Cape Batis Batis capensis dimorpha, Malaŵi
The following operators are based in Malaŵi and run general wildlife safaris. Both have excellent local birding expertise and can arrange specialist birding itineraries:
Wilderness Safaris who manage Mvuu Camp in Liwonde Wildlife Reserve and Chinteche Lodge on the lakeshore near Nkhata Bay.
Heart of Africa Safaris who manage Chelinda Lodge on the Nyika Plateau (website not known at present) - PO Box 8, Lilongwe - Tel: +265 740 848 - Fax: +265 740 848.
Malawi Tourism has useful information about sites, accommodation, travel companies and car hire for anyone planning a trip to Malaŵi.
Internet The internet and email have made private trips to Malaŵi a lot more feasible but please be aware that many Malaŵi addresses will be accessed through unreliable phone lines so don't expect immediate replies and don't send large attachments without asking first.
Maps and navigation Road atlases are available from Stanfords. Maps are also available from bookshops in Malaŵi; official maps are excellent and available from the Department of Surveys in Lilongwe and Blantyre (check for details on arrival in Malawi). A GPS (Global Positioning System) can be very useful.
Public Transport Malaŵi public transport services connect most of the main regional towns and taxis are often a reasonably cheap way of reaching areas nearby. Hitch-hiking is acceptable, though lifts are normally paid for. Buses, some express, are good: trains are very slow and limited.
Driving Reaching many of the sites listed will require you to use your own vehicle. Malaŵi’s road network is not well developed away from the main north-south highway which is metalled: most other roads are gravel or dirt and you will be on these much of the time: excessive speed leads to a high risk of skidding; use of high-clearance vehicles is important. Especially in the wet season, mud is a real problem and some roads become impassable even for four-wheel drive vehicles. Driving at night is not recommended. A common problem in the early dry season when the grass is tall is engine overheating due to the radiator filling up with grass seeds. In such situations, ensure you remove seeds at regular intervals. Although supplies are reasonably widespread, it is worth carrying some extra fuel and a selection of spares and tools (including a tyre mending kit and pump): particularly when visiting more remote areas, it is advisable to travel with two vehicles.
Car hire price guide Champagne prices, beer quality!! High inflation will render any numbers out of date within weeks.
Camping Outside National Parks, it is generally possible to camp anywhere and Malaŵi abounds in beautiful, wild and remote areas that are perfect for camping. As always, where appropriate, it is advisable and polite to seek the permission of the local landowner or village head before doing so. A courteous explanation of the reasons for your visit will invariably grant you a warm welcome. If you intend to leave a camp or vehicle whilst you explore on foot, it is wise to leave somebody to act as a guard. Employing a full-time guard and helper on a trip into the bush is highly recommended. Local villagers are often keen to act as guides or porters if you choose to travel any distance on foot. Suitable payment should be negotiated, but not issued, before departure.
Safety issues encountered in Malaŵi are no different from those met in any other African country. Guidebooks, travel companies and the above websites provide much of the advice one needs, but six key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria, seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended. (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling). (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun too long. Ensure you use sun-block and drink plenty of water, and wear a hat. (4) the southern part of Lake Malaŵi is now heavily infested with Bilharzia and, sadly, no longer safe for swimming. (5) Malaŵi has a very high incidence of Aids. (6) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.