Culture, sports & leisure
The diverse ethnic groups of Malawi contributes to the richness of its culture. Many different ethnic groups live in the country including the Chewa, Lomwe, Yao, Ngoni, Tumbuka, Sena, Tonga, Nkhonde, and others. Despite the existence of many ethnic communities, there is hardly any tension between these communities. English is the official language of Malawi. The distinct ethnic groups of the nation also speak their own indigenous languages.
The different tribes of Malawi have their own individual styles of music and representational dances. Common musical instruments include drums, rattles, shakers, mambilira, etc. The Gule Wamkulu is one of the most famous folk dances of the country. It is a ritual dance performed during special ceremonies like weddings, initiation ceremonies of boys into adulthood, etc. Vimbuza is an important dance for the Tumbuka people. It is used for healing and cleansing rituals and summoning spirits. Ingoma is a war dance of the Ngoni people and is performed on special occasions.
Malawi has a rich heritage of oral literature. It includes folktales and legends, myths, poetry, war stories, religious chants, etc., that have been passed from one generation to next by word of mouth. Written literature developed in the country much later.
A number of art and craft products are produced by Malawian artists and either sold to the tourists or utilized for other needs. Wood carving and pottery are two of the most common crafts produced in the country. Malawi’s indigenous ethnic groups also have a rich tradition of mask carving and basketry which are often used in traditional ceremonies. (Oil) paintings are also produced in urban centers.
Malawian society tends to be patriarchal in nature. Men rule society and usually head the households. Men are regarded as the breadwinners. Many households in Malawi tend to be of the extended nature. Several generations often live together. In general man and woman meet at church. After marriage the bride usually moves in with the groom’s family. Children are highly valued and the average woman bears five children. Infant mortality rates are high in the country due to widespread poverty and poor access to healthcare facilities. However the numbers declined rapidly from 62 to 37 of the 1000 babies the last decade due to better healthcare (aid). Primary school is mandated and 90% of the children attend (2018). However children are still taught to assist their parents in work from an early age.10 % of the primary school students go to high school..The literacy rate is lower among girls than boys.
You can play your own sports in Malawi. Golf (9-hole in Blantyre and one 18 hole in Lilongwe) swimming (hotel pools and Lake Malawi), kayaking, snorkling, diving, sailing (Lake Malawi), walking and running (anywhere) and (mountain)biking, climbing and hiking and tennis.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Malawi. It is played by boys at all levels from makeshift village play fields to prep school league competition. Malawi fields a national football team. The country's biggest success was a third place finish at the 1987 All-Africa Games.
Netball has long been a popular sport for schoolgirls. Malawi is a full member of the International Federation of Netball Associations, and is currently ranked sixth internationally. title of the 2012 Netball Africa Championship.
Basketball, volleyball, cross-country running, athletics, etc., have also received a lot of attention in Malawi.
So much to do. Take a stroll, just for the fun of it, to the market or just around town. Have a few drinks on the many nice terraces of restaurants or lodges. Drive or bicycle around, just anywhere in and out of town. Enjoy a great lunch, have a swim and go browsing at shops and craftsman. Plan a trip to hike, mountain climb, bird watch, watersport, scuba dive, golf or horse ride. Top it off with diner and drinks in the great restaurants and bars. Every day is Malawi day
Malawi's highland areas offer unrivalled opportunities for those wanting to explore the country on foot. Mount Mulanje and Zomba Plateau, in particular are favourites for hikers and mountain climbers alike. In some of the game parks, particularly the Nyika National Park, walking safaris are available under the protection of a game guard.
Rising up to 3,000 metres, Mount Mulanje is one of Malawi's most spectacular sights, with its highest peak being Sapitwa at 3,002 mtrs. The mountain covers an area of more than 1,000 sq km. On its slopes grow the Mulanje cedars. Deep gorges, impressive waterfalls and trout streams cut their paths from its heights, while in the lush foothills are tea plantations. The Chambe, west face direct, is claimed to be one of the longest rock climbs in Africa, offering 1675mtrs of roped climbing. There are a couple of regular routes climbed, starting at Likhubula Forestry Station these are the Skyline Path to Chambe Basis and the Lichenya Path to Lichenya Plateau.
Organising a hike up Mulanje is straightforward and is best organised from the base at Likhubula Forestry Station where you can book mountain huts and arrange porters and guides, who offer their services for a very reasonable price. There is no entrance fee and huts are very cheap. Camping is not allowed on the mountain; you will need to have a good sleeping bag and warm clothing as the nights can get quite cold.
A Guide to the Mulanje Massif is widely available in Blantyre and the Map Sales office sells an excellent map of the Massif. Rock climbers and hikers planning to use unusual routes are advised to contact the Mountain Club of Malawi in Blantyre.
Although Malawi is a small country, it has prolific bird life with over 500 species of bird to be found within the country. Most species breed in Malawi but some migrate from Europe and Asia to spend the rainy season in Malawi, with some species preferring to spend the dry months in other areas of Africa. November to January are the best months for birding enthusiasts. The rocky hills of the Lakeshore and Dowa and Dedza are the best spaces to spot birds of prey, including the black eagle, lanner and peregrine falcon.
In the lakeshore forest, the green coucal, blue-mantled crested flycatcher and red-caped robin can be seen. Monkey Bay and Salima are the best areas to spot the African Fish Eagle, golden and brown throated weavers, collared and mottled spine tails and the palm swift.
The Elephant Marsh located in the Shire Valley, southern Malawi is a haven for bird watchers with large numbers and great varieties to be found.
Other species found in the country include; Stierling's woodpecker, olive headed weaver, lesser seadcracker, hornbills, starlings, guinea fowl, cuckoo, bush-shrike, kingfishers, hoopoes, hamerkop, herons, bee eaters and many more.
Malawi may be landlocked but, for the angler, the Lake, together with a surprising variety of river conditions, makes the country a most rewarding destinations.
In Lake Malawi itself have evolved more than 400 species of fish, of which 95% are found nowhere else. The great majority are brilliantly coloured tropical aquarium fish, many of them types of cichlid or mbuna. The Lake also contains many kinds of game fish too - Tiger Fish, ncheni, and Lake Salmon, mpasa, an even doughtier fighter confined to the centre and north, providing some of the most exciting sport.
Around the river mouths near Salima and off Mbenje Island a little further north, two species of catfish, vundu and the delicious kampango, both regularly exceed 10kg.
On the upper Shire River many of the Lake fish are found, including sungwa, a type of perch, which here makes up in cunning what it concedes in weight to its Lake cousins. Just below the Kapichira Falls in Majete are numbers of ncheni up to 7kg, and lower down vundu up to 15kg and barbel up to 28kg swim up from the Zambezi.
The lakeside hotels are excellent centres for angling and boats can be arranged in advance. The fish in Lake Malawi have always been a major source of food for many local people but overfishing has become a major problem - fish like Chambo, once abundant, are now scarce and if caught, very small. The government is trying to restrict locals trawling for fish and educating them to respect breeding and growth periods.
Freshwater Trout fishing is a popular sport in the trout dams and streams of Zomba Plateau, Nyika Plateau and Mulanje Massif. The angling season is from September to May and visitors should bring their own rod and tackle. Locally made flies are available. You may need a fishing permit, check with Angling Society of Malawi .
The Lake provides ideal sailing conditions, with no tides or currents, and a fairly consistent south-easterly wind from February to October. This wind, known locally as the "Mwera", is strongest from August to September, and is replaced by a stronger, but less predictable northerly, the "Mpoto", between November and January. The calmest months are December to March but rough, windy weather can occur unexpectedly at any time. Sailing boats and dinghies are available for hire at selected Lodges and hotels.
The major event of the year, with quite an international following, is the challenging Lake Malawi Yacht Marathon, an eight-day, 560km race taking place in July.
With more than 500 different species of fish, warm, clear waters and safe conditions the lake is ideal for divers. Courses are available for beginners and equipment is available for hire for experienced divers. The most popular spots are Nkhata Bay on the northern lakeshore and Cape Maclear in the southern part of the lake. The best time of the year to dive is from August to December. Water temperatures vary from 22°C to 27°C and visibility ranges from 5 to 30 mtrs.
Golf is a popular pastime with the ex-patriots and locals and there is an excellent 18-hole golf course in Lilongwe with a club house and swimming pool. There are also 9-hole courses in Blantyre, Dedza, Limbe, Mzuzu, Zomba and at Kamuzu Academy. Caddies are available for hire and some places hire golf clubs. Some courses do have a dress code.
Various horse-riding safaris are on offer on the Nyika Plateau, an ideal way to explore the area as many parts are inaccessible to vehicles. There is also a Gymkhana club on Zomba plateau, and it is possible to arrange horse riding.