African travel expert Marc Crouch looks at why Malawi is an unbeatable honeymoon destination…
Welcome to the warm and welcoming land of Malawi. In this little-known corner of the African continent, there’s everything you need for the perfect honeymoon. Here, you’ll find peace and relaxation, you’ll find culture and lifestyles the likes of which you’ve never experienced before and you’ll find the African adventure you’ve always dreamed of.
Relax on Lake Malawi
Malawi is landlocked, wedged between Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia, yet that doesn’t mean you won’t find any sandy shores to spend your afternoons relaxing on and soaking up the sun. One of the largest lakes in all of Africa, the magnificent Lake Malawi spans much of the country’s eastern border.
The beaches along Lake Malawi’s coast are coated in soft golden sand, the clear tropical waters punctuated by small offshore islands and teeming with colourful fish. Beyond is stunning hillside landscapes, luscious greenery and welcoming rural communities. Lake Malawi can easily rival Caribbean, Mediterranean or Indian ocean beach getaways, and with temperatures sitting in the mid-twenties year round – without the threat of violent coastal weather – there’s not a bad time to visit.
Adventure Through a True African Wilderness
For some, relaxing on a beach isn’t all they are looking for in a honeymoon destination and for others, it isn’t what they are looking for at all. In fact, more and more honeymooners are seeking richer, more diverse getaways than ever before. Thankfully, here in Malawi, adventure is never very far away. Lake Malawi itself has plenty of options for exploring, with canoeing, sailing, snorkelling, diving, fishing and hiking it’s coastal paths all proving popular pastimes for visitors and locals alike.
Close to Lake Malawi is the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, an unrivalled wilderness, where adventurous honeymooners will be treated tor romantic tranquillity and get closer to nature on a luxury guided safari. Home to wildlife, including elephants, antelope, monkeys, crocodiles and a huge variety of birds, it is also sanctuary to hundreds more elephants and other animals. What is believed to be the largest translocation of elephants in Africa ever, is due to commence there in 2016. This, or several of the other reserves found across Malawi, is the perfect place to live out that bucket list dream of taking a safari through the African wilderness and encountering some of the planet’s most impressive and awe-inspiring wildlife.
No trip to Malawi would be complete without an expedition to the highlands in the south or far north of. In the south you’ll find the picturesque rolling fields of the Thyolo tea estates in the shadow of one of Malawi’s most recognisable landmarks, Mount Mulanje. The highest point in Malawi, the mountain offers up some of the best hiking and walking experiences in Malawi, with trails crossing paths with stunning views, hidden lakes and cascading waterfalls. Nearby you will also find the Zomba Plateau, with gentler hiking trails and its own unique experiences, like opportunities for exploring on horseback or off-roading. In the north, Nyika National Park offers yet another contrast in scenery, with beautiful rolling grassland hills, roamed by herds of antelope and zebra, and excellent for walking and mountain bike trails.
The highlands of Malawi aren’t the only place you’ll find striking landscapes, as the legendary Great Rift Valley of Africa cuts right through the country, offering dramatic scenery at every turn. The valley offers life and protection to many different ecosystems, including one of Malawi’s rarest features. The Ntchisi Rainforest is a small pocket of preserved African rainforest, an unusual sight this far south of the continent. It is below the canopy of Ntchisi that you’ll find some of the most outstanding spots of natural beauty in Malawi, along with forest dwelling birds, monkeys and smaller animals.
Discover a Different World
The culture of Malawi is based on rich, historical roots, some aspects of which date back thousands of years. One of the country’s most important heritage sites is the Chongoni Rock Art Area, a series of 127 paintings dated back to the Iron Age. The paintings are an incredible example of ancient African history and are well worth visiting, the majority of images depicting either hunter-gatherers or the Chewa people, a farming tribe.
While you may expect the Chewa people to be long gone, their tribes still exist to this day, living in tightly knit villages, observing the ancient practices and ancestral beliefs they have done for thousands of years. The Chewa people are known for performing exuberant and vibrant dances, showing off feats of physical strength, as well as adorning themselves in handcrafted wooden masks, mimicking animal faces or spirits. Visits to Chewa villages can be arranged with local tour operators or lodges and offer a respectful, but fascinating insight into one of Africa’s oldest cultures.
Modern Malawi is not without its cultural riches, however, and the best way to experience this for yourself is to visit the bustling cities of Blantyre or Lilongwe. In Lilongwe’s Old Town, you’ll find examples of traditional Malawian food, entertainment and music, along with the city’s renowned craft and farmers’ markets that bring together traders from all over the country, selling local produce and handmade goods – perfect for unique and memorable honeymoon mementos.
Let’s Not Forget The Romance
Of course, this isn’t just any old getaway. Adventure, discovery and relaxation are all well and good, but romance has also got to be a top priority. Malawi is not a well know tourist hotspot, playing host to millions of visitors, all bustling to get the perfect spot on the beach or cramming into the back of a 4×4 safari vehicle. No, Malawi is a quiet and peaceful place, unknown to the mass tourism industry. Romance blooms from time spent alone, connecting with each other wherever you are, and this is where Malawi really comes into its own; the remote beaches, peaceful hikes and private safari trips all offer the perfect opportunity to escape together. Malawi is probably a destination you never would have considered before for your honeymoon, which is exactly why it’s the perfect place to visit.
Words by Marc Crouch, representative of the luxury african safari destination Tongole Wilderness Lodge, set in the heart of the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.