Liwonde National Park lies not too far from the impressive body of water that is Lake Malawi in the south of the country. And despite its relatively small size of 548 square kilometres, it is one of Malawi’s most popular wildlife destinations.
African Parks took over its management in the latter half of 2015 and since then, it has instituted a strong conservation ethic with the re-introduction of endangered species like the black and white rhino, as well as the cheetah. Together with the large herds of elephants that roam in the area, it has become a must-see destination.
The Shire River edges along the park’s western border and is a lifeline for all its inhabitants. Large baobabs dot the landscape that consists of mopane woodlands and grasslands, thriving floodplains, and large lagoons.
Liwonde can be reached by road or by plane from Blantyre, roughly 160 kilometres to the north. Another option available is getting a bus or minibus between Mangochi and Liwonde Town and stop in Ulongwe, where visitors can hitch a ride with a local to the park entrance.
Visitors to Liwonde are spoilt for choice when it comes to game viewing. Around 12,000 mammals, including lions, hyenas, various antelopes, primates, bigger game like elephants and buffalo, as well as thousands of hippos and crocodiles form part of the scene.
A rich and varied birdlife is an added bonus. More than half of Malawi’s 650 species occur in the park, with Livingstone’s flycatcher, Pel’s fishing owl, and Lilian’s lovebird the standouts.
Even though wildlife viewing is available throughout the year, there are two distinct seasons in Liwonde. For most optimum viewing, a visit during the dry season between May and October will be best. This is also the time when animals frequent the Shire River. The wet and rainy months of November to April are great for birding and the congregating of crocodiles and hippos.
There is a smorgasbord of activities to be undertaken in Liwonde. Game drives, whether self-driven or guided by a community guide, are a must, while guided walks will give visitors a different perspective of the wildlife in the park. The Shire River offers opportunities for boat cruises, as well as fishing. To gain a better understanding of the local culture, walks and visits to villages in the immediate vicinity can be arranged.
All budgets and styles are catered for when it comes to accommodation in and around Liwonde. This includes basic campsites, as well as hotels and lodges that range from budget to luxury.