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Fam Trip: 5 Days Exploring Southern Malawi

“Traveling is brutal. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it” – Cesare Pavese

This is the best description of how our journey out of the office was during our 5-day trip to Southern Malawi in April 2023. We had an incredible time immersing ourselves in the firsthand experiences of what our clients experienced during their trips to Malawi. Our journey was filled with exhilaration as we ventured across various districts and switched accommodations daily. Let’s begin with the departure from Lilongwe on a chilly Sunday morning, where our adventure truly took off.

Day 1: Lake Malawi National Park; Makokola Retreat

We set off from Lilongwe around 9 am, with our sights set on Mangochi. Initially, we were optimistic and anticipated reaching Mangochi just in time for lunch, but with the beauty of travelling comes an unknown extra adventure. Little did we know about the breathtaking spectacle that would unfold, causing a delay in our journey (totally worth it). 

Our first stop came just a few kilometres after passing through Dedza town. It was here that Dedza Mountain presented us with an awe-inspiring panoramic view. It was an exquisite sight adorned with lush vegetation, clearly brought on by the recent rains.

Descending the winding road that led us from Dedza Kirk Range to the base as we made our way to the lake, we admired the remarkable weather transitions. One moment we were bundling up in the mountain chill and within 30 minutes, we were adapting to the heat again, more so once we reached our destination, The Makokola Retreat

We arrived at the Makokola Retreat around 4 pm, feeling a profound sense of relief after a day of extensive travel. Despite our exhaustion, our anticipation grew as we set foot on the grounds of this remarkable state-of-the-art property nestled within one of the local villages. Makokola Retreat captivated us with its stunning beaches, beautifully pruned gardens, and culinary experience that delighted our taste buds. The meals served here were nothing short of delicious, adding to the charm of this extraordinary place.

Makokola Retreat attracts a variety of travellers. It offers a romantic setting for couples seeking an intimate getaway, provides an ideal destination for memorable family trips, and acts as an escape for those yearning for adventure. Regardless of your purpose for visiting, Makokola Retreat promises an exceptional experience that will leave a lasting impression on you.

makokola retreat

Day 2: Zomba; Kefi Café Hotel

We had a wonderful morning, basking in the sun and enjoying the cool breeze from the calm waters of Lake Malawi before we were due to check out and head to our next spot on the tour, Zomba.

Zomba holds historical and cultural significance and was once the capital of Malawi during the colonial era. One of the remarkable aspects of the Zomba Plateau is its rich vegetation. The plateau is covered in lush forests, dense woodlands, and vibrant flora, creating a picturesque landscape. The plateau is also home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, antelopes, and various bird species. Exploring the trails and pathways on the plateau provides opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting, adding to the allure of the area. 

At the base of the mountain, you come across Kefi Café Hotel, a place that you will fall in love with at first glance. This hotel has maintained the overwhelming rustic feel and is a perfect place to end a busy day. The sound of small waterfalls from the stream which comes in from the mountain gives a continuous melody that allows you to fall into a deep and peaceful sleep. Kefi Café Hotel not only allows you to experience the beauty of Zomba but also offers a serene and rejuvenating retreat. It is a place where you can truly appreciate the natural wonders and embrace nature.

Zomba is a captivating destination for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those seeking a tranquil retreat.

kefi hotel cafe

Day 3: Thyolo; Thyolo House & Blantyre; Game Haven 

We headed off reasonably early as we had a quick stop en route to Game Haven, which would be our third destination stay on our itinerary.

Our first stop for the day was Thyolo House, a 5 Bedroomed house managed by the ever so charming, Flavia. The house is surrounded by tall trees and its walls are covered with climbing flowers. The charming ambience created by the surrounding vegetation adds to the overall appeal of the house. One of the unique features of Thyolo House is the painting room, which we had the opportunity to catch a quick glimpse of. It was an absolute treat to witness Flavia’s artistic talent. The fact that all the paintings in the house are her own creations adds a personal and artistic touch to the space, making it even more special and memorable.

After the tour, we were treated to a mouth-watering lunch. The delectable food further enhanced our experience at Thyolo House, leaving a lasting impression.

After lunch, we left for Game Haven. As we made our way towards Game Haven, we enjoyed the changing landscapes and the opportunity to witness the natural beauty of Malawi. The journey itself can be an adventure, with scenic drives and the anticipation of reaching our destination.

Game Haven, known for its wildlife and natural surroundings, is a must-stop on your itinerary when visiting Southern Malawi. Not only does the lodge offer game drives and guided walks, but it also allows any traveller to witness the incredible wildlife and immerse themselves in the African wilderness, just outside a main city. We enjoyed a drive at Game Haven shortly after checking in, which was a fantastic way to end our long day.

game haven zebras

Day 4: Satemwa Tea Estate; Huntingdon House

It was another early start for us, lots to do and see on this trip! We travelled to Satemwa Tea Estate, it was here we popped into Huntingdon House. Huntingdon House, with its opulent and gorgeous interiors, offers a touch of luxury in the midst of the tea estate. The fact that it has only five rooms adds to its exclusivity and creates an intimate atmosphere. Being personally guided by the owner, Anette, she provided valuable insights and a deeper appreciation for the history and beauty of the house and estate.

After the house tour, we had the opportunity to visit the paddocks for a tea-picking lesson. Engaging in the tea-picking process firsthand is a unique and immersive experience. Learning about the intricacies and techniques involved in harvesting tea allows you to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the tea-making process. We finished off with a sip of Tea and coffee, which was the perfect way to conclude our visit. Huntingdon House is considered a perfect destination for honeymooners, as it offers a blend of elegance, tranquillity, and a chance to immerse oneself in the beauty of tea production.

picking tea leaves satemwa tea estate

Day 5: Majete Wildlife Reserve; Thawale Lodge

After our visit to the tea estate, we hopped back in the car and headed for Majete Wildlife Reserve, our last destination on our Fam trip. The landscapes within Majete Wildlife Reserve are equally awe-inspiring. From vast grasslands and woodlands to riverbanks and rocky outcrops, the reserve showcases the diverse beauty of Malawi’s natural environment. We arrived mid-afternoon and during check-in, we got a pleasant encounter, a large male Elephant made an appearance, the perfect way to start our safari stay. 

Upon arrival at Thawale Lodge, we had a quick minute to pop into our rooms and refresh before heading out on an evening game drive. We stopped for a bush sundowner at the riverbank of the majestic Shire River which was a truly magical moment. Enjoying a refreshing drink while surrounded by the untamed beauty of nature, with the vibrant colours of the sunset painting the sky. 

We continued the game drive, wanting to observe the behaviours of nocturnal animals. While the team was able to spot an owl, the nature of wildlife sightings can be unpredictable, and sometimes certain animals remain elusive. 

After we had some dinner, we sat in the lounge area, recounting the encounters we had experienced, as well as the journey as a whole. We find that late-night discussions provide an opportunity to share insights, exchange stories, and cherish the moments spent together during a trip.

We were up early the following morning as it was time to head back to Lilongwe and it is quite the drive. We came across fresh lion prints on the way to breakfast, which was quite exhilarating. Knowing that the glorious king of the jungle was close by set off a little adrenaline rush. Would we or wouldn’t we get that encounter, sadly we missed them altogether, but it just shows timing in the bush is everything!

view from dedza

Final Thoughts

Overall, our Southern Malawi trip went extremely well, and the itinerary gives such a mix of what Malawi has to offer.

If you wish to be mesmerised by Malawi’s charm and want to embark on an extraordinary adventure that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime, then we at Crafted Africa, confidently accept the challenge to build an itinerary that will be packed with history, sandy shores, safari, and relaxation. Let us be your guide in discovering the remarkable beauty and allure of this remarkable destination.

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