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Malawi Kit List


General Items

Main bag – You will need a rucksack, holdall or suitcase, 50 litre minimum capacity.

Day bag/small rucksack – Needed for carrying water, paper, pens, binoculars, cameras etc.

Sleeping bag – A three-season sleeping bag is recommended as the temperature can drop to below 10 degrees celsius at night.

Water bottle/platypus – A combination of leak-proof bottles (total capacity of at least 2 litres) is needed. The ‘hydration systems’ on the market (Platypus, camelback, Ortileb) have the advantage of packing flat when not in use.

Head torch – You’ll need this to keep your hands free during nocturnal surveys. Don’t forget spare batteries!

Watch with alarm – It doesn’t have to be anything technical. A travel alarm clock will also do.

Biodegradable soap/shampoo – To minimise impact on the environment we ask all volunteers to bring ‘green’ detergents.

Insect repellent – For any projects where you will be handling or in close proximity to animals you will need a non DEET based repellent. However for other times DEET based repellents are fine. Many of our staff use Mosi-guard which can be bought from Amazon.

Sunblock – Factor 30, minimum, is recommended. Please ensure it is a coral friendly sunblock if you intend to use it in the water.

Sanitary pads/tampons – Please bring a supply even if you do not expect to use them

Travel towel/sarong – Don’t bring a big thick towel as it won’t dry quickly enough.

Chichewa phrase book or dictionary

Binoculars – Although not essential for any of the surveys, you will definitely regret not bringing a pair as they are invaluable for good bird and game viewing experiences.

Camera – You will have lots of opportunities to take pictures but please bring a waterproof carrying case or zip lock bag for the camera.

Notebook and pencils – Essential for all projects.


For the terrestrial site you should bring clothes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty! Synthetic (wicking) fabric is the best as it is quick drying, but cotton is kinder to the skin. Don’t forget to buy your Opwall t-shirt(s) here! At the marine site you will be in swimwear during the day but in the evenings you can wear more casual clothes for dinner and downtime.

Hiking boots/shoes – While you will not be hiking for long distances, you may be spending 2 or 3 hours performing surveys on rough ground, so sturdy trainers or hiking boots are recommended.
Water shoes/dive booties – Dive booties are the best as they can be worn under your fins when at Lake Malawi.
Flip flops/sandals – 1 pair
Lightweight long baggy trousers – 2 pairs
Shorts – 2 pairs. Note that when staying in Lilongwe you must not wear revealing clothes, so shorts should be at least to just above the knee.
T-shirts – 5
Fleece top – 1
Long sleeved shirt – 2
Swim suit/bikini/board shorts – 1.
Socks – Enough for 1 week. Hiking socks worn over cotton socks can be better for the longer treks.
Underwear – Enough for at least 1 week.
Sunglasses – A good pair are useful to protect your eyes from the glare reflected from the water.
Hat or bandana – 1 – useful to protect you from the sun.
Nightwear/Pyjamas – You will be in shared accommodation!

Lake Malawi-specific Equipment

PADI training materials: If you’re undertaking dive training on your expedition you will see that we have also added Dive Training Materials to your internal travel invoice (if on an RA or Dissertation program) or final balance invoice (if on a school program) – this is the pack needed by anyone learning to SCUBA dive with us. In the past we have asked students to buy these independently, which takes time and effort, and so we are now arranging this on your behalf. You will be emailed with electronic access to your dive training materials closer to your expedition start date.

Proof of dive qualification – If you are already a qualified diver, we will require proof of your dive qualifications on site. We do accept non-PADI qualifications, as long as it is equivalent to or more advanced than PADI Open Water.

Essential Dive Equipment 

All the equipment listed below is essential for diving projects. You can bring your own or hire onsite (with the exception of a wetsuit). Hire costs will be included in your final invoice.

Buoyancy Control Device
Mask and snorkel

Wetsuit – This cannot be hired on site, and we recommend that you bring a 3mm or 5mm full length wetsuit.

Non-essential dive equipment

Rash vest – A good alternative to a wetsuit when it is warm (or if you are snorkelling), and can also be worn under a wetsuit when it is cold.

Dive watch/computer or waterproof watch – A timing device is a requirement under PADI regulations for qualified divers. You can buy a simple Casio W800 watch waterproof to 100m (not that you will be going any deeper than 18 metres – however they are more reliable) for approximately £15 on Amazon.

Medical Kit

Although every expedition will have its own medical supplies you MUST carry your own personal medical kit.

Antihistamine tablets
Antihistamine/hydrocortisone cream
Rehydration salts
Plasters/band aids
Alcohol wipes
Sea/travel sickness tablets
Prescribed medications – It is vital that you bring any medications that you have been prescribed by your doctor (including anti-malarial tablets).

Wallace House, Old Bolingbroke, Spilsby, Lincolnshire PE23 4EX, UK
| +44 (0) 1790 763194 or +44 (0) 1522 405667 | info@opwall.com