Malawi has a nickname: it is “the warm heart of Africa”. It’s not a comment on the weather, and it’s not just a catchy advertising slogan. The country has a huge amount to offer - from hiking on the Zomba Plateau to water sports on Lake Malawi, birding in the Liwonde National Park to hippo watching at Mvuu Lodge - but it is the people which make the biggest impression of all. Everywhere you go in Malawi, you will be pursued by grinning school children, people who want to shake your hand or invite you into their home for tea. In a world of cynicism, it’s refreshing to experience such genuine hospitality, offered with no expectation of return.
As is often the case, Malawi’s finest camps and lodges tend to be in secluded locations, set apart from the local community. But the best of them are well integrated with their surroundings and the local population, recognising the necessity of symbiotic relationships for long term sustainability. Tongole Wilderness Lodge in Nkhotakota is a prime example. Through the Tongole Foundation it works with those living around the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, leading vital education and conservation efforts. If you have 10 days or more available in Malawi, you can contribute to these projects as a volunteer, working alongside the local team to build and equip schools.
On a shorter visit, you might want to pay a visit to a local village. In fact, it is something we actively encourage. People are just as an important part of the ecosystem as the wildlife, and it is they who will determine whether or not long term conservation efforts succeed. At Pumulani, many of the staff come from fishing villages around Lake Malawi, and they will personally guide you on a visit “home”. You’ll have a chance to see how many Malawians live, and the positive impact that development initiatives are having. You might well be asked to join in a game of football or cricket on the beach, or to pose for photos with your new found friends.