Malawi is a landlocked country that proudly calls itself the "warm heart of Africa", both for the very pleasant climate and beautiful countryside, and also because Malawians have a fine reputation as one of the most friendly people in Africa. As part of a visit to Southern Africa, a week or so in Malawi offers a kaleidoscope of colour and vibrant experiences.
One unique feature is Lake Malawi, with its 500 species of fish, mostly endemic, which provide wonderful all year diving. Nearly 600 kms from top to toe, and up to 80 km wide, the Lake offers tropical beaches, kayak trails, water sports of all kinds, yacht cruises and endless vistas of clear sparkling waters.
It is a natural Lake, part of the Rift valley chain, with the Shire River flowing out in the south, through spectacular countryside, until it meets the mighty Zambezi. For those with time, self-drive is a good way to go, although not all roads are accessible without 4 x 4, but most visitors will take some type of organized group and go with local experts.
There are high mountain ranges, including the Zomba plateau, often compared to Scotland at its most lovely, as well as extensive game and nature reserves. There are many small reserves, but the 4 main ones are Nyika, Kasungo, Liwonde and Lengwe, while Lake Malawi National Park is a unique underwater conservation area. All types of large mammals are well represented, as well as a fascinating bird population.
Fishing is a very popular sport, both in the lake, rivers and mountain streams, as tiger fish, lake salmon, rainbow trout, as well as a number of local species are widely distributed.
The climate is generally very acceptable, with low rainfall and warmth along the lake, and a more bracing temperature at higher altitude. Like most of the region, the dry time is may to October, when an average daytime 20C is experienced near the Lake. Access to Malawi is generally through Lilongwe, the capital, with some excellent tours available from Johannesburg.