I had the priviledge to visit Karonga district in the northern part of Malawi. I was fascinated at its beauty and the hidden tourist attraction sites it hosts. This is my account of the five months stay.
Karonga is one of the border districts of Malawi which shares boundary with Tanzania. It perches magnificently along the main topographic features of of the flat Rift Valley Plain along the lakeshore and hilly plateau zone on the western side and 210 Km away from Mzuzu city.
Nyika National Park is the main tourist attraction site in the district.
A little casual walk through the town can deny you the chance to dig the history of the district. Little is known that Karonga is rich in history possibly, more than any other district in Malawi. The incredible beauty of Karonga starts the moment you start descending Chiweta where waterfalls are common.
The irresistible scenic and calmly beauty that lies invitingly across all beach places in Karonga is hard to go away. The Lake provides clear water and is the source of famous chambo fish. Fishermen and swimmers will not resist to fall in love with the beautiful waters of Lake Malawi which covers almost twenty percent of the country. Some have referred to Lake Malawi as “The Lake of Stars” while others have called it the “Calendar Lake” because it spans across 365miles in length and 52miles in width. The third largest lake in Africa and thirteenth in the world, is the main source of income for people living along its shores. It has over one thousand species of fish under its waters.
Commonly caught fish in Karonga include: Chambo, Kampango, Mpasa, Usipa and Mbaba. Fresh fish is always sold at the lakeshore or in the main market square in town. Most fish sellers in Karonga are women who will always offer reasonable prices characterized with the usual “Warm Smile” from Malawi in order to enliven the Spirit of “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
Local fishermen use dug-out canoes for fishing.
Iron Age Site:
Mbande Hill plays home to iron age fragments or traces of Iron Age pottery which are believed to be more than half a thousand years old. The Hill is also know as the home of the first Nkhonde settlers. History of the site is immense and no wonder the Hill is deemed sacred by all Kyungus and Traditional leaders who enthrone their leaders on top of this Hill in respect of their fore fathers. This area was also home to Mlozi an Arab slave trader in the 1870’s. He imposed himself as the Sultan of Ngondeland.
The hot spring at Ulangwe is another site of attraction situated close to Mbande Hill. It is believed that this was a favourite spot where Mlozi, the slave trader, used to take a bath.
Ulaha Excavation Site:
The site is located at Ulaha near Chilumba in Karonga district. The site boasts of the the first discovery of the remains of human evolution. This is where the researchers discovered the remains of Homo Rudolfensis who is believed to be 2.5 million years old.
Malema Archeological Camp:
Situated 11Km south of Karonga Town is another site that plays host to different archeological discoveries that enrich the history of the district. A 2.5 million years old and robust pre-human Paranthropus Boisei was discovered here. The camp also provides best camping facilities for visitors or tourists. Although food and beverages are not available all round, a special arrangement to order them can always be made with authorities.
If one wants to explore the traits of History in Malawi then, he will not skip a walk into Karonga Museum. Sitting elegantly within the Town, the Museum's exhibition ranges from Dinosaurs to Democracy. Its main artifact is the Malawisaurus fossil skeleton. Dinosaurs were gigantic reptiles that walked and dwelled on land. They were laid eggs. History tells us that such an animal’s presence is traced back to 140 and 65 Million years ago.
In a bid to spice up your visit, Mbande Cafe situated adjacent to the Museum, serves the traditional foods such as the famous Mbalagha, sizzling chambo dish, tasty Kilombero Rice and of course, the usual nsima. According to inside information, occassionally, the Museum organizes traditional dances.
Chaminade Secondary School:
Karonga also hosts Chaminade Secondary School. It is a Mission School run by the Catholic Church. Famous for its outstanding performance in the “Top Of The Class Quiz Competition”, a radio quiz program, in the early 80’s and late 90’s Chaminade Secondary School has contributed a lot to the country’s education and development by producing students who have studied in most of the country’s constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. It fought a die-hard’s fight to survive the recent earthquakes which left some bruises marked on some of its classroom and hostel walls.
Buses and Minibuses operate between Mzuzu and Songwe Border. Bus companies operating between these towns include National Bus Company, Axa Bus Service, Malasha, and Super Sink. Soon Air Malawi will start flying into Karonga on commercial basis through Karonga Airport which also plays host to some International flights. The Airport only carters for daytime flights. Air ticket and hotel bookings, taxi hiring, can be done through Country Tours and Travel Agent which has established its base at Karonga Airport.
Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL), Zain Malawi and Telecom Networks Malawi (TNM) are the main service providers in the district as well as on national level. The introduction of GPRS and other Internet facilities has greatly improved communication in the district. Subscribers are free to register with any of these service providers depending on the nature of service needed. However, there are a few spots where you can access internet in Karonga. Some of the spots are Karonga Restaurant and Karonga Museum. Postal services are run by Malawi Posts Corporation which also runs Express Mail Service alongside other companies like Matrak, Pony, DHL, Skynet, FedEx etc.
Mostly spoken languages are Kyangonde and Tumbuka. Chichewa is also spoken in the district. Other languages have less impact. English is also entertained if you are a visitor to Karonga but most people are comfortable in their local language.