Travel Guide Malawi: Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park is a hidden Gem in Southern Malawi with one of the best river-based wildlife observation opportunities.

Travel Guide


Name: Liwonde National Park

Founding year: 1973, in 2015 African Park took over the management

Location: South of the lake Malawi, alongside the Shire River

Size: 584 square kilometres

Animals: The big 5 (elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, and rhino) are all seen in the park. There are large numbers of hippo and Crocodiles along the River. Sable antelopes, klipspringers, waterbucks, and warthog can be seen regularly, wild dog, cheetah and spotted hyenas belong to the main predators within the park’s boundary. The wetland area is a fine habitat for over 400 different bird species including Pel’s fishing owl, African skimmer, Osprey, Palm-nut vulture, and Lilian’s love bird.

Activities: The lodge diversity offers different activities such as exceptional game drives incl. night drives, immersive bush walks, and calming boat rides.

Best travel time: The best wildlife observing time would be in the dry season from April to October, when the bush is dry and open. The animals congregate around the water sources and are easily spotted. From November to March, the rain season is ongoing and brings along the African summer, the birth time for many animals and an astonishing array of migrating birds.

Highlights: Liwonde National Park offers the best river-based wildlife viewing in Southern Africa. Enjoy the remarkable wildlife conservation efforts during game drives, bush walks, and boat rides while experienced guides explain all there is to know and much more about the fauna and flora of the region. The park is well known for beginner-birders and twitchers alike and one might gets the opportunity to spot dancing Boehm’s bee-eaters, insect-catching Livingstone’s flycatcher, and rare palm-nut vultures.


Liwonde National Park stands for an incredible success story of wildlife translocation and reintroduction in Southern Africa. Where in 2015 the park was full of ten-thousands of wire snares and some of the highest human-wildlife conflict levels in the region, the restoration and the impressive conservation efforts can now be seen on game drives, bush walks, or boat rides that the lodges within the park offer. Within not even 10 years later the park boasts numerous species including buffalos, cheetahs, elephants, and sable antelopes.

Visiting Liwonde National Park

Location and wildlife

Liwonde National Park is situated south of the magnificent Malawi Lake and alongside the Shire River. Liwonde is the gateway to the park and if you don’t get to stay within the park’s borders, it is the perfect base for your safari adventure. The Liwonde National Park is with its 584 km2 a relatively small but wonderful conservation Gem.

Hippos and crocodiles call the waterways of the Shire River their home, while water-dependent animal enjoy its cooling effects on a hot day when taking a bath or quenching their thirst. Mopane and Candelabra euphorbia provide shade for plenty of antelopes including hartebeest, roan, and sable while the dry-savanna landscapes give this true wilderness spot a magic glim.

Liwonde is a small birding hotspot and an important stop for birders of all levels. Along the river you might find the elusive Pel’s fishing owl, African Skimmer, or black herons, while within the Mopane area you might spot a racket-tailed roller. Other highlights are Böhm’s Bee-eater, Livingstone’s Flycatcher or Dickinson’s kestrel. Malawi’s national bird the African fish eagle can also be seen and heard within the park’s boundaries.


Activities in the Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park is best known for its spectacular river-wildlife-watching opportunities. Many lodges in the park offer boat cruises to get an up-close look of animals who are quenching their thirst or taking a cooling bath.

During game drives, you can enjoy encounters with the grey gentle giants such as elephants and hippos or take some incredible pictures from a lion pride lying in the shade of a Mopane tree. Some lodges also offer walking safaris to explore the small things the African bush offers and focusing more on tracks, insects, and medicinal uses of plants.


When is the best time to visit the Liwonde National Park?

The ideal time to visit the park is during the dry season from April to October. During this period, the bush is dry and open, making wildlife watching easier and more successful.

There are three distinct seasons in the area:

November – March:

With the onset of rains and the African summer, the weather becomes hot and wet. Humidity peaks in January and February, and the thick bush makes spotting animals difficult. However, Liwonde transforms from a dust bowl into an emerald paradise, showcasing its magical beauty. This is the perfect time for keen birders to watch the summer migration behaviour of birds. It is also the time of the year where most animals give birth and is therefore called the baby season. It must be said that Malawi is a high-risk region for Malaria and this season is also the pick time for Mosquitos.

April – August:

Temperatures cool down and rainfall decreases, the African winter comes around. It's advisable to wear warmer clothing including beanies and scarves for early morning and evening activities, or when on the river, especially in July and August.

September – October:

Temperatures soar, making these months extremely hot and dry. The landscape becomes sparse and dry with limited vegetation, but the game viewing is spectacular.

Where can you stay in the Liwonde National Park?

The park offers many lodges where you can absorb the feeling of the wilderness around you. You can stay in Lodges offering canvas chalets or luxurious tents with en-suite bathrooms overlooking the Shire River or the dry savanna. Some provide you a wonderful dinner under the starry sky or lunch underneath the shade of majestic baobab trees.

Liwonde National Park does not offer any self-drive safaris or self-camping accommodation.


Conservation and protection initiatives in the Liwonde National Park

In 2015 African Parks has taken over the management of Liwonde National Park. While back in 2015 the park was fighting some of the worst human-wildlife conflicts of Southern Africa it is a perfect example of what conservation efforts can bring along. With improved technology and a ranger training centre within Liwonde over 40’000 wire snares (which are used for poaching) were removed and historic flagship species were reintroduced. Over the past 10 years a healthy population of lions, packs of wild dogs, elephants and cheetahs were reintroduced and in 2019 one of the largest international black rhino translocations in history has taken place.

While back in 2015 there were no vultures left in the park, but with the reintroduction of carnivore species and their prey, one can now find four of the 11 vultures species breeding again. Those are the Hooded vulture, White-backed vulture, Lapped-faced vulture and White-headed vulture. There were also records of Palm-nut vultures, Egyptian vultures and Rüppel’s vultures, which were using the park as a stop along their journey.

The transformation of this poaching hotspot into a safe haven is perfectly seen by the example of the relocation of 263 elephants as well as 431 additional wildlife to Kasungu National Park in 2022. With the ranger training centre and lots of groundwork, poaching has been brought under control without any reports of rhino or elephant poaching for four years.

One of the other major conflicts besides poaching in the area was the human-wildlife conflict between crop farmers and elephants. The park has partnered up with a project called “Spicy Farmers” and with their help chilli barriers were planted around the park. Elephants seem to dislike chillies and it helped already in many countries to keep elephants within park borders. Since the barriers were planted there were fewer breakouts, and the farmers had more crops to harvest and live off.

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