The EA guide to Malawi safaris
Malawi safaris are for people seeking something that’s off the beaten track, you won’t find it in the brochures. It’s only a small country, but it’s truly blessed with exceptional wilderness areas where wildlife flourishes. And most importantly, there are few tourists.
You can certainly experience a “traditional” savannah safari in one of the country’s top national parks plus there’s walking safaris, hikes, boating and more. With the impressive 600 plus bird species it is quickly getting to the top billing spot for twitchers.
While Lake Malawi is the undisputed geographic jewel in the crown, the green folds of Nyika National Park beckon those seeking a horse riding safari. The hazy heights of Mt Mulanje are attractive for hiking enthusiasts.
The traditional safari seekers should consider Liwonde National Park. It is home to incredible wildlife that has been translocated and reintroduced – that means predators are back for the first time in over two decades.
Another unlikely story of resurgence and restoration is in the south-western part of Malawi, Majete Wildlife Reserve. This forest landscape was decimated after decades of lawlessness and poaching. Back in 2003, African Parks took over management of Majete and immediately began revival of the park with wildlife reintroductions. Today, Majete is thriving beyond imagination. Some of its animals are even being relocated to populate other parks and private reserves – testament to its successful rise from the ashes!
The most time-efficient safari holiday in Malawi is an air safari where you fly from place to place in light aircraft. Malawi has over 40 airstrips that provide great access to cities and wilderness areas. Roads are basic and transfers from place to place while possible, often take longer than anticipated due to potholes and other obstacles! From the air you get to see Malawi’s impressive landscape with its lake and lush vegetation.
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The best time to safari in Malawi
Malawi holidays are possible all year round without issue. It’s a relatively tropical climate so hot days and balmy nights are common. Depending on where you are in Malawi, the temperatures can vary slightly with altitude.
Winter months of May to October are characterised by warmth by day and cool air by night (cold if you are higher in the mountain area). Winter is also dry season which causes less disruption on your day to day. Wildlife safaris are at their best because the vegetation starts to lose its lushness and animals start to congregate around perennial water sources. May to August are moderate and dry.
Summer runs from November to April so your days are hot and rains do fall at times, transforming the landscape into a beautiful rich paradise.
For the best game viewing, we recommend August through to October.
Wildlife in Malawi
Malawi is truly blessed with an impressive diversity of flora and fauna. There’s so much more to Malawi than its marine life. Animals you expect to see on a safari reside in the various national parks and game reserves, from the antelope species like bushbuck, kudu, klipspringer and reedbuck through to the larger species like elephant, buffalo, zeba, rhino, hippo and crocodiles. Big cats were only occasionally spotted in Malawi until the re-introduction of lions into Majete and Liwonde and cheetahs into Liwonde. You can now safari for all of the cats as leopard can be found across almost the entire country, particularly in Nyika.
Of course you’ll see monkeys, baboons and warthog too!
Malawi is also a paradise for birds with over 650 species recorded across the country.
Take a look at the wildlife in Malawi video below.
Majete Wildlife Reserve
This is part of Africa’s Great Rift Valley and one of the greatest success stories in wildlife protection. Majete National Park is the only place in Malawi where you have the opportunity to spot the Big Five throughout the year. Here, the vegetation is diverse with woodland, dry savannahs and a mountainous backdrop. Game drives and walking safaris get you close to the best safari in Malawi and guides are outstandingly knowledgeable, passionate and super friendly!
Liwonde National Park
Liwonde is only 580 square kilometres and yet it’s the most popular of Malawi’s wildlife areas and for good reason. The landscape is a beautiful riverine setting that teems with wildlife. You also get to explore it in 4×4, on foot and boats. Wildlife includes antelope like kudu, sable and bushbuck. You can also spot leopard, hyena and rhino plus of course lion, hippo and crocodiles. Birdlife is exceptionally varied too so it’s a twitchers’ paradise.
Its elephant population grew so much that a massive translocation had to take place in 2016 to ensure the survival of the greater herd. It saw 250 elephants moved to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, made famous by Prince Harry who accompanied conservationists and elephant teams.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
This impressive reserve is nestled beneath the Chipata Mountain and is a rugged terrain criss-crossed with rivers that tumble over the escarpment and flow towards the lake.
It’s past is dark – poaching saw animals literally annihilated and the reserve stood empty for years. There was no reason to visit and the surrounding communities suffered without employment opportunities in tourism. Luckily African Parks took over management in 2015 and very quickly began working on translocations of 520 elephants and 1,500 other animal species.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is just beginning to open up. Home to a rich diversity of flora and fauna, including a number of large mammal species you can expect a rewarding safari experience.
Nyika National Park
The most magnificent highlands of Malawi is the Nyika Plateau, towering no less than 2,500 metres. The region features endless hills, breathtaking views, valleys of woodland and forests, rivers and waterfalls.
This is Malawi’s largest national park and populated with numerous species of animals. It’s famous for its large herds of roan and eland. Nyika also boasts the highest population of leopard in central Africa and is a birders paradise with more than 400 species.
It goes beyond the traditional safari holiday mould and offers mountain biking along the plateau, walks to Neolithic rocks, trout pools and lakes plus the game drives.