Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Safari Guide

safarigo   Malawi  

This park has open borders with the well-known Luangwa Valley in Zambia. Although wildlife numbers on the Malawi side are not the same due to poaching, all big safari animals are present. Four of the Big Five are resident; rhino is the exception. The center of tourist activity is Lake Kazuni, which is home to more than 500 hippo living in 17 pods.

Pros & Cons


Good wildlife viewing with four of the Big Five present
Game drives and walking safaris are available
Very accessible park with cheap accommodation options
Only budget accommodation available in and outside the park
4x4 vehicle needed after rain
Predators are rare and hard to spot


Wildlife & Animals

Although right at the entrance gate, Lake Kazuni feels like the heart of the park. Hippos and crocodiles are a constant presence. Around 2,000 buffalo and 300 elephant are thought to be resident. Herds of elephants can often be seen drinking and bathing in the lake – it’s not uncommon to see collected herds numbering more than 100 animals – and buffalo are usually nearby on the floodplains.

Wildlife Highlights


Some antelope to look out for at the lake include puku, greater kudu, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan and eland. Deeper in the reserve, in thick mopane woodland, there is a chance of seeing sable antelope. Although elusive, several big cats can sometimes be spotted: lion, leopard, caracal and serval.


Birds

With 341 species recorded, Vwaza Marsh offers great bird-watching opportunities. Lake Kazini is an excellent place to look for water-associated birds, including ducks, storks, egrets and herons. Osprey, fish eagle and palm-nut vulture are regularly found near the water as well. The very localized white-winged babbling starling is resident in the park and can sometimes be spotted in the woodland around the camp. A guided walk to the lake is recommended to get a closer look at some of the waders.

Best Time to Visit

July to October is the part of the Dry season that is best for wildlife viewing as all water in the bush has evaporated, and animals congregate around predictable water sources. During this time, many animals come to drink at Lake Kazuni in front of the camp. October is, however, very hot so it’s not recommended for people who dislike temperature extremes.

May to October – Dry Season


Best time of year for wildlife viewing
Little rain and lots of sunshine
The park never gets very busy
The risk of malaria lessens
Hazy skies, and the bush looks parched
Uncomfortable heat in October
Mornings are cold from May to August


November to April – Wet Season


Green and fresh landscapes
Favorite time for birders as migratory species are present
There are many newborn animals
Wildlife viewing is not as good
It is very hot and humid
Malaria risk rises with the increase in water and mosquitoes
The road to the park becomes bad and 4x4 is necessary
Roads inside the park close after heavy rain


Weather & Climate

Vwaza Marsh has a warm climate with a Wet and Dry season. Its location in the tropics means that the average temperature doesn’t vary much throughout the year, although there is a notable spike in temperatures in October before the rains. Days are cooler (and it gets quite cold at night) in the Dry season from May to September.

Dry Season – May to October


The bush gets drier as the season progresses. Animals tend to congregate around the lake and other water sources. It is pleasant during the day, but the nights can get cold. Warm clothing for early morning game drives is recommended.

May – This is the beginning of the Dry season. The bush is still lush, but the rains fall away.
June & July – There is no rain and the bush is drying out. Daytime temperatures average a very pleasant 24°C/75°F. At night the mercury drops, with average temperatures around 10°C/50°F. Don’t forget to rug up for early morning drives.
August & September – No rainfall. The bush is starting to look parched. Temperatures are rising, and September has an average daytime temperature of 29°C/84°F. Mornings are getting less cold.
October – Daytime temperatures increase to an average of 31°C/88°F. Peak temperatures are higher with the heat oppressive in the middle of the day. Mornings are lovely with temperatures around 18°C/64°F. Sometimes, the first rain falls in this month. Temperatures drop after the rain.


Wet Season – November to April


In the Wet season, the sky is clear and the bush is lush. It is warm, afternoon showers are common, and thunderstorms are often spectacular in the Wet season.


November – The rains usually begin this month. With the bush so dry, the rain is a relief. It’s hot and humid during the day. The average temperature is 31°C/88°F. Rain mostly comes in afternoon thunderstorms, but not every day.
December, January, February & March – It rains most days during the wettest months, but it rarely lasts the whole day. Daytime temperatures average 27°C/81°F, but that drops to about 18°C/64°F at night and in the early morning.
April – The rains usually come to an end sometime in April. The landscape is lush and green in April – a lovely month to visit.

Getting There

Vwaza Marsh is reasonably accessible, and can easily be incorporated into any itinerary of the country.

Most international visitors arrive via Lilongwe International Airport (LLW). The airport is about 26km/16mi from the capital, Lilongwe. A few international flights arrive at Chileka International Airport (BLZ), 16km/10mi from Blantyre.

Vwaza Marsh is north of the country, about 450km/280mi from Lilongwe and 780km/485mi from Blantyre. The drive from Lilongwe takes about six hours and from Blantyre about 10 hours; a 4WD is essential in the Wet season.

Vwaza Marsh is about two hours’ drive from Nyika Plateau and the distance is about 80km/50mi.

There are no domestic flights to Vwaza Marsh.