Liwonde National Park, Malawi

Photo: Robin Pope Safaris

A bloat of hippos cooling off in the river first thing in the morning. An African fish eagle surveying the area from high in an enormous baobab tree. Two young zebras taking sips of water. A herd of waterbuck strolling along the floodplain as the sun starts to set. A rare Lilian’s lovebird sighting. Elephants alert to the engine of your open-air vehicle. Best of all, there isn’t another human nearby.

It’s hard to find an African safari destination that still feels undiscovered. Botswana and South Africa are overcrowded with tourists. Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are, too. It’s tricky to watch animals during a game drive if they’re aware of other vehicles moving toward them. It’s difficult to float along a river if another boat is speeding by. Plus it’s impossible to go for a walk if someone is making a sound in the distance. The lack of artificial noise is what makes Liwonde National Park so special.

Liwonde National Park is in Southeast Africa. Malawi, a boomerang-shaped country, is landlocked. It’s surrounded by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. Originally called Nyasaland, Malawi gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s, and it’s been relatively stable and peaceful ever since. Malawians are such friendly, welcoming people that the country is known as the Warm Heart of Africa.

Photo: Robin Pope Safaris

Yet Malawi is still under the radar. It could be its size or its dark history of poaching within its parks or its lack of tourist facilities. But Liwonde National Park is changing that. The park lies southeast of the capital (Lilongwe) and on the east bank of the Shire River. Since African Parks started managing the park, it’s almost doubled in size. Its animal relocation program is earning paise throughout the continent. While 550 elephants, 2,000 hippos, and even the endangered black rhino now live in the park. It’s a great spot for wildlife viewing, especially during the dry season when animals congregate around the water.

Tourists will only come if they have a relaxing place to stay, though. Liwonde National Park has also been upgrading its accommodations. Kuthengo Camp opened two years ago. The small, eco-friendly camp sits on the bank of the river. Its two main tents, both open-air, hold a lounge and the dining room. The former is filled with cream and gray sofas, while the latter has a long communal table. A small pool and a fire pit were created outside.

Two tents flank both sides of the common area. That’s right, there are only four tents for guests. Each tent has an open-plan bedroom and bathroom. Light wood floors and furniture flow through the entire space. A high-tech evening breeze air conditioner is part of the canopy bed. A freestanding tub sits beside twin granite sinks. An outdoor shower is hidden behind it. Plus the front wall rolls up to expose a panoramic view of the river and the animals it attracts. This is the way to see Africa.


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