Malawi, we fell in love with you! We spent four months in Malawi with our three young children, age 10, 8 and 4. We think Malawi is the perfect African country to visit with young children, and in this blog we will tell you why. The diversity of the landscapes, the relatively short distances between high lights and the most friendly people, make this country a perfect destination for a family holiday. There’s the big five as well as tropical beaches, there are highlands as well as dense forests. Here’s our list of places you don’t want to miss when going to Malawi.
1. The big 5 in Majete & Liwonde national park
Malawi has two major national parks and wildlife reserves that are both owned by African Parks. In recent years a lot of wildlife has been restored, and now the parks are a fair competition to the parks of their neighboring countries. Compared to some big parks in South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania, these parks are a lot smaller with the biggest advantage to have a bigger chance to see wildlife. Both parks offer a range of accommodation, from camping to high-end lodges.
In Majete we camped for one night on a beautiful campsite in the middle of the park. Hearing elephants crushing trees and lions roar in the middle of the night is just magical. We explored the park in our own Land Rover and came across beautiful landscapes and loads of wildlife. A hyena came even very close to our car! We didn’t spot the lions this time, but saw loads of antelopes and elephants. Majete doesn’t have all the big five yet, but the beautiful scenery sure makes up for that.
In Liwonde we had the coolest accommodation ever as we slept in a real tree house! When we were playing cards at night, an elephant came up to the tree house, eating his way through the trees around. Watching him from above was maybe one of the most memorable moments of this trip. During a boat safari we came up very close to hippo’s, buffalo’s and crocodiles. The very experienced guide made sure we had enough time to really see these big and beautiful animals. The next morning, the same guide took us into the park for a sunrise game drive. We came across elephants and antelopes. Our search for lions, leopards and cheetah’s didn’t succeed, but the thrill to maybe find them is sometimes as exciting. It just gives us a reason to come back to this beautiful wildlife reserve.
2. Nyika Plateau
The Nyika Plateau is situated in the less traveled northern region of Malawi, but a must-see! With 2000 meters above sea level, this plateau offers great views and a completely different landscape than any other part of the country. The temperatures together with the evergreen pine forests and lush green hills make Nyika to look like the Scottish highlands. After a long day of hiking, mountain biking, fishing or game viewing, you can cuddle up in front of the fire place and enjoy a warm meal cooked by your own personal chef.
We arrived at the plateau in our own 4×4 Land Rover Defender. A 4×4 is a must driving up to the plateau as the roads are pretty bad. Don’t let the drive turn you down though, as the scenery is breathtaking. We stayed two nights in the self containing cottages and two nights at the lodge. Both places are great, and you get your own chef! He made the best meals out of the groceries we brought. We really enjoyed hiking through the forests, mountain biking, game viewing with our own car, the Nyika falls and Chosi viewpoint. Nyika is great with kids as a lot of the activities are very well suited for them. We made a separate blog on our Nyika adventures with all the information about this beautiful place.
3. Likoma island
Likoma island is a small tropical island in Lake Malawi, but actually very close to Mozambique. It’s great for beach lovers and water sports. The small island offers a range of accommodations from backpackers to a five star exclusive lodge. The island only has about 8000 inhabitants and shops are very rare but that all adds to the remote experience you have being in this piece of paradise.
We were very lucky to discover a brand-new place owned by the original builder of the five-star resort, Kaya Mawa. The new place consist of a tree house and a beach house that are both made from local materials using wood from old fishing boats and hand made bricks. We filled our days with sailing, boat trips, snorkeling, diving, endless beach walks with the dogs and island strolls. The Katundu shop is definitely worth a visit. They make world-class chandeliers from old glass bottles, and we had a whole new wardrobe made as they have a very good tailor.
4. Dedza pottery
Dedza pottery is definitely worth a visit, especially when travelling with kids, as you can make your own pots! The kids really loved this activity. Besides this, they offer very nice accommodation and food in their cozy restaurant. You will find Dedza pottery pieces in a lot of lodges all around Malawi and going there gives you the chance to make an original Dedza pot yourself. I would say, one of the best souvenirs you can bring from Malawi.
We stayed for one night in one of the very nice cottages with pottery details all over. Your stay includes a good and hearty breakfast that keeps you going for a while. We exercised with making our own pots, but unfortunately didn’t have enough time to paint them as well. When you stay a little longer, you can paint your pots, and they can send them to wherever you are in the world. It’s a lot colder in Dedza so make sure you bring something that keeps you warm.
5. Mulanje mountain
Mulanje mountain is a beautiful area in the south of Malawi. It consists of a fair mountain range with numerous hikes varying from one day to multiple day trails. The trails take you along different sceneries from bush like paths to rocky and challenging clims giving you great views over the valley. There are a number of simple but cozy trekking huts where you can spend the night
We went on a two day hike, spending one night at Chambe hut. Although you can probably walk to Chambe hut in about three hours, it took us double the time doing it with three kids. Our starting point was at Hiker´s Nest, where we had spent the night. We were able to park our Land Rover in the gated garden and leave it there while we went on the hike. It was the first real multiple day hike for us as a family and although it was challenging, and we had to carry our youngest (4 years old) sometimes, it was so worth it. When we arrived at the hut and spent the afternoon there, the kids said it was the best day of their lives!