Admit it: you know very little about Malawi. It's not your fault, very few people do – and therein lies the charm of this exceptionally friendly African country. Not only is it home to some of the continent's most diverse landscapes, but it's pretty much only for those in the know (there's, like, no tourists). But if you do venture there the reward is oh so sweet. Especially if you hit up Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest lake, and the world's ninth largest. This crazy clear water is home to diving, snorkeling, beaches, islands and wildlife that ranges from hippos to baboons, warthogs to elephants. But there's so many more natural wonders to explore, and no-one knows more about them than medic student and photographer, Kazim Ghafoor. Let us take you on a journey, with both his expertise and images, to showcase this stunner of a country.
So, what brought you to Malawi in the first place?
I had organized a month long medical placement in a village in Malawi, as part of my medical degree. I chose Malawi for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to experience healthcare in a low-resource setting and understand the challenges faced in difficult environments. I’d also heard excellent things about Malawi; the hospitality of the people and the safety were definitely pull factors!
In what ways did the country differ from your expectations?
It differed in so many ways. From a photography perspective, I did very little research before arriving in Malawi. My preconceptions about the landscapes couldn’t have been more wrong. Knowing that Malawi was a land-locked country in sub-Saharan Africa, I expected harsh, barren and flat landscapes. Instead I was able to witness stunning mountainous peaks, gold sand beaches and vast, rich forests with a jungle-feel.
If travelers had just a few days in Malawi, where would you recommend visiting?
Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi is a MUST. It’s the perfect place to unwind and relax with great views, epic kayaking, bird-watching and some great restaurants and bars.
I’d highly recommend Zomba Plateau too (a mountain range in the south). I was captivated by the landscape — it felt like a mix of the Scottish Highlands and the forests of the Peak District in England, yet you’d occasionally spot samango or vervet monkeys.
If you have a few more days to spare, then you must head to Mount Mulanje, one of the highest peaks in southern Africa.
What would be your one tip for photographers hoping to get similarly beautiful landscape shots?
Shoot at sunrise and sunset (admittedly sunrise can be a struggle for me – I’m no morning person). At these times, the light is softest and most magical. I’d also say to just get out there and shoot as much as you can. Don’t look too much at what others are doing. Simply find your own style, continue learning and enjoy the journey!
As a photography enthusiast, where are you traveling next?
Tough question. I’m now a final-year medical student so my timetable doesn’t allow for much travelling. However, I get a solid break next summer so hopefully I’ll be able to tick off Indonesia; it looks out of this world! In the future, I’d love to visit NZ and also re-visit Pakistan too.
For more of Kazim's awe-inspiring work check out his Instagram account.
Note: Kazim adhered to local policy regarding photography of minors in Malawi.