Overlanding Lake Malawi: a week in the warm heart of Africa
Moving on from South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, Maggie and the team headed for Malawi. Malawi is nicknamed the ‘warm heart of Africa’ – and for good reason. Malawi is a beautiful country, with very warm and friendly people.
Driving Lake Malawi
We spent a week driving north along the shores of Lake Malawi, which is Africa’s third largest inland lake. The lake is akin to an ocean and white sandy beaches. You can swim in the lake (in areas that aren’t affected by bilharzia of course!), and because it’s a fresh water lake, swimming is like taking a refreshing bath.
Malawi is an absolute joy to overland – there are numerous campsites along the lake and national parks, which are reasonably priced and well prepared for backpackers and overlanders. Check out our journey and route below 🙂
An easy 1.5 hour drive from Lilongwe, our first stop was the stretch of beach south of Nkhotakota. We camped at the beautiful Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge, which also sells locally made pottery and offers classes. We took the opportunity to chill on the beach, but there is also the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve nearby, which for just $10 per person entry fee boasts lions, leopards, elephants and antelopes.
Camping at Nkhotakota, we met two amazing fellow overlanders from down under, driving a Land Rover Discovery along a similar route. Check out their journey: A Guy, a Girl and a Goat.
Heading north from Nkhotakota, we stopped at the Ngala Beach Lodge. This portion of the lake was surrounded by mountains and the views at sunset were stunning. From here, the friendly staff can take you on a guided hike through the hills to waterfalls and other spectacular viewpoints. But for us, we took another opportunity to relax on the beach!
A short drive up the shore from Ngala is the popular Chintcheche beach. Here, we camped at a quiet place called Sunga Moyo. This campsite was probably on the prettiest stretch of beach that we visited, surrounded by beautiful hills in the distance. And the campsite is lined with mango trees offering free breakfast and snacks 🙂
After five relaxed nights on the beach, we thought it was time to head into Malawi’s more mountainous terrain. We ascended the 10km, 4×4 only road up to the Mushroom Farm Lodge near Livingstonia, and it was well worth the perilous journey. Set on a cliff overlooking lake Malawi, Mushroom Farm is a social enterprise whose profits go to benefit the local community.
From here, you can arrange to take guided walks and hikes through the surrounding hills. On our second day, we hiked to the beautiful Manchewe Falls with a local guide.