The stretch of the sluggish Shire flowing through Malawi's underrated Liwonde National Park is the archetypical African riverine scene.  Among the smallest and most densely populated countries in southern Africa, Malawi is generally considered to b a bit of a second division safari destination.

But it does contain what I'd regard as one of the most underrated national park in the region, in the form of Liwonde, which flanks the Shire River - an archetypal tropical waterway fringed by dense reed beds, tall palms, and patches of lush riparian woodland. Best explored by boat, the river offers fabulous elephant viewing, and is also densely stocked with hippos and crocodiles.

It also supports a superb selection of water-associated birds, ranging from African fish eagle, Palm-nut vulture and red-necked falcon (which often perches unobtrusively in riverside palms) to the more localised Long-toed Lapwing, African Skimmer, Rufous-bellied Heron and White-Backed Night Heron. At dusk, Pel’s fishing owl is often seem in arboreal action above the river, while bat hawks swoop along the banks.

Guided walks are also exceptional for birds, with the likes of Boehm’s bee-eater, brown-breasted barbet, Lilian’s lovebird and Livingstone’s flycatcher all regular around the central Mvuu Camp.

By Philip Briggs
South Africa ZA

Philip is an acclaimed travel writer and author of many guidebooks, including the Bradt guides to Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.

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