situation is slowly improving. Children are not dying from all kinds of diseases as often as they use to, because NGOs have arrived with vaccines and a different selection of medicines. That also means that population here now grows by more than 300 babies per year, which is great for their further development.
So, if you have any way to donate clothes, money or anything that could be valuable for people and children living here, you can make a significant impact on someone’s life by doing so. Also, there are countless volunteering opportunities in Malawi, especially in education, healthcare and wildlife rescue, which can be an excellent chance for you to explore this beautiful little country and make the world a better place at the same time.
Pro Tips for Curious Travelers
Here are some tips & tricks, that might come in handy, once you find yourself in Malawi:
- - Their official currency is Malawian Kwacha. 1 USD is about 728 MWK.
- - Chichewa is the language you will mostly hear in Malawi, but English is also used, especially in business and government. You won’t have any problem communicating with locals in English.
- - Most people who decide to come here by plane will probably land at Chileka or Kamuzu International airports. Flights to and from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya go a few times a week. British Airways flies direct from London. There’s an international bus service to Blantyre from Harare, and different border crossings into Malawi from Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania that you can reach with local transport.
- - While still in Tanzania, you can rely on Uber. However, don't expect it to arrive on time. Even if the app says your ride is minutes away, you’ll wait at least fifteen minutes, as streets are super crowded.
- - If you need anything, sunscreen, toiletries, mosquito repellents, food, etc., go to a shopping mall. There, you will find everything you need, while local markets are poorly equipped.
- - While we were still at the airport in Tanzania, Julia started throwing up and had a fever. Fortunately, you don’t have to see a doctor and get a prescription to buy antibiotics here, which is something you should have in mind. In the end, we didn’t have to give her any antibiotics, as she was feeling much better after some Tylenol.
- - Now the important stuff - visa information. Current official advice to escape useless difficulty is to prepare a Malawi visa in advance. You can get it at the nearest Malawi Diplomatic Mission. Transit visa, for seven days, will cost you $50 per person, while single entry visa costs $75 per person.
For visas you will need the documents listed below, plus the requisite visa fee in US$ cash:
- 1. Passport which should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months upon arrival in Malawi
- 2. Two passport photos
- 3. Covering letter (giving full details of the planned trip and written by the travelers themselves or by their tour operator if one has been used)
- 4. Invitation letter (excludes tourists)
- 5. Air ticket/Itinerary
- 6. Confirmed Hotel booking
- 7. Three months latest bank statements
If you are interested in traveling to Malawi after reading our post, you should check out our YouTube video for our full experience. Subscribe to our channel and give us a big thumbs up! Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram and Facebook as well!
Tell us in comments where are you reading from. We are always looking for new suggestions on where to travel next, and your country might be on our list!