Gain incredible insight into key global challenges facing rural communities in Africa through immersive learning opportunities and challenge events
The Responsible Safari Company, set up by Dom and Kate Webb, is committed to sustainable development through social enterprise, reducing the dependence on the aid industry and driving tourism-generated income to rural communities through partnership.
Known as 'The Warm Heart of Africa', Malawi’s nickname doesn’t just come from the country’s landlocked position east of Zambia, north and west of Mozambique, and south of Tanzania, with whose citizens the people feel a kinship, but also the welcoming hosts’ friendliness and happiness, rated top in Africa!
In part for this reason, coupled with unique developmental challenges as one of the poorest countries on earth (171 out of 188 countries and territories on the Human Development Index), Dom and Kate Webb set up the Responsible Safari Company in 2008, and Orbis Expeditions, the UK-based branch, 5 years on.
RSC and Orbis Expeditions work in partnership with inspiring community initiatives offering immersive learning opportunities for individuals, students & businesses to gain an insight into the key global challenges facing rural communities in Africa.
Workshops take place in an environment which is hands-on and participatory, with practical subject matter including: Healthcare, Education, Environment, Climate Change, Water, Fair Trade, Sustainable Agriculture and Local Economic Development.
Be an Earth Changer:
Visit Malawi and immerse yourself in Global Sustainable Development and Citizenship
An exceptional opportunity to gain an insight into key world challenges in ‘the warm heart of Africa’ through Global Sustainable Development programmes More details below.
A stay of a minimum of 10 days is recommended to really benefit from what RSC in Malawi has to offer.
Malawi is a diverse country with a huge variety of ecosystems, varying from Mount Mulanje, among the highest mountains in Africa, and the high Nyika plateau in the north to the Shire River valley in the south, an extension of the Great Rift Valley.
20% of the country’s landmass consisting of water: The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by freshwater Lake Malawi, sometimes called the Calendar Lake for its 365 miles length and 52 miles width, which covers about one third of Malawi’s area.
It has one of the richest lake fish faunas in the world, home to some 200 mammal, 650 bird, 30+ mollusc, and 5,500+ plant species, hundreds found nowhere else in the world.
Endemic animal life in Malawi includes elephants, hippos, big cats, monkeys, lemurs and bats and a great diversity of birds including birds of prey, parrots, waterfowl, large waders and songbirds. There’s tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, shrublands and woodlands.
The climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south and temperate in the northern highlands. Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. May to September sees almost no rainfall just wet mists descending from the highlands into the plateaus.
The capital, Lilongwe, is roughly in the centre of the country. Its second largest city and major commercial centre is Blantyre, named after the birthplace in Scotland of the first European to discover Lake Malawi in 1959, the English explorer Livingston.
The late 19th century saw European involvement and treaties negotiated with indigenous rulers, formally declaring the country a British protectorate called Nyasaland. A desire for independence after the 2nd World War saw federation with Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe), followed by self-governance and independence in 1964 under its new name, Malawi, declared a republic in 1966. Under the new regime, the country embarked on a programme of economic development and political neutrality in international affairs. However, the one-party government became repressive, leading to sluggish economy, foreign aid debt and Mozambican refugees, prompting discontent and human rights criticisms, resulting in a new constitution and democratically-elected pro-Western government in 1994.
Malawi is amongst the world's least-developed and lowest per capita income countries in the world, heavily dependent on agriculture (90% GDP), its largely rural (85%) population, and outside aid to meet development needs for the economy, education, healthcare, environmental protection and becoming financially independent.
It is into this environment that Dom and Kate Webb bring their combined skills of hospitality, business management, education and international development, focusing on the positive impacts of tourism to deliver much-needed support to community initiatives. By choosing to work in partnership with existing community organisations supporting entrepreneurial Malawians, sustainable community development can take place.
Malawi offers ideal ‘outside the classroom’ learning experiences, providing both a glimpse of behind the scenes real Africa and an all-encompassing overview of development: On the ground 'agents of change' local entrepreneurs’ inspiring examples of sustainable development help dissipate myths and promote transformational learning, combined with the diversity of landscape offering a hive for environmental research, and rural communities’ rich cultural heritage.
In 1999, the estimated population was ten million, with 45 percent of the population under age 14, and 3 percent over age 65. The population is forecast to grow to over 45 million people by 2050, nearly tripling the estimated 16.5 million in 2013.
Among the major diverse ethnic groups and cultures are Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asians, and Europeans. The most widely spoken language - 60% of the population - is Chewa, which originated among the Bantu tribes of South Africa, 30% speak Arabic, although the language of government, industry, and commerce is English.
Malawi is a majority Christian country (82%), with a significant Muslim minority (14%), although the exact figures are disputed and data limited.
While the British influence still can be seen in driving on the left side of the road, roundabouts, speed bumps, and school uniforms, Malawi’s poverty and largely small holder farming agricultural economy - 90% of export earnings, 45% GDP, supporting 90% of the population - is evident.
Traditionally, homes are constructed of sticks and mud with either a thatched roof or a roof of corrugated iron held down by stones, with few decorations and cow dung often used to create the floor of the house.
Cooking is done over fire in a separate building with a smoke hole in the roof and bathing done outside, often within a circular thatched shield with an open roof. Water is carried, often over great distances, for cooking and bathing.
Even in urban areas, each home generally has a small plot of corn: Nsima is eaten twice a day, usually at lunch and dinner, a standard dish of boiled cornmeal, sometimes supplemented with chicken, goat or pork; Fruits are plentiful, including mangoes, melons, oranges, bananas, and pineapples.
Land is treated as public domain. A person may settle on a piece of ground, build and grow crops as long as neighbours approve, and later register the plot with the government to gain legal title, thus land distribution is unequal and more than 40% of smallholder households cultivate very small plots.
Export trade is dominated by tobacco, tea, cotton, coffee and sugar, with little import trade. However, foreign expat managers are being replaced by Malawians and tourism is beginning to build, with plans to restore roads and build resorts.
Tourism supports local craft heritage too: The indigenous ethnic groups of Malawi have a rich tradition of basketry and mask carving, some used in traditional ceremonies still performed by native peoples. Wood carving and oil painting are also popular in more urban centres, with many of the items produced being sold to tourists.
Men dress in a Western style, shirts and trousers, women often wear traditional costumes consisting of two or three chitenjes - coloured fabric used as a skirt, a headdress, and a sarong-like wrap to hold a small infant on the woman's back. The red, blue or green colour of dress represents the north, central, and southern regions, respectively. Shoes are expensive and often the local people are barefoot even in the cities.
While a patriarchal society, the greater respect shown for women is one of the reasons founder of RSC Kate Webb cites as supporting the opportunity to set up a business in Malawi.
However, historically social issues abound: Government corruption, violence, human trafficking and child labour have been noted, low but increasing life expectancy (just over 62 years, HDI 2014), high infant mortality, a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS (12% of the population), with at least 70% of Malawi's hospital beds occupied by HIV/AIDS patients.
Water and sanitation is a challenge to Malawi's people
- 2 million don't have access to safe water
- 10 million don't have access to adequate sanitation
- Over 3,000 children die every year from diarrhoea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation
Health and well-being suffers…
- Only half of women in developing regions receive the recommended amount of healthcare they need.
- Children born into poverty are almost twice as likely to die before the age of five as those from wealthier families.
- At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 35 million people living with HIV.
…intensifying environmental and climate threats:
- Malawi deforestation rates at 2.8% annually are the highest in southern Africa, exacerbating food and water insecurity.
The RSC's Manifesto purpose is that:
"tourism-generated income helps build sustainable solutions in local communities".
- They believe in the potential of Malawi’s people and that empowering them via tourism offers a chance to develop out of the poverty cycle.
- They believe that when promoting a fragile destination you need to ensure the benefits reach the local communities.
- They are committed to building the local economy in Malawi. By employing local people and creating sustainable growth through social enterprise, they aim to reduce the dependence on the aid industry.
- They believe in balance. The tailored, educational and culturally diverse experiences awaken minds and inspire future generations.
- They believe that everyone should take the chance to #bepartofsomething.
RSC also demonstrate their commitment to sustainable travel through a ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’ Scheme, in which 1.5% of your holiday cost goes to local Malawian projects for the conservation, protection and enhancement of the ecosystems and rich culture of rural communities you benefit from during your stay in Malawi.
This has so far generated in excess of $13,500 to conservation, $36,500 facilitated community donations through more than 7,500 travellers, with more than 16,000 beneficiaries.
Any room in your luggage? Let RSC know and they will give you a list of resources much needed by local community initiatives which can be delivered personally or via the organisation.
Experiential learning and shared experiences promote new perspectives, widened horizons and transformational learning, aligned with Sustainable Development Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
Programmes may be taken as a group, or as a scheduled departure for independent travellers wishing to join a group. Please enquire for details.
Global Development Workshops
Provide practical examples of global development challenges offering maximum learning potential and hands-on experience to build awareness of the challenges faced by developing countries, working in partnership with 3 main communities as income generating activities. More details below.
Global Citizenship Programme
Designed to help educate on vital issues affecting the world today, and discover what the UN Global Goals are really about. An expedition across Southern Malawi taking part in practical workshops in rural village settings, giving the skills and confidence to teach others about global sustainability issues. Options
Adventure Charity Challenges
Fundraise for a charity, link with an existing community partnership or challenge yourself with a hike, bike or on the Lake, visit a linked project and have additional days for relaxation and safari options. The country’s diversity of landscape offers multi-disciplinary challenge itineraries, as well as rural communities rich in cultural heritage. Options
- The Malawi Triathlon: Cycling in the Tea Fields, Hiking Mount Mulanje, Kayaking Lake Malawi. A 9 day challenge taking on the best of Malawi.
- Community Cycle Challenge: 3-5 day rural cycling.
- Mount Mulanje Hike: 2-7 day hiking.
- Community Development: 7-14 day community immersion. Homestay and village development.
- Malawi Marathon: 3-7 Day Running/Walking.
- Lake Malawi Kayak or Sailing Expedition. Options
Trips can be tailor-made to match group itinerary interests, objectives, budget and time frame, and are always accompanied by a local Malawian guide. The experienced qualified guides have a wealth of inherent cultural knowledge as well as receiving ongoing training in guiding, conservation and environmental awareness to provide support and enhance immersive learning.
Groups may be schools, universities, clubs or societies, a collection of friends or family members, or businesses with an interest in immersive learning experiences on global sustainable development and citizenship. Please enquire for details.
NB. 1.5% of costs goes to RSC Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme
Women's Expedition to Malawi | 4th-11th May 2019 | £2600.
Women are the key to sustainable development in this fragile destination. Led by Orbis Expeditions founder Kate Webb, this trip aims to link you with inspirational Malawian women, challenge you, and give you an opportunity to spend time with your 12-strong international group passionate about development and women’s empowerment.
Upon arriving in Malawi, head into the country’s prime wildlife reserve, Majete, for a spellbinding evening safari experience and a night under canvas. Take an early river boat safari to watch herds of elephant coming to the banks of The Shire River to drink - or try and snap the malachite kingfishers and African fish eagles diving for their lunch. Bidding farewell to the wildlife - for now - you will transfer to the country’s tea growing region, arriving at a fair trade estate in time for a sundowner with sunset over the rolling tea fields.
You’ll remain based at the beautiful tea lodge while you take part in the skill sharing workshops in Blantyre - perhaps you’ll have designed your own session, or contribute to others’, but either way you will both learn and teach! Day 4 sees you wind your way through beautiful forest to climb over 1000m (4-7 hours, dependent on group pace) up Mount Mulanje, arriving at your mountain hut in time for an afternoon dip in the natural pools, and dinner around the fire with your guide and porters.
A descent while the sun rises over the mountains brings you to your driver and transfer to Lake Malawi, where you’ll enjoy the surroundings of Makakola Retreat while you put the finishing touches to your school workshops, running the following day. Perhaps you’ll share knowledge on self-confidence, STEM subjects, how to write a CV, or even sexual health and consent - wherever your strengths, confidence and passion lie. Witness the challenges of completing education in Malawi, inspire…and be inspired. Many of the girls at the school are sponsored, from vulnerable families and often the first female to be literate in their community. Career options post school are very limited and challenge the notion of relying on a family/husband.
Finally, head to beautiful eco-island Mumbo Island: relax, snorkel or scuba in the crystal clear fresh water, hike to stunning look out points, or take a kayak and meander in and out of the island's bays before stopping with a cool gin and tonic as the sun dips down into Lake Malawi… Orbis Expeditions and RSC highly recommend adding two extra nights at this spot in paradise, and are happy to discuss this further, along with any other further travel wishes.
Your journey will start before you leave and continue well after you have returned home. A shared forum and Skype meetings allow you to correspond prior to arriving in Africa, and enduring relationships often lead to future business links and markets after the expedition.
Includes: All accommodation, meals (where stated) all transport (inc. fuel & driver), RSC Guide, all project set up and support, all activities (where applicable), air evacuation cover, all local taxes and bank fees.
Excludes: Return International Flights, meals not included, activities not included, personal travel insurance, visas, bar drinks, tips & items of a personal nature. Any add-ons.
Women's Empowerment | 14-21 September 2019 |
Join 15 other women on this journey to help empower Malawian women, yourselves, and each other. Arriving into Chileka airport, you’ll transfer to your accommodation to relax and put the finishing touches to your upcoming workshops. Days 2 and 3 are the heart of expedition, and see you work with local entrepreneurs, students, local youth group and in an entrepreneur hub to share your skills. Some of the relationships you build over these days will last a lifetime.
What follows is a 24 hour experience in a Malawian family homestay. It’s full on, and a challenge in all senses, but a truly rewarding time to get beneath the skin of African life.
Then relax with time on safari (see example activities above) before heading to a lodge on Lake Malawi. Days 6 and 7 are spent delivering workshops at Rainbow Hope Secondary School, where you’ll get a real feel for the challenges that all students - and especially the girls - face. Relax with a well-earned night in the rustic luxury of the Makakola Retreat before heading back to the UK with amazing stories to tell - or journey onwards further into Malawi or across Africa with our range of add-ons.
Global Development Workshops: $1,850/£1,200 *minimum 10
Designed to follow Future Earth’s model of sustainable development to educate and engage on vital issues affecting the world today. Choose an all encompassing overview of development or an in-depth focus on one or two areas, including workshops on Wildlife, Environmental Conservation, Healthcare, Education, Business and Fair Trade. More extensive details are included below.
Includes: 10 nights shared room accommodation, all meals (excludes final night dinner), 10 days private vehicle & guide/driver, all fuel, RSC project support and workshops, all meals, pre & post travel links, all activities where stated, all taxes & bank fees.
Excludes: Return international flights, travel insurance, single room supplements, visas, bar drinks, tips & items of a personal nature.
Global Citizenship Programme: from: £1,895pp *Based on 10 people.
Covers key developmental challenges facing rural communities in Malawi, cultural identity and how this influences sustainable development.
Includes: Return International Flights, all accommodation, all transport (inc. fuel & driver), local guides, all project set up and support, all activities (where applicable), air evacuation cover, all local taxes and bank fees.
Excludes: Meals not included, activities not included, personal travel insurance, visas, bar drinks, tips & items of a personal nature.
Adventure & Charity Challenges: From: £1,200pp *based on usual group size 10, but can be operated with smaller group sizes on application.
Includes: All accommodation, all transport (inc. fuel & driver), local guides, all project set up and support, all activities (where applicable), air evacuation cover, all local taxes and bank fees.
Excludes: Return International Flights, Meals not included, Activities not included, Personal Travel Insurance, Visas, Bar Drinks, Tips & Items of a personal nature
Itinerary dependent, usually small individual eco-lodges so tourism-generated income can go into local populations and economy as much as possible.
Group accommodation ranges from basic dorm style to shared twin ensuite rooms.
Dependent on bespoke itinerary. Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways & South African Airways provide flights from UK to Malawi via respective hubs; Addis Ababa, Nairobi & Johannesburg.
For group bookings of more than 9, flights usually can’t be booked online - RSC will work with specialist agents upon confirmation of trip to secure the best option and rate flights and organise all local transport logistics.
Awards & Accreditations
2013 Shortlisted for the PURE Awards
2012, 2009 2 star eco-certification from Sustainable Travel International, the first company in Africa to receive this recognition.
2011 Partnered with The Geotourism Development Foundation to promote pro-poor tourism
RSC Terms & Conditions:
If for some unfortunate reason any cancellations need to be made, the following scale of charges may apply:
61+ days: 20% deposit; 60-42 days: 30% of trip cost; 41-28 days: 60% of trip cost; 27-7 days: 90% of trip cost;
7 days: 100% of trip cost.
RSC holds comprehensive International Public Liability cover in both Africa & UK; International Passenger Liability on all seat belted vehicles; Comprehensive Air Evacuation cover through Global Rescue; and is in the process of becoming ABTA registered and fully bonded in the UK. Risk Assessment Management Plans (RAMP) are updated annually and RSC also hold a professional Emergency Operating Manual compiled through an official Emergency Response organisation. RSC is based in Malawi and offers 24 hr support to all visiting groups.
Global Development Workshops - bespoke itinerary options:
Health & Well Being (Sustainable Development Goal #3)
Healthcare: Learn about the work of a local NGO, Malaria, Bilharzia and Malnutrition and create arts with a community volunteer, to raise awareness of a key rural health issue.
Village Home-based care: learn about village healthcare provision, and work alongside the team visiting and supporting families.
HIV: A look at how Malawi is responding on a local village level in healthcare and education.
Malaria: Learn about the Malawi Liverpool Wellcome Trust malaria prevention team’s work.
Land Use: On Mulanje Mountain, hike and learn about the flora, fauna and effects of deforestation, irrigation systems, soil erosion, agriculture, water, conservation and climate change. Natural waterfalls nearby provide a refreshing swim.
Forest: In Malawi’s last remaining rainforest, join a local Community Based Organisation on sustainable use of resources, conservation, natural spring water supply and patrols.
Permaculture : Learn about sustainable crops, permaculture, nutrition, small holder land use and natural remedies at a social enterprise in Blantyre.
At Lake Malawi: A workshop with a NGO learning about sustainable fishing, fuel efficient stoves, deforestation and tree planting initiatives.
Social Entrepreneurship & Sustainable Practices
Fair Trade Tea: Visit Malawi's oldest and most beautiful estate in Thyolo, learn about one of Malawi’s key exports, its sustainable practices & fair trade & take part in tea tasting.
Sugar Production: Visit Malawi’s leading cane sugar producer to see the process from plant to packaging and the fair trade methods used to ensure production is sustainable.
Sugar Cane Cooperative: How a small fair trade cooperative of subsistence farmers works under a centralised irrigation system and agronomy.
Small Holders: Visit a family using their land to grow coffee & learn about Local Economic Development, market access for small holder farmers, picking, grinding & packaging.
Local economic development: Learn about income generation and get your hands dirty with community-based organisations’ initiatives like paper-making (from elephant dung and banana leaf!), tailoring and chicken rearing.
Water and Sanitation
Sugar Production: Learn about irrigation systems, soil erosion, conservation, and agricultural land use and water.
Visit Kapichira Falls, Majete Wildlife Reserve: A river fed hydro-electric dam. Take a river boat safari to witness the importance of The Shire River to the reserves flora & fauna.
City Waste Management: Meet an international charity working with the government to tackle water and sanitation and (for the strong stomached) take a toilet tour of Blantyre!
Clean Water Initiatives: Learn about the challenges of accessing clean water on the shores of Lake Malawi and visit the village boreholes and pumps.
Education and Cultural Immersion
Malawian culture, heritage and history: Mua Mission Cultural Museum is dedicated to preserving, recording and researching Chewa, Ngoni and Yao culture. Watch local traditional carvers create beautiful wooden pieces.
Education: Learn about the challenges facing rural families for access to education and visit a village primary school and Early Child Learning Centre.
Religion: Learn about the role it plays in the lives of young Malawians and attend a guide’s local church service.
Women’s Empowerment: Take part in a village banking initiative which aims to empower women by offering small village financed loans.
Dancing: Watch a local village dance group as they show you their traditional performances to celebrate the key events in their lives.
Cultural Village Homestay: Experience life living within family and village setting, take part in daily activities and learn about some of the complexities mixed with simple joys of village life and implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.