​Expert Reviews – Nkhotakota WR

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Sue Watt   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: June

Sue is an award-winning writer who specializes in African travel and conservation. She writes for national newspapers, magazines, Rough Guides and Lonely Planet.

Malawi’s rising star
Overall rating

Spanning 1800km2, Nkhotakota was until recently a huge, empty reserve devoid of wildlife. However, once again conservation NGO African Parks has stepped in to protect the area. Despite its size, African Parks has fenced the whole perimeter and relocated 520 elephants and numerous other animals in the first steps toward rehabilitation. When I first visited several years ago, wildlife sightings were rare and the reserve was more a place to hike, kayak and chill in beautiful wild surroundings – the views from Mount Kasukusuka right across the reserve are mesmerizing and make you realize just how vast it is. On my most recent visit, I watched the elephant I’d looked after in Liwonde walk into her new home following her relocation – an emotional experience… It’s early days yet in terms of the wildlife here, but Nkhotakota is still very much worth a visit, not least because it’s home to Tongole, a luxury lodge that does fantastic work with the local communities in building classrooms and clinics. It’s one of my favorite lodges in Africa.

James Bainbridge   –  
United Kingdom UK
Visited: September

James is a travel writer and author of many Lonely Planet guides, including senior author of the guide to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Elephants and more in the forests
Overall rating

Nkhotakota is a rising star among Malawi’s major reserves, following African Parks’ historic translocation of over 500 elephants and 1400 game animals from Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park. Whereas the 1800km² of dense miombo forests was once poached empty, I heard elephants crashing through the undergrowth during my stay in a safari tent at Bua River Lodge. Further into the reserve, Tongole Wilderness Lodge is one of Malawi’s best, offering canoe safaris, luxurious chalets and a beautiful thatched main lodge with aerial viewpoint, while Kachenga Bush Camp opened in 2017. With newly translocated sable, kudu, buffalo, waterbuck, impala and warthog, over 280 bird species and a 19,000-hectare wildlife sanctuary, Nkhotakota is an impressive chunk of wilderness within easy reach of Lake Malawi.

Harriet Nimmo   –  
South Africa ZA
Visited: July

Harriet is a zoologist with more than 20 years’ experience. She has the privilege of working with the world’s top wildlife photographers and photo-guides.

Undergoing great transformation
Overall rating

The rugged, hilly terrain of Nkhotakota is bisected by a network of rivers weaving their way through the dense miombo forests. Although Malawi’s oldest park, and one of the country’s largest conservation areas, up until now it has been little developed with very few visitors. When we stayed here we were the only visitors at our rustic lodge. We spent our time walking with a guide, bird-watching and enjoying the solitude.

It is a park of huge potential, all the more so since African Parks have now taken over its management. More than 500 elephants and 1,400 other game animals have recently been introduced, from Liwonde and Majete, as part of a historic translocation initiative to restore Nkhotakota, and it is now poised it to become one of Malawi’s most important sanctuaries for wildlife.

Average Expert Rating

  • 3.0/5
  • Wildlife
  • Scenery
  • Bush Vibe
  • Birding

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