About Malawi

Geographical Information

Malawi ElephantsMuch of Malawai lies within the Great Rift Valley of eastern Africa, with some of the most varied landscape in all Africa. The Great Rift Valley is the largest single geographical feature on earth. This geological formation bisects much of Africa from Egypt to Botswana and boasts an array of habitats and lush vegetation. Towering mountains with lush valley floors and enormous crystal-clear lakes are part of the landscape of Malawi.

Lake Malawi covers much of the land area and is sometimes referred to as an inland sea, with golden beaches and fish-rich waters. Lake Malawi drains into the Shire River which flows over 300 miles along the Rift Valley floor on its way to join the Zambezi River.

Malawi is also home to mountains such as the Mulanje, central Africa’s highest peak at over 10,000 feet.

Most international visitors arrive at Lilongwe, the capital, which is located in the central region of the country. It gives easy access to the rest of the country, including Lake Malawi.

The southern part of the country shows the greatest European influence and it is the region best known and most visited by those coming from overseas.

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History

Malawi PeopleWith a population of approximately 12 million, Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in this part of Africa. Most of the population is rural, living largely in traditional villages. Many of today’s Malawians are descendents of the Bantu people who moved across Africa and into Malawi for hundreds of years up to the fifteenth century.

The nineteenth century was one of turmoil, with intertribal conflicts and slave trading. The slave routes from Africa’s east coast to the interior crossed Lake Malawi. The great explorer-missionary David Livingstone helped put an end to slavery.

In 1889, Malawi became the British Central Africa Protectorate (later Nysaland). After World War II, pressure for independence grew and in 1963, Malawi became an independent nation. Dr. Hastings Banda was elected president for life and ruled until 1993 when Malawians voted for a multi-party democracy.

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Climate / Seasons

The following chart shows the average high and low temperatures for each month of the year for Lilongwe. The temperatures are shown in Fahrenheit.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
63/79 62/80 61/80 58/79 52/78 47/75 47/74 48/77 53/82 58/86 62/85 63/81

Average rainfall (inched). The following chart shows the average rainfall in inches for each month of the year in Lilongwe. These amounts will vary according to the year and location.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
8.70 7.70 5.90 1.90 0.40 0.10 0.10 0 0.10 0.50 3.20 8.00

Malawi’s tropical climate is moderated across much of the country by altitude. There are two seasons in Malawi. The dry season last from April through November and the wet season is from December through March. Even in the wet season, the rains are usually short-lived storms typical of the tropics.

Although May to October is often described as the ideal time to travel to Malawi, the rainy season is attractive for the display of orchids on Nyika Plateau, for birdwatching and seeing lush vegetation.

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Language

English is the official language of Malawi and is very widely spoken, particularly in main towns, but sometimes also in remote rural areas.

Chichewa is the common national tongue widely used throughout the country where, from 1968 until recently, it was the national language. Of the other languages spoken in Malawi, Tumbuka is spoken by about 500,000 people in the north, and Yao is spoken by about 600,000 people in the south.

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Other Resources

The Malawi Tourist Board offers more information at their web site.

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Safaris in Malawi

Click here for safaris to Malawi.