Kate Webb of the Responsible Safari Company (http://www.responsiblesafaricompany.com/) has sent us the following overview of community tourism in Malawi:
When visiting any destination we should all be looking to travel more responsibly and visiting local communities is one way you can do this. Malawians are renowned for their warm welcome and with tourism still in it’s infancy it is still very easy to head off the tourist trail and experience rural Africa.
Many lodges along the lakeshore offer village walks and volunteering opportunities within their local communities. Two of the best places to stay and volunteer are Mayoka Village in Nkhata Bay and Cool Runnings in Senga Bay. Both lodges sustainably support local community initiatives and welcome volunteers who can help out for a day or longer. If you have your own vehicle it is well worth visiting Ntchisi Forest Lodge which works hand in hand with rural villages offering guests Malawian Cookery Lessons, After School Sports and Arts and Crafts activities. As well as their work with local communities they also help to protect the adjacent rainforest which is a beautiful area to spend a few days hiking.
To truly immerse yourself in Malawian culture a stay at Njobvu Village is an ideal stop before a safari at Liwonde National Park. The Village has been set up by community members and offers guests traditional food and accommodation in village style huts. Days are spent exploring the village and learning more about daily life before traditional evening meals are served around the campfire.
Eco-tourism day visits have been set up in Blantyre, Thyolo, Mulanje, Zomba, Mangochi and Cape Maclear to ensure the benefits of tourism reach local communities in these areas. This is a chance to interact with local Malawians, learn more about rural village life, cook Malawian food and join in some traditional dancing! Visits can range from 1 hr to overnight stays and longer skilled volunteer placements can also be arranged. All visits are run and managed by local community members supported by The Responsible Safari Company.
Guidelines for Visiting Community Projects in Malawi
Do make time to visit local communities, these experiences are often the most memorable of your time in Malawi.
Don’t hand out money direct to the community- this causes problems between community members and encourages a begging culture.
Do support local sustainable organisations, ensure your benefit is shared by the whole community
Don’t hand out sweets- dental healthcare is not accessible for most people in Malawi!
Do donate locally bought resources, pens, papers, books etc to local schools and projects.
Don’t take photographs without asking. Do email or send your pictures back to the community when you return home.
Do learn a few words of Chichewa, a smile and a local greeting will make you friends very quickly!
Do respect local customs by wearing conservative clothing when visiting local communities.
Do buy locally made handicrafts as this helps to support the local economy.
For more information about how you can get involved during your time in Malawi contact The Responsible Safari Company, based in Blantyre, Malawi. firstname.lastname@example.org. +265 (0)1602 407