Image by Ariadne Van Zandbergen Getty Images
With its lodges and safari activities, Liwonde is the closest thing Malawi has to a traditional wildlife park. Dominating the west, the Shire River overflows with hippos and crocodiles and is a favourite stomping ground for the 500-plus elephants. Waterbucks are also common near the water, while beautiful sable and roan antelopes, zebras and elands populate the floodplains.
Night drives can reveal spotted genets, bushbabies, scrub hares, side-striped jackals and even spotted hyenas. Several black rhinos are protected within a separate enclosure as part of a rhino-breeding program, and there's a rich and colourful array of birdlife. October to January is particularly good for birdwatching, as migratory birds, including Böhm’s bee-eater, set up summer camp.
One of the real pleasures of a trip to Liwonde is boating along the river, the water dotted with purple lilies and statuesque palms framing the hills behind. Morning or evening, you're virtually guaranteed to see hippos and likely to see crocodiles, fish eagles, and a whole host of other waterbirds.