Mali is a sliver of a country, sandwiched between Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana and Mozambique. It may be one of Africa’s smallest countries, but it packs an incredible amount of diversity in its varied terrain, from forest reserves to dramatic mountain peaks. Its small size means it’s easy to travel too, made easier still by its reputation for hospitable and generous people. Looking to find out more about this niche holiday destination? Here a are few interesting facts about Malawi.
1. A fifth of Malawi is water
Lake Malawi is the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. It’s also the ninth largest lake in the world. Measuring 350 miles from its northern to the southern tip, Lake Malawi runs across the entire length of the country. The lake is so big that it amounts to about a third of Malawian territory.
The lake is also home to more species of fish than any other lake on the planet, including 850 different species of cichlid fish. That’s more species of fish than can be found in all of the freshwater bodies of Europe combined.
2. Malawi means ‘fire flames’
Malawi means fire flames, after the rising sun’s reflection over the waters of Lake Malawi. It originates from the Maravi Kingdom, which once straddled what is now the Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia border.
You’ll also hear Malawi described as “The Warm Heart of Africa”, due to the country’s kind and generous inhabitants.
3. It has a lot in common with Scotland
In the mid-19th century, the Scottish explorer, missionary and anti-slavery campaigner David Livingston first travelled across the region. The country’s second city, Blantyre, was ‘founded’ by the Scottish in 1876. It was named in honour of Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, the birthplace of David Livingston.
The similarities don’t stop with the name either. Blantyre boasts the same elevation as the Scottish Highlands, which explains why the settlers were drawn here. The occasional cool weather and altitude of 3,400 feet (1,000 metres) feels a little more Scottish than you’d expect…
4. And ties to Great Britain
Like much of Africa, Malawi was subjected to colonial rule from the mid-nineteenth century. The British protectorate was established in 1889 and it took on the formal name ‘Nyasaland’ in 1907. In 1964, Malawi became an independent country, then a republic two years later.
5. You can go on a safari
Issues with poaching and hunting were rife for decades, so Malawi wasn’t high on many people’s bucket-list safari destinations. Thanks to new conservation efforts, there are now four Malawian protected enclaves – Majete Wildlife Reserve, Mangochi Forest Reserve, Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
The Majete Wildlife Reserve is one of the best wildlife-watching destinations in the world. The reserve introduced over 2,500 animals in a ten year period, including the ‘Big 5’, as well as zebra, impala, hartebeest and giraffes.
6. It’s rich in rock art
Malawi is home to the richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa. You can find it throughout the country, but most are in central Malawi, close to the western border of Mozambique. The UNESCO-listed Chongoni Rock-Art Area, a cluster of forested granite hills covering 126.4 square kilometres, features 127 sites of rock art from the late Stone Age until the 20th century.
Most paintings can be attributed to two different groups – hunter-gathers and farmers. The images mostly consist of animals, anthropomorphic figures and geometric symbols. These also play an important role in ceremonies and rituals to this day.
7. Tobacco counts for a lot of its exports
Raw tobacco accounts for almost 70 % of Malawi’s exports, amounting to around $584 million. Tea accounts for $83.4 million while raw sugar accounts for $75.2 million. Belgium, United States, Egypt, South Africa and Germany import the most from Malawi.
Malawi is actually the continent’s second-largest tea producer, after Kenya. The history of tea stretches back to 1886, with the seeds from the Botanical Garden in Edinburgh Church of Scotland Mission in Blantyre. You can still see the ancestor of the original tea plantation in Mulanje today.
The top imports of Malawi include postage stamps, refined petroleum, packaged medicaments, chemical fertilizers and office machine parts, all mostly imported from South Africa, China, the UAE, India and the United Kingdom.