From its early days as a forest reserve nearly a hundred years ago and gaining official status in 1970, Kasungu National Park has grown to be the second-largest national park in Malawi. Lying in the central region of the country, the Park shares a western border with neighbouring Zambia.
Kasungu has mixed vegetation consisting of Miombo woodland and open, rolling grasslands. The Dwanga and Lingadzi Rivers are the lifeline of its fauna and flora and have created various dambos, as the grassy river channels are known.
The Lifupa is a tributary of the Lingadzi and where it dams, large numbers of hippos tend to congregate. A range of wildlife, including more than 110 mammals and 370 bird species, make for excellent game viewing.
Kasungu offers more than just an array of animal and plant species. Visitors can also explore a handful of prehistoric sites, and if the legs need some stretching, the views from the top of Black Rock will be soothing to the eyes.
Being close to the country’s capital, Lilongwe, (less than 200km) makes access to Kasungu relatively easy—either via self-drive or pre-arranged transport. Travellers should be aware that around March, roads become inaccessible due to heavy rains and the park closes down.
Around 112 mammals, 370 birds, 47 reptiles, 34 amphibians, and 31 fish species are part of the ecosystem in Kasungu. Most noteworthy is the park’s elephant and hippo populations, while African wild dogs are seemingly making a comeback. As darkness descends, the familiar sounds of jackals and hyenas can be heard with the occasional rasp of a leopard in between. During the day, scattered herds of buffalo, zebra, judo, sable, and roan antelope can be seen.
Warmer weather prevails in Kasungu from September to May, with cooler conditions between June and August.
The dry season, from August to November, is the best time to visit for optimum game viewing as lower water levels force animals to the water holes. This is in contrast to March, and sometimes earlier, when the park is closed due to heavy rain making the untarred roads too slippery.
For the best birding, visitors can arrange a trip between June and September when many species migrate to the park. The wildflowers come to life between November and February.
Although guided game drives are available, it is possible to explore Kasungu solo, with a good map. Birdwatching, hiking, guided walks, night drives, and photography form part of the safari activities on offer.
For the more adventures souls, there is the opportunity to climb Miondwe, Wang’ombe Rumen, Singwe, and Chipiri Hills for expansive views of the park.
Most of the accommodation in Kasungu is situated close to the main entrance gate, making for easy access. Options include an upmarket lodge for the discerning traveller, while traditional camping sites, as well as self-catering tented camps, are available for those who prefer the more traditional safari experience.