At a Glance
Dates: October 5th - October 19th, 2023
Extension: We do not offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £7,050 pp sharing (with a £450 single supplement), excluding flights.
In a sentence: The epitome of a conservation success story; lion, leopard, black rhino, elephant and cheetah are all possible in these breathtakingly beautiful Malawian wilderness areas.
Malawi is sometimes referred to as the "Scotland of Africa", and in some areas it is easy to see why. The lush and rolling highlands of the Nyika Plateau are a marvel in themselves, but when juxtaposed with the sandy shores of Lake Malawi and the sprawling miombo woodland of Majete and Liwonde, it is clear that Malawi has a wealth of natural beauty to offer any traveller. In recent decades, it is this remarkable beauty that has attracted visitors. Now, though, wildlife is returning to this beautiful country and Malawi is once again attracting the attention of safari enthusiasts the world over.
Malawi hosts a number of national parks, several of which Pictus Safaris includes on its tours. The Nyika Plateau is a stunning national park in the north of Malawi, with arguably the healthiest Leopard population in the country. In the west, Kasungu NP is a protected area within striking distance of Lilongwe that once played host to a huge variety of game. Sadly, much of this wildlife has been lost to poaching and mismanagement, but Kasungu still has a reasonable population of Bush Elephant and is the best bet in Malawi for African Wild Dog. Not far from the ever-impressive Lake Malawi is the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Densely forested and occasionally rugged, this reserve was once home to the largest populations of Lion and Bush Elephant in all of Malawi. Whilst this game has again mostly been lost, a re-wilding effort led by African Parks is beginning to breathe life back into this beautiful corner of Africa.
The highlights of any visit to Malawi must be the sights and sounds of Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park, both under the expert management of African Parks. Majete WR has seen a succession of reintroductions and it is now possible to encounter all of the "Big Five" here. The Lion population is very obliging in Majete, Leopards are encountered with surprising regularity and the Bush Elephant population along the Shire River is impressive. Liwonde NP has similarly seen a number of successful reintroductions. Lion, Black Rhino and Cheetah are now present and, whilst tracking them down can be a challenge, Liwonde is undoubtedly the finest area for big cats in Malawi.
Blantyre & Lengwe NP
On arrival into Blantyre you will be met by your Pictus Safaris representative. Once the group has met, we will be collected and transferred to Nyala Lodge in Lengwe National Park. The lodge is very comfortable and in the heart of this neglected national park. After a chance to settle in to our new surrounds, an afternoon game drive allows us to explore Lengwe for the first time. This is not 'big game' country, and we visit Lengwe to both support this little-visited corner of Malawi, but also to ensure that guests have the context needed to truly appreciated the game-rich Majete and Liwonde. Lengwe is a sign of what these areas could have been without the investment of African Parks, and offers a meaningful comparison as a result.
Lengwe still protects some game, though, and we should record species including suni, nyala, bushbuck and much more before returning to our lodge for dinner.
Majete Wildlife Reserve
After a morning game drive in Lengwe seeking out smaller mammals, we transfer to Majete this afternoon. We arrive at this superb reserve in time for an evening game drive, and we will waste no time in seeking out black rhino, cheetah, leopard and lion along the Shire River. Majete has benefitted hugely from the conservation work done by the South African-based NGO African Parks, and in recent years they have transformed Majete with an ambitious re-wilding programme - their most recent additions, African wild dog, will be ones we hope to pay a visit to today.
Days Three to Four
Majete Wildlife Reserve
These two days allow us to set out on game drives targeting Majete's most elusive residents, including the reintroduced Black Rhino and African Wild Dog. The reserve is also home to a number of species rarely encountered elsewhere in Africa, including Selous Mongoose and Marsh Mongoose, and we will be sure to dedicate time to searching good areas for these species.
Our afternoon activity options include a boat safari along the famous Shire River. The river is home to healthy populations of Common Hippo and huge Nile Crocodiles, but our key aim will be to intercept the impressive herds of Bush Elephant and Savanna Buffalo that descend to the river in the evening. Sundowners will be provided as we soak in the beautiful surrounds of Majete.
Liwonde National Park
After breakfast in Majete, we will make the transfer to Liwonde National Park and the fabulous Kuthengo Camp. Situated on the banks of the Shire River, Mvuu provides visitors with excellent views of Hippo, Savanna Buffalo and Bush Elephant from the comfort of camp.
We will arrive in time for an afternoon game drive to familiarise ourselves with the local area and, with luck, encounter Liwonde's famous Lion and Cheetah. The landscapes of Liwonde are particularly diverse and stunning, and we should see our first glimpses of this during our first drive. We will also be able to target the two most highly-prized species of Liwonde - Leopard and African Wild Dog. Both species are elusive and retiring in Liwonde, but with expert guiding and a persistent effort we may get lucky.
We will endeavour to further include a night drive after dinner. There really is no telling what we may come across in the hours of darkness.
Days Six to Seven
Liwonde National Park
We have two full days to explore Liwonde by vehicle and by boat. The rarest inhabitants of Liwonde, namely Cheetah and Black Rhino, can take extensive efforts to locate, but with our local guides we stand a good chance of tracking down these fantastic creatures. Lion, Leopard and much more are also possible on each drive.
When not enjoying game drives, the surrounds of Kuthengo Camp are delightful and it is easy to spend an afternoon enjoying the comings and goings of the local Bush Elephant population.
Our journey north begins today, after a final morning drive in Liwonde. Kuti is a small property on a wildlife reserve that protects species including the beautiful sable antelope. This is primarily just a stopping over point, but we will head out onto the reserve to enjoy the giraffe, nyala, zebra and sable before overnighting here.
We continue north today, and the scenery will make a notable shift towards lush, green, rolling hills as we travel. Our accommodation tonight is nestled in these hills, and is well known as a retreat for cyclists and hikers. We overnight here, but if time permits we may be able to squeeze in a few hours of birding in the lodge gardens before dinner.
Our long journey northwards reaches its climax this morning - Nyika. This plateau national park is unlike anything else in Malawi, coated in dense grassland and forest, with a cool climate and unusual wildlife. Our lodge here is truly special, offering excellent views over a nearby dam, and is in the heart of the best game-viewing in the park. Big game is not prolific here, but our afternoon drive is likely to reveal roan, common reedbuck and much more. Nyika is at its best though, after dark. After dinner, we will head out into the park to search for leopard and spotted hyena - Nyika is the best destination in Malawi for both of these species.
Days Eleven to Twelve
Our two full days in Nyika are split into morning and evening game drives. During daylight hours, we seek out birdlife, smaller mammals and generic game in the stunning surrounds of the park. As the light fades, we focus on leopard and other predators - keep your eyes peeled as even the iconic lion sometimes appears here!
We leave Nyika early this morning with a long day on the road ahead of us. We will make it to Nkhotakota, our destination, as promptly as possible, although road conditions may mean a late arrival. If time permits, we will head out on an evening game drive. This is arguably African Parks' flagship reserve, home to Malawi's largest population of elephants and lions (although sightings of the latter are rare), and our drive through riverine savanna-forest mosaic may produce a few sightings before dinner tonight.
After a final morning drive in Nkhotakota searching for adorable baby elephants and lion cubs, we continue on to Lilongwe where we overnight.
Today we head to Lilongwe Airport to meet homeward flights.
Please be aware that whilst we make every effort to follow the above itinerary as closely as possible, circumstances may occasionally arise that mean the tour deviates from the itinerary.
Dates and Prices
This tour will run in October 2023, aiming to take advantage of the dry season when wildlife populations congregate around water sources. The tour will run from October 5th to October 19th.
The cost of this trip is £7,050 per person excl. flights.. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. All drinks are excluded. We regret that we must levy a single supplement of £450 for this trip. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £2,850 must be paid, plus any single supplement.
Flights and Visas
Pictus Safaris do not offer flight booking services. However, we do recommend the use of travel comparison websites such as skyscanner.net or momondo.com to identify the best fares, and then booking with the airline directly where possible. This will reduce the likelihood of complications and fees should any issues with your booking arise. If you wish to spend an additional night in Lilongwe at the end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost.
British nationals do require a visa to enter Malawi. Clients of other nationalities are advised to check well before travel whether they require an entry visa. Details of the process of obtaining a tourist visa for Malawi will be provided to you upon booking. The cost of a Malawi entry visa for UK citizens is £65 - this should be obtained from the Malawi High Commission in London. To acquire a tourist visa for Malawi you will require a valid passport, two passport photos, a completed application form, a bank statement, a copy of your hotel reservations, an invitation letter, cover letter, and a copy of your itinerary.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Malawi in October is hot and dry, with maximum temperatures of around 29 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 18 degrees Celsius.
A full packing list will be circulated at least two months prior to departure. Pictus Safaris will be able to provide one extra set of binoculars and two spotlights per group, and clients are welcome to bring additional camera, videography and scope equipment should they wish to. Please note that the use of drones is not permitted in many protected areas. We strongly recommend bringing comfortable, loose-fitting and neutral-coloured clothing on safari - please do not bring camouflage clothing. We recommend against dark coloured clothing (e.g. black or dark blue) as this attracts biting flies. Worn-in hiking boots with ankle support are a must, as are sunglasses, sun protection and a hat.
Do also remember to budget for any expenses not included in the cost of the trip, including for gratuities and additional activities. We recommend bringing US Dollars.
Safety and Security
This itinerary does not visit any areas where there are currently security concerns. We are in constant communication with our partners in Malawi to ensure this remains the case, and will alert you as soon as this situation changes. All Pictus Safaris clients must take out travel insurance before travelling with us.
To secure a booking on this fantastic holiday, please fill out the details below.