Malawi holiday with teenagers: five must-do things
Planning a family holiday with teenagers? Malawi might just be the answer.
Malawi guest writer
21 Nov 2022
22 Mar 2023
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Your kids are finally old enough for that adventurous holiday you’ve been dreaming of, but their eye-rolling skills have reached top tier. Family holidays will always hold an important place in your memories for years to come and that’s why you want to make sure that you’re choosing an exciting and engaging destination for every member of your little clan - and a Malawi holiday might just be what you need.
This tiny nation holds so many surprises and is perfect for a varied and unique trip away for the whole family. Its diversity opens itself up to thousands of activities that can’t be done in one holiday anywhere else and promises a fantastic experience.
Here are a few ideas to keep your teens stimulated on your holiday to Malawi:
1. Walking safari Majete Wildlife Reserve
A Malawi safari is an activity that can be enjoyed as a whole family. Make your way to one of Malawi’s exceptional national parks such as Majete Widlife Reserve in the south of Malawi, and home to the Big 5. Immersing yourself in the wilderness and witnessing the wild creatures within is a memorable and breathtaking experience for any person, young or old.
For your teens that want to stretch those legs and are looking for something that will get the adrenaline going a little, a walking safari is an amazing way to see the park and wildlife. Geared with an experienced guide and an armed ranger, trek through the bush looking for all game, big and small. Learn how to track the wildlife, identify animal behaviour and stop to smell and taste things in the bush along the way. Majete walking safaris can be done by Robin Pope’s Mkulumadzi, and African Parks’ Thawale Tented Lodge.
2. Hike Mount Mulanje
After your adventure in the bush, it’s time to take things up a notch in terms of altitude. Lace-up those boots and set off for the summit of Mount Mulanje.
The highest peak, Sapitwa, sits at 3,002m high, making for a challenging, but manageable few days on the mountain. Scramble over, around and even under rocks to reach stunning peaks, pools, waterfalls, and eventually the summit for an unbelievable sunrise view over southern Malawi.
You will stay in rustic mountain huts along the way, and your personal cook will make sure you’ve got the energy you need to make it to the top with hot tasty meals. Enjoy stories from your Malawian guide about the local myths and legends that surround Mulanje and the spirits that wander the massif.
If the idea of making it to the top is a bit daunting, there are numerous different routes throughout the Mulanje Massif which will take you to some of the smaller, but equally beautiful peaks. You can make it up to Sapitwa in 3 days but we suggest a 4-day trek so that you don’t feel rushed and can make detours to some of the pools and waterfalls along the way. Stay overnight before or after your trek at Likhubula Forest Lodge, or experience the beauty of the tea estates just an hour away at Huntingdon House or Lujeri Tea Estate.
Mount Mulanje is an ideal addition to your family holiday for your fit, young teenagers; immersing them in nature and getting their bodies moving.
3. Helicopter flight Liwonde National Park
Back down to ground level, next make your way to Liwonde National Park, only to be swiftly returned to the sky. Another of Malawi’s fantastic national parks, Liwonde is home to lion, cheetah, wild dog, black rhino, elephant, buffalo, hippos, crocodiles, bush pigs, sable, kudu, and endless waterbuck, as well as a notable selection of birdlife which has twitchers coming from far and wide to find the Narina trogon, Böhm’s bee-eater, collared palm thrush and the African pitta. Like Majete, the park is managed by the amazing conservationists African Parks, who offer visitors the opportunity to see Liwonde from above.
From just $200 per person, you can be taken up into the skies above for a tour of the park in their action helicopter. The helicopter is primarily used in the day-to-day protection and management of the park, to detect and catch poachers, perform animal relocations, survey and patrol, repair boundary fences, conduct veterinary work and more.
During your flight, you will be given a speech about the park’s history, African Parks’ involvement, the conservation and community struggles and successes, and of course spot some wildlife from above. Instil in your teen's respect for nature and the importance of the conservation of the world’s animals and wild spaces, as well as the crucial support for the communities surrounding the park. Swooping down over the mighty Shire River and over the Borassus Palm trees to scan the open plains and delight in the thickly forested areas is a once in a lifetime experience that your kids will be Tik Tok-ing about for days. You and your youngsters can enjoy this experience while staying at Robin Pope’s Kuthengo Camp, or Central African Wilderness Safaris’ Mvuu Lodge and Mvuu Camp.
4. Have fun on Lake Malawi
You’ve come all the way to Africa and you’ve done your fair share of safari so far, and boy is it starting to get warm! Time for a cool down in clear blue waters and some relaxation on a sandy beach at the magnificent jewel that is Lake Malawi. Not many countries in the world can offer a stellar Big 5 safari experience and a luxurious afternoon on the beach all in one day.
Lake Malawi is the fourth largest fresh-water lake in the world by volume and despite the fresh water and the fact that it is beautifully calm, you would be convinced it was the ocean with no sign of land stretching past the horizon.
Several lake lodges offer fantastic activities, but none more suited to teens than the Makokola Retreat. They offer… snorkeling, sailing, waterskiing, speedboating, Wake-Snake, kayaks, round tubes, island excursions, as well as a myriad of land-based activities like golf, squash, beach volleyball, bird watching, 5-a-side soccer in a floodlit field, cultural and historical encounters, tennis on a floodlit court, plus day trips. If they can’t find something to keep them well occupied here then there’s no hope!
If your teens are game for a more rustic experience, venture out to the remote island of Mumbo just off Cape Maclear bay. Enjoy the barefoot lifestyle and a digital detox here with hikes on the island, snorkelling, scuba diving and kayaking on offer too.
Stay at the budget-friendly Mgoza Lodge and make the most of the swimming pool and kayaks there too. Make sure to venture into the local village to explore the craft markets and get to know the locals. There may even be a football (soccer) match going on in the village which, if your kids are keen, they would be happily welcomed to join in a game!
5. E-bike Likoma Island
If you’re looking to explore further and want a different perspective of the Lake, make your way up to the fabulous Likoma Island. Stretching a mere 18 km2 and located just a few kilometres from the Mozambican coastline is this special piece of land. Claimed as Malawian territory, Likoma island is a fantastic spot for you and the family to enjoy some downtime, learn a little history, connect with the culture and enjoy a number of great activities. Kaya Mawa lodge offers an array of fun watersports to engage your kiddos, from sailing lazer boats to paddleboards and kayaks, from fishing to waterskiing and wakeboarding, plus snorkelling and PADI scuba diving to explore the underwater world and its colourful inhabitants.
A wonderful land-based activity to do is to take out the lodge's electric bicycles and explore the town and island, getting to know the local residents. Be sure to pay a visit to St Peter’s Cathedral, an important reminder of the sad history of the island which was host to a major centre along the slave trade route for Swahili-Arab traders. The cathedral was erected by David Livingstone’s missionaries who came to the island to end the slave trade here and bring Christianity to the people. St Peter’s cathedral was completed in 1905 and is the third largest church in Africa, measuring up to Great Britain’s Winchester Cathedral.
These experiences for your teenagers are most likely far from their usual day-to-day lives, and that’s what holidays are all about right? Use this time as a family to reconnect, laugh, make memories and have as much fun as possible, all the while exposing your growing children to an adventure of cultural and natural exploration. Moments like these will help to shape them into worldly people with a greater understanding of the planet and humanity. Drag them away from that social media, leave the PlayStation at home and enjoy an incredible and diverse Malawian holiday with your family that won’t disappoint.