There is of course wildlife in the central and northern belts of Malawi, notably Nyika Plateau with its roan antelope. What makes wildlife viewing and safaris in Malawi so appealing is the lack of mass tourism; you feel that you are discovering this for the first time. Certainly the wildlife is not in huge numbers but that is what makes the search into this tropical wilderness so special and somewhat unique in today’s world.
Liwonde (570 square kilometres,) lies on the left bank of the Shire River and near Lake Malombe and further south lies Majete which has recently been restocked with predators as well as Lengwe National Park and Mwabvi. Visitors to Liwonde explore the park in 4x4 vehicles and by boat – certainly a favourite of ours and on foot, getting much closer to nature.
There is nothing like slowly pottering up the river by boat and doing some bird watching – there are many palm trees, and watching the huge numbers of hippo, elephant and water birds. The elephants will come down to quench their thirst and play in the river, splashing water everywhere whilst shy duiker antelope stealthily and quietly wander through the thick riverine undergrowth, gently walking as if on tip toes.
There are seven different habitats in the park though three quarters of the park is covered in mopane trees. There are also euphorbia candelabra and baobabs – much loved by the elephants that rip off lengths of the bark. Dry deciduous and semi deciduous forests, orchids and wild flowers can be seen.
Majete Game Reserve covers 70,000 hectares and has an estimate of 4000 animals making this one of the best reserves in the country to visit. Elephant, rhino and lion can be seen along with primates – baboons and monkeys, serval, hippo and warthog, waterbuck, eland and zebra and other antelope.
There is a wonderful new lodge in Majete and one can view wildlife on game drives and on foot with knowledgeable guides. Spend your days on early morning game drives as the sun rises. The nature sounds of the night, hooting owls and insects, go quiet whilst the dawn chorus of birds stirs and starts the day with a song. Nocturnal animals start to head for their burrows whilst others emerge from their like warthogs - warts and snouts first.
Wildlife here includes quite large numbers of elephants and the river attracts countless hippos and crocodiles. Antelope include kudu, sable and bushbuck. There are leopard and hyena and the occasional visiting lion. Black rhino has been re-introduced. Birdlife is exceptionally varied. The river attracts fish eagles and weaver birds build their nests in the thin woodland. Pel’s fishing owl is often seen at dusk along the river’s edge.
If you are a keen birdwatcher, then Malawi is certainly one of the best countries to visit in Africa - like Ethiopia and Uganda, Malawi’s many eco systems and habitats entice new and different species of birds. The estimated count is 650 birds across the whole country including fish eagles, white backed night heron, sunbirds and kingfishers, collared palm thrush, Boehm’s bee-eater, and Lillian’s lovebird.
The Nkhotakhota Game Reserve is another reserve that we would strongly recommend our clients to visit. Of all three reserves, it is probably least populated with wildlife, but there can be good sightings, especially of elephant and the rare and beautiful sable antelope and the birdlife is excellent too.
There is super walking and the chance to fly fish and kayak. There is a wonderful, owner managed lodge here and it is as much of spending time with the owners, having some peace and quiet and a beautiful location, as well as being able to see a variety of wildlife. Nkhotakhota is also famous for its pottery.
Images by courtesy of Malawi Tourism