Volunteering in Malawi
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.
Volunteer in Malawi and live 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 October 2022:
Requirements for tourists to enter Malawi:
- Fully vaccinated travellers do not require a PCR test to enter Malawi. You should have received full dose of a WHO-approved vaccine, no less than 14 days prior to your travel.
- Those volunteers aged 12 and over who are not fully vaccinated will need to bring with them a negative PCR test, no more than 72 hours old at your time of your arrival into Malawi.
- Vaccination certificates must be electronically verifiable and PCR test certificates must be uploaded to the Trusted Travel online system. Click here for the guide to using the TT system.
- On arrival you will need to complete a health declaration – you can find a copy here: it’s worth printing one out beforehand and completing it.
- Unvaccinated travellers should check the entry requirements for their departure for Namibia as some destination countries may require a PCR test for unvaccinated visitors.
More information on entry into Malawi can be found here.
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
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