Malawi Safari - Complete Travel Guide

Wilderness untamed, lakes unspoiled and glistening, and orchids in stunningly full bloom. Amazing wildlife, spectacular birds and playful fish to top it all off. Malawi will surprise you will its enchanting atmosphere and friendly locals. Take in the sights, breathe in the essence of nature, and just enjoy it.

  • Best Time To Go

    May – September

  • Average Safari Cost

    $50 - $150 pp/day

  • Highlights

    The Big Five, the Black Rhino, scuba diving, the Shire River, Lake Malawi, large elephant and hippo populations.

Why Go On a Malawi Safari

Malawi may not be at the top of many travellers’ list of best places to go, but it offers great opportunities for all those willing to give it a chance. From camping in the wild, to fresh water scuba diving, there is a bit of something for everyone.

The Big Five, the beautiful roan and sable antelopes and the vibrant Lilian’s Lovebird, are only a few of wonderful sights. If you are looking to experience some rustic wilderness, take a trip to Nkhotakota, with its Miombo woodland and evergreen forest, or perhaps Liwonde’s Mopane woodland, baobabs and lagoons would be more to your liking. If you plan to visit in the rainy months of January or February, make sure you the visit the beautiful orchids that will be in full bloom in Viphya Plateau.

If you need more excitement, time your trip for June, when the winds are perfect for sailing or for September, the prime time for kayaking. Scuba diving is perfect in November, while October is filled with festivals that you can you lose yourself in.

Malawi offers beach parties and music festivals, coupled with a true wilderness experience, where you can spend a few nights being lulled by nature’s song, and spend your days with some of the world’s most beautiful (and dangerous) creatures.

Pros And Cons

We know that all safaris can come with challenges, and we hope to help you be prepared for almost anything.
  • The Big Five
  • Famous for scuba diving
  • Beautiful scenery and birdlife and wildlife is great
  • Visas can be purchased upon arrival
  • Low crime rate
  • Certain roads may become impassable during the rainy season.
  • The country is generally warm year-round and become uncomfortably humid.

Best Time To Go

Malawi has a warm subtropical climate, with a wet season and a dry season.

Wet season: November – April

Dry season: May – October

Malawi is deep into the rain season and humidity is over 80%. While the rain does clear the haze from the air, roads can be impassable. On the Viphya Plateau, orchids are in full bloom.
The wet season ends in April. While this is a terrible time for wildlife viewing, birdwatching is optimal with this being the end of the breeding season and with migratory birds present until the end of April.
As the dry season begins, temperatures and humidity becomes more bearable. Temperatures average 62,6°F - 80°F (17°C - 27°C), and winds can blow at up to 50km/h.
Humidity and temperatures start to rise again. This is the end of the dry season, and the best time to view wildlife. The average temperature is 77°F – 98,6°F (25°C - 37°C), and humidity is about 50%.
Early rains begin in November and becomes urgent storms by December. This time of the year is terrible for wildlife, but great for bird watching. While the rains seem to be starting later each year and be unpredictable, it usually lasts until April.
Start your Namibia Adventure

Wildlife And Birds

The wildlife population is quite abundant for such a small country. Large herds of elephant and hippo can be seen along river banks, and a large variety of antelope are present, include the roan and sable antelopes. Lions, leopards, rhino and buffalo complete the Big Five, and birding is great too, with special species such a Lilian’s Lovebird, Giant Kingfishers and the Fish Eagle.
List Of Animals
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Leopard
  • Buffalo
  • Hyena
  • Black Rhino

Rare Animals:

  • Aardvark
  • Cheetah
  • Caracal
  • African wildcat
  • Serval
  • Civet
  • Angolan genet
  • Rusty-spotted genet
  • Side-striped jackal
  • East African wild dog
  • Striped polecat
  • Speckle-throated otter
  • African clawless otter
  • Black rhino
  • Nyala
  • Red forest duiker
  • Roan antelope
  • Sable antelope

Infrequently Seen Animals:

  • Bushbaby
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Blue monkey
  • Brown hyena
  • Spotted hyena
  • Puku
  • Bushpig
  • Warthog
  • Sharpe’s grysbok
  • Steenbok
  • Kudu

Frequently Seen Animals:

  • Elephant
  • Vervet monkey
  • Yellow baboon
  • Chacma baboon
  • Angola colobus
  • Mongoose
  • Crawshay’s zebra
  • Lichenstein’s hartebeest
  • Blue wildebeest
  • Klipspringer
  • Oribi
  • Buffalo
  • Eland
  • Bushbuck
  • Blue duiker
  • Impala
  • Reedbuck
  • Waterbuck


Malawi is a great destination for birdwatching, with the rare Lilian’s Lovebird, Greater Sand-Plover, Dusky Lark and the Golden Pipit. The various habits make for a great variety of species, and don’t forget, the Eurasian migratory birds are present from November to April.

Endangered Birds:

  • African White-backed Vulture
  • African Skimmer
  • Basra Reed Warbler
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Blue Swallow
  • Corncrake
  • Denham’s Bustard
  • East Coast Akalat
  • Eurasian Curlew
  • Eurasian Peregrine Falcon
  • Great Snipe
  • Lappet-faced Vulture
  • Lesser Flamingo
  • Lesser Kestrel
  • Lilian’s Lovebird
  • Maccoa Duck
  • Madagascar Pond-heron
  • Olive-headed Weaver
  • Pallid Harrier
  • Shoebill Stork
  • Spotted Ground-thrush
  • Stierling’s Woodpecker
  • Taita Falcon
  • Thyolo Alethe
  • Wattled Crane
  • White-headed Vulture
  • White-winged Apalis
  • Yellow-throated Apalis

Rare Birds:

  • Northern Shoveler
  • Cape Teal
  • Northern Pintail
  • Tufted Duck
  • Maccoa Duck
  • Chestnut-headed Flufftail
  • Pacific Golden-Plover
  • Greater Sand-Plover
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Broadbilled Sandpiper
  • Common Snipe
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Black-winged Pratincole
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Sooty Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Madagascar Cuckoo
  • African Grass-Owl
  • Gray Kestrel
  • Sooty Falcon
  • African Hobby
  • Red-tailed Shrike
  • Dusky Lark
  • Greater Striped-Swallow
  • South African Swallow
  • Carp’s Tit
  • African Reed Warbler
  • Barred Warbler
  • White Wagtail
  • Golden Pipit

Getting There And Safety

Please take a look at the following information concerning travel to Malawi.

While there are no direct flights from the United States or Europe to Malawi, you can get their easily enough from South Africa, Kenya or Ethiopia.

If you are choosing to travel by land, a bus is preferable to a train or even to taking your own car. If you take your own car, you will require much more documentation than you would need for the bus. You will have to get a temporary important permit for your car, as well as third-party insurance – neither is very costly, but getting the paperwork can be an annoyance. You will also need the full registration documents of the car and your insurance document. It is much less complicated to travel by bus.

You can travel by bus from South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.


For the flights to Malawi, it is advised to check Skyscanner (for multiple destination flights), to see which airlines can take you to Malawi and their various ticket costs.

If you are based in the UK and Europe, check out these flights to Malawi.

If you are based in the USA and Canada, check out these flights to Malawi.


In most cases, foreign nationals will be a visa issued upon arrival at the land border or the airport.

Visa rates:

  • 7-day transit visa: $50
  • 1-month single-entry visa: $75
  • 6-month multiple-entry visa: $150
  • 12-month multiple-entry visa: $250

Applying for a visa in advance is surprisingly more expensive: $100 for a single-entry visa.

For more information about visa policy in Malawi see visa page on the Malawi High Commission's website.

Vaccinations and Malaria

The information below is meant to be used as a guide only and should not replace a professional medical opinion.


The malaria risk in Malawi is moderate, which means that you will need to speak to your doctor about appropriate preventative medication. Once you arrive in Malawi, try and wear long-sleeved clothing, even though the weather is quite warm (try wearing lightweight, breathable clothing). Make sure that you get a good insect repellent (30% DEET or more), for added protection. If, at any time during you stay, you will be sleeping outdoors, ensure that there is a net covering your sleeping area, to keep the mosquitoes away.


Beside malaria, the following vaccinations may also be needed. Please speak to a travel clinic or doctor to confirm the list below.

  • Hepatitis A
  • Typhois
  • Cholera
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rabies

Check your local travel health authority for more information:


Crime in Malawi is generally very low, as theft and such are against most Malawian’s personal values. However, while small villages are considered very safe, busy cities are prone to muggers and pickpockets. As with any country in the world, cities are hotspots for crime, as the continuous flood of people makes a thief’s work easier. Traveling at night through cities is also not advisable. If you are forced to travel at night, don’t walk – take a taxi.

We recommend that you ask locals for advice about crime hotspots and which areas to avoid. Try not to travel with unnecessary money and valuables. If you must wear jewellery, ensure that it is inconspicuous and not particularly expensive.

Generally, practice good sense and always remain cautious and alert. Do not place yourself, or those around in you, in compromising or dangerous situations.

Travel Insurance

Going on a safari in Africa comes with obvious risks. We recommend you get travel insurance for all safaris in Malawi. Make sure your insurance has full medical coverage, emergency air evacuation, repatriation and the standard travel insurance for cancellations, delays and luggage cover.

Check World Nomads’ travel insurance calculator to see the cost of your safari trip cover.

What To Pack

  • Passport and ID
  • Extra cell phone charger
  • Camera
  • Spare rechargeable batteries and charger
  • Waterproof backpack
  • Waterproof rain jacket, pants and hiking boots
  • Personal medication
  • Personal hygiene items
  • General clothing appropriate for the weather
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent (30% DEET or more)
  • Wide-brimmed sun hat
  • Trail/running shoes

For more details on what to pack see our Safari Packing List.

Drinking Water
In general, tap water is not safe to consume in Malawi. Bottled water is your safest bet overall. When visiting restaurants or other food establishments, enquire whether all water being used is bottled or has been boiled first.