Malawi named one of Lonely Planet's Best in Travel Top Countries for 2022! Find out more.
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Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve


Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, to the east of Central Malawi and near Lake Malawi, is one of the two large wildlife areas offering safaris in this region. Its vast 700 sq miles (1800 sq km) is of rugged terrain crossed by a number of rivers which tumble down the edge of the Rift Valley escarpment as they make their ways to the Lake. Most of the reserve is miombo woodland with large patches of tall grasses and occasional areas of rainforest.  Birdlife is prolific with giant kingfishers and palm nut vultures among the 130 recorded species. This is a wonderful example of true, rugged, untouched wilderness. In the past the reserve proved difficult to access because of the lack of roads or driveable tracks. Although there were animals in Nkhotakota, the terrain and difficult access made them difficult to find. However, the management of the reserve passed into the hands of African Parks in 2015 and they are making rapid progress carrying out their plans to protect and further develop Nkhotakota. One of the largest elephant translocations in human history took place during 2016/17 with 500 elephants being brought in to Nkhotakota. Over half that number were successfully moved in 2016, as part of a total influx of over 1500 game animals, with the reminder brought in the following year. A sanctuary has been established and the reserve has been fully fenced to ensure the long term survival of all the animals in this rapidly developing reserve.

As well as the fast developing game viewing safaris, there are opportunities to go walking and hiking in Nkhotakota. Visitors can also paddle canoes on a boat safari down the Bua River as it cuts through the dense bush, or have a go at fishing from the banks of this mighty river.

Recent years have seen the opening of brand new, professionally-run accommodation in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve for the first time. Three lodges of international standards have been built: Bua River LodgeTongole Wilderness Lodge and Kachenga Bush Camp, more recent sister property of Tongole. The Tongole Foundation supports the local communities through a variety of projects and guests at the lodges are invited to engage with those local communities. Just outside the Reserve on its eastern boundary (close to Lake Malawi) is the new Rafiki Safari Camp, opened in 2019, and offering luxury tented safari units and camping.

In 2019, the sanctuary was extended to cover 80,000 hectares with access to the the Bua river included within the boundary, offering frequent up close wildlife viewing for guests at both lodges.

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Accommodation in or near Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Tongole Wilderness Retreat

Tongole Wilderness Retreat is a luxury eco-lodge set deep within the rugged and breathtakingly beautiful miombo woodland of the 1,800 sqkm Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

Bua River Lodge

Bua River Lodge is a small and unique, owner-managed lodge located inside Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, where you are sure to feel at home and relaxation is guaranteed.

Ngala Beach Lodge

At Ngala you will be welcomed by friendly personalised service. Our beautiful lodge has stunning views of both the lake and mountains. You can see the sunrise and the sunset over the water at Ngala Lodge.

Rafiki Safari Camp

Rafiki Safari Camp is the perfect family comfortable safari getaway with double/twin or family Luxury Safari Units, located right by Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

Kachenga Bush Camp

Kachenga Bush Camp consists of 3 chalets and is centrally located in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, in a tranquil setting, with views out to Kasukusuku mountain.


Other Places to Visit in Central Malawi

Chongoni Rock Art

In the forested granite hills around Dedza is the Chongoni Rock Art Area, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte. this is the densest cluster of ancient rock art found in central Africa.

Dedza

Dedza is a town of interest for a variety of reasons. At 1600m (5300ft) it is the highest town in the country and sits in a beautiful landscape of forests and highlands.

Dwangwa

Thirty miles north of Nkhotakota is the settlement of Dwangwa, a useful place to stock up and refuel when travelling up and down the lakeshore.

Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

Dzalanyama is approximately 40 km from Lilongwe and covers the steep range of hills which bear the same name. It's a beautiful natural environment to explore and enjoy.

Kasungu National Park

Kasungu National Park is an 800 sq mile area of natural woodland and bush with stretches of open grass. Poaching has reduced numbers but there is still wildlife to be seen.

Lilongwe

Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital. The Old Town is distinct and has the appearance of a traditional African settlement, whilst the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world.

Marelli Islands

The Marelli Islands group, consist of three uninhabited islands that are protected as part of the Lake Malawi National Park. They are 3 km from the Senga Bay shore.

Mua Mission

Mua Mission is famous for the quality of the wood carvings produced and sold there. The standards are superb and the prices very reasonable.

Nkhotakota

Often, but confusingly, described as the largest traditional village in Africa, Nkhotakota is rich in history. Visited by Dr Livingstone in 1863, it was then a major centre for the slave trade.

Ntchisi Forest Reserve

Ntchisi Forest Reserve contains some of the last remaining indigenous rainforest in Malawi. Some trees tower thirty metres overhead.

Salima & Senga Bay

Salima is an important service and trading centre set back from Lake Malawi whilst Senga Bay has a stretch of sandy beach with a range of hotels, lodges and campsites.


Other Places to See Wildlife

Chimwenya Game Park

Chimwenya Game Park is a serene, beautiful and privately owned 500 acre game park, in one of the last remaining indigenous forests inteh Shire HIghlands.

Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

Dzalanyama is approximately 40 km from Lilongwe and covers the steep range of hills which bear the same name. It's a beautiful natural environment to explore and enjoy.

Elephant Marsh

Elephant Marsh is part of the flood plain of the River Shire. Though now devoid of elephants it is still home to a fantastic array of birdlife.

Kasungu National Park

Kasungu National Park is an 800 sq mile area of natural woodland and bush with stretches of open grass. Poaching has reduced numbers but there is still wildlife to be seen.

Lake Chilwa

Lake Chilwa is Malawi’s second biggest lake, home to unique fishing villages and a designated wetland of international importance because of the huge bird populations it supports.

Lake Malawi National Park

Lake Malawi National Park is the world's first freshwater national park and world heritage site, situated at Cape Maclear.

Lengwe National Park

Lengwe National Park is 350 sq miles of dense vegetation with good birdlife and a number of mammal species to be seen. It is only an hour or so from Blantyre.

Lilongwe

Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital. The Old Town is distinct and has the appearance of a traditional African settlement, whilst the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi's game parks. The River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris to discover the Big 5 and an array of birdlife.

Lower Shire Valley

The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.

Majete Wildlife Reserve

Majete Wildlife Reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors. An amazing success story of recovery and restoration, and now home to the Big 5.

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve is little neglected in terms of wildlife but the landscape includes scenic rocky outcrops and rivers cutting through impressive gorges.

Nyika National Park

Nyika is Malawi’s largest park. Superb wildlife and landscapes in one, it offers breathtaking, unique, scenery combined with wonderful safaris.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwasa Wildlife Reserve, an area of marsh and plain, with a few rocky outcrops, is all of 400 sq miles (1000 sq km) and lies along the Zambian border north-west of Mzuzu.


Other Scenic Places to Visit

Chimwenya Game Park

Chimwenya Game Park is a serene, beautiful and privately owned 500 acre game park, in one of the last remaining indigenous forests inteh Shire HIghlands.

Chongoni Rock Art

In the forested granite hills around Dedza is the Chongoni Rock Art Area, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte. this is the densest cluster of ancient rock art found in central Africa.

Dedza

Dedza is a town of interest for a variety of reasons. At 1600m (5300ft) it is the highest town in the country and sits in a beautiful landscape of forests and highlands.

Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

Dzalanyama is approximately 40 km from Lilongwe and covers the steep range of hills which bear the same name. It's a beautiful natural environment to explore and enjoy.

Elephant Marsh

Elephant Marsh is part of the flood plain of the River Shire. Though now devoid of elephants it is still home to a fantastic array of birdlife.

Livingstonia Mission

Livingstonia is a mission station established in 1894 by Robert Laws, a disciple of David Livingstone. Sited at 3000ft above Lake Malawi, there are stunning views across the Lake.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi's game parks. The River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris to discover the Big 5 and an array of birdlife.

Lower Shire Valley

The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.

Majete Wildlife Reserve

Majete Wildlife Reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors. An amazing success story of recovery and restoration, and now home to the Big 5.

Manda Wilderness (Mozambique)

A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.

Mount Mulanje

Mount Mulanje is Malawi's highest peak. At 10000ft (3000m), Mulanje dwarfs all that surrounds it. It lies to the east of Blantyre and is easily accessible.

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve is little neglected in terms of wildlife but the landscape includes scenic rocky outcrops and rivers cutting through impressive gorges.

Ntchisi Forest Reserve

Ntchisi Forest Reserve contains some of the last remaining indigenous rainforest in Malawi. Some trees tower thirty metres overhead.

Nyika National Park

Nyika is Malawi’s largest park. Superb wildlife and landscapes in one, it offers breathtaking, unique, scenery combined with wonderful safaris.

Thyolo Tea Estates

Tea has been grown at Thyolo, south-east of Blantyre, since 1908 and the primly trimmed bushes (strictly, trees) give the whole area the appearance of a neatly kept but vast garden.

Viphya Plateau

The forested Viphya is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude, with opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.

Zomba Plateau

Known for its views, Zomba Plateau is a great slab of a mountain with vast tracts of cedar, pine and cypress and criss-crossed by streams with tumbling waterfalls and still lakes.


Other Cultural Places to Visit

Blantyre & Limbe

The largest urban area in Malawi, the conurbation of Blantyre & Limbe, is the country’s commercial capital.

Chintheche

Chintheche offers some of the best beaches on Lake Malawi, with a collection of luxury lodges right by the shore.

Chongoni Rock Art

In the forested granite hills around Dedza is the Chongoni Rock Art Area, a UNESCO World Heritage SIte. this is the densest cluster of ancient rock art found in central Africa.

Dedza

Dedza is a town of interest for a variety of reasons. At 1600m (5300ft) it is the highest town in the country and sits in a beautiful landscape of forests and highlands.

Dwangwa

Thirty miles north of Nkhotakota is the settlement of Dwangwa, a useful place to stock up and refuel when travelling up and down the lakeshore.

Dzalanyama Forest Reserve

Dzalanyama is approximately 40 km from Lilongwe and covers the steep range of hills which bear the same name. It's a beautiful natural environment to explore and enjoy.

Karonga

Karonga is one of Lake Malawi's most northern towns. It is home to a wonderful new museum of cultural history and archeology.

Likoma Island

Likoma Island sits on the far side of the Lake Malawi in Mozambican waters. The island is home to stunning beaches and lodges, with access by boat or aircraft.

Lilongwe

Lilongwe is Malawi’s capital. The Old Town is distinct and has the appearance of a traditional African settlement, whilst the City has much in common with other twentieth century urban developments around the world.

Livingstonia Mission

Livingstonia is a mission station established in 1894 by Robert Laws, a disciple of David Livingstone. Sited at 3000ft above Lake Malawi, there are stunning views across the Lake.

Liwonde National Park

Liwonde is perhaps the most popular of all of Malawi's game parks. The River Shire flows along its western border, allowing boat safaris to discover the Big 5 and an array of birdlife.

Lower Shire Valley

The Lower Shire Valley is an extension of the Rift Valley and home to no less than three national parks/wildlife reserves.

Manda Wilderness (Mozambique)

A massive 100,000 ha area of Mozambique land which runs to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi forms the Manda Wilderness Community Reserve.

Mangochi

Mangochi is sited between Lakes Malawi and Malombe and has a number of historical monuments dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Monkey Bay

Monkey Bay is considered to be one of Malawi's main lake ports, and is where the famous Ilala ferry docks and begins its weekly sojourn up and down the Lake

Mua Mission

Mua Mission is famous for the quality of the wood carvings produced and sold there. The standards are superb and the prices very reasonable.

Mzuzu

The capital of the north is Mzuzu, with an interesting bustling market and is growing rapidly, with a selection of lodges close by.

Nkhata Bay

Nkhata Bay is a small sheltered harbour on Lake Malawi's northern shore. It is a focus for the fishing industry but becoming increasingly important as a tourist centre. 

Nkhotakota

Often, but confusingly, described as the largest traditional village in Africa, Nkhotakota is rich in history. Visited by Dr Livingstone in 1863, it was then a major centre for the slave trade.

Ntchisi Forest Reserve

Ntchisi Forest Reserve contains some of the last remaining indigenous rainforest in Malawi. Some trees tower thirty metres overhead.

Thyolo Tea Estates

Tea has been grown at Thyolo, south-east of Blantyre, since 1908 and the primly trimmed bushes (strictly, trees) give the whole area the appearance of a neatly kept but vast garden.

Viphya Plateau

The forested Viphya is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude, with opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.

Zomba Town

Zomba Town is in a beautiful setting below the plateau of the same name. This was the original capital of Malawi and the first settlement of the colonial administration.


Where is Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve?