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The Hazy Beauty of Liwonde National Park

The sun was still sitting low in the sky when I took a stroll down to the river. I stood, as I often do in the mornings, staring out over the water. Blades of grass blew gently in the light breeze and the air was cool with the faint smoky smell, always present in the morning and evenings in Africa. I miss that smell.

Liwonde National Park Elephant

The remnants of the night time charcoal fires cast a haze over the landscape, causing everything in the distance to appear in soft focus. Colours were muted, as though they were covered with an Instagram filter, it was weirdly mesmerising. I felt so lucky to be in such a beautiful place. But up until a couple of years ago, I’d never really thought of Malawi as a safari destination. However, that all changed when I took a trip to Liwonde National Park.

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

After a few weeks in Blantyre, I was looking forward to a bit of wildlife spotting, but I’d never even heard of Liwonde until I got there so I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary.

Liwonde National Park

We’d arrived at our camp, hot and sweaty after a long drive the previous afternoon and seeing signs everywhere saying ‘Beware of Hippo & Other Wild Animals’ -  I felt excited! I was back where I belonged. I got even more excited when I saw another sign saying ‘Swimming pool this way’! Oh hello luxury!

Mvuu Camp, on the banks of the Shire (pronounced Shiree) River was to be our base for the next couple of days whilst we explored the park both on land and on the water. As we splashed around in the pool that afternoon, a family of warthogs munched on the grass nearby.

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

My morning daydream was broken by the sight of a very large crocodile swimming idly past. He watched me closely as I backed a little further away from the edge not really wanting to be breakfast for a hungry reptile.

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

Liwonde National Park

Our group were split over two boats and we set off along the river in search of beautiful creatures. Crocs and hippos were everywhere and being on the water meant that we could get really close.

Liwonde National Park Crocodile

Liwonde National Park Crocodile

And gave me the opportunity be my idiotic silly self!

Liwonde National Park Crocodile

Crocs sit with their mouths open like this to cool down.

Liwonde National Park Crocodile

I’m not a massive fan of hippos. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch them and listen to them, from a safe distance but they just seem… sly. Mvuu, as in Mvuu Camp where we were staying, (pronounced umvu – the um is more like a phonetic m), actually means hippo in one of the local languages, Chichewa.

Liwonde National Park Hippo

Their eyes, ears and nostrils all sit on top of their heads, so all you see are these beady eyes poking out of the water. They look kind of cuddly, but mean at the same time. They can be awfully bad tempered and their powerful jaws are extremely dangerous. Hippos are very territorial, and whilst they are herbivores, males have been known to kill other hippos and humans and they can move a lot faster than you think. Best to give them a very wide berth!

Liwonde National Park Hippo

A couple of fun little facts for you…hippo ‘sweat’ is a pinky red colour, and acts like a sunscreen and it’s also not actually sweat, more like an oil and a group of hippos is called, a bloat!

Liwonde National Park

This male waterbuck bravely has a drink at the river. Even with tons of crocodiles around, a buck’s gotta drink! What you can’t really see is the waterbuck’s rear end, which has a white circle on, which, kind of looks like a target!

Liwonde National Park

Then there’s the birds. Liwonde is a bird haven! You’ll spot many different species including kingfishers, fish eagles, hornbills, African skimmers, cormorants and egrets hitching a ride on the back of an elephant.

Fish Eagles at Liwonde National Park Malawi https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

But the best part of the day…

Liwonde National Park Elephant

…getting this close to elephants.

Liwonde National Park https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/

Liwonde National Park Elephant

Liwonde National Park (357)

Liwonde National Park (331)

Liwonde National Park (322)

Elephant in Liwonde National Park

Finish off your day with a nice cold Kuche Kuche beer in the bar.

Liwonde National Park Kuche Kuche Beer

Liwonde might not be one of the most famous National Parks, but it’s definitely amongst my favourite safari destinations. And with Lonely Planet naming Malawi as one of the top destinations of 2014, get in quick before everyone else discovers just how amazing it is!

Essential Info:

  • We stayed at Mvuu Camp. They offer camping and static tent/chalet type accomodation. It’s a really nice camp and I’d highly recommend it.
  • We had our own truck which we drove into the park, and then our safaris were organised directly through the camp which is run by Wilderness Safaris. They offer a number of other activities also such as visits to a rhino sanctuary and bike rides.
  • If you don’t have your own transport, check with Wilderness Safaris as they may do pick ups from cities like Lilongwe (5 or 6 hours away) and Blantyre (3 or 4 hours away). If not, they’ll be able to put you in touch with one of their partners.
  • Wilderness Safaris also operates a number of community initiatives so they get a big thumbs up from me!
  • Entry into the National Park is $10 per person per day for non-Malawians. There is also an additional one off charge for vehicles. We were in a big truck which cost $30, from memory cars are cheaper at around $20.
  • You could also time your visit to coincide with the Lake of Stars, Africa’s premier music festival which takes place around September time each year.

Would you now consider Liwonde for safari?  

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

12 Comments

  • Caitlyn
    February 1, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Wow, those photos are brilliant! I’m with you, elephants are definitely the best, they just look so gentle (especially when birds are hitching a ride on them) yet so huge! I’m planning on visiting a friend in Nairobi soon and heading to a few countries nearby, so you’ve definitely put Malawi on my radar now 🙂

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 2, 2014 at 12:17 am

      Thank you Caitlyn!

      The elephants are gentle but I wouldn’t mess with them! 🙂

      Glad I’ve inpired you to go to Malawi!! There’s so many great places to go around East Africa! I’m going back in September too. You’ll have a great time!

      Reply
  • Michelle - Very Hungry Explorer
    February 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    I could literally cry at how beautiful Liwonde looks in your pictures. I don’t think I’ll make it back to Africa before 2015, but Malawi is definitely on the top of my list when I do.

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 4, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      Hey Michelle, aw thank you! I loved it there. So beautiful and peaceful. One of my favourite national parks! Yes go to Mamalwi, it’s so lovely! 🙂

      Reply
  • Marysia @ My Travel Affairs
    February 6, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    I love elephants! It would be amazing to see them drinking, in the water! Cool!

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 6, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      I know, they’re just captivating! I’ll never get bored of seeing elephants! 🙂

      Reply
  • Ruth
    March 1, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Wow! Simply amazing. This looks like my kind of trip. I love getting close to wildlife.
    Ruth recently posted…5 Must-try Dishes for Backpackers in ThailandMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 2, 2014 at 11:53 pm

      Hey Ruth! It’s such a lovely place! So atmospheric and it really is beautifully hazy! Thanks for the lovely comment! 🙂

      Reply
  • regina smedley
    March 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

    Hey Helen thank you for visiting my motherland and from malawi and from Liwonde I am return going to Malawi this at this moment living Christchurch New Zealand check out our web site Mphatikizo .com trying to finish the orphanage zikomo

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 19, 2014 at 10:18 am

      You’re welcome, I loved Malawi! Good luck with the work you are doing! I will take a look at the website!

      Thanks,

      Helen

      Reply
  • Ash Attavar
    December 9, 2014 at 1:09 am

    Nice pics Helen. I am originally from Malawi, but reside in the UK now. I have returned several times on holidays and each time I visit Mvu and spend more than a day there too and never have been lucky enough to see elephants like you have in your pics. On many occasions they have been nearby from the sounds etc but I never saw them openly. I know I have just been unlucky as friends who have gone since or before my trips have taken wonderful pics as you. BTW Malawi has a new park called Majete which is stocked with various animals including the big five.

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 9, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      Hey Ash, It’s so luck of the draw with safaris. I’ve been on a few where a I didn’t see much and some where I saw loads! For instance, I didn’t see loads of elephants in Chobe, and there are around 30,000 of them there!

      I’ve been to Majete also! It was great! Didn’t see as much as in Liwonde, but really enjoyed it! Thanks for reading! You come from a beautiful country!

      Reply

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