Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park | Best Safari in Africa?
We decided upon a family saying in Malawi, the worse the road was, the better the accommodation at the end of it, and boy did that sum up the incredible Mvuu Camp. After what seemed like an eternity on a really very bumpy road we arrived at the gates of Liwonde National Park to begin our two night Safari adventure in Malawi and continue our quest (started a very long time ago) to find the best Safari in Africa.
We were hosted at Mvuu Camp as guests of Central African Wilderness Safaris and I can honestly say that we had the most amazing time there. Mvuu Camp (and Mvuu Lodge next door) are set within the 548 sq km Liwonde National Park, which itself is a 30 minute flight from Blantyre (or three hours’ drive). We actually arrived via a stay at Zomba Forest Lodge which took around 3 hours too.
Liwonde National Park, run by African Parks since 2015, is once again starting to show signs of improvement. In the absence of an effective perimeter fence prior to 2015, high levels of poaching, illegal fishing and unsustainable deforestation had an adverse effect on the ecosystem and things had been looking incredibly bleak. Now however with the construction of a new 117 km of electrical perimeter fence, the elephant translocation and the re-introduction of cheetah, lions and rhino to the park, it’s definitely worth visiting Liwonde National Park and you most certainly won’t leave wondering if it was worth it.
Entry fees to Liwonde National Park are currently some of the lowest of all those managed by African Parks.
Liwonde National Park Entrance Fees
The entrance fee to get into Liwonde National Park is one of the lowest of all of Africa’s Parks.
– Malawian Citizen K450
– Resident foreigner US$7
– Non-resident foreigner US$20
– Children under 12 Free
Vehicle Entry Fees – US$5 per day
Kindly African Parks waived our park fees on this trip but unlike some parks, the fees wouldn’t have put a significant dent in our wallet. Another mark in the parks favour if you are deciding whether to visit.
It’s a 5 minute drive from the gates of the park, to a jetty where you take a boat across the Shire River (pronounced Shiree ) to the sanctuary that is Mvuu Camp and Lodge.
From the moment you are greeted at the boat by the staff from Mvuu Camp you know you are somewhere special. They knew the children’s names and where we had come from and it made for such a warm welcome.
Mvuu camp is a clever mix of stone and canvas chalets and specially-designed family tents, which total 14 units. There is a huge thatched dining and lounge area into which we were immediately taken for welcome drinks, cold towels and an introductory chat. When even the Catering Manager takes the time to come out and introduce himself and talk the girls through the menu designed just for them, then you know all is going to be a little more than ok.
It’s at this point that our Ranger for the two days introduced himself– his name was Danger. Yes that’s right we had a Safari Ranger called ‘Danger’ (whose nickname was Safety!) it has to be the coolest name for a safari ranger ever (it’s also hilarious when you are 6 and 7).
Danger told the girls all about the activities we were going to take part in whilst at Mvuu Camp, the afternoon game drive, sunset drink and night drive, the nature walk, the river boat tour and the trip to the local village to meet kids and plant trees. But first things first we needed to see our room and possibly rest for an hour or two before any more exciting adventures.
However the thing about Safari in Africa is always to expect the unexpected. To roll with the ideas and to change things quickly. So it was that when we arrived at our beautiful Family Tent we didn’t get two minutes before we were turning round and we were back in the boat that had brought us to Mvuu Camp just half an hour before. The reason for the quick turn about was that on arrival at the tent Danger spotted around 40 elephants on the banks of the other side of the river frolicking about in the water and he wanted us to head straight over and see them play for ourselves – and so we did – and blimey it was amazing.
You can take a look at our video here which shows just how close we got!
I have quite simply never been so close to so many elephants and hippos all at the same time. ‘Mvuu Camp’ means ‘hippo camp’ in Chichewa and you can easily see why they chose the name, although in fairness it could just as easily have been called Njovu Camp too.
According to Malawi Tourism, who helped organise our trip to Malawi, Liwonde National Park is also home to:
- Black rhino
- Fish eagles
- Weaver birds
- Pel’s fishing owlluer
- Over 300 of the country’s 650 bird species
There was still so much to see.
So after our quick trip across the Shire to see the elephants and the hippos play, there was just time for a quick cooldown in the pool before we met Danger (and Sam) back at the dining area for our late afternoon Safari drive at 4pm. For children this is the perfect time for a drive. It was also to be a 3 hour drive, bringing us back easily in time for dinner at 7.30pm.
So off we went, kids armed with their cameras too which keeps their interest going for a lot longer, to see if we could find the rhinos. We saw lots and lots of birds, kudus, sables and bushbucks but sadly no rhinos this time round. We also didn’t actually find any elephants on this part of the drive, making the earlier boat trip even more worthwhile.
We stopped as the sunset for some drinks on the banks of the Shire and reflected on a really rather wonderful day. Genuinely the girls didn’t seem to be worried that we hadn’t seen any large game that afternoon, and had just enjoyed taking videos and photographs of anything that moved.
Sam and Danger both worked really hard to engage the kids and talk them through all the discoveries on the drive and were kind and fascinating to listen to.
The afternoon game drive then excitingly turned into a night drive and a spooky drive through the bush with Sam located on the front of the car with a large flash light. It was one of the girl’s highlights. They were impressed to locate the elusive porcupines and the mongoose too, and whilst I was gutted not to have found the cheetah like the next guests did, it didn’t make a blind but of difference to the kids.
We ate a really rather wonderful dinner, with Danger (all the Ranger’s join their guests for Dinner which is a nice touch) before collapsing into the enormous bed listening to the sound of hippos on the banks next to our tent.
Breakfast wasn’t too early as we had decided along with Danger that a 5am safari drive wasn’t going to suit the girls (or actually us) that well. We were spending the morning in the village just outside the gates of Liwonde National Park so after a really rather fabulous breakfast (they even have Marmite!) we left for the quick boat trip and ten minute drive to the village at around 8am.
As we were visiting at Easter the local school Nanthomba Full Primary School (you can find out more about its creation and the continued sustainability here) wasn’t actually open but a number of the school children met us in any event for some games, tree planting and finally a game of football. We’ve put together a video of some of the community projects we took part in in Malawi here, and our time with the Nanthomba kids is encapsulated in this video below. If you’re interested mainly in Nanthomba skip to -3.39 to go.
After our community visit it was back to Mvuu Camp for lunch, more swimming and then a sunset cruise on the Shire River. Listening to the hippos bark, whilst sipping beer as the sun set, has to be one of the defining moments we had in Malawi. It was pure perfection.
We have been spoilt with fantastic weather these last few days and it hasn’t been too difficult to get up and get out and about, however today we have woken to quite heavy rain! Boo. I’m off to Nottingham today to talk about our fabulous #Malawi trip with some of the team behind @MalawiTourism and chat about whether there is an opportunity for us to get back to the warm heart of Africa where we feel so at home! I love this photo of us all I edited yesterday from a sunset cruise at #MvuuCamp @caws_malawi we look so peaceful ad chilled out. Perhaps the beer in hand helps! #malawifamilytravel #bepartofsomething #Malawi #Malawiwithkids #travelswithkids #travels #travelgram #instatravel #kidscan #havefun #visitmalawi #familytravel #Travelblogger#familytrip #travelmum #travelwithchildren#letsgosomewhere #ourtraveltimes#familytravelblog #travellingwithkids#wearetravelmums #traveltogether#familytrips #holidayswithkids#lifethroughadventure #familytravelmoment#awanderfulchildhood #wanderlustkids
We were all incredibly sad to leave Mvuu Camp the next morning after a short nature walk with Sam and Danger, and the kids decided that it was in fact the Best Safari in Africa. On reflection we decided that perhaps the only thing that might make Mvuu Camp even better than the ‘Best Safari in Africa’ (this is actually possible when you are 7) was Mvuu Camp in October (aka the dry season) to see elephants, along with hippos on our side of the river bank.
We were kindly hosted by Mvuu Camp during our stay but all views and opinions are those of my own and my children, and have not been influenced in any way.
Machinga, Liwonde National Park, Malawi.