Facts on Malawi

Land

Malawi is a long, narrow country situated in the southern part of the East African Rift Valley and lying between 9 and 17 degrees south of the equator. Its area is over 118000 km2 of which one fifth is taken up by Lake Malawi. It is land-locked, cradled by Mozambique in the east, south and southwest, with Zambia to the west and Tanzania to the north/north-east. Lake Malawi is Africa’s third largest lake and the world’s ninth largest. Besides the magnificent Lake, Malawi offers visitors five National Parks and several smaller wildlife parks. Also available are: modern, comfortable hotels; varied recreational facilities and magnificent scenery including high mountain plateaus throughout the country.

Language

While Chichewa is the national language and Chitumbuka widely spoken in the Northern Region, English is the official language of the country and the language of the commercial sector.

Topography

Topography is immensely varied and constitutes the catchment area of the Shire River, which flows from Lake Malawi to the Zambezi River. From a valley floor in the south, almost at sea level, mountains range up to 3000m. The valley and the lower hill country are fertile. The principal cities lie at elevations between 1000 and 1500m.

Regions

The country is divided administratively into three regions: Southern – hilly, densely populated, Central – fertile, well-populated plains, Northern – mountainous and sparsely populated.  The main commercial and industrial city of Blantyre is in the Southern Region, the capital city of Lilongwe is in the Central Region and Mzuzu serves as the administrative and commercial headquarters of the Northern Region.

Climate

There are three seasons. A cool, dry period, May to August, is followed by hot weather (very hot in low-lying regions) during which humidity builds up until the rains commence November/December; the rains peak around the turn of the year and continue intermittently until April. Rainfall varies countrywide from 600mm to 3000mm.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
Max 26 26 26 26 26 25 23 25 27 30 30 27
Min 17 17 17 16 13 10 7 6 7 11 14 16

Border countries: Mozambique 1,569 km, Tanzania 475 km, and Zambia 837 km

Climate: tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)

Terrain: narrow elongated plateau with rolling plains, rounded hills, some mountains

Elevation extremes: lowest point: junction of the Shire River and international boundary with Mozambique 37 m highest point: Sapitwa 3,002 m

Natural resources: limestone, under exploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite

Security

Travelling in Malawi is extremely safe, however, a few precautions should be taken:

Plan your journey, and know where your destination is.

Do not hesitate to ask for advice or directions, most Malawians speak English well.

When travelling ensures that your luggage is always within view.

Do not be surprised when a Malawian takes your bags, this is to help carry and not a theft.

Always carry a supply of Drinking water.

Always ask the rate or price of the service you require, BEFORE you accept.

Health

Malawi is a high-risk Malaria area. All precautions should be taken when travelling or staying in Malawi.

Take a recognized anti-malarial prophylactic, as recommended, or at least before entering a Malaria area, continue for at least 3 weeks after leaving the area.

If possible, always sleep under a mosquito net.

Dress accordingly from Sunset onwards, Long Pants & Long sleeves.

Use Insect Repellant.

Malaria has a gestation of about 10 days within this time; you have the classic symptoms (Headaches, sore muscles etc.) ensure that you have a Malaria test immediately. These are all freely available in most areas of Malawi. Remember that doctors in Malawi are qualified to treat Malaria.

Bilharzia has been widely reported in Lake Malawi and is contracted when swimming in infected waters on the lakeshore. The use of a towel to dry yourself off, after swimming, will greatly reduce the risk of contracting Bilharzia. It is recommended that all persons travelling to Central Africa take a Bilharzia test 6 months after returning. The treatment of Bilharzia is a simple once-off treatment with no side effects.