Visiting Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park is the most famous park in Malawi and is considered the most prolific wildlife area in the country. It was proclaimed a National Park in 1973 and nowadays covers an area of 600 km squares that straddles the beautiful Shire River and its floodplains. Thanks to the Shire River, Liwonde NP harbours very different landscapes and a surprisingly abundant wildlife population. The vegetation encompasses riverine swamps, open grasslands, deciduous woodlands, as well as Palm savannahs and numerous baobabs, while on the hills dominate the miombo woods.

Liwonde National Park, an herd of hippos in the Shire river
Liwonde National Park, a herd of hippos in the Shire river

The park boasts large numbers of elephants (over 900), reedbuck, waterbuck and sable, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, crocodile, buffalo, baboon, zebra, and a massive population of hippo in the river. Black Rhino, an animal at risk of extinction, was introduced from South Africa and can be found in the 50 km square protected area within the park. Even though it’s tough to spot predators, the park includes leopard, cheetah, serval and side-striped jackal and lion. Liwonde NP is also a true ornithological paradise with over 300 birds species.

Liwonde national Park, the Shire river
Liwonde National Park, the Shire river

Since 2015, the park has been passed under the management of the no-profit organisation African Parks (in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife) that secured the Park and commenced a large-scale reintroduction program for species historically occurring in the Area. Cheetahs were reintroduced in 2017 so as a founder population of 10 lions from Majete Wildlife Reserve and South Africa in 2018. The fascinating thing is that Liwonde NP was at the epicentre of one of the largest elephant translocations in history, where more than 300 elephants were relocated to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi to help restore the reserve. Like most Malawi’s National Parks, poaching has been brought under control, and the wildlife population in Liwonde is on the rise, making the park an attraction not to be missed.


Activities in Liwonde National Park

Game drives

The best way to enjoy the park and its wildlife is with the open vehicles of the lodges guided by a professional guide that will lead you around beautiful wilderness drive. We booked our game drives (morning/afternoon) through Liwonde Safari Camp. It lasts 4 hours (6am-10am, 2pm-6pm) and costs 25 $. If you have your vehicle, you can self-drive along the path of the park.

TIP: we saw a lot of Tse-tse flies in certain parts of the park. These annoying and sometimes dangerous flies tend to be attracted to dark colours, so it is advisable to wear lighter colours and make use of insect repellents.

River safaris

It’s a not to be missed cruise along the Shire river providing the perfect opportunity to get close to hundreds of hippo pods, bathing elephant, crocodile and colourful birds. It lasts 3 hours and runs in the morning or the afternoon. We booked our cruise through Liwonde Safari Camp (25 $).

Walking safaris

If you like nature walks and you want to get closer to flora and fauna in the park, you should experience a walking safari led by a professional guide (escorted by an armed National Park scout).

Rhino’s tracking

You can also try the three-hour hike with a scout from Mvuu Camp or Mvuu Lodge tracking the big black rhino within the protected area of the Rhino’s Sanctuary.

Shire River Trail

The Mvuu lodge/Camp also offers a three-day trek across the park that will give you the chance to truly live in close contact with nature and wildlife of Liwonde NP.

Liwonde National Park, a herd of elephants
Liwonde National Park, a herd of elephants

Need to Know about Liwonde National Park

How to get there: the park is about 120 km from Blantyre, 240 from Lilongwe, 150 from cape Maclear and only 60 km from Zomba Plateau. All the roads to get there are well maintained. The main entrance gate is close to the town of Liwonde, in the southern part of the Park. If you sleep in Mvuu or Kuthengo Lodges, use the Makanga gate (east side of the park driving along the M3 and turn off at Ulongwe town). Click here to see our Malawi’s itinerary and information about the country.

Best time to visit: the right time to visit the Liwonde NP is during the dry season from April/May to October (above all June to August when the temperature is cooler). During this season, the bush is dry and open, making games easier to spot.

Entrance fees: Click here to see the African Parks website. The park gate is open from 6 am to 6 pm. You can arrange all the activities through your accommodation.

Where to sleep and eat: the lodges of the park offer a different choice of accommodations: camping, dorm and chalet/room. You can contact Kuthengo Camp, Mvuu Camp, Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde Safari Camp, Bushmans Baobabs, Shire Eco Safari Camp. We slept at Liwonde Safari Camp (bed in the dorm was 15$ x day), arranging our activities with them.

TIP: after visiting the park, if you still have time and you also want to try a cultural experience you could sleep at the Njobvu Cultural Village Lodge that offers the rare opportunity to stay in a traditional Malawian village, sleeping in traditional mud-brick huts. Here, you’ll take part in the villagers’ daily lives, visiting the village school, traditional doctors, and eating local food. It’s located close to Ulongwe town and Liwonde NP’s Makanga gate. Click here to find out more information about Njobvu.


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