Sustainable Travel in Malawi

Malawi was once home to small groups of hunter gatherers, who were replaced by migrating groups of Bantu around the 10th century. By 1500 CE, they had established the Kingdom of Maravi that stretched from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in what is now Zambia. British colonization arrived in 1891. Nyasaland, as it was known, became an independent nation under Queen Elizabeth II in 1964 with the new name Malawi. It was followed two years later by independence. It remains one of the least developed in Africa but has a rich diversity of flora and fauna with nine national parks and wildlife reserves. The big five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino) are still found here as well as varieties of antelope and some of the smaller cats such as caracal and serval. Malawi’s birdwatching potential is stunning with some 650 species recorded, with more than ten percent found nowhere else in southern Africa. A staggering 600 plus species of fish live in Lake Malawi, which occupies about a third of the country. The lake’s long stretches of uncrowded sandy lakeshore support a wide array of year-round water sports from scuba diving, to kayaking, to parasailing. The country’s heritage is reflected in its cultural traditions and folk arts that include basketry and carving traditional masks, some of which are still used in traditional ceremonies. As one of Africa’s smallest countries, Malawi is also one of its least visited, which means it offers much of the richness of other southern Africa destinations without the crowds.

What are they doing right?

With its warm and friendly people, and a diversity of landscapes centered around the vast Lake Malawi, this tiny Africa country is fondly referred to as “the warm heart of Africa.” When it comes to sustainable tourism development, the government remains in the early stages of tourism planning that is focused on conservation and cultural heritage preservation. Recognizing the potential of tourism, but increasingly understanding that it must be developed with care, the country hopes to learn from its neighbors and to implement a sustainable tourism strategy that broadly benefits Malawi’s people and protects its natural and cultural assets. With the launch of a 2020 Tourism Development Plan, the country has embarked on growing the tourism sector while also aiming to protect natural resources and benefit local people through community-based development programs.

The Elephant Ranking

Elephant StarElephant Star

The destination recognizes sustainability as being important and have embarked on establishing sustainable tourism practices.

In Southwest Malawai, Majete was a refuge for wildlife refuge until the late 1990s. Most big game, including elephant, had been wiped out through illegal poaching and habitat destruction. A few species remained but were found in very low, even critical, numbers. In 2003, African Parks Majete (APM), a non-profit organization, in partnership with the Malawian government and local communities, took on responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of the reserve. Major infrastructure development included miles of electrified perimeter fence, roads, water holes, scout camps, fence camps, wildlife restocking and an overhaul of the law enforcement and scientific monitoring. By 2012, more than 2,500 animals had been reintroduced including leopard, elephant, buffalo, black rhino and lion. Eland, sable, waterbuck, nyala, hartebeest, impala, zebra, warthog and bush pig were also brought in. APM has also engaged with local communities to develop positive working relationships as well as helping them to generate much needed income. The park is now home to some 4,000 animals. Majete Wildlife Reserve continues to be restored and is now a popular reserve.

Why the Elephant Ranking?