Elephant on the Shire River


Malawi, in southeastern Africa, is often confused with Mali, or even the Maldives in the Indian Ocean — but it is working hard right now to change that.

On my one visit there about 20 years ago I could see the reasons that, despite its natural beauty and wildlife opportunities, Malawi had yet to be discovered as a tourist destination. It was suffering from extreme poverty, exacerbated by the AIDS epidemic. When I asked then why there were so few directional signs along the main roads, an official told me that people “took them to make shelters.”

That’s been changing, and the country recently unveiled a $660 million tourism investment master plan to ramp up infrastructure development, implemented under a public-private partnership with the African Development Bank.

“The Tourism sector contributes to the growth of Malawi’s economy and supports a vibrant complex value chain across numerous sectors including agriculture, trade, health, environment, and transport,” said Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of Malawi since June 2020.

“It generates foreign direct investment and significant export earnings for our country. It also stimulates and supports the development of small businesses including shops, restaurants, travel agents, tour operators and guides, buses and taxis, and the local markets.”

And what will tourists find when they do travel to Malawi?

Although the country is land-locked, Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, has deep, clear waters and mountain backdrops. Its distinct water layers — generally three — don’t mix, providing more environments for plants and animals to live in. This also accounts for the lake’s stunning color; sediments stay on the bottom and the top layer is crystal clear.

Lake Malawi has more fish species than any other lake in the world. New species are discovered regularly and some scientists believe that the lake may contain more than 2000.

Lale Malawi


Cape Maclear, or Chembe, is a resort town on Malawi’s Nankumba Peninsula, at the southern end of Lake Malawi. It’s a small fishing village on Lake Nyasa with one dirt road leading into town.

Surrounded by forested mountains, the peninsula is known for the sandy beaches and granite rocks. The park shelters wildlife including antelope and baboons, and the lake’s waters are populated by hundreds of species of colorful cichlid fish, visible at dive sites such as Otter Point.

Boat on Shore of lake in Cape Maclear, Lake Malawi National Park.


The lake’s southern end falls within Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO Heritage site, popular with locals for diving and boating. This first freshwater national park in the world is important for the study of evolution, which has even been compared to that of Darwin’s finches of the Galapagos Islands.

Lake Malawi National Park,


Malawi’s highlands are split by the Great Rift Valley. The Shire Valley, and the mountains and waterfalls of the Nyika Plateau are only a few of the beauty spots.

Chisanga Waterfall on the Nyika Plateau in Northern Malawi, Africa


Travelers interested in safaris can view elephants, lions, leopards, African buffalos, zebras, hippos and rhinos, mainly in national parks and game reserves. Numerous native animals include jackals and spotted hyenas, African wildcats, caracal and serval.

Zebra Standing In Nyika National Park, Malawi.


Malawi’s star sanctuary is the PASA-accredited Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, first opened in 2008 by the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT). The country is working to repopulate and sustain its precious animals. This sanctuary shelters rescued and injured animals, including lions, monkeys and crocodiles.

500 elephants are being translocated from Majete Game Reserve and Liwonde to Nkhotakota Game Reserve … [+] to increase the animal population in the country’s Central region.

AFP via Getty Images

Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital, on the Lilongwe River. Woodland trails weave through the Lilongwe Wildlife Centre, and shops, bars and restaurants dot the Old Town district. The Capital City district, also called City Centre, is home to the 21st-century, Chinese-built Parliament building and other Chinese buildings.

Chinese Temple In Lilongwe


Malawi has great potential for tourism. And in the next few years it hopes to develop into a popular African destination, not to be confused with any other country.


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