Updated: Sep 12, 2020
Malawi is an ideal destination to travel with children. Famous for its friendly people and traditions but also one of the poorest countries in the world, it’s a very humbling country and certainly gives children exposure to the simplistic and profoundly happy way of life that Malawians lead.
Coupled with an expansive range of activities in such a small country that is separated by a very diverse landscape, Malawi has been on the rise as one of Africa’s best places to visit.
The ease of travel across the country certainly enables you to enjoy more time with your family in a variety of places rather than spending valuable time on the road and getting from location to location to enjoy for a short period of time.
Hiking, horse riding, swimming, snorkeling and big 5 game viewing are literally a short three hours’ drive between each other – and on the road there are markets, museums and a selection of photo opportunities that will always make the journey a fun and educational experience.
Your safety is paramount to anywhere you travel, with or without children and Malawi, like most places has its limits, like not driving at night, not flashing your valuables or carrying large amounts of money on you through busy areas.
But, in general, Malawi is considered very safe!
So what would you need to start your family holiday planning?
Well first, Malawi is accessible through three main destinations if you're flying in. Johannesburg, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi that then connect to the rest of the world, Malawi has two main International Airports that are accessible on different time schedules. (We're thinking outside these unusual Covid times - Check out current operating flights and just know things are getting back on to our more normal schedule!)
Back on planning...
I recommend choosing an easy circular route, which is one of our favorites to tailor into the individual traveler’s preference.
I always suggest landing in Blantyre and fly out of Lilongwe. It means you start your journey with culture, history, hiking. Then you game view in the middle and end your journey on the shores of Lake Malawi.
It’s like a one-size fits all base itinerary, there’s a copious number of activities, enough lodges, campsites and hotels to suit everyone, the road network is very good with the option to choose a direct or scenic routes, there is a fantastic loop system to add on to your journey like adding Mulanje or Majete or Northern Malawi.
We’ll get to all those places and benefits to add on soon!
Keep that semi-circular route in mind – Direct with a few nights in each location it’s just over 1 week with the ability to comfortably push it to two.
Add a handful of loops in there and you have a lovely all-round three-week getaway.
Now depending on your budget of course predominantly dictates where you’re going to stay or how you’re going to travel.
Luckily for you there are many different lodges or camping of course that cater to a range of budgets and there are options such as self-catering or full board that also gives you that flexibility to change around your schedule as and when needed.
Some lodges are very geared up to take children of all ages and other lodges have age limits due to their equipment and activity suitability.
Luckily, lodges who are not geared up to take children tend to have sister lodges that are, so there’s not many limitations!
Now I’m waffling on about routes and accessibility and how easy of a trip it would be for mums and dad’s blah blah blah, but is it going to make the children excited? Probably not.
If your children are anything like what I was like throughout my childhood, this will be easy, if they’re anything like my sister however… it’ll be a bit harder.
The Wild Child – Prefers to be in flip flops, or barefoot, likes climbing trees, swimming, adrenaline activities, likes sleeping in the sun, loves animals, eats everything… there’s so much more and this is Malawi for you. Exceptionally laid back, rustic and easy going and it’s a child’s jungle gym!
For the metropolitan child maybe the teenager, this may be a bit of culture shock, shopping is best spent in the local markets for trinkets predominantly, high heels are a challenge even in the cities and short shorts and skirts aren’t recommended outside of the Lake and your white shoes won’t stay white.
Many times us tour operators ask how old your children are and if they have any interests – answer these questions because we have some pretty awesome secrets that might just be the highlight to their entire trip!
Like what parties are happening where, where we saw that group of youngsters playing volleyball or where that ultimate selfie is going to be.
Maybe your child collects certain things from their travels, we may know where you can get it!
One of the best additions to your tour and something we find families tend to really appreciate is the ability for everyone to safely branch out and experience things they’ve wanted to do without time restrictions and trying to make everyone do that activity together – So giving recommendations on accommodation that gives you that freedom to choose a variety of activities within the same area that isn’t limited to a set number of people.
Our four top highlights for families are:
Volunteering – Getting your hands dirty with a project is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll face together as a family, whether it’s visiting a school and helping paint a classroom, joining a football match or contributing a variety of school materials – Learning about the differences between the education systems can be an intriguing in sight to how your childs education differs from someone elses of the same age.Or maybe joining in one the Wildlife rehabilitation projects, learning about the conservation work going on in Malawi and helping with the animals can be a very humbling and rewarding way to give back to a country.
Adrenaline based – This can be light walks and bike rides to hiking, horse riding etc. This is where the mountains and plateaus of Malawi are well equipped. Places like Mulanje Mountain for those who’d like to focus a bit more on the hiking aspect, swim in the waterfalls, sleep in the mountain huts and stand on top of the world! Or maybe Thyolo for gentle strolls and bike rides through sprawling tea estates, how about Zomba for a wider variety of activities with horse riding, walking, hiking, cycling and a heap of colonial history to sink your teeth into!
I know when I was a child I'd have to write up interesting points from my holidays and if your child needs to do the same for school then slotting in a bit of history will be a fantastic addition to their school report, especially from Malawi!
A Safari – Liwonde or Majete are perfect! And it’s best to stay somewhere that has a variety of activities to choose from, like walks, drives and even boating safaris!
Though many places are open to the wildlife coming in and out of camp, they’re very geared up to the safety of you and your children. Worried about younger ones? We can always suggest lodges and hotels that are close by but outside the reserve itself.
These two game reserves are both big 5 reserves and heavily involved in the growth of the conservation of Malawi, perfect first safaris for children with the ability to get out and soak in some of the smaller aspects to nature that are often overlooked but exceptionally fascinating.
Cape Maclear – Now we say Cape Maclear instead of “The Lake” because cape Maclear has the widest variety of activities available on the lake – it’s a destination that suits every age of person and child, this segment is really what you make it, hiking, swimming, islands, camping, lodges, boat trips, scuba diving, outreach programs, parties and bars, restaurants!
Spend the entire time lying by a swimming pool with book and an iced cold drink or there’s enough to do to keep you busy for a solid three days!
So these four highlights are surprisingly all within maximum of 4 hours drive between each other! And that’s one of the biggest draws to Malawi because you don’t have to be here for two months, spend every single penny you have and visit several different countries to get a perfectly all-rounded family vacation, it’s all right here.
Check out our next blog for travel options coming soon!