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Liwonde National Park
The atmosphere of the Liwonde National Park is unique, and gives a taste of the Africa that people dream about; with a sluggish river running through the middle in which hippos snort and frogs sing, and some truly African bush, it is the perfect place to visit to fulfil a wish to experience raw Africa. This is the only place in Malawi that you will get this atmosphere.
The wildlife in the park is more genuine than in places where animals are so used to human occupation that they seem to ‘play up’ to expectations; here, it is wild, in peak physical condition and the perfect way to see animals before human interference changes the way they live. Animals that can be seen include elephant, sable antelope, waterbuck, impala and warthog; these are just a few of the many. Somewhat impressively is the 2,000 strong population of hippo which occupy a stretch of just 40 km of river. This is one of the densest hippo populations on the continent, with a hippo at least every 20 m.
For predators, lion and leopard are sometimes seen, but they are very shy and stay very much to themselves. Hyena can be heard at night.
For birds Liwonde is also a strong spot to go, with 250 different species identified on an ornithological tour that recently went through the park. Nyika Plateau is Malawi’s premier bird location.
With seven different plant communities that house around 1,030 species of vascular plants, it is also a fascinating place to go for people with an interest in the less mobile life in the park. With reed swamps, lagoons and marshland, floodplain grasslands, woodland, tall grass tree savanna, riverine thicket, dry deciduous thicket and mopane woodlands, there is something fascinating in every part of the park. Whilst this may not appeal to you directly, you may discover once you learn a bit about some of the highly specialised species that you find them more interesting than you would expect.
Adding some colour to the bush are a huge number of wild flowers, lilies and orchids that are striking after the rains but also present during the dry season; in particular the Impala Lily that for a time turns the ground into a beautiful striking pink.
In terms of conservation of rare species, the park has an extremely successful programme working to reintroduce black rhino, buffalo, eland, hartebeest, roan antelope and zebra back to the park; there are now 10 black rhino here, and with the transfer of some females in the near future, there may be a breeding herd to learn from and support. Due to the sad situation the rhino are in, this may be the only way to see the incredible animals and it is well worth it.
The park also has a children’s charity that helps orphans around the park area by providing them with an education in some of the most important areas of live, from basic first aid to HIV/AIDS awareness. This holds a hippy festival every year in support of the charity and this is a great event to see some celebrations in a truly African style.
One of the greatest attributes of this national park is the range of activities that animals can be viewed by; from game drives to boat safaris to walking safaris. This is truly the best way to see Africa.
The Southern Lakeshore hosts some of the best watersporting activities on the African continent and is well worth a visit. The beaches on Lake Malawi are very good and great if you’re looking for a relaxing vacation.