Volunteer in Malawi
Language: Chichewa / English
Time: UTC +2
Responsible volunteering in Malawi
Malawi is known as The Warm Heart of Africa, and it is a name that is hard to ignore. Despite living in extreme poverty, Malawi is home to some of the friendliest, most warm-hearted and good-natured people in Africa. This laid-back, land-locked country is the proud host to an unparalleled blend of magnificent blue waters, rolling hills, lush forests and abundant wildlife.
Malawi is one of Africa’s least-developed and most densely populated countries, with a per capita income of just US$1 a day. This extreme poverty is bad news for Malawi’s animals, with wildlife crime, habitat loss and deforestation putting the nation’s wildlife and wilderness areas under immense pressure. Our volunteer programmes in Malawi are focused on the rescue and rehabilitation of the small animals suffering under the human-wildlife conflict, who are the unwitting victims of the illegal wildlife trade. Primates, in particular, suffer more than most and our sanctuary project in Malawi regularly takes in orphaned, injured and abandoned monkeys and baboons.
Whilst Lake Malawi, the Lake of Stars, dominates the country, Malawi is not home to just one single attraction. It is a mixture of beautiful landscapes and rich cultures, which combine to make this small country a wonderful place to visit.
At our projects in Malawi, volunteers and interns are based on a tranquil 450 acre wildlife reserve in the capital, Lilongwe. The sanctuary is home to almost 200 rescued animals, and the reserve itself is brimming with wildlife. In 2018, 126 rescues were performed, 220 animals were under rehabilitation, and 45 animals were released across Malawi.
The sanctuary was set up in 2007, is accredited by many international organisations, has exceptionally high standards of animal care and has won awards for its conservation work. Volunteers are exposed to wildlife “best practice” during their stay.
The sanctuary works to protect Malawi’s wildlife by helping wild animals in need, combatting wildlife crime and empowering guardians of the wild. The team focus their efforts on three key areas: Rescue & Research, Advocacy & Enforcement, and Environmental Education.
Our volunteer projects in Malawi:
Also read our related blog post 7 ways to choose an ethical wildlife sanctuary.
Malawi lies in the Great Rift Valley, with the famous Lake Malawi as its centrepiece. Scottish explorer David Livingstone dubbed it ‘the lake of stars’, and it is impossible to visit Malawi without being drawn to the lake, a peaceful inland freshwater sea with stunning sandy beaches.
Known as the Calendar Lake, it stretches 360 miles long and 52 miles wide, covering nearly a quarter of the country. Lake Malawi has breathtaking clear waters, palm-trimmed sandy beaches and more than 600 species of fish.
As human habitations expand and wilderness areas are destroyed for farming or housing, Malawi’s wildlife and biodiversity are sadly in fast decline. It is also the 10th poorest country in the world, where most people live on less than $1.50 per day.
Habitats are increasingly being lost to a fast-growing population putting increased pressure on natural resources, and the illegal bushmeat and pet trades are still common. The increasing human-wildlife conflict is putting the lives of Malawi’s wild animals at risk.
There are currently just under 200 animals in residence at the sanctuary, including primates, large and small carnivores, antelopes, reptiles and birds. Most of these were rescued as orphans, or were the victims of injuries. These sad cases arise from the illegal bushmeat and pet trades. snares, car accidents or even stoning by locals. Thanks to the state-of-the-art vet clinic, orphan care programme, experienced animal care team and dedicated volunteers, the majority of intakes can be managed on site.
In addition to wildlife rehabilitation, the Malawi Wildlife Sanctuary is the largest environmental education facility in the country and takes responsibility for community education very seriously. More than 30,000 local children visit the sanctuary every year to learn about the importance of caring for the wildlife around them.
Malawi’s 18 million inhabitants are of mixed ethnic groups, originally of Bantu origin, and the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’ nickname is due to the kind loving nature of the Malawian people. The Malawian people are without a doubt the country’s greatest asset – friendly and welcoming. Every visitor is met with a smile, and the warmth of the welcome is long-lasting. Cultural experiences and engagement with local people are a highlight of any visit to Malawi.
There is plenty to experience in Malawi, and we have selected some of the most interesting below. To add any of these to your volunteer itinerary, please get in touch.
Malawi is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, which provides the vast chasm that Lake Malawi fills. “Discovered” by David Livingstone, this inland sea is a scenic wonderland which provides water sports activities for the thrill-seekers as well as stunning sandy beaches, snorkelling and diving. Fishing villages are dotted around the lake shore and between these are long stretches of uninhabited, golden sand, lapped by crtytal clear waters. Enjoy kayaking, sailing and water-skiing or go join local fishermen in a traditional canoe. Relaxing at one of the lodges at Monkey Bay is a definite must for visitors to Malawi!
We also highly recommend a safari experience in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia – an unspoilt, lesser known park with some of Africa’s finest, least crowded wildlife viewing.
Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe is a bustling African city with two distinct parts – the hustle and bustle of the Old Town, a traditional African settlement and the Capital City, with gleaming modern building set in spacious gardens. Both are well worth a visit especially for street food and unique souvenirs.
To the west of the Lake is the Central African Plateau which is characterised by a series of dramatic escarpments, rugged unspoilt wilderness areas and evergreen forests.
To add any of these to your volunteer itinerary, please get in touch.
Updated March 17th 2020:
COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice – UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office
As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO (UK) advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice. More…
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The Malawi authorities have introduced a number of precautionary measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. All travellers arriving from the UK and other countries with significant number of infections will be asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days. Travellers who are unable to self-quarantine at home may be transferred to a local treatment facility for the self-quarantine period. Travellers are not permitted to self-isolate in a hotel or lodge.
Countries to which this applies to are: China, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Iran, US, South Korea, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, UK, Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Austria and Japan. This list is subject to change without notice.
For more information please visit the UK Foreign Office website, or the Malawian High Commission in your country of origin.
For the latest updates of countries affected by coronavirus and for any travel restrictions, please visit the following websites:
World Health Organisation daily situation updates
UK FCO Travel Updates – Malawi
CDC Traveler’s Health (USA) – Malawi
Thinking of travelling? Read our latest booking terms and conditions, to allow you peace of mind when planning your trip
Volunteer projects in Malawi
This animal care project is more than just a sanctuary, where volunteers get involved with all aspects of enrichment, rehabilitation, wildlife release and veterinary medicine. Live in the heart of Lilongwe on a tranquil 500 acre wildlife reserve, home to free-roaming wildlife as well as those within the sanctuary.
Work alongside wildlife vets on this veterinary internship programme, focused on small animal health. Veterinary interns assist with all aspects of clinical work, including examinations, trauma care, health checks and routine diagnostics. Get to grips with the wild side of veterinary science and enhance your practical skills, as you assist with the treatment of some unusual wild animals!