Malawi’s oldest and largest protected area is Nkhotakota. Poaching has been rampant in this vast, unspoiled wilderness, and wildlife populations have suffered as a result. In 2015, the African Parks Foundation took over the park’s management and began an ambitious campaign to restore the park’s former levels of biodiversity, including the translocation of 520 elephants from Liwonde and Majete.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is one of two large wildlife reserves in this region, located east of Central Malawi and close to Lake Malawi. Its huge 700 square miles (1800 square kilometres) of difficult terrain is intersected by a multitude of rivers that flow down the Rift Valley escarpment on their journey to the Lake. The majority of the reserve is miombo woodland, with big sections of tall grasses and a few portions of rainforest thrown in. There are 130 species of birds documented, including huge kingfishers and palm nut vultures. This is a fantastic example of a true, unspoiled wilderness.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is about a three-hour drive from Lilongwe. It’s roughly 10 kilometres off the M5, which runs next to Lake Malawi’s coastlines. People should avoid driving at night because the risk of an accident increases considerably.
Wildlife numbers in Nkhotakota are still low after years of neglect, but this is fast changing due to African Parks' efforts. Elephants are frequently seen drinking in the Bua river, and other species such as yellow baboons, vervet monkeys, buffalo, zebra, and warthogs can also be seen. There are lions, leopards, and hyenas in the area, but they are rarely observed. Nkhotakota is a renowned bird-watching site, with over 280 species documented for the reserve. Raptors like palm-nut vultures and martial eagles are particularly well represented, as are miombo specialities like the miombo pied barbet and pale-billed hornbill. Mount Chipata's evergreen forest contains its unique species, such as the moustached green tinkerbird and grey-olive greenbul. One of the most popular activities in the area is guided walking and bird watching.
The best time to see wildlife in Nkhotakota is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. Because the forest is thinner and animals congregate around rivers and other water sources, wildlife is easier to spot.
In addition to the rapidly expanding game viewing safaris, Nkhotakota offers chances for walking and hiking. Visitors can also embark on a boat safari down the Bua River, paddling canoes through the dense vegetation, or try their hand at fishing from the river's banks.
For the first time in many years, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve has seen the opening of brand new, professionally run lodging. Bua River Lodge, Tongole Wilderness Lodge, and Kachenga Bush Camp, Tongole's more modern sibling property, have all been developed to world standards. The Tongole Foundation supports local communities through several projects, and lodge guests are encouraged to participate in those projects. The new Rafiki Safari Camp, which opened in 2019, is located just outside the Reserve on its eastern edge (near Lake Malawi) and offers luxury tented safari suites and camping.
For more information or booking enquiries, please contact us here.