Malawi’s largest river, the Shire, forms Liwonde’s western boundary and is home to dense populations of hippo and crocodiles. The diverse habitat of riverine vegetation, mopane woodland, palm trees and baobabs make this a classic big game reserve with an incredible variety of plants, animals and birdlife.
The large numbers of elephants are best viewed on a boat safari down the river, whilst day and night game drives reveal antelope such as sable, waterbuck, reedbuck, impala and the predators – leopard, lion, serval.
Significantly, the park is also home to one of only two breeding herds of black rhino in Malawi.
Visitors are offered a rhino tracking experience in the park’s sanctuary which all contributes towards the rhino conservation project. Not least, the park is a wonderful year round location for bird watching, with nearly 300 species including notables such as Pel’s Fishing Owl, Livingstone’s Flycatcher and Lilian’s Lovebird.
Situated in the southern end of Lake Malawi along the Upper Shire River, this ‘Jewel of Malawi’ offers an exciting bush experience with a down-to-earth atmosphere. Proclaimed in 1973 and covering 548km², the diverse ecosystem encompasses riverine swamps, deciduous woodland, mopane woodland and extensive open grasslands. With over 1,000 species of vascular plants, Liwonde is a botanist’s heaven and a national treasure worth exploring. It is no wonder that this untrampled, luscious park was chosen for the famous movie African Queen starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Despite a rise in visitor numbers over recent years, Liwonde remains peaceful and uncommercialised with a great deal to offer visitors.
Regardless of being known as a second-rate safari destination compared to neighbouring countries, Liwonde does offer some fine wildlife viewing and arguably the best year-round bird watching in central and southern Africa. Home to over 400 species of bird, an ornithologist on a recent trip counted 250 species over the course of just 2 days! Renowned as a primary location to seek out water birds including Pel’s fishing owl and the red necked falcon, the park also boasts healthy populations of birds of prey; notably the southern green hornbill.
The open savannah and hills attract sable and impala, while waterbuck wade through lagoons and marshes. Boat and canoe trips are the best ways to encounter the 2,000 hippo living along a 40km stretch of the Shire River, along with elephants that come to drink during the dry season. Predators are rarely spotted, although leopard do reside. At night the park comes alive as the air resonates with the cackling of spotted hyena, the grunts of hippos and the chirruping of frogs. Nocturnal hunters such as serval, genet and side-striped jackal are best spotted on night drives. A special visit to the rhino sanctuary is a highlight to observe the recently introduced 9 black rhino.
Liwonde is best visited during the climatically pleasant winter months of May to October which is characterised by warm, dry days and cooler night. Game-viewing is best during these months as vegetation dies back, increasing visibility. The wetter summer months of November to April can reduce access to parts of the park and the warmer weather can be uncomfortable.
January to April – January is the peak of the rainy season as temperatures reach 27°C, and humidity is at its annual peak. Nights are mild at 18°C and precipitation is high at 287mm. The rains bring the bush alive into a luscious paradise with green foliage and colourful wild flowers. This is the peak time for bird watching as a variety of Palaeoarctic and intra-African migrants boost resident populations and many shed their dowdy winter plumage for brighter breeding colours. As the months progress, the rainfall begins to subside as April approaches.
May to September – Regarded as the best time to visit the national park, these cooler, less humid winter months average 23°C during the day. May and June combine the best of both seasons – a cooler climate with green foliage and great visibility for spotting game. The crocodile courtship and mating season occurs from May to July, beginning with males fighting to establish dominance in order to attract a female. June and July are the prime months to spot elephant along the Shire River as large herds are plentiful. Temperatures begin to fall in July, August and September which have extremely chilly nights, averaging 7°C, therefore it is essential to wrap up warm particularly on game drives. These dry months force the wildlife to congregate on perennial water sources. Lillian’s Lovebirds gather in flocks of hundreds from June to August.
October to December – With temperatures averaging 29°C during the day and 19°C at night, these are the hottest months. The onset of the rainy season in mid-November brings moderate humidity levels. These months offer great bird watching opportunities as species begin to migrate to the region. In December, the crocodile hatchlings are born
Mvuu Lodge is situated in lush riverine vegetation on the banks of a lagoon just off the perennial ...read more
Mvuu Lodge is situated in lush riverine vegetation on the banks of a lagoon just off the perennial Shire River in Southern Malawi. Game viewing is focused on boat safaris on the Shire River.
Bush breakfasts are a chance to enjoy a full breakfast, al fresco, in the middle of the bush, ...read more
Black rhino have been reintroduced into the park in a project to widen the rhino gene pool, for a ...read more
Black rhino have been reintroduced into the park in a project to widen the rhino gene pool, for a fee to support this programme, guests at Mvuu camp can go on a rhino walk.
A boating safari along the Shire River is a wonderful way to see the animals up close – floating ...read more
A boating safari along the Shire River is a wonderful way to see the animals up close – floating close to hippos and watching the elephants drink at the river’s edge.
Mvuu means "hippo" in Tonga and Liwonde does have a healthy population of hippos. Observing them in ...read more
Mvuu means “hippo” in Tonga and Liwonde does have a healthy population of hippos. Observing them in territorial disputes in the Shire River or even grazing metres from your tent, will make the adrenaline pump.
The area deserves its reputation as being an exceptional birding spot. Rarities include Pel's ...read more
The Big 5 Safari company is a supporter of the The Zambezi Society and support its vital conservation work and anti-poaching patrols.Discover