At a Glance
Dates: November 16th - November 26th, 2023
Extension: We do not currently offer any extensions to this itinerary.
Prices: £1,695 pp sharing (with single supplement information provided on request), excluding international flights.
In a sentence: A rarely-visited corner of Africa, Northern Malawi is a real breath of fresh air, combining beautiful scenery with the chance to glimpse leopard, lion and even African wild dog.
Malawi is a real conservation success story, with impressive steps taken by African Parks to re-wild Majete and Liwonde in the country's south. African Parks have also worked hard to bolster the wildlife populations in Nkhotakota, once the last hope for lions and elephants in Malawi. There is now a thriving herd of elephants here, over 600 strong, and species once thought to be extirpated here, including the inimitable honey badger, are making a comeback. Elsewhere in the north of Malawi, though, the wildlife has often been neglected by wildlife-lovers flocking to more established reserves in the region. This is a great shame, as this is an area with extraordinary natural beauty and, with a little luck, incredible wildlife. Nyika National Park is a stunning destination, home to a wide array of antelope species including the gorgeous roan antelope. Leopard are increasingly common here, with lion making very occasional appearances as well. Buffalo and elephant are sometimes seen also and, although this is not a classic big-game viewing experience, there is plenty to keep nature-lovers happy. Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is contiguous with Zambia's famous Luangwa Valley and boasts a real diversity of big game. Whilst wildlife densities aren't nearly as high here as across the border, visitors may still be lucky enough to glimpse lion, leopard, spotted hyena, wild dog, caracal or serval. Even if the cats, dogs and hyenas avoid detection, guests are likely to see buffalo, elephant, hippo, eland, puku, roan, Lichtenstein's hartebeest and even sable. Kasungu National Park is, sadly, a shadow of its former self, due to poaching. Attempts are being made to bring back many species, though, and the future of the park looks bright. Although wildlife densities are low and animals are shy, lucky visitors may still spot elephant, lion, leopard or even wild dog.
Lilongwe & Kasungu NP
On arrival into Lilongwe you will be met by your local guide and your Pictus Safaris tour leader and transferred the 2.5 hours north to Kasungu National Park. There will be an opportunity here to settle in to your accommodation overlooking the Lifupa Dam and freshen up after your flight. Be sure to keep an eye out, as elephants often come to drink at the dam in the heat of the day.
This afternoon we will head out on our first game drive of the tour. Wildlife densities in Kasungu are, sadly, low and animals are typically very skittish due to intense poaching pressure. However, large predators do survive in the ecosystem and, if we are very lucky, we may glimpse spotted hyena, serval, lion, leopard or even wild dog this afternoon. More likely, we will encounter antelope species including Lichtenstein's hartebeest, roan, greater kudu and sable. We will return to our lodge to watch the sunset over the dam - and enjoy the antics of the local pod of hippos - and dinner will be served here.
Once darkness has set in, we will head out for a night drive, an opportunity to glimpse some of the rarer nocturnal species present in Kasungu. This is when we have the best chance of spotting leopard, lion or spotted hyena, although sightings here are a matter of luck! We will return to our lodge for some well-earned rest after our drive.
This morning we will wake early and head out on our first morning activity, a morning walk to a series of ancient cave paintings. There will also be the chance for a longer walk up Wagombe Mountain for those who wish to stretch their legs and get a unique perspective of the park.
This afternoon, we will again head out for a game drive in search of the elusive wildlife of Kasungu, with a night drive laid on after dinner once more.
Vwaza Marsh WR
Today we leave the lodge early with a long day of driving ahead of us to Vwaza Marsh. The drive lasts around seven hours, so we aim to arrive at our basic accommodation just outside Vwaza Marsh by early afternoon. Vwaza is contiguous with the world-class game-viewing destinations in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia and, although game densities are not as high here, there is the potential for excellent sightings on afternoon and night game drives today. Lake Kazuni is home to a booming population of hippo, and large herds of buffalo and elephant often gather here. Lion, leopard, wild dog, spotted hyena, serval and caracal are all possible here. The antelope diversity here is also excellent with puku, roan, eland, sable and Lichtenstein's hartebeest all possible.
A full day in Vwaza Marsh will allow for morning, afternoon and night game drives. Our primary quarry will the rare predators that roam the reserve, including leopard and wild dog, and will dedicate much of our time to tracking these animals in the dry interior of the park.
A final morning game drive in Vwaza Marsh will give us one last opportunity to spot one of our target species, before we make the 2.5 hour drive to the stunning Nyika Plateau. Our accommodation is deep within the national park and in one of the areas with the highest game densities in the park. An afternoon game drive will give us a chance to spot elephant, buffalo, Crawshay's zebra, roan antelope and much more. Our night drives, though, generally provide the best game-viewing, with recent years reliably producing excellent sightings of leopard. In recent years, a lioness has also occasionally appeared, although sightings are very rare.
Days Six to Seven
Two full days will allow us to explore this beautiful corner of Africa to our heart's content. Morning, afternoon and night game drives typically offer great viewing of a range of wildlife in incredible surrounds. Guests may choose simply to relax at our lodge overlooking the Chelinda Dam on some days, which in itself is a great spot for viewing wildlife.
After a final morning drive in Nyika, we will head approximately four hours south to the town of Mzuzu, where we will overnight.
A scenic four-hour drive along the shores of Lake Malawi will take us to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve today. After a chance to settle in to our comfortable lodge accommodation and enjoy a late lunch, we will head out for an afternoon game drive. Nkhotakota is most famous for its population of elephants, many of which were translocated from other Malawian reserves in an ambitious project led by the African Parks Network. There is also a small chance of spotting lion and leopard here, so keep your eyes peeled!
We will enjoy morning and afternoon game drive in the reserve today, and we will be sure to spend plenty of time with the reserve's famous elephants. Large breeding herds often descend onto the rivers in the reserve during the heat of the day, making for hugely entertaining viewing.
This morning we transfer back to Lilongwe for your 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 November 2023, aiming to take advantage of the warmer weather on the Nyika Plateau which enhances game-viewing. The tour will run from November 16th to November 26th.
The cost of this trip is £1,695 per person excl. flights. This includes all meals, accommodation and wildlife-focussed activities. Drinks are not included. We regret that we must levy a single supplement, details of which are available on request. To secure a booking, a deposit payment of £600 must be paid.
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 beginning or end of your tour, we can arrange this for you at an extra cost. We strongly recommend booking flights leaving Lilongwe after 14.00 on your return, if leaving on the same day that we return to Lilongwe to avoid disruption to your plans.
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 $50 - we recommend getting a visa before you travel, although visas are available on arrival.
Weather and What to Bring
The weather in Malawi in November is warm and humid, with maximum temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius. At night, temperatures will drop to around 15 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
There are no security issues in any areas visited by this tour.