Surrounded by much larger African countries renowned for their safari credentials, Malawi hides a surprisingly diverse landscape, packed with unspoiled national parks. Malawi’s narrow area of land runs alongside the massive Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. This shimmering channel of water – formed by the Great Rift Valley – is home to schools of rainbow-coloured cichlid fish and a myriad of bird species. Spend a day at the lake as you’d like, from diving and snorkelling to kayaking or relaxing on the beaches of Cape Maclear. The lake feeds into the smaller Lake Malombe and the Shire River, which is flanked by Liwonde National Park. Take a half-hour boat safari up the river to spot elephants, rhinos, hippos and crocodiles sunbathing on the river banks. Follow the Shire down to Blantyre, the country’s second biggest city, which is also within reach of some fantastic scenery. Take a Jeep tour in Majete National Park for more wildlife sightings, or climb Mount Mulanje, the tallest of Malawi’s three peaks to the east. Most hotels and guesthouses can be found in the Malawi capital of Lilongwe – a city which takes pride in its eco-friendly outlook – while lodges, retreats and budget hostels are more common along Lake Malawi’s shores.