• Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

Given the low levels of vaccination in Malawi and therefore the susceptibility of the local communities with which we work to infections, we are not at this stage proposing to run expeditions to Malawi in 2022. However, travel advisories and conditions on the ground change rapidly, and if by early 2022 it is looking as though Malawi is possible, we will be bringing forward the 2023 options and run them in 2022. Our partners and the local communities with which we work are desperate for the Opwall teams to return so we would like to run in 2022 if at all possible. However, if you want to be sure of joining an expedition in 2022 then it would be best to look at one of the other countries.

Please see 2023 Malawi Expedition Marine and Terrestrial

Malawi Research Objectives

Biodiversity has never been more in danger than it is today with human encroachment expanding and the wild areas in which biodiversity is traditionally thought to thrive, diminishing. But what about species that have found a niche outside of these “wild” areas? Species that have learnt to live alongside humans in the most unorthodox of places? Lilongwe – Malawi’s capital – is small and rural in comparison to many African cities and maintains healthy populations of several carnivores, including spotted hyena and jackal. So, if the predators can survive here, what other biodiversity is supporting them?

Opwall and its scientists are working with local experts from Conservation Research Africa to monitor the biodiversity of this area and use these data to inform human-wildlife conflict mitigation. Carnivores are tracked to monitor their distributions, movement patterns and dietary composition. Trapping and acoustic surveys for bats and point counts for birds are performed at areas of high, medium and low disturbance to assess overall biodiversity in the area. Vegetation surveys are also performed at these sites to understand how changes in species composition and density might impact bat and bird populations.

Lake Malawi has more species of fish than any other lake in the world, but most are more closely related to other species living in the lake than to species living elsewhere. It appears that speciation is happening within the lake, but surprisingly little is known about how this occurs. Our lake research centre, The Maru, conducts underwater population and biodiversity surveys of the Lake’s cichlid fish populations using a remote-operated vehicle (ROV). This underwater camera allows transects to be recorded at depths recreational divers cannot reach, giving a greater insight into how cichlid diversity might change with depth. At shallower depths, cichlid surveys are performed by snorkelling, diving and the ROV to compare the accuracy of these three research methods.

  • Attend lectures/workshops on African conservation and wildlife management
  • Learn survey methods to sample carnivores, bats, birds and vegetation
  • Work with a local community group on attitudes to human-wildlife conflict
  • Gain an internationally recognized SCUBA qualification
  • Complete a week-long training course on lake ecology (if snorkelling or already dive trained)
  • Visit a game reserve and learn about its management
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Lilongwe
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £120 or $174 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Lilongwe costs around £30 or $45.
  • Visa costs of $75.
  • Marine equipment rental – £50 or $75 per week for a full set of kit at Lake Malawi. Please note that wetsuits cannot be provided – you should bring your own.
  • Park entrance fees – £17 or $25.
  • PADI manual and PIC card (if you are completing your Open Water qualification) – £69 or $87 approx.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified.

Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.

You will be visiting Malawi in what is known locally as the cold, dry season. Rain is very rare, and while temperatures during the day can get up to around 25 degrees, at night and in the early mornings temperatures can drop to single figures feeling quite chilly.

Fitness level required
Low. There are some short walks over rough terrain, but most of the work either requires very little walking or is from a boat.

Creature comforts
Accommodation will be in dorm dorms at all three sites, with bunk beds, running water for showers (although hot water is limited) and flushing toilets.  All sites have cell phone signal but no wifi.


  • Malawi
  • Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi
  • Liwonde Camp
  • Lilongwe Research Camp

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
| +44 (0) 1790 763194 | info@opwall.com