AAt Curious Travel we pride ourselves on finding unique, experienced and creative local operators that understand our client’s requirements and offer us the best advice on each, individual, tailor-made trip. When some of our clients asked for the best way to really see and understand Malawi… this is what we created together. As someone who did a 2-week self-drive road trip around Malawi myself… I reckon we’ve got a good one here! What do you think?

Day 1: Arrival into Lilongwe & Charter Flight to Nyika

Sunset in Nyika National Park in Malawi with Curious Travel

Sunset in Nyika National Park – Image by Radek Borovky

As you arrive into Lilongwe International airport you will be met and transferred to then board a private charter flight up to Nyika National Park. Here you will overnight at Chelinda Lodge for two Nights. This area is not so visited by tourists as it is harder to get to, but it is always highlighted as a favourite destination by those who visit Malawi.

Day 2: Activities from Chelinda Lodge

Roan Antilope and zebra at Nyika plateau, Malawi, Africa

Roan Antilope and Zebra, Nyika Plateau – Image by Alex van Schaik

Activities available today from the lodge include:

Game Viewing: in the Nyika Grasslands, with types and numbers of wildlife varying, depending on the time of year. Expect to see unusual species such as Crayshaw’s zebra and roan antelope. The drives, in closed vehicles, can be half- or full-day excursions. Night drives: in closed vehicles take advantage of the darkness; the perfect time to look for spotted hyaena, hunting serval, leopard and nocturnal bird species such as Ruwenzori nightjar. Walking: Take a nature walk with a professional guide around the camp or further afield to experience the beautiful grasses, stunning flowers and creatures both usual and rarely seen.  Mountain biking: Good gravel road network in the park makes exploring by bike easy, while the rolling hills allow for panoramic views en route. Birding: With many highly restricted distributions, Chelinda Camp is a key birding destination in Africa. Varied habitats including forest patches, high-altitude grassland and broad-leaved miombo woodland are home to some 400 species. 

Day 3 – 5: Livingstonia Hike – Final night at Lukwe Eco Lodge

“The Livingstonia trail combines game (really only good game on the first day of the walk) with culture and community. The second campsite is near a village on the edge of the park so a great chance to meet the village elders and interact with the community. The last day is a walk to the historic mission state, at Livingstonia.”

Nyika Plateau, Malawi with Curious Travel

 _Nyika Plateau – Image by Karl Beeney

Nyika is famed for its spectacular views as well as being the only big game Afro-montane area in South Central Africa. It is a wild, untouched and remote upland area with a variety of plains game that can be seen while on the Trail, such as zebra, reedbuck, roan and eland. Red forest duiker and blue monkey are possible sightings in the forest patches.

The Livingstonia Trail is a two-night/ three-day hike of about 6 hours hiking each day and wild camping. The route runs from Chelinda in the heart of the plateau to the famous Livingstonia Mission on the Khondowe plateau on the eastern edge of the plateau overlooking Lake Malawi.

The first day traverses the high plateau grasslands as far as the Phata Stream where camp is made. Day two is a steep descent through the Mwenembwe Forest to the boundary of the Nyika National Park at Chakaka Village. The last day is along the steep-sided North Rumphi valley through Malawian villages where the people eke out an existence from the steep slopes. There is a final ascent to Livingstonia and accommodation at Lukwe Camp overlooking the Manchewe Falls, the highest waterfalls in Malawi.

Lukwe Eco Camp, Malawi with Curious Travel

Lukwe Eco Camp – Image by Lukwe Eco Camp

Day 6-8: Transfer to Lake Malawi – Stay at Chintheche Inn  

Chinteche Inn is a relatively simple place but with a wonderful setting and a glorious beach. Because it is on the more remote northern lake shore it is surrounded by authentic fishing villages. We do a very low key village walk where a staff member takes guests to meet local people and to get some idea of the trials, tribulation (and joys!) of living on the shores of the lake. It is also home to the tree planting project Root to Fruit and there would be an opportunity to meet the team, visit some of the sites and get an understanding of what to us is one of the very core environmental challenges Malawi faces.”

Women in Malawi with Curious Travel

After an active few days hiking on the Nyika plateau guests transfer today to the shores of the famous Lake Malawi At Chintheche Inn guests can relax on the shores of Lake Malawi and also visit the local communities and learn more about the real Malawi.

Day 8-10: Nkhotakota National Park and Tongole Lodge 

Three elephant in Malawi's Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve – Image by Maximum Exposure PR

The lodge is wonderful and in a beautiful  setting on the Bua River.  The game is not spectacular and it is entirely possible to go for a couple of hours on a game drive  and not see much, but it is a fascinating conservation story. The parks authority relocated 500 elephants here from Liwonde and Majete parks (in other areas of Malawi) over the past couple of years. An explanation of this and a visit to the HQ of African Parks, who are responsible for the management of the park, will be incorporated into the stay.

Activities possible from Tongole Lodge: Bird Safaris, Wilderness Walking Safaris, Cultural Experiences, Fly Camping, Fly Fishing, Canoe Safaris, Wilderness Safaris.

Days 10-12: Lake Malawi and Mumbo Island  

Mumbo Island Lodge, Lake Malawi with Curious Travel

Mumbo Island Lodge – Image copyright Mumbo Island Lodge

Visit Mua Mission on the transfer to lake Malawi. Mua Mission is situated near Salima in the hills overlooking the lakeshore and is renowned for its wooden carvings with religious themes. In addition to this there is a comprehensive museum the cultural aspects of Malawian village life. The mission is famous for the quality of the wood carvings produced (and sold) there. The standards are superb and the prices very reasonable. The Chamare Museum is the brainchild of a French-Canadian priest Father Claude Boucher. Fr. Boucher came to Mua 20 years ago and proceeded to break the mould of religious repression. He is now probably one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of Malawian culture. His research resulted in a vast photographic record and a collection of traditional artefacts unequalled anywhere in southern Africa, possibly in the whole of Africa. Hence the museum.

Kayaking at Mumbo Island, Lake Malawi with Curious Travel

Mumbo Island Lodge on Lake Malawi – Image copyright Mumbo Island Lodge

Mumbo Island is very simply the most pristine Eco lodge in Malawi. The lodge is very low key and unpretentious and located on an island 8kms from the mainland so you access it by boat. We often describe it as a place where if the camp were removed, then after one rainy season no trace would be left of it ever being there. It is also one of the very best places to view the Lake Malawi family of cyclids – the brightly coloured algae feeding species that are largely endemic to the lake and arguably as significant an example of evolution as significant as Darwin’s Galapagos finches.

Day 12-15: Transfer to Liwonde Park & Mvuu Lodge 

Elephants in Liwonde Park, Malawi with Curious Travel

Elephants in Liwonde National Park – Image by Yury Birukov

Today guests take a boat and land transfer south to Liwonde National park and to Mvuu Safari Lodge. Liwonde Park is known for it’s high concentration of hippo and for their work on Black Rhino conservation. Mvuu Lodge offers a lot of activities that are slightly different from the usual safari fare including a bike ride into the villages to the west of the park to visit the school the lodge built and more time on the river than on a game drive vehicle.

Activities from Mvuu Lodge: River safaris, Nature walks, Game drives, Night drives, Game drives into the Rhino Sanctuary, Birding

Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde Park, Malawi with Curious Travel

Day 15: Transfer to Kumbali Lodge, Lilongwe 

Guests can enjoy another full day of activities at Mvuu Lodge and then transfer to Lilongwe for a relaxing overnight before leaving Malawi.

Day 16: Transfer to LIA Airport for International flight. 

If you like the look of this itinerary why not contact us for a chat? We can tailor-make all types of itineraries and holidays in Malawi and across Africa.

Did you this itinerary example? Why not check out Becky Harris’s account of her Skeleton Coast Flying Safari trip in Namibia, Africa and Stanley Stewart’s account of his trip to Ethiopia?

Example Cost: From $6,915 (Approx. £5,125) per person for 2 people.

Does this look to expensive or not what you really want? Drop us a line and we can talk to you about other more economical or just different trips to Malawi and all across Africa.

Why our local operator loves this itinerary:

“Malawi is a fascinating country yet one that suffers from many social and environmental issues. This itinerary takes clients to a variety of stunning landscapes, creates opportunities to see local wildlife and conservation efforts and get involved with the local communities in a natural and non-intrusive manner. Guests will also get to visit a number of excellent grass roots development projects like the Lukwe permaculture project and Root to Fruit project at Chintheche. These projects educate guests about the threat to the whole physical environment of Malawi. Poverty makes people use natural resources, particularly water and wood, at an unsustainable level. Tourism can play a small part in redressing this balance but we believe they wealth creation and education are the only long-term solution.  This is an amazing itinerary for well travelled and inquiring guests and with one of our great guides, we believe we can show these challenges in sharp relief and enhance the trip in so doing.”

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