Liwonde National Park Safari Guide

safarigo   Malawi  

Liwonde NP feels like a true wilderness. Its lifeline, the Shire River, is one of Africa’s great waterways, and boat trips are highly recommended. The river supports large populations of hippo and crocodile, and elephant are encountered along the shore. A great community project run by CAWS in the park is the aptly named Children in the Wilderness, a life skills program for disadvantaged children.

Pros & Cons


Great river safaris available
Superb birding, with many rare waterbirds
Beautiful scenery and river views
Night drives and walking safaris are available
Rhino tracking on foot is available
Small park, with limited road network
Big cats are hard to spot


Wildlife & Animals

Liwonde offers quality wildlife viewing and is home to the Big Five. Elephant is very common and buffalo is also easy to see. Lions and cheetahs have recently been reintroduced by African Parks, and black rhinos are kept safe in an enclosure. Some of the more interesting antelope species you might encounter are Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan and sable.

Wildlife Highlights


The highlight of any visit to the park is a boat trip on the Shire River. Aside from the birdlife, hippos are abundant and giant crocodiles can be seen basking on the floodplains. Elephants regularly come to drink on the banks of the river, and waterbuck gather in good numbers on the shore. Burchell's zebra and eland can sometimes be spotted as well.

Birds

With around 400 species recorded, Liwonde is one of the top bird watching sites in Malawi. For casual visitors, the waterbirds easily seen by boat are a highlight, while some rare water-associated birds, such as Pel’s fishing owl, red-necked falcon and rufous-bellied heron, are good encounters for the serious birder. Liwonde is great for seeing birds of prey, such as bateleur, martial eagle and snake eagle, as well as some localized woodland species, including Böhm's bee-eater and Lilian’s lovebird.

Best Time to Visit

The best wildlife viewing months are July to October, from the middle to the end of the Dry season. At this time, water in the bush has dried out and animals congregate at the river. October is, however, extremely hot and many people prefer a cooler time of year.

May to October – Dry Season


Wildlife watching is at its best
Sunny days with no rainfall
Mosquitoes are few, so malaria is less of a risk
Park gets quite busy
It’s very hazy and the bush looks parched
October is unbearably hot


November to April – Wet Season


The ‘emerald season’ is green and fresh
Few tourists around and rates are lower
Presence of migratory birds makes this the best time of year for birding
Many newborn animals
Dry season is better for wildlife viewing
Can be very hot and humid
Malaria is more prevalent
Roads can quickly deteriorate and become impassable; a 4x4 is essential


Weather & Climate

Liwonde experiences a hot climate with a Wet and Dry season. The average temperature is quite uniform throughout the year, though it does spike in October before the rains set in.

Dry Season – May to October


Rainfall is scarce during the Dry season. The bush dries out as the season progresses and the wildlife don’t move far from the river. Wildlife viewing gets better as the season progresses. The days are hot but nights are cool.


May – The Dry season has begun, and while water is still plentiful and the bush still quite lush, it doesn’t rain much anymore.
June & July – The rain has stopped completely, and the bush is drying out. These are the coolest months with daytime temperatures around 26°C/79°F. It gets cold at night – average temperatures hover at 14°C/57°F. Don’t forget a jacket for early morning drives.
August & September – It is still completely dry. The bush is parched and starting to thin. It is warming up and September has an average temperature during the day of 31°C/88°F. Mornings are getting milder.

October – Daytime temperatures reach an average of 33°C/91°F, although it can peak much higher with conditions unbearable in the middle of the day. Mornings are ideal at around 20°C/68°F. The first rain usually falls this month, and temperatures drop after the rain.


Wet Season – November to April


Welcome to the warm Wet season. Towards the end of this season, access to the park might be by boat shuttle along the river, if roads are closed. It rains in the afternoons and there are spectacular thunderstorms. Skies are clear, and the bush is lush.


November – The rains (which usually begin in November) come as a relief from the very hot and dry conditions. During the day, the average temperature is 33°C/91°F. When it rains, it’s usually in the form of afternoon thunderstorms.
December, January, February & March – These are the wettest months of the year, bringing rain most days, but it doesn’t usually last the whole day. The mercury hovers around 30°C/86°F in the daytime, while nighttime and early morning temperatures average 21°C/70°F.
April – Everything is lush and green in this lovely month as the rains wind down.


Getting There

Liwonde is one of Malawi’s main attractions and will feature on most itineraries.

Lilongwe International Airport (LLW) will most likely be your entry point into the country. The airport is situated about 26km/16mi from the capital, Lilongwe. Some international flights terminate at Chileka International Airport (BLZ), which is 16km/10mi from Blantyre and is better situated for Liwonde.

Liwonde NP is located in the south of the country, 360km/224mi from Lilongwe and 190km/118mi from Blantyre. The drive from Lilongwe takes about five hours, and from Blantyre about three hours.