Malawi The True Warm Heart Of Africa
Long term travel has special qualities that are hard to explain to anyone who hasn't done it. Travelling is my passion, spending weeks and months exploring or discovering cultures, landscape and making new friends bearings a joy and contentment that liberates the me. I’ve been on the road backpacking for 4 months now and its been such a rewarding experience to discover all that Africa has to offer; it's both breath taking and beautiful; it's deeply rooted in a culture that is ever growing in a very lively way, and feels very much like home.
Back To Zambia
The last time I updated you about my solo backpacking adventure was when I was leaving Namibia for Zambia, Lusaka. Well, after a exhorsting 24 hour bus ride , yes you read the 24 hours right :), I finally arrived in Lusaka on the 16th of April. Yep, the long bus rides are a very big part of backpacking and I must confess I don’t always look forward to them, but they are a great way of seeing more of a countries landscape. The bus cost was R750 one way.
The honest truth is there isn’t much to do in Lusaka, but they have shopping malls where one can find most of the shop’s available in your country. For me Lusaka was a big part of my travels as I stayed in Lusaka for 3 months in 2011 and I was very eager to visit with old friends. After 3 weeks of visiting friends, shopping, and exploring the city I was ready to move on to Malawi.
Malawi the true warm heart of Africa
Malawi is known as the “Warm heart of Africa” which i totally agree with. Malawi is a relatively small country and less touristy like its neighbouring countries Zambia and Tanzania. Located on Lake Malawi itself (and also known as Lake Nyassa), this part of Africa is very beautiful , popular with volunteer projects and ideal if your seeking out a local African experiences.
There is one bus company that travel from Lusaka to Malawi Lilongwe every Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 6am and Saturday it travels twice at 5am which takes you close to the border town and the other at 11am, which takes you to Lilongwe direct. I chose to take the morning bus as it works out cheaper than the direct bus. the bus cost from Lusaka to the nearest Malawian border town was R250, then from there you get a shared taxi for R30 which will drop you right by the border. Once you cross over you can negotiate everything in Malawi. I took a shared taxi for R9 to the nearest border town of Malawi, then got on a minibus to Lilongwe for R35 which took 3 hours on the road.
Lilongwe is a pleasant small town with a vibe that's more quite than spectacular, which made it a nice break from exploring other larger cities. I was going to couchsurf in Lilongwe, but one of my friends family in Lusaka offered that I stay at their aunts house for the time I would be in Lilongwe.
This Old Town has a quiet buzz, and most visitors spend the majority of their time at the neighbourhood’s intimate cafés, craft stalls, and markets. I mostly enjoyed the Sunday Jazz sessions, Chameleon Bar at The Four Seasons and oh my goodness I found an intimate small restaurant called Ama khofi which makes the best cake in town.
My plan was to stay a week in Lilongwe, then head over to monkey bay for 5 days, but after talking with the locals I made changes to it. They told me that If I plan to travel from Monkey Bay to Nkhata Bay I would have to take the Ilala (ferry) which travels for two days, this didn't sit well with me. They also told me that there is a beautiful Island on Lake Malawi called Likoma Island I should visit. So, I changed my plans and took the Axa bus to Muzuzu which cost R150 and travels for 8 hours. From Muzuzu I travelled to Nkhata Bay, but I go to Muzuzu late at night and found that transportation to Nkhata Bay had just finished, so I opted for hitch-hiking, which is safe and a normal thing to do in Malawi. The guy who gave me a ride to Nkhata Bay was so friendly that he didn't ask me to pay, and he even got me dinner and paid for the Ilala, that's how kind Malawians are. The Ilala travels from Nkhata Bay every Tuesday heading south from 1am but you need to be on board before 12 midnight on Monday and it gets to Likoma Island Tuesday morning at 11am and the cost for first class is R140.
Blissful Likoma Island
Likoma Island is a beautiful remote Island. It is the largest inhabited Island in Lake Malawi, while officially part of Malawi it’s on the Mozambique shores and enjoys friendly trade with both sides of the lake. The island is surrounded by rocky and sandy shores. The mainland is mostly green with a huge number of intriguing baobab trees.
Aside from being a picture perfect postcard Island, one of Likoma's greatest attractions is the magnificent Cathedral built over a hundred years ago by the British as the centre of the Anglican Church in southern Africa, a wonder of engineering and architecture. The Island's main attraction are its abundance of beautiful beaches and snorkelling, diving and water sports, but there’s a healthy dose of other activities, both cultural and physical.
I stayed at Ulisa Bay Lodge which I found peaceful, tranquil with a beautiful view, and very clean. Their staff was the friendliest and kindest I’ve meet since travelling and their food was amazing. Ulisa Bay Lodge has a number of different chalets, each with a magnificent view over Lake Malawi. There are 2 Deluxe Ensuite Eco Chalets, 3 Ensuite Superior Chalets, 3 Standard Chalets and a 7 bed Dorm and a camping site. I opted for the dorm at R90 per night, but got there and they offered me the standard chalet which goes for R373 per night for the same price as the dorm, because I meet two other girls on the Ilala who happened to be going to the Island for 3 week and convinced them to come stay at Ulisa with me.
After 4 days on the beautiful Likoma Island I had planned to take the Ilala on Saturday, but then found out there is a smaller faster boat called Lamani which cost R55. It departs at 9am and arrives in Nkhata Bay at 4pm, which is way faster than the Ilala that only gets to Nkhata Bay at 11pm. Accommodation wise I had booked at Butterfly Space for 5 days, but after seeing the place I opted to stay from Saturday night till Tuesday night. This place is situated on a very beautiful cliff over lake Malawi, but their physical structure is not in a good condition. I had booked their dorms for R55 per night, but decided to take a Chalets for R145 per night as it looked better, even though the wood used to hold the structure in the chalet was rotting and it had smell that gave me hay fever. If you are a hard-core backpacker this place will be great for you, but if your anything like me and you look for comfort it’s not the place for you. And oh the other thing they use composite toilets which are eco-friendly, but can be very smelly. The one good thing about Butterfly Space is their volunteer program. They are doing a great job on that part and everyone who stays there are free to join in.
Off to Tanzania!
I left Nkhata Bay Wednesday at 12midday. Something you need to be aware of is that the atm in Nkhata Bay don't take Mastercard, which caused a big delay on my departure time. I took a shared taxi to Muzuzu for R27, then took a minibus to kharonga a small town near the border of Tanzania for R60 which takes 8 hours because they stop a every bus stop. We got there after the border had closed, so the minibus driver helped me find accommodation for the night at one of the louges there for R45 a room.
The following morning he was so kind by sending his brother who operates a shared taxi to the border to come pick me up at 6am, which cost R18 to get to the border. The brother was also so kind that he helped me get to immigration, then walked with me to the Tanzanian site. The most amazing thing happened as I was waiting on the immigration line, a bus from Lilongwe travelling to Dar es Salaam drove in, so that guy went over to talk with them to find out if they have seats available. So they agreed that I get on the bus and only pay them in Dar es Salaam as I didn’t have cash and it cost R230. At the Tanzanian border you have to pay R29 to get your passport tempted and make sure you have the money in the Tanzanian shilling know.
People in Malawi are very helpful, kind, caring and friendly as hall! It's a very safe country to visit and like Namibia there a plenty of adventures things to do in Malawi. I really enjoyed my days in Malawi and would recommend you take time to visit the is beautiful country.
Country: 5 Zambia and 6 Malawi
Accommodation: Zambia R0 I stayed with a friend
Lilongwe R0 I stayed at a friend’s house
Likoma Island R360 for 4 days
Nkhata Bay R580 for 4 days
Kharonga R45 which makes the total R985 for 5 weeks
Travel Cost: R1874 till Tanzania including local minibus around town in Lilongwe
Overall Total Cost: R3000 travelling through Zambia, Malawi and to Tanzania including food cost.