Malawi

Malawi really surprised me.  I suppose it shouldn’t have.  It’s known as “The Warm Heart of Africa” so what was I expecting?  It is exactly that, and nowhere more evident than in the people and their smiles, hospitality and the dancing!  Don’t even get me started on the dancing.

I went to Malawi to lead a Habitat for Humanity Global Village team to build two houses.  Our team of 12 built in Thanguli Village in the southern city of Mulanje.  I didn’t get to see much of Malawi’s capital city, Lilongwe, as we were only there for a couple of nights and on our way south.  However, I would recommend both hotels where I stayed for different reasons.  Our team stayed at the Kuka Lodge on both the first and last nights of our build.  It’s a gated hotel that is very private, comfortable, affordable and located in a residential neighborhood where many of the ambassadors reside.  The staff is also wonderful!

Onto Mulanje.  This is tea growing country, and as such there are opportunities to visit various tea estates in the area.  Think lush foliage on mountains and rolling hills and waterfalls.  If UNESCO approves status for Mt. Mulanje, Malawi will add a third jewel to its World Heritage crown.  During the dry season the landscape is more brown, but the hills remain green enough for one to appreciate its rugged beauty.  Mulanje isn’t very far from the commercial center of Blantyre, the county’s second largest city, and if you want to save yourself the six or seven hour drive from the capital, you can fly to Blantyre.  Our team helped to build two houses in the Thanguli Village.  We had an absolutely amazing experience.  I would also recommend the Kara O’Mula Lodge where we stayed.  Built into the mountain hillside, the ground of the lodge are beautiful and you can safely hike the area.  Again, the hospitality we received was wonderful.

After the build I planned an R&R to the most wonderful place on earth, if you ask me.  Yes, if I ever run away from home you’ll find me on Mumbo Island.  I had some help booking Mumbo and making arrangements for the ground transportation from my now friends from Kiboko Safaris.  On our last night in Lilongwe before heading to the airport, we stayed at the Kiboko Town Hotel.  This place is in the what feels like the center of the action.  It’s next to an open market so don’t be put off if you are approached by aggressive sellers or other beggars upon your arrival.  The hotel is safe, affordable and has an open air restaurant serving breakfast and lunch and a bar upstairs that’s open at night.

Mumbo is nothing short of spectacular.  All other eco-resorts and lodges should measure themselves against their standards.  Every structure was built without the use of cement and from locally sourced natural materials.  The entire place could be deconstructed and within one year’s time the landscape would look exactly as if nothing had ever been there.  There is no electricity.  Each night the staff place solar-powered lanterns to illuminate your rooms and the paths.  Although it is possible to connect to the outside world via cell phone, at Mumbo consider yourself off the grid.  Read my blog post for all the details.

On second thought, I hope you don’t read the post because then you won’t be tempted to go there and there will be more availability for ME and all my future trips!

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