While Malawi is not as well known for the big game as other African countries, Liwonde National Park, although only 223 square miles (580 km2) in size, is brimming with wildlife that is literally on your doorstep. It is a must-see attraction for anyone wishing to make the most of their time in the ‘Warm Heart of Africa’.
Liwonde National Park was proclaimed in 1973 after Chief Liwonde championed for its recognition as an area of importance for Malawian wildlife heritage. After many years of disarray, African Parks took over management of Liwonde in 2015. Liwonde has been very active in conservation efforts and animal relocation programs and has made quite a name for itself in this regard, especially when it comes to African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros and even big cats. Wildlife populations are on the rise, and so are the number of people who are coming to the park to witness the revival. In just the last few years, Liwonde has been given a second chance and it is being restored and transformed for the benefit of the wildlife, and for the people who live here.
Game viewing in Liwonde is enhanced because 30 km (18 mi) of the sluggish Shire river flows along the park’s western border, allowing boat safaris as well as the usual ones on foot or in 4×4 vehicles. No Liwonde safari is complete without experiencing the beauty of the Shire and its incredible wildlife by boat. It is the perfect introduction to Liwonde, and truly one of Africa’s great waterways. Visitors who choose to stay at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge and Camp while visiting the park will find their lodgings right on the banks of a lagoon, where they will have prime viewing of animals such as Hippopotamus, Nile Crocodiles and African Elephants. While on safari in the park, other animals that tourists are lucky enough to encounter are Roan and Sable Antelope, Impala, Waterbuck, Common Warthog, Greater Kudu, Yellow Baboon, Leopard and Vervet monkeys.
Liwonde is also a bird lover’s paradise and reportedly has the best year-round bird watching in central and southern Africa. This is not only due to the sheer number of species found at the park, but also because “specials” such as Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Spur-winged and Long-toed Lapwing, Lilian’s Lovebird, Vincent’s Bunting and Brown-breasted Barbet can be spotted. Other species that are often seen are Böhm’s Bee-eater, Racket-tailed Roller, Meves’s Starling, African Skimmer, Palm-nut Vulture, White-backed Night Heron and Dickinson’s Kestrel. Over 380 of Malawi’s 650 bird species can be seen in Liwonde!
Liwonde also boasts more than 1,000 vascular plant species, with many colourful ones blooming at different times of the year. The orchid Microcoelia ornithocephala is nearly endemic to the park, and there are also acacias, miombo, fever trees, palms and sausage trees.
The landscape of Liwonde is highly diverse, with dry Mopani woodlands covering the eastern half of the park interspersed with Candelabra trees. Areas of Miombo woodland can be found on a few hill slopes in the south and east, while Palm Savannah and Baobabs (one of Africa’s most well known and beloved trees) are found on the extensive floodplains of the river, which have a more tropical feel due to the dense vegetation along the river banks. This all makes Liwonde National Park a photographer’s dream, and it’s not hard to understand how Liwonde has acquired such diversity in animal and bird life through conservation and restoration.
Join one of our Malawi Safaris and Tours to experience this wonderful safari destination with us.