Travelers looking for deeper experiences are urged to explore Africa’s emerging destinations – a pair of hidden gems set in the continent’s southeast corner: Malawi and Zimbabwe.
In 2010, Lonely Planet named Malawi the friendliest country in Africa and one of the top three friendliest countries in the world. Reason? “…Its rare (for Africa) cohesion of the country’s ethnic group….and the people’s propensity to welcome you into their homes as well as their nation.” Malawi’s tag line, “The Warm Heart of Africa” affirms the geniality of Malawians as does their broad smiles.
Beyond its friendly people, Malawi is a joyful mix of bush and beach, wildlife and culture, in a manageable, minute-sized, pro-Western country dominated by Lake Malawi. When Scottish explorer David Livingstone first saw the sparkling, crystal-clear lake, he dubbed it Lake of Stars, but at 365 miles long, 52 miles wide and one mile deep, it’s also called—can you guess? Yep, Calendar Lake.
Next year, slip into Livingstone’s boots on his 200th birthday with Robin Pope Safaris‘ “In the Footsteps of Livingstone” package. Trek through the miombo-woodland of Majete, now a Big Five wildlife reserve, and enjoy bush comfort at Mkulumadzi. Then, take off the boots for some barefoot luxury at Pumulani resort, where you can see the stars of Lake Malawi—in the sparkling water and, thanks to the resort’s electronic telescope, in the luminous African night sky.
A must-see: Mua Mission and Kungoni Art Centre, showcasing Malawi’s complex, colorful and artistic history and set in a fragrant botanical garden. The museum is a storehouse of photographs, text panels, and displays of objects from Malawian culture. Of special interest are the masks of the Gule Wamkulu, ‘great dance’ of the secret societies of the Chewa people, declared a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’ by UNESCO.
After a decade of difficulties, changes are afoot in Zimbabwe – yes, it’s now safe to travel to. We’re also happy to say that its economy is on the upswing, especially since it now has the US dollar as its currency. Bonus: US citizens do not need visas!
Aside from safety and convenience for the average American, a safari here is like no other. On any kind of safari, your guide will make or break your experience with his knowledge and experience. So, it is a comfort to know that Zimbabwe has always had the best guides with the continent’s most stringent regulations to gain a guiding license – this will bring your safari to a whole new level (see the endangered wild dog up close at Vundu Camp).
The parks here have not been visited for some time now, and are waiting to be explored once again (notably, Hwange National Park, Mana Pools National Park and Matusadona National Park). And, the main attraction is, of course, VICTORIA FALLS! Remember, Zimbabwe has the best view of the Falls, one of the world’s Seven Natural Wonders. If your adrenaline isn’t already pumping, try one of the highest bungee jumps on the planet that drops from a bridge over the Zambezi River. Then hop on over to the town of Victoria Falls, which has become a thriving area (Photo credit: Ilala Lodge, which is just a 10-minute walk from the Falls).
Chris McIntyre, managing director of Expert Africa explains, “Over the last three years, we have seen more people travel here, more tour operators following our lead and more locals welcoming the renewal of tourism. By supporting small, independent camps, we believe we help improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.” (Check out the company’s Klipspringer Safari in Zimbabwe.)