The ultimate day: Malawi

Designer Holly Dunlap imagines 24 perfect hours in her adopted African home.

You know that fantasy where you take a trip so exotic and inspiring that you decide to stay forever? Holly Dunlap is living it. After selling her successful shoe and accessories company, Hollywould, she traveled to Malawi in 2009 where a two-week stay to build a school became the impetus for a new business, a new home and a new life. "What struck me most about Malawi was a willing population of bright and talented people with no real opportunity for advancement," she says, "The gut reaction of most westerners is to hand out food and clothing, but I wanted to invest in something that would benefit families three generations from today." So she moved to Malawi and — quite literally — set up shop. Dunlap created a new line, 4MaCoHa, with the Malawi Council for the Handicapped; the colorful caftans, pillows and rugs are crafted by disabled artisans.

Since surviving melanoma and becoming an ambassador for the Melanoma Research Alliance, Dunlap's best accessory has become a straw hat (made of reeds from the lake in Mozambique, no less) so that she can safely take in the beauty of her adopted tropical home. She shared her dream day in the warm heart of Africa:

sip cappuccino at mandala house

"Have a morning cappuccino on the veranda at Mandala House, an old colonial house turned art gallery and historic archive in Blantyre, Malawi. It's the place to meet friends and make new ones, and is Italian-run, which means you'll get Malawi's best Italian-made, Malawian-grown espresso."
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go on a game drive at mkulumadzi lodge

"Majete Safari at Mkulumadzi Lodge is where you’ll see Malawi’s largest selection of animals. Go for a morning game drive where you might have a picnic breakfast with an elephant, or a boat safari where you’d have to make an effort not to see an abundance of alligators and hippos."
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shop at the macoha factory

"Shopping at the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MaCoHa) Factory in Bangwe, Malawi. You’ll find beautiful crafts made by artisans with disabilities and can get a tour of the factory to meet the artisans and see their methods, many of which haven’t changed in centuries."

make pottery at the nkhotakota pottery lodge

"Here you can enjoy Lake Malawi while learning to throw pots, and can come home with a souvenir you’ve made yourself. If you’re not a quick learner, you can also buy from the expert locals who make beautifully hand-painted pottery objects unique to Malawi."

go for a picnic at the zomba plateau

"Malawi’s Zomba Plateau is one of the most gorgeous settings around, and is a great place to picnic or ride horses. There are also endless berry bushes all the way up the mountain, so spend five minutes in the bush and you’ll end up with a bucket full of raspberries and gooseberries."
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enjoy tea and croquet at huntingdon house

"Sunday tea and croquet at Huntingdon House, on the Satemwa Tea Estate in Thyolo, is reminiscent of what Africa must have been like 60 years ago. Tea is served on the lawn overlooking miles of rolling hills of lush, green tea leaves and periwinkle rhododendrons. Croquet is taken seriously, played in white and mixed with Malawi gin and tonics."
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stay at kaya mawa

"For the ultimate beach luxury vacation in Malawi, the Kaya Mawa resort island is the spot. You can snorkel for tropical freshwater fish, learn to sail a dhow, or sleep on a terrace under the stars."

dine at house 5

"Dinners at House 5 in Blantyre are always fun and delicious, and the food is a great mix of Indian and Italian with a wine selection that is outstanding."
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