If you have your own 4WD or high-clearance vehicle you can tour the park’s network of tracks independently. However, you will get more out of a visit by staying at a park lodge and joining guided safaris, which explore the bush by safari vehicle, foot, riverboat or canoe.
The Shire River – a wide, meandering stretch lined by palms and surrounded by floodplains, woodland and parched scrub – dominates the park. It's unsurprising, then, that Liwonde is prime hippo- and croc-spotting territory (midday is the best time to see crocs sunning themselves, and late afternoon is best for seeing the hippos rise from the river). Waterbucks are also common, while beautiful sable and roan antelopes, zebras and elands populate the plains.
Night drives can reveal spotted genets, bushbabies, scrub hares, side-striped jackals and even spotted hyenas. The main event here, though, is the elephants, and you should get very close indeed: Liwonde was so overcrowded with pachyderms that African Parks translocated 261 to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in 2016. Following a translocation of spotted hyenas from Lilongwe in 2015, African Parks is in the process of reintroducing lions, leopards and cheetahs to Liwonde.
The combination of rich riverine, mopane and grassland habitats means the local birdlife is varied – over 400 of Malawi’s 650 species are found here, including the Pel’s fishing owl, African skimmer, brown-breasted barbet and Lillian’s lovebird. October to January brings Böhm’s bee-eater to the park.