South Luangwa, Liwonde and Lake Malawi Wildlife Adventure (Full Itinerary)
This is our 13-Day adventure where you will experience the very best of South Luangwa, Liwonde and Lake Malawi with your expert guide. Big Game, beautiful landscapes on the riverfront, wonderful mammals, birds and an island stay makes this an unforgettable experience!
Next departure date: To be confirmed
Start of safari at Mfuwe International Airport, transfer to South Luangwa National Park (Bilimungwe Bush Camp)
Welcome to eastern Zambia! Your fantastic two-country wildlife adventure will start today when you disembark at Mfuwe International Airport at the town of Mfuwe, the main town of the tourism and wildlife industry in the Luangwa valley.You are going to fall in love with Zambia, of that there is no doubt! Because the country is relatively undervisited compared to the “traditional” safari destinations of east Africa and South Africa, you can have spectacular wildlife sightings all to yourself – a very special experience! Zambia’s fantastic reputation is helped along by friendly and English-speaking local people with a positivity not easily seen elsewhere in south-central Africa.
You will be picked up by your expert Nature Travel guide who will, after a quick meet-and-greet, load your bags into our comfortable vehicle. We will then set off towards our first destination of the trip, namely the world famous South Luangwa National Park. The drive of about 2 hours will give us a chance to get to know each other and learn a bit about each other’s previous travels in Africa and all over the world. We will also get each person’s “target list” for fauna and flora species on the trip, to ensure everyone has a great time.
We are heading for the Bilimungwe Bush Camp in the remote southern part of the park. We will drive from the main gate through a sizeable section of the park, and will tick our first mammals and birds of this wonderful trip!
We will hopefully reach the camp in time for a late lunch and some relaxation time to get used to our stunning surroundings. Overlooking three waterholes with many herds of resident African Elephant, Bilimungwe is a hidden gem hiding under huge mahogany trees. Each of the large thatched and grass chalets sits on stilts and has magnificent views of the three watering holes, and there is also a big deck perfect for relaxation and “lazy” game viewing. The camp also boasts a boma for surprise outdoor dinners under the stars! This will be our home for the next three nights. Welcome to quintessential Africa!
We will go out in the afternoon for a game viewing activity into this region of the park. This will be in the form of a guided game drive or a walking safari (that South Luangwa is famous for). Our expert local guide will tell us more about this world famous and wonderful park as we go in search of the local fauna and flora.
South Luangwa, known to locals as simply “the South park”, is actually the southernmost of three national parks that lie in Zambia’s Luangwa river valley, and is famous the world over for the intense concentrations of game along the river and its lagoons. The butterfly-shaped 9,050 km2 (3,490 sq mi) park supports over 60 species of mammals and more than 400 bird species, and unfenced, bordered to the west by the steep Muchinga escarpment and to the east by the Luangwa river. It was a reserve as far back as 1904, but officially became a national park in 1972.
We will return to camp to freshen up and have our first (of many) fabulous dinner under African skies.
South Luangwa National Park (Bilimungwe Bush Camp)
We will start our day with breakfast in Bilimungwe’s secret breakfast spot on the edge of Luangwa valley; perfect to watch the sun rise over the Chindeni hills. Don’t tell anyone!
Then we will have a game drive in this remote area of South Luangwa. The river is close by, so we should see many African Elephant, African Buffalo and Hippopotamus, along with some huge Nile Crocodiles. The surrounding savannah plains also holds good number of antelope, and of course, their pursuing predators. We’ll look for Lion, Leopard, Spotted Hyaena, African Wild Dog and many of the smaller carnivores. Some people claim that the Luangwa valley is the best place to see Leopard on the entire continent!
We will return to camp for lunch and some time to relax. It is sometimes very rewarding to sit on the deck with a cold drink in one hand and a camera or pair of binoculars in the other, wating for the animals and birds to come to us! There have been some National Geographic-type wildlife interactions seen right from the deck over the years.
After each game walk or drive, gourmet meals will be served by the resident chef – a cornerstone of the Bilimungwe experience – varying from authentic bush barbecues to a make-your-own-pizza lunch. Something else to look forward to!
In the late afternoon we will go out again for a game activity, either a drive or a walk with the local expert ranger.
The focus in South Luangwa is undoubtedly the meandering Luangwa river, whose intermittent flooding alters its course, creating floodplains and many tranquil oxbow lakes. It is the lifeblood of the park. The habitat of the park is mostly that of woodland savannah, with Miombo and Mopane the dominating species. Within these woodland savannah swathes are larger patches of grassland, as well as floodplains closer to the river. We will cover much of these diverse habitats in search of animals, birds and all sorts of smaller creatures.
Once again we will return to camp to enjoy the African cuisine and surroundings, reminiscing about our time so far and why it took us so long to come on this trip! Then we will retire to our rooms for a good night’s rest.
DAY 3: South Luangwa National Park (Bilimungwe Bush Camp)
We have another full day in this part of South Luangwa today, our final full day in the southernmost part of the park.
We will start with breakfast once again and then a game activity. We will return for a great lunch and some relaxation time, and the set off again into the bush in the afternoon.
One of the reasons you will fall in love with South Luangwa like we have, is that this is still “old” Africa. Little has changed since explorer David Livingstone walked here in the late 1800s. It is without doubt one of the most scenic and spectacular wildlife areas on the African continent.
After our exciting afternoon drive we will return the lodge to freshen up. We will then get together on the deck for sundowner drinks, followed by another top class dinner. Then we are off to our rooms for a good night’s rest. Remember to stand on your deck outside your room tonight and just take in the landscape around you… Also, look up! The night sky in this part of Africa is truly spectacular.
South Luangwa National Park (Bilimungwe Bush Camp to Mfuwe Lodge)
This morning we will once again start with breakfast and a game viewing activity.
After that we will pack our bags and bid farewell to the staff at Bilimungwe, and depart for our next lodge in South Luangwa.
We are heading north towards a different section of the park, and the drive will take about 2 hours, depending on what we see on the way.
We will reach our destination, Mfuwe Lodge, just in time for a well-deserved lunch and some time to take in this lodge’s beauty. Set inside the park, just five minutes from the main gate, the lodge’s allure is instantly obvious. Nestled beneath a canopy of ebony and mahogany trees, its chalets are arranged around the banks of two lagoons where an endless stream of wildlife will keep you enthralled as you lounge on the open deck or take a dip in the swimming pool. The airy interior of the lodge is an exquisite complement to its natural surroundings.
After a short siesta we will get together for our first activity in this region of the park. Although still in the same park, you will soon see how different the areas of the park are, leading in turn to fantastic diversity in fauna and flora species.
After our drive or walk we will get together in the dining area for dinner and some relaxation time, and then we are off to bed for a good night’s rest.
South Luangwa National Park (Mfuwe Lodge)
We have a full day to explore this area of South Luangwa today. We will get together for breakfast and then we are off on another game drive.
The region of the park are we will be traversing during our time at Mfuwe is renowned for its prolific game – the thornicrofti subspecies of Giraffe, Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, cooksoni subspecies of the Common Wildebeest (endemic to the Luangwa valley), Puku, the crawshayi subspecies of Plains Zebra, and Nile Crocodile are constant visitors to the area around the river and lagoons, whilst in November the local African Elephants regularly wander right through the lobby, lured by a nearby Wild Mango tree! It is not just the diversity of species that makes South Luangwa special, but the sheer numbers of them. It is not uncommon to see herds of hundreds of buffalo or elephant across the grasslands.
We will return to the lodge for one of their famous lunches and then have some down time. You could take a lazy splash in the pool, or even go for a massage or treatment in the excellent Bush Spa. This award-winning spa offers a contemporary range of eastern and western treatments, each one adapted to suit the surroundings and leave you feeling revitalised.
We will get together again for a refreshing drink in the afternoon and another game drive. We hope to see not only four of Africa’s Big Five (the South park has no rhinos), but also African Wild Dog, 14 different species of antelope and much more!
There is also an option to swop one or more of our game drives in South Luangwa for a walking safari. This amazingly intimate way of experiencing the African bush originated in this very park. Many years later it is still one of the finest ways to experience Africa’s pristine wilderness first-hand. Traveling through the park’s lush landscapes on foot also means that you have time to stop and appreciate the smaller things in nature, from exotic insects to animal tracks and beautiful flora. It is truly an unforgettable experience that you will treasure forever.
After our exciting full day in this part of South Luangwa we will return to the lodge to freshen up. We will then have dinner and sit around the fire at our lodge, and enjoy a good night’s rest under the stars. Remember to listen for the sounds of the African night. We might hear hyaenas calling or even a nightjar!
South Luangwa National Park (Mfuwe Lodge)
We have another full day to enjoy this part of South Luangwa.
We will again have all our meals at the beautiful lodge, with some time for relaxation at the pool or spa after lunch.
South Luangwa National Park to Mfuwe Airport, flight to Lilongwe, transfer to Liwonde National Park (Mvuu Lodge)
We will start our day with an early breakfast and maybe a short game drive or even a bush walk.
Then it’s time for the next part of our wildlife adventure, when we leave for “the warm heart of Africa”, Malawi!
We will make the transfer (45 minutes) to Mfuwe International Airport and then take a short flight to the Kamuzu International Airport north of Lilongwe in next-door Malawi.
While Blantyre is the commercial hotpot of Malawi, Lilongwe is the seat of the governmental and public institutions. It has a population of about 1 million people and is located along the Lilongwe river, at an altitude of 1,050 m (3,440 ft) above sea level, on a plateau in the centre of the country, forming part of the East African Rift Valley. Lilongwe feels like a miniature of Malawi itself – chaotic but colourful, filled with friendly people, and full of contrasts.
After gathering our bags and getting into our vehicle, we will travel south, navigating Lilongwe’s surprisingly smooth traffic, and reach our destination, Liwonde National Park, after about 4 and a half hours. On the way you will see why Malawi is such a beautiful place, because despite the subsistence farming practices, there are still stunning landscapes and patches of green untouched bush throughout. You will see why Malawi has such a special place in our hearts here at the Nature Travel group. We will stop several to stretch our legs, as well as make a lunch stop in one of the bigger towns en route.
We will arrive at the car park next to the Shire river, which dominates the landscape of Liwonde National Park, meet our expert local ranger, and pack our luggage into one of the boats named after famous birds of the area, like Pel’s (for Pel’s Fishing Owl). In fact, on a recent trip our clients actually saw a Pel’s Fishing Owl as they boarded their vessel! We will then cross the river and arrive at our home for the next three nights, Mvuu Lodge.
Mvuu Lodge (mvuu means “hippopotamus” in one of the local languages) nestles discreetly on the banks of a lagoon just off the Shire river on the western boundary of the park. This is a beautiful spot that you will definitely fall in love with over the next few days. We will check in, meet the friendly and knowledgeable local staff and relax in our rooms (very luxurious tented homes actually) for a while.
If there is time we might go for a short game drive this afternoon, or take a birding walk in the ample and beautiful lodge grounds, or even a short cruise on the lazy Shire river. 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!
The river boats are specifically designed to ensure each passenger can take in the magnificent views in complete comfort from anywhere on the boat, as well as being ideal for keen wildlife photographers, with ample space for equipment and the freedom to photograph from any angle. The game viewing while on a river safari in Liwonde is unsurpassed anywhere in Malawi, and each tranquil boat trip is an unforgettable experience. African Elephant line the water’s edge, hundreds of (very calm) Hippopotamus congregate in the lagoons, Nile Crocodiles chill on the mud and many species of antelope and birds make their way to the water’s edge.
Afterwards we will get together in the newly-renovated dining area and enjoy some authentic local cuisine while chatting the evening away. We will then be escorted to our “tents” and settle in for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we explore Liwonde properly!
Liwonde National Park (Mvuu Lodge)
Today we have a full day to enjoy Liwonde and all its beauty.
We will get together for breakfast and then set off on a morning game drive in comfortable, open-sided safari vehicles. Our ranger will tell us a bit more about Liwonde during our drives, as well as show us some of the fantastic fauna and flora species of this fantastic little park.
Speaking of little, Liwonde only covers about 580 km2 (223 sq mi), and yet supports a wide range of habitats, including Mopane woodland, marshlands and swamps, floodplain grassland, grassy savannah and riverine forest. There are numerous huge Baobab trees, the quintessential African safari tree for many people. The main feature of Liwonde, though, is the 30 km (18 mi) long section of the sluggish Shire river that runs through the park, including a section of the shore of Lake Malombe, 20 km (12 mi) south of famous Lake Malawi.
We will return to the lodge after our drive for a scrumptious lunch and a siesta. There is also a fantastic swimming pool if you would rather have a splash than a nap. We will get together for coffee or a soda in the mid-afternoon and then set off on our afternoon game drive again, this time targeting a different part of the park.
Liwonde was established in 1973, and has been managed by the non-profit conservation organisation African Parks since August 2015. Their first priority was to build an electric fence around the perimeter of the park to help mitigate the human-wildlife conflict that had plagued the park before. This fence is monitored 24 hours a day to ensure animals stay in and poachers stay out. Fencing the park cost US$1.6 million and took approximately 18 months to complete. 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 like Lion and Cheetah.
We will return to Mvuu in the early evening and freshen up in our tents. Then we will then socialise and have dinner again, after which we will get a good night’s rest.
*Please note: during your time at Liwonde there is an option for a Nature Walk instead of a game drive on one of the days. This activity allows you to get even closer to the fantastic fauna and flora of Liwonde with an experienced guide. On one of the evenings there is also an optional Night Drive, where you will go in search of the varied nocturnal wildlife that makes Liwonde their home.
Liwonde National Park (Mvuu Lodge)
Today we have another full day to enjoy all that Liwonde has to offer.
We will start with an early breakfast and then set off on the boat again on the Shire river. The landscape changes quite a bit when you cruise the river in the morning, and the light is just wonderful for photography. We hope to see many species of fauna on our boat trip this morning.
There are many mammal species in the park, with a total population of about 12,000 individuals. Specific species that we will target include some of the 800 African Elephant, African Buffalo, Black Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Common Eland, Waterbuck, the endangered Roan and Sable Antelope, the lichtensteinii subspecies of Hartebeest, Impala, Bushbuck, Common Warthog, Greater Kudu, Vervet and Yellow Baboon. If we are very lucky we might even see one of the introduced predators, and smaller ones like Serval and Side-striped Jackal could be ticked too.
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.
Apart from the fantastic mammals and plants, Liwonde is also a must-visit destination for birders. The park boasts more than 400 species, and some of them are fairly range-restricted and difficult to see elsewhere. During our time here we will look for specials like Pel’s Fishing Owl, Palm-nut Vulture, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Bat Hawk, Dickonson’s Kestrel, White-backed Night Heron, Goliath, Black and Rufous-bellied Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, Spur-winged Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, African Openbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Brown-breasted Barbet, Böhm’s Bee-eater, Lilian’s Lovebird, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pale Batis, Black-eared Seedeater, Collared Palm Thrush, Green Twinspot, Racket-tailed Roller, Pale-billed Hornbill and many more!
We will once again return to Mvuu for lunch and some down time, and then go out again this afternoon on another game viewing excursion. This will either take the form of another game drive, or a sunset boat cruise again. We will make this decision based on which species of bird and mammal we still need to see here in Liwonde.
As the sun sets we will either have sundowner drinks on board the boat or jump off at a scenic spot to enjoy the sunset fully and take some photographs. Cruising back to the lodge we will see hundreds of African Skimmers hunting over the water; a lifetime highlight for any wildlife enthusiast.
We will return to camp after our activity and enjoy our last excellent dinner here. We will then walk to our tents, listening for the sounds of frogs, Hippopotamus and perhaps even Spotted Hyaenas calling, before settling in for the night. Tomorrow the final part of our adventure starts!
Liwonde National Park to Lake Malawi (Mumbo Island Camp)
We will pack our bags and have them transported to the jetty, after which we will enjoy a quick breakfast. We will then say goodbye to the wonderful staff at Mvuu and cross back over the Shire river to the car park. We will pack the vehicle and set off north.
Our drive will take about 3 hours, and it will be beautiful! We will first encounter Lake Malombe on our right, followed by the famous Lake Malawi.
No other country is so dominated by a single natural feature like Malawi; in fact, the country is also known as ‘the land of the lake”. The lake is 580 km (360 mi) long and 75 km (47 mi) wide in places, and covers more than 15% of Malawi’s surface. It is the fourth largest fresh water lake in the world by volume, the ninth largest lake in the world by area, and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all of Africa’s lakes and the focal point of Malawi’s tourism industry.
We will reach Cape Maclear, where our lodge’s reception is, and unpack and check in. Then we will cross about 10 km of water by boat to our home for the next three nights, Mumbo Island Camp. The area we are in is actually part of the 95km2 Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the incredible underwater species diversity.
Mumbo Island is an ecotourist’s dream. Measuring just one square kilometre across, this remote islet is virtually uninhabited and covered with pristine miombo forests interspersed with ancient fig and Baobab trees. It is surrounded by the calm, crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi, where you can swim and snorkel amidst schools of vividly coloured tropical fish. You may also encounter the island’s sole mammal inhabitant – playful and curious Spotted-necked Otters.
Mumbo Island Camp comprises five units perched on rocks high above the water shaded by lush foliage, each with bucket showers, ‘eco-loos’ and a wooden deck. A hammock provides a comfortable spot to take in the idyllic Lake view. The camp adheres to strict principles of eco-architecture, so the dining area, bar and water sport gazebo, are all hand built from timber, thatch and canvas and solar energy is used.
We will have a late lunch and then some time to just relax and take in our beautiful surroundings. No visit to Mumbo Island is complete without taking the opportunity to just relax and unwind. The sense of peace and tranquillity, provided by the island’s location, makes it the perfect place to simply lie back and take in the breathtaking scenery of Lake Malawi. Whether it be swinging in the hammock on your private deck overlooking the lake; reading a book in the comfy shaded lounge deck; or learning to play the local game of bawo, Mumbo Island is a place where you can experience total relaxation.
In the late afternoon you might want to partake in an activity, or just keep on relaxing!
We will get together in the evening for a fantastic dinner, where we hopefully will have some locally sourced fish right out of the lake! Then we are off to bed and a good night’s rest.
Lake Malawi (Mumbo Island Camp)
We will start our day with a later breakfast and then the day’s plan is entirely up to you.
There are several activities to choose from here a Mumbo Island, so the sky is the limit. You could choose to do some kayaking… The protected waters of the Lake Malawi National Park bring kayaking within reach of anyone, irrespective of fitness or experience. The two-person kayaks are large and stable, and the guides are local residents with an intimate knowledge of the area. You could also kayak alone with a guide if you have a sense of adventure! Kayak around the island or further afield to nearby Domwe and other granitic islands, and see if you can spot some African Fish Eagles, kingfishers or other avian species.
Everyone will get together for a seafood lunch and some down time, before another afternoon activity.
This afternoon it might be a good idea to go for a hike! Five different, well-marked nature trails weave their way through the massive granite boulders that constitute the island. The island is heavily wooded, hosting Baobab and several species of Ficus, Sterculia, Khaya, Albizia and Brachystegia trees. There are no venomous snakes or dangerous animals on Mumbo, so you can walk anywhere with confidence and will be rewarded with magnificent views.
We will once again get together for a scrumptious dinner in the dining area and socialise long into the evening. It might be a good idea to start discussing our future trips at this stage… There is so much to see on our wonderful planet!
Lake Malawi (Mumbo Island Camp)
Today is our last full day of this fantastic adventure, so let’s make the most of it!
After breakfast today it might be a good idea to see if we can spot some of Lake Malawi’s most famous residents, the cichlid fish. There are at least 900 cichlid (pronounced “sicklids”) species in these waters, that’s more than all the fish species of Europe and North American combined!
Furthermore, the vast majority of them are endemic to Lake Malawi! They are incredibly beautiful, colourful and evolutionary interesting fish that have unfortunately become popular with aquarium owners the world over.
The two best ways to enjoy these and other fish in the lake, is by snorkelling or scuba diving. Snorkelling through the island’s calm, warm and crystal-clear waters, where the colourful fish swim by, coupled with the massive granite boulders that make up much of the underwater terrain, make for a truly remarkable and unusual snorkelling experience. Many experts believe that this is actually the best snorkelling destination on the planet!
For the more adventurous there is the option to scuba dive with the inhabitants of the lake. Lake Malawi is a great place to scuba dive, ideally suited to beginners or those who prefer relaxed diving with no dangers. Mumbo Island Camp is a PADI registered resort, offering beginner, advanced and specialty courses, as well as gear hire and casual dives.
After an exciting morning we will return to camp for lunch and a siesta, after which you are welcome to stay in camp or go out for another activity. Although wildlife is not particularly prolific here (except for the huge numbers of fish species of course), it might be a good idea to look up every now and again; African Fish Eagle is abundant here, and other birds include Gull-billed Tern, Lesser Jacana, White-backed Duck, Pied Kingfisher and more.
We will get together for our farewell dinner in the dining area tonight after a wonderful Zambia and Malawi adventure. Then we are off to bed for a final night’s sleep under African skies.
Lake Malawi to Lilongwe and Departure
And so an amazing Malawi and Zambia wildlife adventure unfortunately comes to an end.
After breakfast we will say our goodbyes to the wonderful staff at Mumbo Island Camp and cross the clear waters of Lake Malawi to reach our vehicle at Cape Maclear. It will take about 4 hours to reach Kamuzu International Airport outside Lilongwe.
We will say our final goodbyes after an amazing African safari of these two awesome countries. We will wish each other well and you will continue on your onward journey or homeward flight. Hope we see you again soon!
*Please note: extensions to other parks in Zambia or Malawi, or to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana or Namibia can easily be arranged. Please contact us and we will gladly assist.
Do you have a quick question about this safari? Speak to a specialist at
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