Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

In a three part blog series, Alan will look at obscure, off-the-beaten-track safari destinations. Places often overlooked by the crowds that are better off for their anonymity. In this, his third, he looks at safari possibilities in Malawi.

Africa for beginners. That’s Malawi’s catch cry. Here’s another one: the warm heart of Africa. While both are overused and definitely oversimplify, there is truth in both. Malawi’s compact size, relative ease of getting between its main centres, established tourism industry and friendly people make it popular. But not for travellers on safari.

Traditionally, Malawi does not have the big name parks in neighbouring countries. This in itself is a good reason to go on safari here. You definitely dodge the crowds and...there is some fantastic wildlife watching. In the past parks have suffered from neglect, poaching and a lack of investment. But it’s turning around...now is definitely the time to visit, while all these parks are still off the main safari circuits.

Where to go on Safari
Liwonde National Park is the flagship conservation area (but still very low key). It’s a beautiful park packed full of hippo, buffalo, elephants and crocs with sable, roan eland, hyena and zebra lurking among the dry savannah and forest. In 2013 lions were reintroduced.

It has a touch of the Lord of the Rings about it as will become apparent when you cruise up the ‘Shire River’. My abiding memory of cruising the river is the huge numbers of kingfishers – especially the dazzling malachite kingfisher. A personal favourite.

Another place – in Central Malawi – to keep in mind is Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Due to an increase in funding, the establishment of a couple of reputable lodges and conservation programs its coming into its own. Elephants, crocs, buffalo, various antelope and even leopard are kicking about. Dense woodland and bush make sightings challenging.

Majete Wildlife Reserve in the far south, once heavily poached now is reaping the reward of investment, a perimeter fence and the reintroduction of lions. This place is tougher to get to but worth the effort. You could also check out Mt Mulanje – the ‘Island in the Sky’ on your way here.

A touch of Scotland...
However, a favourite of mine, mainly because of its unusual character, is Nyika National Park in the northern highlands. Hills, grasslands, broad valleys and a sprinkling of pine trees give the landscape a soft and gentle glow, especially in the morning mists.

It’s actually far more reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands than Africa – but then you spot an elephant, or a hyena or a bushbuck. You can explore all this wonderful wilderness on foot or on a mountain bike. That said lions and possibly cheetah are due for reintroduction soon, so check before you hop on your bike...

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