Malawi - Safari and beach

6 posts in this topic

Hi guys,


There`s suddenly a possibility for a safari next year at the end of june or start of july. Since this is a birthday present for my girlfriend, It`s a safari and beach (Lake Malawi) option. We only have 7-8 days. Would probably need to fly in to Lilongwe.

Does anyone have any tips for a safari that meets those criteria. I want a proper safari before going to the beach, it seems my best option is either Majete or going into South Luangwa, Zambia and then Lake Malawi. Afraid that the distances between those will eat away at our trip.


Any suggestions and tips? Tryning to find something at good value. Not to break the bank ;)


Best regards,


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Posted (edited)

Hi @ronhalv,


We were in Malawi at the start of June and although ours was a 2 week trip you could easily do a safari/beach trip in your 7-8 days (does this include your international flights?).  Our itinerary was:

Day 1: Arrive Lilongwe airport & light-aircraft transfer to Nkhotakota (Bua River Lodge - 2 nights).

Day 3: Transfer to Salima Bay (Livingstonia Hotel 1 night).

Day 4: Transfer to Mumbo Island (3 nights). 

Day 7: Transfer to Liwonde NP (Mvuu camp for 3 nights).

Day 10: Transfer to Zomba Plateau (Zomba Forest Lodge for 2 nights). 

Day 12: Transfer to Majete Wildlife Reserve (Thawale Lodge for 3 nights).

Day 15: Transfer to Blantyre airport for international flight home


The trip was "not without incident" and we're currently "in discussion" with our TO so I'm going to have to confine my thoughts a little:


Bua River Lodge – Beautiful setting on the banks of the river, right in the elephant translocation area. Many elephant but not much more wildlife, very nice walks both up & downstream of the lodge.

Livingstonia Hotel - On a nice beach, rather faded colonial era hotel that seems to be the R&R centre for the US Embassy. Very windy when we were there so "red flag" was up ie no swimming.

Mumbo Island - ~7km offshore in Lake Malawi.  Idyllic, ideal for relaxation, swimming (certificated Bilharzia free), snorkelling, kayaking, and easy walking over trails round the island.  Beautiful sunset boat trips round the island. Excellent food.

Mvuu camp – very nice camp & a great guide. Game drives, boat trips and bush walk.  Lots of Elephant and other wildlife but no "apex predators" although cheetah have just been re-introduced.

Zomba Forest Lodge – really nice owners, very comfortable & good food.

Thawale Lodge – nice camp & a very good guide. Lots of wildlife coming to drink at the waterhole just in front of the lodge & tents and out on the game drives. Boat trips not as good as Liwonde, mainly due to the speed of the river.


If I was to pick two places then there is little between Liwonde & Majete whilst Mumbo is stunning. Photo's from the trip are up on my Flickr page so you can get an idea on what you could expect.


ps Ethiopian Airlines fly a loop from Addis to Lilongwe to Blantyre to Addis so you don't necessarily have to route through Lilongwe (though if you fly into Blantyre & out of Lilongwe you will be sitting on the plane whilst passengers disembark/embark on both legs). 

Edited by AfricIan
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Thanks very much for your reply :) 

I looked at your pictures, no doubt I would love to do a 14 days safari;) I guess we could do a 7 day safari at max. Then go directly to the airport when we come back.

I think we will try to do 3 days safri and 3 days cap malawi. I think we are thinking about 3 different choices. Liwonde, majete or South Luangwa (Zambia). Have seen quite a few offers to do the safari in Zambia and then beach at Cape Malawi. It doesn`t seem to be further away than Majete. If we are going to Majete I have seen many great reviews on Thawala Lodge, seems to be amazing value for money :)Mumbo Island is now also on my radar :) seems beautiful!! What was the temperature in the water like? being winter and all?.


Seems I have a lot of thinking to do. We will probably fly in with Ethiopan like you say, but I`m going to order business tickets with bonus point. Se we have to be a bit flexible: I don`t know If I could for example arrive in Blantyre and leave from Lilongwe, or the other way around. Still sorting that out. Seems that if I get the plane tickets sorted first, I can plan the safari and beach in peace and quiet. That`s the fun part actually ;) Love looking at lodges and planning! Just hope this will come correct now, my search has really opened my mind about Malawi :) Seems like an amazing place!


Thanks again for your info :) Will check more now!!


best regards,


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Thanks fine @ronhalv, happy planning.

If it helps, back in 2014 for our trip to the Kafue, Zambia I enquired about adding on a few days on Lake Malawi & quickly discounted it when I got the prices!  It might be less from South Luangwa but certainly from the Kafue it was a very expensive add-on.


I think you could do a nice 7 day combo to the lake & either Liwonde or Majete - Mvuu camp was very good and on their "international guest" package you get 3 activities a day so out first thing in the morning, back for breakfast, out again until lunch then out again mid-afternoon getting back in the dark.  Thawale only offer 2 activities in their package but they do have the waterhole in front of camp and whilst the Lodge itself was fine, the impression we got was that it was running on minimal stock levels for everything - they didn’t have any tonic for the sundowner Gin & Tonic and only had red wine on one night (no white at all any time we were there) but that really is nit-picking as we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. 


I can't recommend Mumbo highly enough - although the water strikes a bit chilly when you first get in, it's fine after that and we were snorkelling until we "got wrinkly" rather than cold.  The water was beautifully clear and there were always lots of very colourful cichlids swimming round us.


Both Mumbo & Mvuu are listed with CAWS so you might get a good combo deal :rolleyes:

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@ronhalv I haven’t been to Malawi recently but I have been there a couple of times the first time was a Malawi-Zambia safari and the second time was a Zambia-Malawi safari. On the first trip I flew from the airstrip at Chelinda in Nyika NP down to Mzuzu in Malawi and then over the border onto Mfuwe in South Luangwa, the next time I flew from Lukuzi airstrip to Mfuwe and then on to Mzuzu. On each occasion it was necessary to go through Mzuzu in order to clear customs and immigration, but going via Mzuzu was in part because I was visiting Nyika NP which is in the north of Malawi. I’ve not spent any time at Lake Malawi so I don’t really know the Lake but I presume you meant Cape Maclear as it is at the south end of the Lake as is Mumbo Island I would guess if you were travelling to or from this area to Zambia then you’d go via Lilongwe. From the map the distance looks fairly similar so it wouldn’t be too long a flight, but when you take into account transferring to and from the airport/airstrip it’s taking a chunk of time out of your trip as well adding a good deal of additional cost. The transfer from Malawi to Zambia camp to camp will take at least half a day, so flying both ways is effectively taking a whole day out of your safari  If I’ve understood correctly and you can only do 7 days on the ground then I would stay in Malawi and do either Majete or Liwonde and then the Lake. I’ve only been to the latter park and that was before some of the recent developments in Liwonde. Liwonde has the advantage of being closer to the Lake and also to Lilongwe so if you were both arriving and departing from Lilongwe it could make sense to choose Liwonde. Majete on the other hand is close Blantyre so if you were arriving there that might make more sense. But I can’t really advice on either park to the extent that @AfricIan can. I was really just commenting to say that in the time available it’s not worth the time or money to visit South Luangwa in my opinion. If you were doing a two week trip then this would be worth considering, although there’s enough to do in Malawi to occupy you for a couple of weeks without having to include Zambia as well, particularly given the restoration of Majete and developments in Nkhotakota. 

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@ronhalv Back in 2000 I flew from Mfuwe in South Luangwa to Lilongwe and the flight took 50 mins but I think you're getting sound advice from @AfricIan & @inyathi to stay in Malawi for the week.


@AfricIan I smiled at your description of the Livingstonia Hotel - it had that aura of faded grandeur back in 2000!

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