When the weekend rolls around I’ve usually got a touch of cabin fever. A quick fix for that is a 20 kilometer drive south to Malawi’s Liwonde National Park. Andrea and I like to call it, “our backyard” because it’s cool to have elephants in your backyard.
Malawi has several National Parks, but Liwonde is the highlight. It’s packed with hippos, antelope, crocodiles and elephants. As far as African parks go, it’s on the small side. There are only a few safari camps and lodges in and around the park and not many local drive-in visitors. This is what I love so much about Liwonde. When you get inside the gate you feel you have entered a pristine other-world and you have it all to yourself.
Spotting elephants is always a thrill and Liwonde usually delivers. Canoe and boat safaris down the Shire River provide excellent game viewing and can be arranged from all of the better camps. There are, of course, traditional land safaris, too. Leaving the driving to a professional guide takes a lot of the stress off of the experience. Andrea and I have had a few moments of high anxiety when we’ve gotten a little too close with no way to turn the car around.
If you are into bird watching, Liwonde should definitely be on your list. From water birds like the African fish eagle, to woodland species such as Boehm’s bee-eater, you won’t be disappointed with the vast diversity of birds that inhabit Liwonde. Over 400 bird species have been recorded in the park.
The current fee to enter the park is only $10 per person (for foreign visitors). I’ve heard rumors that this is scheduled to go up soon, to help pay for the many wildlife conservation improvements happening in the park. Malawi, like every other country in Africa, is fighting a war against the illegal poaching of its wildlife.
When the rains come (usually late November) it will be impossible to drive through the park in our pick-up. It’s quite difficult for any non 4×4 vehicle to get through the muddy roads of Africa. I’m enjoying our last couple Sunday drives through enchanting Liwonde National Park before our seasons change from hot & dry to hot & wet. But I’ll be back when the rains end in April to see the African landscape bursting with luscious greenery.