Tourism & Communications
Despite its poverty, Malawi has great natural wealth. Its biodiversity and pleasant climate make it an attractive tourist destination. Therefore the country's service sector is growing increasingly important to the economy.
A sailing challenge
Cape Maclear became the first freshwater National Park. It also plays host to the longest freshwater yachting race in the world. With a course over 500km, this is no easy sailing competition. And the mwera south-easterly winds can stir up some rough water as they are funnelled through the Great Rift Valley.
The greatest draw for tourists remains Lake Malawi, which provides stunning scenery, beaches and a range of snorkelling, scuba-diving and water-sport activities.
For the tourist who wants to see more of Malawi, travelling around is not always easy. The major routes linking the key towns and cities provide reasonable connections (though accident rates are high).
But many of the lesser and rural roads are not so well developed; only around half of the country’s roads are paved. During the rainy season, some routes are passable only in four-wheel-drive vehicles.
Private cars are a luxury in Malawi and most people travel by matola (small pickup trucks or vans) or on motorcycles. Large buses also run between the main cities, though these are often packed and usually quite slow. Small and medium-size buses provide faster transport. But with potholed roads and over-crowded vehicles, journeys aren’t always very comfortable.
In this video… Caroline and Joyce talk about how mobile phones have improved communications in Malawi. Keeping in touch with relatives is much easier. However, they say many school children get distracted by their phones, spending a lot of time browsing the internet.
Take to the water
Once again, Lake Malawi proves its value to the country, by offering an inexpensive means of transportation. Passenger and cargo boats operate along the lake, sailing to the main towns and ports and the Chipoka railway junction in the south.
The Shire River, which runs from Lake Malawi in the south of the country, is only partially navigable because of its rapids and shallow stretches.
There is still a serious shortage of telephone landlines in Malawi. However, communications are improving with microwave radio links and mobile networks.
Mobile services are growing, though they are still mainly limited to urban areas, with little coverage in remote parts of the country.