It is a country perfect for those who have already been on a number of safaris to Africa, possibly those who have already visited Uganda – and are looking for a country which is different, off piste, but offering an incredible overall experience.
Even better, African Parks, the most wonderful NGO conservation charity and pretty much Africa’s salvation and hope for the protection of its lesser known wildlife areas, has been doing fantastic conservation work here.
There was a huge and successful elephant translocation project funded by African Parks, in which 520 elephant were moved from Liwonde and Majete National Parks to Nkhotakota in an epic journey to protect the species and repopulate another park in Malawi.
Prior to African Parks assuming management of Nkhotakota in 2015, the park had suffered a significant reduction in its elephant population and other wildlife due to years of poaching, which depleted elephant numbers from 1,500 to fewer than 100.
African Parks, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), spent the last two years overhauling law enforcement in Nkhotakota, halting poaching, working with communities and preparing the reserve for the elephants’ safe arrival.
They are now responsible for managing approximately 90% of Malawi’s elephant population, as well as almost 15,000 elephants among all the parks under their management across Africa.
Additionally, four years after the last lion was seen in Liwonde, the charity have reintroduced the first of several wild lions back into the National Park.
In partnership with the DNPW, two mature males were released into enclosed bomas in the park after being safely translocated from Majete Wildlife Reserve, where lions were reintroduced in 2012.
They remain in bomas for several weeks to allow close monitoring of their wellbeing, adjustment, and bonding with two lionesses which will be translocated from South Africa in March, before they are all released in to the wider park.
While the translocation hails the return of this iconic predator to Liwonde, it is also symbolic of Majete’s extraordinary restoration. Majete’s pride was entirely poached out decades ago, but since their reintroduction, the population has grown to the extent that it can assist in repopulating Liwonde, 200 km north-east of Majete.
African Parks will further supplement the populations in both parks over the coming months, with the translocation of up to 12 additional lions from South Africa.
This is an important milestone for lion conservation in Malawi, where populations of the vulnerable species are being revitalised as part of an effort to restore the country’s parks, rehabilitate wildlife populations and encourage tourism for the benefit of local communities.
The arrival of these big cats lays the foundation for a secure national population of lions, helping to further distinguish Malawi as an emerging premier wildlife destination.
With the UN World Wildlife Day on Saturday 3rd March highlighting the plight of big cats across the world, Malawi’s lion translocation is an extraordinary example of the conservation measures being taken to secure a future for Africa's most iconic cat.
There are also some wonderful places to stay in Liwonde and Majete wildlife reserves – which is even more reason to go on a safari to Malawi, keeping one step ahead of the tourist trail!
I shall be visiting these areas again for a month in May this year and will write a report on my findings – I cannot wait!
Headline image of baby elephant courtesy of Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde
Community football image courtesy of Tongole, Nkhotakota