Volunteering in Malawi

The Warm Heart of Africa is a cliche which is hard to ignore in Malawi. Its home to some of the friendliest, most joyful people in Africa, despite their often extreme poverty. This laid-back, landlocked country is the proud host to an unparalleled blend of magnificent blue waters, rolling landscapes, lush forests and abundant wildlife.

It is Malawi’s variety of attractions that is its greatest asset. Whilst Lake Malawi dominates the country, this is not a country of a singular attraction. It is the mixture of beautiful landscapes, fascinating wildlife, the alluring Lake Malawi, and rich culture that combine to make this small country such a wonderful place to visit.

The Malawian people are, without doubt, its greatest asset: friendly and welcoming to a fault. Every visitor is met with a smile and the warmth of the welcome is genuine and long-lasting. Alongside a number of places of particular cultural and historical interest, and all travel will include some element of cultural experience as interaction with local people is very much part of any stay.

Tourists usually leave the hustle and bustle of the city and head straight for the misty heights of Mount Mulanje or to the Nyika National Park where they find sheer escarpments, dramatic peaks, endless rolling grassland and some of the most enjoyable hiking routes in the whole of Africa.

Malawi lies within the Great African Rift Valley, with the famous Lake Malawi as its centerpiece. Scottish explorer David Livingstone called Lake Malawi ‘the lake of the stars’ because of how the lantern lights from fishermen’s boats resembled the night sky. It is impossible to visit Malawi without being drawn to the lake, a peaceful inland freshwater sea with stunning sandy beaches. Known also as the Calendar Lake, it stretches 360 miles long and 52 miles wide, covering nearly a quarter of the country. Lake Malawi boasts breathtakingly clear waters, palm trimmed, sandy beaches and a huge variety of over 600 species of fish, unequalled anywhere else in the world.

Freshwater diving and snorkelling are excellent year round and Malawi is one of the cheapest places in the world to learn to scuba dive. It has nine National Parks which are some of Africa’s most visually stunning areas of genuine wilderness.

Malawi is one of the world’s least-developed and most densely populated countries with a per capita income of around $1 per day. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas and the entire economy depends on agriculture. However, the poverty rate in Malawi is decreasing through the work of the government and supporting NGOs and there is a strong economic focus on controlling population growth and improving education and access to healthcare.

Take a look at some of our most popular volunteer programmes in Malawi on the right hand side of the page.

Quick Facts

Population: 16.4 million
Capital: Lilongwe
Currency: Kwacha
Language:Chichewa is the official and most commonly spoken language in Malawi but English is also used in business and in the government.

Time difference: GMT +2
Telephone: country code + 265, international access code 00
Main airports: Kamuzu International Airport (LLW) (also called Lilongwe International Airport)

Hello - Moni
Goodbye - Tsalani Bwino
How are you? - Muli bwanji?
What is your name? - Dzina lanu ndani?
My name is … - Dzina langa ndi….
I come from…. - Ndikuchokera ku….
How old are you? - Uli ndi zaka zingati? (To child)
Excuse me - Zikomo
How much? - Mumagulitsa bwanji?
How much is this? - Bwanji ichi?
Thank you - Zikomo

Tiyeni! - Let’s go!

Weather and Climate
Malawi's climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south of the country and temperate in the northern highlands. The altitude moderates what would otherwise be an equatorial climate.

Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. After March, the rainfall rapidly diminishes and from May to September wet mists float from the highlands into the plateaus, with almost no rainfall during these months.


The earliest human settlements in Malawi date back to 50,000-60,000 years ago, according to ancient rock paintings found outside the capital,Lilongwe.

The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Missionary and explorer David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) in 1859 and identified the Shire Highlands south of the lake as an area suitable for European settlement. As the result of Livingstone's visit, several Anglican and Presbyterian missions were established in the area in the 1860s and 1870s, the African Lakes Company Limited was established in 1878 to set up a trade and transport concern working closely with the missions, and a small mission and trading settlement was established at Blantyre in 1876 and a British Consul took up residence there in 1883.

The area was colonised as Nyasaland by the British in 1891 and in 1953 it became part of the semi-independent Central African Federation (CAF) consisting of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and in 1964, Nyasaland gained full independence and was renamed Malawi. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until the first multi-party election in 1994. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government with a pro-Western foreign policy.

Travel Hotspots

Malawi is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. “Discovered” by David Livingstone, this inland sea is a scenic wonderland which provides water sports activities for the thrill-seekers as well as stunning sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving. Fishing villages are dotted around the lake shore and between these are long stretches of uninhabited, golden sand, lapped by crtytal clear waters. Enjoy kayaking, sailing and water-skiing or go join local fishermen in a traditional canoe. Relaxing at one of the lodges at Monkey Bay is a definite must for visitors to Malawi!

The best wildlife viewing is in Liwonde National Park in the South of the country wich is home to elephants and the countries largest populations of the endangered black rhino. Visitors to Malawi’s nine National Parks will enjoy unspoilt scenery and an abundance of animals, especially hippos!

Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe is a bustling African city with two distinct parts - the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, a traditional African settlement and the Capital City, with gleaming modern building set in spacious gardens. Both are well worth a visit especially for street food and unique souvenirs.

To the west of the Lake is the Central African Plateau which is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, rugged unspoilt wilderness areas and evergreen forests. >

Getting to Malawi

Malawi has one international airport, the Kamuzu International Airport (LLW), which is also called Lilongwe International Airport, and is located just north of Lilongwe. There are regular flights to this airport from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Zambia and British Airways flies directly to Malawi itself from the UK.


Volunteer in Malawi


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