Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Malawi national parks and game reserves: Sizes

There are five national parks and four wildlife reserves in Malawi, each differs in size and location.

The National Parks are:

Nyika National Park
Area: 3,134 km2

Kasungu National Park
Area: 2,316 km2

Lake Malawi National Park
Area: 94 km2

Liwonde National Park
Area: 538 km2

Lengwe National Park
Area: 887 km2

The Wildlife / Game Reserves are:

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve 
Area: 920 km2

Nkhota-kota Wildlife Reserve 
Area: 1,800 km2

Majete Wildlife Reserve
Area: 691 km2

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve
Area: 135 km.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

How to make bricks: A Malawi brick-making masterclass

Bricks in Malawi are hand-made from the clay soil that makes up much of the composition of the land throughout the country. I've been away for a while, you know how the Christmas and New Year goes, anyway, here is the latest blog post on how to make bricks in Malawi.

Preparation for making bricks in Malawi:

Most people in Malawi who can afford it, build using bricks. These are made manually, using wooden moulds. Generally, one would buy a small piece of land with an anthill and bring in a pile of sand to get the right consistency. The old anthill would need to be dug up, water brought and the earth from the anthill mixed with sand and water. People mix the brick-mix by repeatedly treading in it barefoot - rather like how one imagines grapes for wine used to be crushed in the old days.

Sun-drying bricks in Malawi:

Normally the process of making bricks, once the anthill/clay mixture is at the right consistency, involves several people in a sort of production line.

A brick-shaped mould is lined with sand, to prevent the mixture sticking to the sides and bottom. A lump of the mixture is slapped into the mould and any excess is scraped of the top using a flat piece of wood. The full mould is banged on the ground a couple of times to remove any potential cracks. The brick is turned out on a flat piece of ground and subsequent ones are placed in rows alongside and behind it. If there is no shade, the bricks are covered lightly with cut grass to stop them from cracking as they dry in the sun.

Firing brick in the kiln:

Kiln-baked bricks are much more durable than sun-baked ones.

Once the bricks are sun-dried, they are collected into a pile and the process of building a kiln can begin. The number of 'legs' a kiln has depends on how many bricks need to be fired, and therefore how many spaces are needed for the wood fires.

Bricks are stacked to build legs, which are gradually widened so that once they are around 1 metre tall, they meet each other and form a single sturcture with spaces underneath, for the fires. The entire structure is then covered in mud creating an oven effect that encloses all the bricks. Slowburning wood is then brought and fires are lit under the arches.

Once the fires have burnt out and the bricks have cooled down, they are ready for use. Alternatively, they can be stored in the kiln structure until needed. Once the bricks have been fired, they are much more robust, and can withstand a fair degree of weathering.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Travellers Tales: Transport in Malawi

A post on travelling in Malawi from a recent visitor.

Many people in Malawi don’t have access to their own transport and there is no public transport as such. This means that some people will walk for miles and miles in order to get to the nearest town, school or even hospital.

However, if you stand on the side of the road (and you have a good idea of where you need to go), you can hop onto the back of a pick-up or jump in a minibus for a very minimal price with a whole host of other travellers. Often you will find (particularly as a white tourist or a ‘mzungu’) that you will be able to haggle the price down to a similar price that the locals pay. Normally, when you manage to do this well, the driver or person you are haggling with will laugh and say “ah, you have been in Africa before.”

The journey into town or wherever you are going is an experience you will not get in many other places and you will find that you are in very close proximity with a lot of other people and their belongings – bags of fish, rice, sugar cane and sometimes live chickens. The journey is often very bumpy and very noticeably, the driver will cut out the engine when going down a hill before bump starting it to get up the other side, in order to save petrol.

For me, I can see no other way to travel in Malawi, it is cheap, the people are very friendly, you can familiarise yourself with the normal way the locals travel and you are also able to experience the chatter (a mixture of the many and varied Malawian languages) around you.

Kindly written for All About Malawi Blog by Will Andrews

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Earthquakes in Malawi: December 2009

A quick overview of the fragmented press coverage on the earthquakes in Karonga District in Malawi in December 2009.

A series of earthquakes and tremors hit Karonga District, in the Northern region of Malawi between Sunday 6th and Tuesday 8th December 2009.

The Facts:

Magnitude of Earthquake: 5.9 on Richter Scale
Depth: 10km
Region: Northern Region - Karonga District
Population: 1.2million
Alert Status: Orange (medium humanitarian impact) (Source)
Injuries: 6 (hospitalisation)
Deaths: 1 child (building collapsed)

On the ground reports:

Sources on the ground in Malawi reported that tremors were felt as far south as Mzuzu (110 miles south of the epicentre of the tremors). One text I received from travellers stated 'I thought my bed was being shaken by someone, but I realised that the floor was moving, all that and torrential rain and thunder! Scary!'

Comments from people in Karonga have focussed on the confusion and fear they are feeling, with many opting to sleep outside their houses, in case they collapse.

The District Commissioner stated that he had set up a task force to assess the damage and respond to what could be an impending crisis if the aftershocks continue.

Why did it happen?

Part of Malawi sit in the Great Rift Valley, a deep valley that has grown due to the movements of tectonic plates that cover the earth, creating our mountain ranges. Other tectonic areas are places like indonesia, Los Angeles and the himalayas.

Numerous sources from the BBC to Reuters have reported on the story, this post pieces them all together.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Customs, Etiquette and Manners in Malawi

This post will cover a few basic rules of culture, manners and etiquette in Malawi.

As a foreigner, you will be observed by most Malawians, especially in the more rural areas as rather strange, with lots of money and some odd habits. There are of course customs and etiquette that should be observed, not least to surprise those Malawians you come into contact with.

Here are some general musings and comments:

  • When you shake hands with someone important e.g. ministers, chiefs, school committees, older members of the community/village, bend your knees slightly to show deference, and as you shake put your free hand beneath the other arm, as if you’re propping it up.
  • Expect to pray before everything: meals, journeys, meetings etc.
  • Before a meal, the host or hostess will give you a bowl and a jug, to wash your hands in. As most people eat with their hands it is important that you ensure your hands are clean before eating.
  • If you are having a meeting, expect to sit in silence for a long time. When the chair is speaking, there will be many formalities including welcoming you, thanking everyone for coming and asking after various different parts of the attendees families. You will be expected to speak and say how pleased you are to be there and thanking the hosts for their hospitality.
  • Don’t expect anyone to be on time. Malawians operate under GMT (General Malawi Time!) so make sure you are not just waiting around, and have something to do. It's not unheard of to arrange to meet someone at 8am and they turn up the next day!
  • If you visit a school, you will not have to lift a finger. The children automatically do everything for you in the same way as a host in their house. Don't try to stop them they will get offended.
  • Try not to give anyone money who begs for it. If they do something for you or take you somewhere then give them a little bit as they have earned it.
  • Don’t walk through a village or school openly eating as you will be mobbed by children asking for your food. It is also seen as rude if you openly eat while others aren't and you will be often asked to join people eating, to share with them.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Natural Phenomenon: Lake fly plumes on Lake Malawi

One of the most amazing phenomenon in the natural world happens on Lake Malawi.

Imagine thousands and thousands of flies, all hatching at once in the middle of a huge, open expanse of freshwater...rising up from the lake in huge plumes, like smoke in the distance.

If you can't imagine what that would look like, here are a few pictures to show you this amazing natural sight:

The plumes attract birds and fish, who glut themselves on the insects as they are blown across the lake towards the shores.

Each plume is made up of millions of flies, and as you can see in the image on the right the lake fly make dense clouds that can be seen far on the horizon.

When the lake fly make landfall, this is the scene close to the shore as they swarm around trees and buildings.

Children go crazy over these lake fly and gather large handfulls of the insects to make into cakes, which they fry and eat!

An amazing event in nature and one which I would thoroughly recommend you see.

Friday, 27 November 2009

What women wear in Malawi: A eulogy to the Chitenje

A question I quite often get asked is what clothing do women wear in Malawi, or what is the traditional Malawi dress.

The most commonly worn item of clothing by women in Malawi is the Chitenje (also known as a Kitenge in Tanzania and Kenya).

Woman in Mzuzu market in Malawi with baby in a chitenjeWomen in Mpata village in Malawi with baby in Chitenje sling on backHere is a eulogy to the Chitenje in Malawi.

What is a Chitenje
A chitenje is a rectangle of fabric (generally 2 x 1 metres) worn by women around the waist or chest. Chintenjes are a cheap, everyday piece of clothing. They are very often covered with a great variety of pictures, colors, patterns and usually include slogans, including political slogans (especially when Hastings Banda was president).

Wearing the Chitenje
The chitenje is generally wrapped around the waist and tied as you would tie a towel or sarong. Normally clothing (certainly underwear) is worn under the chitenje and this can cover up slightly shabby clothes with the chitenje's multi-coloured fabric

Other uses for the Chitenje
Chitenje's can be worn around the head as well, wrapped in a similar way to a head towel, and is used for decoration or to cover any hair-dos that may be in progress. It is also a very useful cushion for carrying...well anything that can be carried on the head!

A chitenje also makes an incredibly useful custom sling for a baby (see the pictures to the right), and is either constructed so the baby can hang at the front, or slung over the back, with legs tucked around the side of the mum. Some of the more enterprising mothers are also able to breastfeed while the child is in the sling - allowing hands to be free for other, more imporant tasks!

To sum up - the common chitenje is a really useful bit of kit for women in Malawi, and on a final note the same cloth can be taken to a tailor and sewn into a dress, or shirt and skirt for special occasions e.g. Church on Sunday.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Zomba: in-depth

Zomba - an overview of one of the prettiest cities in Malawi

Zomba is situated in the southern region of Malawi and used to be the capital of Malawi, before it went to Lilongwe. It has many old colonial buildings, a memento of Malawi's colonial past. There is a botanical gardens in the centre of town with a number of indiginous and exotic trees and plants, which is worth seeing if you are interested in nature. The town has one of the best markets for fruit and vegetables in Malawi, with a great range and variety depending on the season.

Zomba has beautiful surroundings, the Zomba plateau making an impressive back drop to the town, and the sheer rockface is an imposing sight! Zomba plateau has some lovely walks, (a great start for the fitness enthusiast is a potato path that takes you to the top of the plateau). Some people even try and fish in the dams at the top of the plateau.

At the top of Zomba mountain is a hotel, which has a specacular view overlooking the town (watch out, as this is an expensive place to stay!) and also has a fantastic views across to Mount Mulanje (on clear days!).

Lake Chilwa is also short distance to the east (20-30 minutes) of Zomba. It is a shallow lake which shrinks significantly in the dry season and supports many fishermen (who still fish from dugout canoes using nets). The volume of water greatly increases in the wet season, but due to high levels of Bilharzia, swimming is not recommended.

Zomba is not far from Blantyre (just under 1 hour by car), and 3-4 hours from Lilongwe. It is also a 6-8 hour drive to Sambani Lodge!

Find out more about the main cities in Malawi.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Tobacco in Malawi

Tobacco is the main export for Malawi.

Much of the tobacco in Malawi is produced on large estates, but there are many small holders who produce some tobacco to sell at auction each year. Small farms tend to diversify their crops and often grow a few tobacco plants, alongside other cash and subsistence crops.

The auction houses are in Limbe, Lilongwe and Mzuzu, and the auctions often take place around March and April each year.

Tobacco is cured in a number of ways, the most common being 'Burley' where it is laid out in long sheds and dried by the dun. A more expensive way is to flue-cure the tobacco, using wood fires in tall barns, this gives it a different flavour and will sell for more. Dark-fired tobacco (NDDF) is cured in small barns over a longer period of time in the presence of heavy smoke - this is used in cigars.

After curing, tobacco is sold in bales at auction where prices of all the types of tobacco are volatile, at the mercy of world markets.

You will sometimes see men and women chewing tobacco and smoking home-made cigarettes, and it is not uncommon to see people using it as snuff!

Find out more about Beer and Cannabis in Malawi.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Cannabis in Malawi

A very short post about cannabis in Malawi.

Cannabis is widely grown along the lakeshore to produce hemp for fishermen's nets. It is of course now sold as Malawi Gold to tourists and backpackers. As it is quite accessible, and very freely available, there are some incidences where it is even used by some schoolchildren, which results in behavioural problems.

Buying and selling cannabis is illegal, but it is very difficult to police in the remote areas where it is grown, and even in the cities police (like elsewhere in the world) have bigger priorities.

Find out more about Tobacco and Beer in Malawi.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Education in Malawi

A short overview on education in Malawi.

Nursery education:

Nursery education is extremely limited in Malawi - the government is now trying to improve this and is investing in building pre-schools, certainly in the cities. There are, of course, private nurseries for those that value education and have the money to pay for it.

Primary education:

Primary education in Malawi is supposed to begin at 5 yrs old. Schools start at Standard 1 and go up to Standard 8, which is the final year of primary. Pupils do not proceed to the next year group automatically, but when they pass the end of year exams. This results in some older children remaining at very early primary school grades for a number of years, and leaving primary education (Standard 8) almost adults. Primary education is free but not compulsory, but there is an enormous shortage of teachers (the standard of whom can be very low with outdated practices) due to a shortage of teacher training schools and facilities. Schools have little or no equipment, teachers are quite poorly paid and the facilities are basic with those lucky to have a classroom often sitting on the floor.

Secondary education:

It is extremely competitive to get into a state run secondary school. Private schools are available, with entrance exams, but many people are unable to afford these. In fact, people often find it hard to pay the nominal fees for state secondary education. It is often very academic, leading to MSCE (Malawi School Certificate in Education) which is equivalent to GSCEs in the United Kingdom. There is little vocational training to assist secondary school leavers with jobs post school - and doesn't allow for the spread of learning styles or encourage the pupils to think, rather deliver lessons verbatim.

Unemployment is high, and there are many jobseekers with MSCE qualifications, which doesn't encourage school pupils to enter secondary education.

Elite secondary schools:

There are a handful elite international private schools in Malawi available for rich Malawian and ex-pat pupils. Here they can take United Kingdom A-Levels and other international qualifications that make them eligible to continue their education around the world.

University education:

Tertiary education in Malawi is extremely limited, with a number of small universities in some of the major cities. To enter university, a malawian has to get certain grades, and pass an entrance exam to study. There are a wide range of subjects to study at university, but you may not get your first choice (as you have to put a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice of subjects).

Job prospects after leaving university are much better, but there are still a dearth jobs for the graduiates to apply for.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Bilharzia in Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi is one of the biggest bodies of freshwater in Africa, and a beautiful place to visit. There are however parts of the lake where swimming is not recommended, which are predominantly in the far north and far south of the country. This is due to Bilharzia, a disease contracted from snails, that plagues small areas of the Malawi lakeshore.

Adhering to the following simple guidelines will minimise (but not necessarily eliminate) the risk of infection. Following visits to Lake MalaƔi, be aware of fatigue or flu-like symptoms, and consult a medical doctor for an examination.

Avoid contact with water in streams and ponds behind the shoreline,
as these habitats are potential high-risk transmission sites (as they are in most other African countries).

The good news is that most of the central part of the lake is Bilharzia free - and you are able to swim on Sambani Lodge's beautiful beach without a problem!

Alos, the tourism department in Malawi is planning a programme of certification for Bilharzia free areas - read more here: http://www.nyasatimes.com/tourism/bilhazia-in-lake-malawi-as-tourism-dept-plans-to-mark-free-areas.html - more to come in future posts!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Travelling from Lilongwe to Mzuzu

I have been asked quite often the best way to get from Lilongwe, Malawi's capital, to Mzuzu, so thought I would post the options below:

Taxi: Easily the quickest way! costs about £90 and gets you there in under 3 hours
Minibus: Seen by some as the only way to travel in Africa, let alone Malawi, can be dangerous but cheap and fun (if you don't mind the chickens under your seat...)
Coach: Not expensive, and pretty quick (5-6 hours) - need to go into the town to pick this up
Plane: Not available any more, but you could fly from Mzuzu to Lilongwe on a 24 seater twin-prop for about £50
Private car hire: Prohibitively expensive. Get a 4x4 if you are taking this option!
There are two routes to go one is via the lakeside (this is longer) or directly up the centre of the country. Roads are quite good, though bridges can get washed away in the rainy season.
Hope that helps!

Find out more about the capsized sugar truck on the road in this post.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Nsima - The staple food of Malawi

The staple food of malawi is Nsima.

Nsima is cooked, ground, white maize flour that is used as the stodge for the majority of malawian meals. The maize can either:

a) be ground by the family who take the dry maize kernels (sweetcorn to you and I) and then pound it with a huge pestle and mortar (most likely made of wood).

b) be bought from a shop where a more industrial process has mass produced the flour.

A cheaper version is a brown maize flour which is rougher in texture (but in my opinion more flavoursome!)

Nsima preparation

Ingredients: Maize flour - twice as much water as maize flour.

  • Boil a kettle of water
  • Whisk flour and water into a paste (about half a cup of flour, with a similar amount of water). You make the paste to avoid the nsima becoming lumpy.
  • Stir the paste into a pot of simmering water, mixing constantly. The aim is to make a very runny porridge.
  • Simmer (just below boiling) for 20-30 minutes and your nsima will thicken to the desired consistency.
  • At this stage, add the rest of your flour while mixing vigorously with a heavy duty wooden spoon. Once you have added all the flour, keep stirring for about 5 minutes with the heat still on.
  • Once the Nsima has formed a firm paste, allow it to steam with a lid on for a further 10 minutes on a very low heat
  • Finally, get a bowl with water, and use a saucer or big spoon out of the pan into 'thick pancakes' which you can either dish onto plates or pile onto a serving dish for people to help themselves. Remember to dip the spoon or saucer in the water between each nsima cake to ensure they don't stick.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Capsized Sugar Truck

Sugar from a crashed lorry on the Lake Malawi lakeshore road, on the way to Sambani LodgeQuite a random and funny story.
We were on our way up the Coastal road from Lilongwe to Sambani Lodge when we rounded a bend to find an upturned truck lying across the road (driver looking dazed but fine) and the sugary contents of his cargo strewn across the road.
The thing that really struck me was the frenzied activity of the local people who were running from far and wide to sweep up great swathes of sugar and collect it in bags, buckets and even t-shirts. You can see from the picture the extent of the sugar crash!
Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch - I'm sure there were some sugar headaches that night!

Find out more about travelling from Lilongwe to Mzuzu in this post.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Snakes in Malawi

Yes. It's true. Malawi does have snakes. Nasty ones!

Don't worry too much though, unless you are doing some serious bush bashing, snakes don't like to be too close to noisy habitation.

Snakes in Malawi:

Black Mamba:

The beast of the Malawian bush. An aggressive snake that has been know to attack cars driving along the side of the road. If you see a long, big black snake - get away from it!

There's a good picture of a black mamba on this site, at least you'll know what you're looking for.

Green Mamba:

Green mambas are more common, and are not aggressive snakes. Bright green in appearance they will spend more time trying to get away from you.

There's a great picture of a green mamba on this site.

Puff Adder (and others):

Short, fat and poisonous. Adders are short and very well camoflaged on the ground.

Tree Snakes:

Poisonous and normally found in mango trees (to catch the mice!) there are range of tree snakes in Malawi.

In my many visits, I have only seen one snake, so don't let it put you off - you'll see more snakelife in Australia!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Antimalarials: Malawi Medicine

A bit of advice that I am always asked is what malaria drugs or pills should you take to go to Malawi.

Of course it is always important to see your GP or travel clinic for the latest advice, but having travelled to Africa and especially Malawi on a number of occasions here is my experience of antimalarials or prophylaxis.

Chloroquine and Paludrine:

A combined treatment that malaria in many areas of Malawi is now resistant to. Not a common preventative these days.


A powerful drug that can cause some pretty funny side effects. This is a tablet that is taken once a week on the same day. My experience is pretty bad of this one, including wild mood swings, vivid dreams and mass hallucination (will fellow travellers). Personal recommendation is to avoid this!


An antibiotic that is used to prevent malaria in areas that are resistant to other drugs. Side effects are quite light, although can cause severe thrush for women, and make your eyes and skin sensitive to the sun (lots of this in Malawi!)


My choice when I visit Malawi. A daily pill that prevents malaria, this is a fairly new treatment and can be used for both prevention and cure. Side effects I have experienced are dry mouth and VERY vivid dreams...quite good fun really.

Malawians live with Malaria on a daily basis, with many catching it twice a year. Cheap chloroquine etc are available in most little shops for treatment, and hospitals will diagnose this very quickly if you are showing the symptoms.

A word to the wise - cover up arms, legs and feet at dawn and dusk, as you can't catch Malaria if you don't get bitten!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Dedza Pottery: Handmade in Malawi for you

Souvenirs are a big part of the holiday experience, and Malawi is no exception. Wherever you travel in the country you will be offered a multitude of arts and crafts, from carvings to paintings and bracelets to hand-painted cards. These are not generally unique to Malawi, and can be found across this part of Eastern Africa (Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia etc.).

What is unique in Malawi, is the range of pottery on offer.

Dedza Pottery is the most well known of the artisan ceramic factories, owing to the rich clay soil in the area. Dedza is situated around 100km south of Lilongwe.

On offer to purchase are a wide range of ceramic tableware and crockery, as well as some more unique items, such as crafted olive dishes and figurine salt and pepper pots. For people looking for interior design items, Paragon Ceramics also make floor, bathroom and kitchen tiles to order, with choice of hand-painted pattern.

I would thoroughly recommed an inexpensive item or two to bring home to your family - and if you think they might break in your luggage, you can always arrange international postage!

Visit the Dedza Pottery website for more information.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Police in Malawi

Police in Malawi are generally courteous and helpful, and will be more than happy to help you if you are asking for directions or information.

Traffic police in Malawi are a slightly different ball game. Depending
on the time of year (eg Xmas) they can look for the smallest problem
with your car or attitude and fine you for anything that might be out
of place!

Fines range from a few dollars/pounds to a much larger sum that needs
to be paid at the police station. Fines CAN be negotiable, however
don't expect an official receipt as these will go straight into your
officer's pocket!

Find out more about police in Malawi's reaction to cannabis.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Rivers in Malawi

There are three major rivers in Malawi:

Dwangua river:

The Dwangua river is around 100 miles long, and flows from Kasungu National Park, on Malawi's central plateau to Lake Malawi.

Shire river:

The Shire river flows through both Malawi and Mozambique, and originates from Lake Malawi. It is around 250 miles long.

South Rukuru river:

The South Rukuru river is the main river in the Northern region of Malawi, flowing though the Nyika Plateau.

There are numerous other tributares that flow into Lake Malawi, but the only river that flows out is the Shire river.

Find our more about lake Malawi in this post.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

How deep is Lake Malawi and other facts

Friends often ask me a number of questions about the geography of Malawi, such as: How deep is Lake Malawi? How big is Lake Malawi? etc...

Lake Malawi is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in Africa and by volume of water, it is the 8th largest lake in the world!

Lake Malawi is 700 metres deep, considered by some as the 2nd deepest lake in the world. Formed as part of the rift valley, the lake is the most southern of the great lakes in the East African Rift.

Lake Malawi also stretches for 412 miles along the shores of Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. 75km at it's widest point, gives it a total surface area of around 30,000km².

Look out for a future posts on the flora and fauna of Lake Malawi. Find out more about the main rivers in Malawi in this post.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Mangos in Malawi


A key fruit in Malawi is the mango. Both cultivated and wild, mango trees are found throughout Malawi, which has the perfect climate to grow.

Mango season in Malawi starts around October and finishes in January (depending on when the rains come, the season has started as late as December).

Many different types of mango grow in Malawi, from the small, sweet mangoes in Karonga, to the larger and more mellow-flavoured mangoes that grow along the central Lake Malawi shore around Nkhata Bay and Chintheche. In fact, visit Sambani Lodge around this time and the staff will collect and serve you mangos whenever requested!!

A word of warning though - eating too much of this sweet fruit can give you a pretty serious case of 'traveller's tummy'!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Beers of Malawi

Now onto a topic very close to my heart...BEER...(and more importantly, Malawian beer!)

So what beers are recommended for consumption in Malawi:

Carlsberg (but not as you know it):

The most common beer in bars in Malawi is Carlsberg. It is available nearly everywhere! There are two types, called Carlsberg 'Green' or 'Brown'. The Green is a lager, and the brown is a cross between a bitter and a stout, the beers are named after their labels, so you can order a Green or a Brown at the bar and the staff will know what you are talking about.

Green tastes quite good, while the Brown is a bit of an assault on my mouth!

Kuche Kuche:
A weaker beer, and becoming more common in Malawi. It means 'Bring on the dawn', suggesting you can drink it until the sun rises! Kuche Kuche is a slightly weaker lager, but with a very pleasant taste.


Chibuku beer carton in Malawi

A beer with a difference...Chibuku is a beer served in what is essentially a milk carton. Brewed from fermented maize, drinking Chibuku is like drinking alcoholic porridge. Marketed as a Chibuku Shake Shake (because you have to shake it before you drink it), its slightly thick consistency certainly makes it unique!
My recommendation is that you buy this in the morning, and then put it in the fridge. The longer chibuku is left out, the more it ferments in the carton - and you can end up with a pretty strong drink indeed. Great stuff, and definitely to be experienced.

For more info on food and drink, go to the Sambani Lodge food and drink page.

Find out more about Tobacco and Cannabis in Malawi.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Population of Malawi

A short (but nonetheless very important!) post.

The population of Malawi is estimated at 15.2 million for 2009. This is an increase of almost 50% from the 1998 census where it was estimated there were 10 million people living in the 'Warm Heart of Africa'.

Find out more about the main cities of Malawi and their populations.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Lilongwe Airport

A post about Lilongwe airport.

Lilongwe Airport (LLW) is a small, one-runway airport that serves as the main air hub of Malawi. Situated to the West of Lilongwe (about 4 miles away), Lilongwe Airport predominantly serves the capital and the northern region of Malawi, as well as people who are unable to get a flight to Blantyre.

View it on a map here.

Arriving in the airport from the UK really does feel like you are entering another world. Spectators throng the viewing platform directly above the baggage hall as your plane lands, and when the aeroplane doors open the heat will hit you. You'll take a walk down the stairs to the buses waiting to take you the short distance to the terminal, and that is where the fun starts..

...Immigration in Lilongwe airport is long and tedious. There are no computers, only some ancient wooden desks where immigration officials sit and manually write down all your details for entry into the country. You then get that all important stamp to enter Malawi and you can go and pick your bags up!

Once you collect your luggage from the single carousel, customs officials will ask you if you have any gifts or presents, and will normally have a bit of a sift through your bags (mainly out of interest rather than trying to catch you with anything dodgy...!)

On exit there isn't the usual hassle you get in developing world airports (although there are always some touts wanting to help you with your bags for a few Kwacha), and you can organise a taxi to pretty much anywhere. Most people are met by relatives, but for travellers you can get to the centre of Lilongwe and the central bus station quite cheaply. For reference, a taxi to Mzuzu (3.5hrs) is around £80-£100 (depending on interest rate fluctations.

So to sum up, Lilongwe airport is not a bad place to arrive, and there's no doubt you have arrived in Malawi!

Find out more about the main cities in Malawi.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Main cities in Malawi

There are number of cities in Malawi, spread out over the country:

Northern region:

The most Northern city in Malawi is Karonga. As of 2008, population was estimated at around 43,000 people.

Northern rift valley city of Mzuzu has a population of around 175,000 in 2008.

Central region:

The capital of Malawi is Lilongwe, and it is easily the biggest city in Malawi. Population of Lilongwe is around 900,000 as of 2009. Lilongwe airport (LLW) is the main airport in Malawi, more in the Lilongwe airport post.

Southern region:

Zomba is a small city between Blantyre and Lilongwe. Population as of 2008 was just over 100,000. To find out more about Zomba, read my Zomba: In-depth post.

The most southerly city in Malawi, Blantyre has a population of around 730,000 as of 2008.

Friday, 4 September 2009

All About Malawi: What's it all about?

Hello and welcome to All About Malawi!

This blog will regularly be updated with snippets of information about Malawi, including:

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Charity
  • Food and Drink
  • Geography
  • Language
  • Medicine
  • Nature
  • Sociodemographic features (including tribes, culture, dress and folklore)
  • Tourism
Of course, if you would like to know anything about any aspect of malawian culture, food or even where to go in certain area of Malawi - just let me know!

Read about why I love Malawi.

Nick Andrews: Experience Malawi

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Why I love Malawi - The beginning

Experience Malawi is a bit of a self-indulgent blog covering a country that I am fascinated with: Malawi!

My first visit to the county was in 2001, at the tender age of 21, where I visited my girlfriend's parents who live in the town of Mzuzu, in the Northern Region of Malawi. We flew just before christmas from London to Lilongwe, the capital, and then took a packed minibus for the six hour ride north to Mzuzu. I was made incredibly welcome from the get-go, people we met were happy and welcoming, and my complete lack of any Chewa/Tumbuka/Nkonde didn't prevent communication (albeit with sign language taking over!)

Sambani Lodge. Lake Malawi's paradise hotel.The first week we spent in Mzuzu, visiting friends (my girlfriend hadn't bee back home for 3 years!) and then we headed down to Lake Malawi and her parents guesthouse in Chinthecthe - Sambani Lodge...wow! You've probably seen our sister site, www.sambanilodge.com, and if not I urge you to take a look, an amazing lodge on an unspoilt part of Lake Malawi, set on a sandy beach which is safe for swimming (much of the lake has bilhartzia). And all for a few £ per night...amazing!

It was with sadness that I left Sambani Lodge to head back to Liliongwe after a week of swimming and exploring the area, but needless to say it wasn't my last visit!

A great trip and one I remember fondly. Now my girlfriend is my wife, but more about that on future posts.

To find out what this blog is all about, go to the All About Malawi: What's it all about? post.