Malawi Livingstone Trail

Livingstone visited Malawi several times. The first exploration took place when he tried to find out to what extent the river Zambesi could function as a ‘highway of God’: access to the interior of Africa for missionaries and colonists. The river was blocked by a huge cataract. Therefor Livingstone decided to explore a side river, the Shire, which brought him into Nyasaland. Here he found also that the river was blocked further on. He went over land and discovered lake Shirwa and Lake Malawi. Livingstone has been in and out of the country several times. He tried to reach Lake Malawi from the East Coast, following the Ruvuma river, but did not succeed. He brought the idea to the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) of founding a mission post on the Highlands South of  Lake Malawi. The mission post, Magomero, was not a success. After the missionary Bishop MacKenzie died, the post has been abandoned.

Livingstone's second trip to Malawi

Later he went through Malawi on his trip to the interior to find the sources of the Nile. It appeared to be his last voyage. Long time there was no message from Livingstone how he did proceed on his expedition. Reason for the New York Herald to send out journalist Henry Morton Stanley to find Livingstone. They eventually met at the shores of Lake Tanganjika at Ujiji.

The Livingstone trail has been extensively explorered and reconstructed by Dr Ben de Ponti, who for several years also followed the trail on foot. See: Ben de Ponti Livingstone Conference 2013

The Malawi Livingstone trail extends over the borders of Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. It partly follows and interlinks with the old slave trade routes.

The history of Magomero, the slave trade and resistance against early colonization is very well documented by Landeg White in his book ‘MAGOMERO Portrait of an African Village’, (Cambridge University Press, New York: 1987).







The Livingstone trail links several aspects of the Malawian history and cultural heritage, such as the Lundu kingdom, the Mbona Cult, the Magomero plantation, the nyau society and the Great Dance (the Gule  Wamkulu).

Gule imageGule Wamkulu

Guardians of the LandRiver of Blood






‘River of Blood. The genesis of a Martyr Cult in Southern Malawi, c. A.D. 1600’ (J.Matthew Schoffeleers, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), is an anthropological study on the Mbona Cult.

Schoffeleers also collected important contributions on traditional religion and territorial cults in the book ‘Guardians of Land’ (Mambo Press, 1999).

‘When Animals Sing and Spirits Dance. Gule Wamkulu: the Great Dance of the Chewa People of Malawi’ (Claude Boucher Chisale, Kungoni Centre of Culture and Art, 2012) is an impressive study of the Gule Wamkulu Dance.