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Driving Directions Malawi

MALAWI lies along the southern and western shores of the third-largest lake in Africa, Lake Malawi. Tanzania and Zambia bound it to the north and northwest and Mozambique to the south and east.

This narrow country is only a little over 800 kilometers or 496 miles long and up to 160 kilometers or 99 miles to its fullest. It was formerly the British colony of Nyasaland (“Land of the Lake”) and was named by the 19th-century explorer David Livingstone.

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Its geography is dominated by Lake Malawi, which straddles the eastern border with Tanzania and Mozambique. The Shire River flows through a valley to the south of the lake, overlooked by wooded, towering mountains.

In general, it is moving from south to north – the landscape changes from the plateau to the mountains. Malawi can boast most of the larger animal species found elsewhere in Africa as well as an abundance of birds, reptiles, and insects.

The tropical climate has a dry season from May to October and a wet season for the remaining months. Malawi has a mainly agricultural economy, and many Malawians live off their crops. Exports include tea grown on the terraced hillsides in the south and tobacco grown on the central plateau, plus peanuts, sugar, and maize.

Lake Malawi supports a growing fishing industry. The country has bauxite and coal deposits, but mining is limited due to the inaccessibility of their locations.

Hydroelectricity is now used for the manufacturing industry, but imports of manufactured goods remain high. Malawi’s diverse landscape and an enormous variety of wildlife have made it a popular tourist destination, but it remains one of the world’s poorest countries.

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A complex geologic history has contributed to forming a landscape of great diversity in elevations and relief features. Floodplains, marshes, hills, plateaus, escarpments, and mountains range from a few hundred feet above sea level in the Shire River’s lower valley to more than 2,590 meters (8,500 feet) in several widely separated sections of the country.

Malawi is landlocked. Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa), one of the largest and deepest lakes globally, extends from north to south for more than 563 kilometers (350 miles), occupying the floor of a major southern segment of the East African Rift Valley system. Lake Chilwa is a complex of lakes and marshes in the southwest that has no outlet to the sea. Shallow and saline are subject to seasonal variations in water level and have numerous islands, two permanently inhabited.

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