Months on from my trip to Malawi, certain moments ring so true in my memory I can almost trick myself that I’m back there.  I was on the September 2018 Women's Challenge trip.

Something I find interesting is that these stand-out memories aren’t necessarily the most obvious.  

Of course it was magnificent seeing an elephant for the first time, and reaching our mountain destination - both moments I’d imagined hundreds of times before I even left England - but so many of my strongest memories were of the more everyday moments.

In this blog, I share eight of them with you.  


1 - lunch with the entrepreneurs

Our first full day in Blantyre was in the skill-sharing workshops around Blantyre.  At lunchtime, everyone reconvened at The Responsible Safari Company’s Head Office, and we all walked to a nearby restaurant for food.

Under a corrugated roof held up by wooden poles, we sat around long tables eating grilled fish, chicken, vegetables, and rice.  We listened to what life is like as a female entrepreneur in one of the poorest countries in the world, and shared lessons learned so far that day.  There were gasps, laughter, and tears.

I think there’s something about sitting around a table which brings out some kind of ancient vulnerability and trust between people.  This bears true in my next highlight.

orbis blog 8 moments huntingdon


2 - dinner at Huntingdon House

The second evening is when I feel we, as a group of eight , really got to know each other.

In the opulence of Malawi’s first Fairtrade Tea Estate, we discussed a huge range of topics, sitting at the table long after dinner, under candelight, absentmindedly playing with the banana leaves spelling out the word ‘enjoy’ on the crisp tablecloth.  

Our frank conversations ranged from our families at home, to our difficulties enjoying luxury knowing the struggles of those we had met that morning, to our hopes for the mountain climb the next day.


If you’re more of a visual person, check out our Instagram Highlight - we documented our trip as best we could with the limited signal!


3 - washing at Chambe Hut

In a tiny stand-to hut, three thousand metres above sea level, after a day of hiking up rocky paths, I washed from a huge pot of water warmed by the hut keeper.  

The eye-level gap between the walls and the roof meant I could enjoy the view of the other mountain peaks all around. A refreshing mountain breeze drifted through and I could hear my teammates laughing and talking down by the river, which sparkled in the sunset.  

It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life - feeling thankful for my body, how it had overcome such a challenge, to get me into this most magnificent and isolated location.  So often as women we dislike our bodies, but at that moment all I felt was gratitude.

An hour later I would help our guides cook dinner, stirring soup over a fire.  Into the evening we would marvel at the clearest night sky any of us had seen, the Milky Way seeming to press down upon us, then retreat inside to stay warm by the fireplace and regale each other with ghost stories.


orbis blog 8 moments safari2

4 - sundown at Mvuu

Out on an evening safari, we’d caught our first glimpses of all sorts of creatures, including a magnificent elephant herd.  After enjoying an impromptu bar set up by our safari camp guide Patrick, we climbed back into the safari vehicle. Suddenly I became aware of just how dark it was; the sun had gone down so quickly.  

All around us were crocodiles, hippos and elephants - and we couldn’t see any of them!

5 - the drive to Makakola

We spent a good few hours on the road throughout our time in Malawi, but that drive to Makakola sticks out in my mind.  At times conversation flowed quickly, with bursts of laughter often prompted by our hilarious The Responsible Safari guide, Ron.  

At others, we sat in quiet reflection, contemplating the next part of our journey, watching the sun set below the dusty horizon.

orbis blog 8 moments drive

6 - listening to Joseph

Before dinner, Joseph from the community organisation CISER came to visit, to help us learn about Rainbow Hope Secondary School, where we’d be delivering workshops and helping out the next day.  We were so captivated by everything he had to say that we invited him to join us for dinner and kept learning.

Some of the projects had terrible backstories - women selling their bodies to afford to buy fish - but with the most encouraging outcomes.  Everyone was so inspired for the next day, and we stayed up late tweaking the plans for our workshops based on the up-to-date knowledge he’d given us.


7 - goodbyes on Mumbo

We had spent just over a week together, and very early one morning our group split in two - four were leaving to go back to England, and four of us were staying in Malawi a little longer.  It was one of the most emotional moments of my year, especially as my roommate Becca was going back to England. Everyone was in floods of tears!

I missed her and our other teammates so much, but was blessed with the opportunity to get to know the remaining women on the eco-island paradise of Mumbo Island even further.


orbis blog 8 moments mumbo

8 - returning to London

The most mind-boggling part of my trip was arriving back into Heathrow early in the morning.

Everything was so futuristic - just using the toilets was like being in a different world.

I stumbled into a coffee shop and ordered a drink which cost more than the average Malawian woman earns in a week.  I waited for my coach home, and mulled over the impact this trip had made on me.


Every departure with Orbis Expeditions has a different itinerary...

...but even the other women on my Women’s Challenge trip will have had alternative highlights.  

My guess would be that one of Zoe’s was playing with the children from the village on the outskirts of Liwonde National Park.

I know Becca, one of our lawyers, was struck by the difficulties faced by Malawian women when she and Zoe met with a human rights organisation on that first day of skill sharing.

Alice and Jane both stayed on in Malawi when the rest of us departed; Jane to mentor business owners, and Alice for a homestay.

At our reunion meet-up it was fascinating to hear about their additional experiences, as well as everyone else’s thoughts about our trip, given the time to reflect.  Of course we’ve discussed returning to Malawi and what we would like to achieve, but in the meantime we keep our friendships and memories alive over WhatsApp!

What life long memories could you make by journeying to Malawi?


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