Thursday, May 14, 2015


Africa’s liquid asset

executive summary by darmansjah

Locals call it the “Lake of Stars,” and it’s easy to see why. After nightfall, paraffin lamps illuminate Lake Malawi with a constellation of firefly-like flickers; fishermen in dugout canoes work the glassy waters as they have since before the era of the Maravi kingdom.

Deep and clear, the teal lake—Africa’s third largest—glimmers in the Great Rift Valley. Bordering Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia, Malawi is an increasingly steady presence within a dynamic continent. Last year, a political transition introduced the world to Joyce Banda, a progressive new president and the second female chief of state in sub-Saharan Africa. More than a domestic shift, this turning point presents an invitation to explore Africa’s best kept secret.

“When you make friends with a Malawian, they watch out for you,” says Moses Mphatso Kaufulu, a blogger from the historic British capital of Zomba. “The depth of African experience rests on friendship—this is what makes my country second to none in the world.”

Where better to befriend a local than by the lake? Swimming boys laugh as a kaleidoscope of brightly colored fish glitter to the surface. The only high-rise in sight is a jumble of sunbleached boulders. Malawi offers much more than serene lakes. Dusty roads connect towns, and mountains give way to plains of green maize punctuated by baobab trees. But the nation’s heart is a watery realm where waves lap the sand, leaving streaks of silt. Andrew Evans

Travel Tips

When to Go: For lake and big game safaris, go in the dry seasons, April/May and October/November. Between January and March more than 200 species of orchids bloom in Nyika National Park, making this prime time for orchid lovers and bird-watchers.

Where to Stay: Guests at the rustic, six-room Red Zebra Lodge at Kambiri Point can join underwater safaris to view Lake Malawi’s diverse aquatic life, including the intensely colorful African cichlid fish. Remote Chiofu Camp, accessible only by a 3.5-hour boat ride east from Kambiri Point, offers bare-bones beach camping in light tents secured under the trees.

Cultural Tips: Comfortable, casual dress is the norm, but reserve beachwear (tank tops, bathing suits, short dresses, and shorts) for vacation resorts.

What to Buy: Handcrafted baskets, intricate wood carvings, and Dedza Pottery including hand-painted tableware and figurines depicting Malawian life.

In-Country Travel Tip: Foreign currency is widely accepted. ATMs dispensing local currency are located in Lilongwe, Blantyre, and Mzuzu.

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