Nestled in the southeastern part of Africa lies Malawi, a landlocked country with a stunning array of natural beauty. It is often called the “Warm Heart of Africa” due to the welcoming and friendly nature of its people.
From the vast lakes to the stunning highlands, Malawi has it all! The country boasts an impressive 648 bird species and a wide range of fascinating mammals, including the Big Five, such as lions, leopards, buffaloes, elephants, and rhinos.
In addition to its impressive wildlife, Malawi is also home to Lake Nyasa, which is known as Lake Malawi in Malawi, and makes up over one-fifth of the country’s total area. This stunning lake is home to endemic fish species, making it an important destination for fish enthusiasts.
With successful wildlife conservation and reintroduction programs, such as reintroducing the black rhino to Liwonde and Majete Nature Reserves. Malawi’s national parks and wildlife reserves cover over 8% of its land area. The absence of mass tourism makes it an attractive safari destination, providing a chance to experience all types of safaris in the warm heart of Africa.
Malawi’s National Parks and Protected Areas
Malawi boasts a wealth of protected areas, including national parks, game reserves, and forest reserves, all under government control that offer visitors the chance to see a diverse array of wildlife:
Kasungu National Park – is a park in Malawi, in the central region, west of Kasungu town and about 175 km north of Lilongwe. It is home to a variety of animals, including elephants, Sable and roan antelopes, kudus, impala, hartebeest, African buffaloes, hyenas, Cape wild dogs, and servals. Unfortunately, the park is threatened by poaching. Efforts are being made to protect the wildlife, including lions, which are now considered a conservation priority in the area.
Liwonde National Park – located south of Lake Malawi, on the banks of the Upper Shire River. It is home to the best elephant populations in Malawi. Since African Parks took over the park in 2015, they have removed thousands of wire snares and reintroduced many animals like cheetahs, lions, black rhinos, and African wild dogs. Visitors can witness more animals and watch them in the river, explore beautiful forests, and admire stunning views of floodplains dotted with tall palm trees. Bird watchers can easily see different types of birds, like Pel’s fishing owl, Boehm’s bee-eaters, Lilian’s lovebirds, and Livingstone’s flycatcher, which can be very exciting for them.
Lengwe National Park – located near the town of Chikwawa and about 40 miles southwest of Blantyre, is a great place to spot rare animals such as Lichtenstein’s hartebeest. The only Big Five you can see in this park is buffalo yet there is a diverse range of antelope, such as nyala, impala, duiker, bushbuck, and the majestic greater kudu.
Nyika National Park – is in the northeast of Zambia on the western part of Nyika Plateau. The park boasts a high density of leopards, with the highest concentration of leopards in Malawi. It also houses other wildlife species, including Crawshay’s zebra, which is a sub-species of Burchell’s zebra. Moreover, visitors to the park can also expect to see eland, roan antelope, common reedbuck, bushbuck, and duiker.
Lake Malawi National Park – is a park located at the bottom of Lake Malawi in Southeast Africa. Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the park was created mainly to protect vast fish diversities and its habitat. Unparalleled to other places in the world, approximately 700 different types of cichlid fish are present while some haven’t even been discovered yet by scientists. Visitors can spot also various animals and many other kinds of birds. Animals include baboons, monkeys, hippopotamuses, leopards, and birds like crocodiles, eagles, and cormorants, while birds include like kingfishers, hornbills, and swallow-tailed bee-eaters.
Majete Wildlife Reserve – covers 7,000 hectares in the Great Rift Valley located in the south, and home to the Big Five. In 2003, the reintroduction of endangered species resulted in abundant wildlife such as black rhino, elephant, and buffalo. Visitors can see the results of the park’s hard work and law enforcement to stop poaching and spot rare species such as Lichtenstein’s hartebeest and klipspringer. Majete had a significant achievement with the birth of a black rhino calf in 2008 and is a must-visit destination in Malawi.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve – situated in the Great Rift Valley near Lake Malawi, the reserve is the most ancient and biggest wildlife in Malawi with wetlands, miombo woodland, Brachystegia trees, long grasses, and forests. While poaching has caused a significant decline in the elephant population from 1,500 to 100 by 2015, after African Parks took over management in 2015, more than 520 elephants and 2,000 other animals were moved in 2016 and 2017. Antelopes, baboons, leopards, and warthogs live in the park. Recently, in 2019, the rare roan antelope and honey badger were sighted in the park. Moreover, the rufous trident bat is exclusive to the area.
Conservation Efforts in Malawi
Preserving Malawi’s unique wildlife habitats is crucial to the survival of the country’s animal species. Two organizations working to protect the country’s wildlife include Wildlife Action Group and the Lilongwe Wildlife Trust.
Lilongwe Wildlife Centre is the sole-government mandated wildlife rescue and rehabilitation in the city of Lilongwe established by Lilongwe Wildlife Trust in 2007. The organizations aim to encourage conservation justice, inspire people to value nature, and protect wildlife in Malawi. The trust also provides tools for law enforcement, raise awareness and engage local communities to protect the environment and wildlife. On the otherhand, Wildlife Action Group is a non-government, non-profit organization established in 1996 that was created to address the rampant illegal commercial deforestation and poaching of wildlife in Thuma Forest and Dedza Salima Escarpment Forest Reserve. Mainly focused on conservation, the group also conduct research, and develop plans to reduce illegal activities and human-wildlife conflict.
In conclusion, Malawi’s national parks and wildlife reserves provide visitors with the opportunity to see a diverse range of wildlife and experience the country’s unique natural beauty. Malawi’s wildlife is a true marvel that deserves greater recognition. By exploring the country’s national parks and conservation efforts we can gain a deeper appreciation for the amazing animal species that call Malawi home.