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Malawi offers mountains, national parks and a vast array of wildlife. The crystal clear Lake Malawi is a top spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing. Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, is the shopper's heaven as its vibrant and bustling atmosphere begs the visitor to take advantage of the numerous shops, boutiques and markets.

Malawi gained independence from Britain in 1964. The people struggled for decades under the authoritarian rule of Hastings Banda until multiparty politics was introduced to the country in the 1990s. Today, the government of President Bingu wa Mutharika is fighting poverty and the Aids epidemic, which has already claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Malawians.

Malawi has a population of 13.6 million. The dominant language is English and the official language is Chichewa, a local language spoken primarily in the center of the country. Most Malawians are Christian, while some follow Islam and traditional faiths. Ethnic groups include the Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde. Malawi's many cultural traditions include oral storytelling, music and dance. Drums carved out of gourds or tree trunks along with rattlers, commonly referred to as ?maseches?, all play a vital role in creating music and enriching society.

Direct international flights from Europe and other African countries arrive in the capital city, Lilongwe. Within the country taxis provide are the easiest way to get around town. Privately owned buses run throughout the country and even into neighboring Tanzania. Boating is a very efficient and scenic method of getting around, as Lake Malawi runs almost the entire eastern length of the country. For travelers with a higher budget, but less time to see the country, airplanes can also be used to travel between urban centers.

Among the places to visit is the popular Liwonde National Park, which is filled with wildlife, including hippos and crocodiles. For relaxation, Le Meridian Capital Hotel in Lilongwe, peacefully situated on a hill, has a large swimming pool, tennis court and shops. The Zomba Plateau offers scenic hikes on Mount Mulanje and refuge can be found conveniently at the foot of the mountain at Le Meridien Ku Chawe Hotel. There resort offers horseback and bike riding trails and fishing outlets as well luxurious suites.