A trip through Malawi, which is still unknown even to experienced Africa fans, usually begins in the capital Lilongwe. Many flights from Europe have a stopover at the African hub Addis Ababa in Athiopia. For the first relaxing night after the long journey, special accommodations are already available in Lilongwe, before the round trip through the versatile Malawi begins. After all, Lake Malawi, the highlands with tea and coffee plantations as well as several national parks with a great variety of species including the African Big Five are waiting for the visitors.
Kumbali Country Lodge
The owners of the lodge, Guy and Maureen Pickering, started a dairy on the Kumbali Estate in Malawi in the early 1990s. At the same time, the South African couple gradually built a luxurious African-style lodge. Kumbali Lodge opened in 2004 and means out of sight. The 5-star hotel is a hideaway and capital hotel in one. Kumbali Country Lodge is located on a 650-acre estate just ten minutes from Lilongwe city center and 25 minutes from Kamuzu International Airport. The lodge has 16 thatched and African-style suites with private verandas overlooking the sprawling garden. The most famous guest at Kumbali Country Lodge is pop icon Madonna. Madonna has stayed in her favorite suite a total of 11 times during her stays in Lilongwe. The reason for her regular trips to Malawi are her social commitment in the country and her four children adopted in Malawi. Madonna’s preference for Kumbali, however, does not mean that a house that hosts megastars also charges mega prices. Overnight rates for the high-end lodge are 200 euros per night.
The heart of the resort is the main house, which is also thatched. The house, which has a large veranda and views of the garden with ancient trees, houses the restaurant and bar. The cuisine is good and offers fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm’s large kitchen garden. Typical dishes like the corn porridge Nsima or the Chambo fish are not on the menu, but the kitchen of the Country Lodge is flexible. On request, they are happy to cater to guests’ wishes. Upstairs, private dining for up to 16 guests can be booked for special occasions. Services offered include airport transfers, car rental and sightseeing tours, as well as general advice and assistance during your stay in Malawi.
The wooded grounds of Kumbali Estate are suitable for walking, jogging or bird watching. Agricultural activities include corn cultivation and banana farming. Excursions to the capital city of Lilongwe or to the Unesco World Heritage site of Chongoni, with important rock paintings, the oldest of which are estimated to be 2,500 years old, can be arranged upon request.
When the corona pandemic broke out in 2020, the future of the popular Kumbali Country Lodge first looked bleak. The Pickerings’ latest project, Nature’s Gift Bananas Farm, dates from that time. Bananas are a popular food in Malawi, but a virus wiped out the entire crop in the country in 2016. In just a few years, the Pickerings’ banana farm grew from a manageable 18 banana trees to more than 60,000 plants today, and has become a showcase project that reduces dependence on imports, creates local jobs and shares knowledge about sustainable farming. Guests at Kumbali Country Lodge can book a tour of the banana plantation with the farm’s horticulturist and learn a lot about the popular fruit.
Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe
The Ufulu Gardens hotel with attached conference center is a quiet oasis in the middle of the capital. When Victor Gondwe’s parents bought the large property in District 43 in 1987, they had no idea what was to become of the land with its diverse tree population. It took almost ten years before the construction of Ufulu Gardens began. Time enough in which it became clear that in Malawi’s growing capital, trees are something special and worth protecting. Almost all of the vegetation was integrated into the park-like grounds of the hotel and conference center.
Each of the rooms at Ufulu Gardens opens onto the garden. The restaurant serves a hearty breakfast, which is included in the room rate of about 90 euros. Ufulu Gardens also offers preparation of local dishes such as nsima and chambo upon request. The hotel is located between downtown and Kamuzu International Airport. Ufulu Gardens is a good starting point or ending point for a trip through Malawi.
All reports about Malawi, which is also called the Warm Heart of Africa, can be found here. The landlocked country in Southeast Africa is still considered an insider tip for Africa travelers. In regional comparison Malawi is a safe and peaceful country. The country’s landscape is dominated by Lake Malawi, the tenth largest lake in the world. In the total of five national parks, successful wildlife management has been practiced for several years and biodiversity has increased enormously. Nevertheless, the population of Malawi suffers from poverty. A controlled growth of tourism creates income opportunities also in rural areas and improves the livelihood of families. More information about tourism in Malawi.
The research trip was supported in Malawi by the Ministry of Tourism