In February I went on a business trip to Malawi Africa with a group sponsored by the Global Coalition Against Child Pneumonia. I saw firsthand what is being done to raise awareness of pneumonia and advocate for global action to protect against, effectively treat, and help prevent this deadly disease. While I was in there, I had the opportunity to visit the cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre.
Malawi is called the “Warm Heart of Africa.” The people are friendly and eager to help you any way they can. You will find that most people in the city speak English. In the more rural areas, it is harder to communicate but that doesn’t stop the people from wanting to connect with you.
The country of Malawi is landlocked and set among rolling hills and vast countryside. There are 9 National Parks and Animal Reserves in the area. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went there, but found that there were a lot of fun activities and places to visit. There is shopping, wild life reserves, game drives, dining, and site seeing trips. Most of my trip was spent touring different medical facilities for work, but we were still able to get out and see this beautiful county.
Two Cities to Visit in Malawi Africa
I stayed in Lilongwe and Blantyre while I was in Africa. Here are some highlights of each city:
Lilongwe is the capital city of Malawi. I associate Lilongwe with these 5 sites and activities:
1.) Lilongwe Natural Reserve: We were not able to visit this reserve but Malawi is known for its birds and beautiful vegetation. You can see by the picture above how green everything is right now. This is their rainy season. The average temperature while we were there was around 80 degrees.
2.) Lake Malawi: This lake is set around rolling hills. It stretches from the Northern tip of of the country to its Southern region. Some of the rarest tropical fish in the world are unique to this vast lake.
3.) Farmer Markets: We were able to walk the streets and shop at a local farmer market. The market offered many different goods from clothing, cell phone cards, blankets, linens, bags, backpacks, and live chickens. We walked across the river to the food market where fresh produce was in abundance. I have never seen such beautiful vegetables.
4.) Souvenir Shopping: I found that it was helpful to have small denominations of US currency, or Kwach, when shopping for souvenirs. Most stores and shops do not accept Visa. Many of the local people display their goods along the side of the street. They have figurines, paintings, furniture, and many other useful items for sale. Most of the locals prefer that you pay in US dollar.
5.) Dining: One of the best restaurants we ate at while we were in Lilongwe was a Chinese restaurant called the Green Bamboo Garden. Our group decided to all share a variety of entrees. One of my favorites was the spicy fish dish.
When I think about Blantyre I think of these 4 must see sites and activities:
1.) Rural Villages: One of the highlights of my trip was visiting the rural villages of Blantyre. We were there seeing how UNICEF and the Malawi Ministry of Health was providing pneumonia treatment to these resource-challenged areas. This was one of the few times we were able to communicate and talk with the Malawian people.
It touched me to see women, just like me, caring and taking preventative measures to make sure that their young children were able to get the medical care they needed.
2.) Majete Wildlife Preserve: We went on a game drive guided by a scout while we were in Blantyre at the Majete Wildlife preserve. This was a great way to experience the diverse terrain of the Great Rift Valley. On the drive we were able to see many different types of animals: elephants, a black rhino, buffalo, monkeys, and an impala. The reserve in 2003 was almost completely devoid of any animal life. It has taken 9 years of hard work to bring this park back from total extinction. Each year new animals are being added to the park. They recently brought in two leopards. It was extremely hot the day we went, so the animals were not as visible as we would have liked. This can change on any given day, so I would definitely add it to your must see list.
3.) Mount Malange: We drove from Lilongwe to Blantyre, which is about a 3 hour drive. This is a great way to see the the terrain of Malawi. We saw many different mountain ranges, landscapes, and villages. Malawi has 9 different National Parks and Wildlife Preserves. Evergreen forests are present from its plateaus.
4.) Set foot in Mosambiek: While we traveled from Lilongwe to Blantyre, we were able to jump out of our vehicle and stand in another country, Mosambiek. The country didn’t look that much different than Malawi, but it was fun to say that we were able to travel two countries in one day.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Crime is very low. I found the people to be very friendly, helpful and patient. My trip to Africa this time was for business, but I would not hesitate taking my family here for a vacation. I loved being able to learn about the landscape, culture, and the country’s health care system. It is a wonderful place to visit and I plan to return someday.
Where do you and your family like to go on vacation? Have you ever been to Africa, what part of Africa?
Photo Credit: Matthew Feldman, Research Associate for IVAC
Jill Greenlaw has a banking background. She gave that up 17 years ago when she got married and started having kids. She loved being a stay-at-home mom while raising her four beautiful children. A few years ago, Jill went back to work in sales. She is now working for the Mom It Forward team as their Community Manager. She loves her job. Her interests include camping, motorcycling, boating, photography, reading, cooking, and traveling. Put her in flip flops anywhere warm and she is happy.