Following independence from Britain in 1964, Malawi, formerly Nyasaland, was governed for 30 years by President Hastings Banda, who died in 1997. During this period, commercial plantation farming of crops such as tobacco was encouraged, but the majority of people continue to subsist on small plots of land with few modern facilities. Lake Malawi - rich in fish - and the highlands provide the country with considerable tourist appeal. Industrial development has been limited, and there is few industrial resources other than hydroelectric power. Landlocked Malawi was seriously affected by civil war in Mazambique, but since 1992 greater stability and more internal policies have offered an opportunity for significant development, but Malawians remain very poor.
The Warm Heart of Africa
Malawi's scenery is diverse and the habitats are varied. At its lowest point, the country is only about 35 metres above sea level. Its highest point, Mount Mulanje, is 140 kilometers away and has an elevation of over 3,000 metres! Between these altitude extremes, there are rolling hills, plateaus, cool, misty mountains and much varied scenery. Each of its many habitats is protected within Malawi's eleven national parks and reserves.
Everything within the parks, from Elephants to orchids, is protected. Today, Malawi is a wonderful, warm, friendly and welcoming country that offers visitors great scenery, interesting parks and some of the friendliest villagers in all of Africa. If you are keen to experience African culture, Malawi is possibly the best country for this. For these reasons, Malawi is commonly referred to as "The Warm Heart of Africa".
Malawi is a long thin landlocked country, but is graced with Africa's third largest lake - Lake Malawi. This massive inland sea stretches 584km (350 miles) down the eastern side of the country. It has four busy ports and hundreds of fishing villages that help feed the population. In the amazing waters of Lake Malawi are many thousands of fish, some for eating and some much prized by freshwater aquarium enthusiasts. There are more colourful Cichlid species than all the freshwater species of USA and Europe put together. Lake Malawi is also famous for its idyllic palm beaches, watersports (both above and below the water) and pristine offshore islands within the Lake Malawi National Park.
Malawi also has an incredible variety of habitats for wild animals from lowland marsh to high plateau grasslands and some mountain peaks. Game parks and reserves are noted for their natural beauty and wild state and contain astonishing bird life and rare antelopes. Big game numbers are limited but this is more than made up for by the beauty and totally unspoiled surroundings.
Nearly created whole in the late 1960s and early 1970s to become the country's new capital in 1975, Lilongwe is a sprawling place with limited interest for travellers. This means there are an awful lot of awful modern administrative buildings in what's referred to variously as the New City or City Centre. The Old Town, a few kilometres to the southwest, where you'll find the market, several restaurants and cafes, the bus station - at the heart of Old Town is the market, which is jammed with stalls selling everything from pots and pans, car and bike parts, empty plastic containers, fruit, vegetables, toothpaste, live chickens and dried fish.
Liwonde National Park
Liwonde National Park is well-managed with a good stock of game and beautiful scenery. Lying south of Lake Malawi, it includes part of Lake Malombe and the Shire River. Hippos and crocodiles are found in the Shire, elephants, several species of antelope and a pair of re-introduced rhinos. Most of the game can be seen in the northern part of the park. There's also great birdlife. The park is located 205km (130mi) southeast of Lilongwe.