The southern African countries of Zambia and Malawi lie adjacent to one another, yet they could hardly be more different. Malawi is a country of great scenic splendour, with its mountains, marshes and lakes — in particular Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. Zambia, by contrast, is a flat country where extensive floodplains and bush support large concentrations of classic African ‘big game’. Both, however, are well known for their walking opportunities, whether in the hills and mountains of Malawi or in the bush of Zambia where ‘walking safaris’ were originally pioneered by the late Norman Carr. Both, too, are home to some of the friendliest people in Africa; Malawi, in particular, being known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’. With such variety spanning two countries, it makes sense to combine the two to offer, what we consider to be, the very best of Africa. Indeed, all the more so because Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, is so much closer to Zambia’s top game reserve (South Luangwa National Park) than Zambia’s own capital, Lusaka.
We begin this safari in Malawi’s beautiful Liwonde National Park that straddles the palm-lined Shire River. This river, the only outlet of Lake Malawi, was a major route into the interior of Africa for the early explorers, missionaries and traders. Entering the park by boat, it is as though nothing has changed since these early days. Numerous Hippos wallow at every bend in the river, Elephants and Waterbuck graze the riverine grasslands and huge colonies of White-breasted Cormorants nest in the trees along the banks. Our three nights in Liwonde will be spent at Mvuu Wilderness Camp, a beautiful tented camp set on the banks of the river, and during our time at Mvuu we will explore the park on foot, by landrover and by boat. Here we hope to find two of Africa’s most beautiful antelopes, the Sable and Greater Kudu, plus a wealth of birdlife including Giant and Malachite Kingfishers, Palmnut Vulture, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Brown-breasted Barbet and the rare and localised Bohm’s Bee-eater. It is also possible to venture out on night drives in search of some of Africa’s nocturnal inhabitants — perhaps a Hyena, Rusty-spotted Genet, African Civet or Lesser Bush-baby.
Next we will drive on to Zomba Mountain, stopping first in Zomba’s colourful market place before winding our way up to the Zomba Plateau at 1,800 metres. Here we will spend two nights based at Ku Chawe Inn, an excellent spot from which to explore both the plateau and its birds. Following mountain streams and the many trails in this attractive region, we will enjoy such species as Green Lourie, Long-tailed Wagtail, White-tailed Crested Flycatcher and Saw-wing Swallow.
The white sandy beaches of Lake Malawi, and its idyllic offshore islands where we will be staying for two nights, provide an opportunity for rest and relaxation. We can also enjoy the wildlife here, either by kayaking quietly around the islands, or by exploring on their network of trails. Beneath the surface of the lake’s warm and clear blue waters exists another world, which you may choose to explore by donning a mask and snorkel. Indeed this national park was first set aside specifically to protect its brightly coloured freshwater fish species (many of which are endemic to the lake) of which more species occur than in any other lake in the world.
From Lake Malawi we will take a flight to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia’s finest game park. Bounded by the Mchinga Escarpment to the west and the Luangwa River to the east, the park supports over 60 species of mammal and almost 500 species of bird, plus a concentration of wildlife unsurpassed in southern Africa. The sweeping turns of the beautiful Luangwa River, full of Hippos and Nile Crocodiles, and its complex, ever-changing pans and ox-bow lagoons, provide the backdrop for Lion, Elephant, Greater Kudu, Eland, Puku and a multitude of other animals. The park is most famous for its large population of Leopards, which we will hope to see on night drives, and a wealth of waterbirds and other riverside bird species which include colonies of the exquisite Southern Carmine Bee-eater. During the dry season, when we visit, the concentration of game amassed along the Luangwa River and its associated lagoons is as great as any in Africa, indeed the world. To enjoy it, we will first be based at Kafunta River Lodge, situated on the edge of the park overlooking the Luangwa River. We will then move to a remote and exquisite bush camp in the heart of the reserve for our ultimate wildlife experience of the tour: a most fitting place in which to conclude this lavish safari — our managing director’s favourite!