Wildlife safaris in Malawi
Wildlife safaris in Malawi
Two of the great attractions of Malawi’s national parks and wildlife reserves are their completely unspoiled wilderness and the absence of mass tourism. When you take a safari in Malawi you really do feel you’re looking at a scene that David Livingstone would recognize from 150 years ago. There’s a real touch of the Garden of Eden about the parks. You discover the animals on your safari; they are not lined up for your viewing as though in a theme park.
The big five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant, and rhino) can be seen in Malawi as well as a splendid range of antelope and the smaller cats such as caracal and Serval. Hippos are to be found in large numbers, so much so that they are almost symbolic of Malawi’s wildlife. A safari in Malawi is about memorable experiences, not tick lists.
Where to go
In the north are the unique Nyika plateau and Vwaza wildlife reserve: one a highland, the other a lower-lying area. The central region has two vast game areas: Kasungu national park in the west and Nkhotakota reserve in the east.
In the south, the best known national park is Liwonde, along with the River Shire, but there are also three game areas further south: Lengwe national park and the wildlife reserves of Majete (a huge conservation success story and now a Big 5 reserve) and Mwabvi, as well as the private Chimwenya game park near Blantyre. Near the southern limits of Lake Malawi is the world’s first freshwater national park at Cape Maclear. This is one of Malawi’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a great site for anyone interested in an aquatic safari!
There is a wide choice of safari types. You can use the customary 4×4 vehicle (most are open) for your game drives or you can really get to know the country and its wildlife on a walking safari. In some parks, the walking safari is taken to the next level by allowing guests to focus on tracking particular animals on foot, especially rhinos. Other options include boat safaris along the Shire River when in liwonde or Majete this is a wonderful way to see the animal’s close-up as they seem unperturbed by people in a boat. You can float close to the hundreds of hippos and watch the elephants drink just a few meters away. Canoe safaris are also offered in the Nkhotakota wildlife reserve. Encounters with animals in the river here are less frequent, but the thick bush on either side is rich with wildlife.
Malawi’s nine national parks and wildlife reserves are the places to go on safari and they cover a great diversity of landscape and vegetation types, so enhancing the variety of the safaris on offer across the country. With highlands, escarpments, forests, plains, grasslands, lowlands, riverine floodplains and many areas of genuine unspoiled wilderness, no two locations or safaris give the same experience.
Beyond the safaris to see ‘big game’, it is difficult to find many countries that can approach Malawi as a destination for bird watching few indeed will get close to the range of species that can be seen and even fewer have such ease of viewing. And for those looking for a more ‘ hands-on’ approach than a simple safari allows, there are opportunities to engage in volunteering projects.