Kate’s Malawi safari travels (part 4) – visit to Liwonde National park

Liwonde National ParkThis is my fourth post about my recent Malawi safari trip. Next on the agenda was the extremely pretty Liwonde National Park south of the lake. We were staying at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge.  Abasi said 3 hours, Alex said 2½ hours but in fact it took just over 2 hours to get there. (I always like it when drivers over-estimate the time it will take! That’s not common in Africa!(Their official explanation is that they can never tell when there may be road blocks or heavy traffic through the towns.)

Mvuu Lodge and Liwonde National Park in general is a thoroughly charming place and much recommended as long as you have appropriate expectations as to what to expect from the game-viewing.

Mvuu Lodge lies between the Shire river and a small ox bow lagoon (remember your geography lessons?). It’s a traditional old fashioned safari camp, but thoroughly comfortable and sufficiently “upmarket” to be combined with smarter options elsewhere in your Malawi safari. The main areas are raised on stilts and overlook the river with lots of comical warthogs on view from the dining and sitting areas. There’s a small swimming pool close-by.

Mvuu Lodge bedroom, Liwonde ParkThe rooms all stretch along the lagoon. The original five are closest to the main lodge and thus ideal for people who don’t want to walk so far. They are large tented rooms with an en suite bathroom in stone with bath, basin and loo inside and alfresco shower. Lovely views over the lagoon from your deck or hammock. (I reckon hammocks should be made compulsory on a safari – they are the perfect way to relax between safari activities! Tent 5 is the honeymoon tent, similar in style, but with a large bathroom under thatch with a deep circular bath for two. Nice idea but somehow it didn’t really work for me. Tents 6 to 8 are the new tents, quite a bit further away (bit of a hassle if you forget something and have to walk back) but larger and slightly smarter. The bathroom is semi- open plan to the bedroom (wooden divide) with an enclosed toilet, indoor shower and outdoor shower. Though I preferred the newer rooms, the original ones are also also great with lagoon views and the benefit of proximity (especially nice in the hot weather!)

Liwonde National Park is probably still Malawi’s premier wildlife reserve but the reality is that, though Mvuu has a variety of game, it is by no means a Big Game safari destination. You will certainly see lots of elephant, you will certainly see plenty of stunning birds and plenty of general game including the rare Sable antelope. You are also likely to see herds of buffalo and perhaps be able to track down the black rhino (see my next post on rhino tracking on foot). However though there are lion and leopard present, you would be very lucky to see them.

Liwonde National Park breakfast on the boatHowever part of the charm of Mvuu Lodge is the diversity of its game-viewing activities. It offers game drives, bush walks, game-viewing by boat, sunset cruises, village visits by bicycle and a new activity, rhino tracking on foot. I loved this variety – you are not just sitting in a game vehicle all the time. After a morning of game-viewing on foot and by vehicle, we transferred to a boat to enjoy some game-viewing by boat where we enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the boat with a chef cooking omelettes to our specification, plus some of the most delicious cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted. A real treat!  I have had bush breakfasts before but Richard, our excellent guide and manager at Mvuu Lodge, had gone one step further so that we enjoyed breakfast whilst viewing an elephant grazing only a few metres away.

Village visit by bicycleOne of the most enjoyable and educational experiences during my stay at Mvuu Lodge was a visit to the local village. This is done by bicycle, cycling first 1km through the park with an armed scout at the front and your ranger at the back. Then you continue another kilometer to the village where we cycled to the primary school, met the headmaster and learnt about the education system in Malawi. This was fascinating, if somewhat depressing as you realize that only the hardest-working and luckiest children can get a secondary school education. You learn how various organizations are assisting this, and other schools, include an organization called HELP Malawi. Then we visited some of the classrooms and chatted with the kids. I met one particularly spunky young girl in Grade 7 who wants to be a lawyer. She asked us what we did and I explained, rather condescendingly perhaps, that “ I was here to learn all about Malawi so that I could bring visitors to their beautiful country”. “On bicycles?” She drily replied with a twinkle in her eye.  Never try to get one over a kid! Then we cycled back into the reserve. I really enjoyed the experience of cycling through the Malawian countryside, saying hello to everyone. As elsewhere, people are smiling, waving hello and the villages are very clean and well-kept.

I loved my all-too-short stay in the Liwonde National Park and would happily include it in any Malawi safari, perhaps alongside a stay at the South Luangwa or Majete as well to round out the safari experience.

Contact Us if you would like more information on Malawi safaris and Liwonde National Park in particular.


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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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