1. Hey David! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Malawi?
My name is David Hoffmann, a Miami native who’s addicted to traveling, eating and new experiences around the globe.
Davidsbeenhere.com is an online resource for people seeking portable and practical advice in the form of guides, blog posts, pictures and video. I began the company in 2007 and have traveled to over 600 cities throughout 45 countries. It is a website for those seeking helpful information and a little inspiration.
My experience traveling in Malawi was unlike any other that I have had in the past. Africa is a diverse continent, but what sets Malawi apart is its culture and customs.
2. What made you choose Malawi and what were your first impressions?
Honestly, the Malawi Tourism Board was very open to the possibility of me visiting the country to promote it. I had the opportunity to go and I took it. This summer I flew South African Airways (SAA) Miami – New York – Johannesburg – Lilongwe. Travel time was long (30 hours) but once I arrived and met my driver, I knew my trip was going to be a blast. The jet lag, however, was rough for the first couple of days.
3. How much money can someone travel around Malawi for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
The most costly aspect of traveling to any African country is getting there. SAA is an incredible airline that flies to over 26 countries worldwide. SAA prices are competitive, but will set you back approximately $2,500 – $3,000 USD for a round trip ticket per person. But since SAA is part of the Star Alliance, you can use your miles toward the purchase of your ticket. The second-largest cost is hotels. If you are looking to stay in a 4 to 5-star hotel, be prepared to spend anywhere from $100 to $350 per night. Prices could go up from there, depending on the excursions and safaris you want to do. There are, however, seasonal deals that you could take advantage of for most hotels, and the majority of rates include some or all meals. Local food is cheap, but isn’t very appealing. Shopping, however, is very cheap. Check out my blog for more information of Malawi’s markets and tips for bargaining.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?
Local cuisine is comprised of nshima- a ground corn meal (maize) paste that can also be prepared with cassava. Nshima has a gummy consistency and is eaten with salt, broth, dried fish and sometimes meat. It is not the tastiest of foods; in fact it has almost no taste at all. It is important to remember that Malawi is one of the poorest nations in Africa and corn is a crop that is relatively inexpensive for local farmers to grow. Thankfully, the hotels in Malawi have top-notch chefs cooking everything from savory meat pies and Italian risottos to Asian fusion dishes and classic French pastries. Plus, there is never a shortage of South African wine to accompany a meal.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Malawi and why?
Can’t miss activities include safaris at Nyika and Liwonde National Parks and at Majete Game Reserve, snorkeling in Lake Malawi National Park and shopping at the local craft markets. Malawi is a bird-watcher’s dream come true, especially at Liwonde National Park and around Lake Malawi.
Safari tours are a spectacular way to spend your time, whether in a car or on a river safari. Elephants, leopard, hyena, zebra, crocodiles, hippo, warthog, bushbuck, impala and several other animals call Malawi home. Bring your best camera and enjoy the nature of this country. Lake Malawi is the size of Belgium! It has over 2,000 species of colorful cichlid fish as well as majestic fish eagles and squawking cormorants. Visitors can snorkel among the cichlids, kayak around the tiny islands in the lake or just hang out by the shore. Other activities include sailing, diving and feeding fish eagles.
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
My absolute favorite experience has to be getting close to elephant herds in Majete Game Reserve. I watched as a herd crossed the river, which was something I thought I would never get the chance to see. My least favorite experience would have to be spending time in Lilongwe, the capital city. There is not much to do there and I would suggest spending a max of a couple of nights before heading somewhere else.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about Malawi? Why do you choose these things?
Africa is an immense place and each country is so different, so I try to write about the aspects that make it unique like its customs, history and gastronomy. Malawi is called the “Warm Heart of Africa” for a reason- the people there are genuinely friendly and welcoming.
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Malawi without?
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Malawi? What post had the most interest?
I have had a great deal of positive feedback about it and I expect for my Malawi travel guides to do well because it is an amazing country that’s not to be missed. The most frequent comment I hear is that nobody has really heard about Malawi other than the fact Madonna adopted a child from there. The post that had the most interest is the Preparing for Africa: Malawi Edition post. It provides practical advice on packing and preparing for travel to Malawi.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Malawi what would it be?
To bring an extra suitcase to bring home all the masks I bought.
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