African elephants with young ( Loxodonta africana africana) in the Shire river, Liwonde National Park.

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Liwonde National Park

Top choice in Malawi

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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Malawi attractions

1. Chingwe's Hole

24.87 MILES

A popular viewpoint on the western side of the plateau. The hole was said to lead to the bottom of the Rift Valley and, in days of old, local chiefs would…

3. Williams Falls

25.79 MILES

From the southern side of the plateau you can hike through some beautiful indigenous forest and past a trout farm to this impressive cascade.

4. Emperor's View

25.99 MILES

Emperor’s View is named after Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, who visited in 1964. It gazes down on Zomba town and out towards Mulanje.

5. Queen's View

26.19 MILES

For really impressive views, head for Queen’s View on the eastern side of the plateau. It's named after Queen Elizabeth, wife of King George VI (and…

6. Mandala Falls

26.73 MILES

Just off the main tarred road up to the plateau are the Mandala Falls. A nature trail with picnic spots runs past the neighbouring Mulunguzi Dam to the…

7. Model Hut

27.1 MILES

Get your bearings at this 3D map of the plateau and the Potato Path.