12 Day Malawi Birding Tour
Our Malawi Birding tour will surprise you with over 650 species, with one endemic, a handful of near-endemic, many other species that are difficult to see elsewhere on the continent and a display of Palearctic and intra-African migrants. The 12-Day tour includes visits to Liwonde and Nyika Parks and except for the wonderful birding, we will see some of Africa’s Big Five, Beautiful scenery and rare mammals.
This expert-guided birding tour can be booked as a small group private tour for dates that suits your travel plans.
Group Tour Departure Date: To be confirmed
Full Itinerary – Malawi Birding Tour
Start of safari in Blantyre, transfer to the Thyolo area
Welcome to Malawi, the “warm heart of Africa”!
Your fantastic birding tour in one of the most amazing countries on the continent will start as soon as you touch down at the Chileka International Airport near the city of Blantyre in the Shire highlands in the south of the country. You will be met by your Nature Travel guide who will help load the bags into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle before we set off towards the first stop on our tour.
We are heading south, driving through the city on our way. Blantyre is Malawi’s second-largest city and is the country’s main financial and commercial hub, and has been for almost 140 years. It was named after Blantyre in Scotland, the birthplace of the famous explorer David Livingstone. Blantyre has a total of eight gazetted National Monuments, mostly buildings of historic importance. The city lies in a very hilly area, at about 780 to 1,600 metres (2,560 to 5,250 feet) above sea level.
We will make our way out of the city and head south to the Thyolo area, the tea capital of Malawi. Generally the terrain here is mountainous, with patches of Afromontane forest, as well as several rivers and streams with their associated riparian forests. Unfortunately, the effects of deforestation and soil erosion are very evident in Thyolo, compounded by sprawling tea estates taking up a large proportion of the region.
Our chosen accommodation in this area is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with the varied vegetation on the estate grounds providing ideal habitats for a variety of southern Malawi’s bird species. We will check in and almost immediately set off on our first excursion of the trip. We will walk and drive on the estate grounds, looking to tick our first birds.
Our main target here is the Thyolo Alethe. It is found in the estate’s protected patches of indigenous forests and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Other special species we will target here include the chlorocephalus subspecies of Green-headed Oriole, White-winged Apalis, Green and White-eared Barbet, African Goshawk, Broad-billed Roller, Trumpeter Hornbill, Grey Cuckooshrike, Bar-tailed Trogon, Little, Placid, Yellow-streaked and Grey-olive Greenbul, Black-fronted Bushshrike, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Bertram’s Weaver, the dimorpha subspecies of Cape Batis (sometimes recognised as a separate species, “Malawi Batis”), White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Southern Citril, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, localised Vincent’s Bunting and many others. If we are lucky we could even find African Broadbill or Red-throated Twinspot here!
After our first exciting birding activity we will return to the lodge and freshen up. Then it’s time to enjoy a drink and our Malawi Birding Tour welcome dinner. We will get to know each other and chat about where we have all been on safari before and what everyone’s main target species for the trip are. Afterwards we will settle in for a good night’s sleep. Welcome to Africa!
After breakfast we will pack up and check out.
We will do some more birding in the estate grounds as we make our way to the Zomba Plateau.
It is a drive of about 2 hours to the north before we reach the plateau. On the way we will look for species like Variable Sunbird and Southern Brown-throated Weaver among others.
The Zomba plateau is a beautiful area with rolling hills containing several patches of intact montane and riverine forests, interspersed with tangled scrubby vegetation, Brachystegia woodland, and unfortunately some exotic plantations. The plateau covers about 130km2 (50 sq mi), with the highest point the Malumbe peak at 2,087 metres (6,847 ft) above sea level. Theoretically most of the plateau is a protected area, but sadly peasant farmers desperate for land and firewood have been slowly encroaching on the forested areas.
We will drive to certain key spots (including several streams and small dams) and then proceed by foot, looking for our target birds here. We will also enjoy a packed lunch somewhere in a nice spot.
Here we are hoping to add the stunning White-winged Apalis, endemic Yellow-throated Apalis (Malawi’s only endemic species), Long-crested Eagle, Augur and Common Buzzard, Livingstone’s Turaco, Square-tailed Drongo, Olive Bushshrike, Orange Ground Thrush, White-eared Barbet, Half-collared Kingfisher, Blue-spotted Wood and Lemon Dove, Grey-olive, Black-browed, Little, Placid and Olive-headed Greenbul, “Malawi” Cape and Pale Batis, Evergreen Forest and African Yellow Warbler, Mountain Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Forest Double-collared Sunbird, Red-faced Crimsonwing, African Stonechat, Green Twinspot, Bronze and Red-backed Mannikin, Yellow-bellied Waxbill and Southern Citril.
From a mammal point of view, we could see Bushbuck, Klipspringer, Vervet, Yellow Baboon, Red Bush Squirrel, and even Serval or Leopard if we are extremely lucky.
In the late afternoon we will head to our chosen accommodation, a beautifully-located, birder-friendly, restful lodge in a stunning patch of dense forest with superb views over the surrounding landscape.
We will do a birding walk in the gardens of the lodge and the forest around the lodge, and here we could find Livingstone’s Turaco, Tambourine Dove, African Olive Pigeon, White-starred Robin, Red-throated Twinspot, African Dusky Flycatcher, Forest Double-collared Sunbird as well as the erythrarchus subspecies of Blue Monkey (sometimes called Samango Monkey), and maybe even African Wood Owl after dark.
Transfer to Liwonde National Park
We will start our day with an early walk around the lodge to pick up any species we may have missed out on so far.
We will then enjoy breakfast and check out, thanking the friendly owners and staff for our wonderful night here. We then head further north to our first national park of the trip, the famous Liwonde National Park.
Our drive is about 2 hours long. On the way you will see why Malawi is such a beautiful place, because despite the subsistence farming practices, there are still stunning landscapes and patches of green untouched bush throughout. You will see why Malawi has such a special place in our hearts here at the Nature Travel group.
We will arrive at the car park next to the Shire river, which dominates the landscape of Liwonde National Park, meet our expert local ranger, and pack our luggage into one of the boats named after famous birds of the area, like Pel’s (for Pel’s Fishing Owl). In fact, on a recent trip our clients actually saw a Pel’s Fishing Owl as they boarded their vessel! We will then cross the river and arrive at our home for the next two nights, Mvuu Lodge.
Mvuu Lodge (mvuu means “hippopotamus” in one of the local languages) nestles discreetly on the banks of a lagoon just off the Shire river on the western boundary of the park. This is a beautiful spot that you will definitely fall in love with over the next few days. We will check in, meet the friendly and knowledgeable local staff, have a wonderful lunch, and relax in our rooms (very luxurious tented homes actually) for a while.
In the afternoon we will do our first birding and game viewing activity. We might go for a short game drive, or take a birding walk in the ample and beautiful lodge grounds, or even a short cruise on the lazy Shire river. No Liwonde safari is complete without experiencing the beauty of the Shire and its incredible wildlife by boat. It is the perfect introduction to Liwonde, and truly one of Africa’s great waterways.
The river boats are specifically designed to ensure each passenger can take in the magnificent views in complete comfort from anywhere on the boat, as well as being ideal for keen wildlife photographers, with ample space for equipment and the freedom to photograph from any angle. The game viewing while on a river safari in Liwonde is unsurpassed anywhere in Malawi, and each tranquil boat trip is an unforgettable experience. African Elephant line the water’s edge, hundreds of (very calm) Hippopotamus congregate in the lagoons, Nile Crocodiles chill on the mud and many species of antelope and birds make their way to the water’s edge.
Some of the bird species than can be spotted during the river cruise are African Skimmer, Spur-winged and Long-toed Lapwing, Western Osprey, African Fish Eagle, Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, Black-crowned and White-backed Night Heron, Eurasian Hobby, Great White and Pink-backed Pelican, Goliath, Striated and Squacco Heron, Saddle-billed and Yellow-billed Stork, Egyptian and Spur-winged Goose, Knob-billed Duck, Hadeda and African Sacred Ibis, Greater Painted-snipe, African Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Great, Intermediate and Little Egret, Water Thick-knee, and Reed and White-breasted Cormorant.
Afterwards we will get together in the newly-renovated dining area and enjoy some authentic local cuisine while chatting the evening away. We will then be escorted to our “tents” and settle in for a good night’s rest. Tomorrow we explore Liwonde properly!
Liwonde National Park
Today we have a full day to enjoy Liwonde and all its beauty. We will get together for breakfast and then set off on a morning game drive in comfortable, open-sided safari vehicles. Our ranger will tell us a bit more about Liwonde during our drives, as well as show us some of the fantastic fauna and flora species of this fantastic little park.
Speaking of little, Liwonde only covers about 580 km2 (223 sq mi), and yet supports a wide range of habitats, including Mopane woodland, marshlands and swamps, floodplain grassland, grassy savannah and riverine forest. There are numerous huge Baobab trees, the quintessential African safari tree for many people. The main feature of Liwonde, though, is the 30 km (18 mi) long section of the sluggish Shire river that runs through the park, including a section of the shore of Lake Malombe, 20 km (12 mi) south of famous Lake Malawi.
Liwonde was established in 1973, and has been managed by the non-profit conservation organisation African Parks since 2015. Their first priority was to build an electric fence around the perimeter of the park to help mitigate the human-wildlife conflict that had plagued the park before. This fence is monitored 24 hours a day to ensure animals stay in and poachers stay out. Fencing the park cost US$1.6 million and took approximately 18 months to complete. Liwonde has been very active in conservation efforts and animal relocation programs, and has made quite a name for itself in this regard, especially when it comes to African Elephant, Black Rhinoceros and even big cats like Lion and Cheetah.
Liwonde is simply a must-visit destination for birders. The park boasts more than 400 species, and some of them are fairly range-restricted and difficult to see elsewhere. During our time here we will look for specials like Pel’s Fishing Owl, Palm-nut Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Martial, Wahlberg’s and Crowned Eagle, Bateleur, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Bat Hawk, Dickonson’s Kestrel, African Cuckoo-hawk, White-backed Night Heron, Goliath, Black and Rufous-bellied Heron, Saddle-billed and Marabou Stork, Purple-crested Turaco, Grey Go-away-bird, Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Spur-winged Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, African Openbill, Southern Ground Hornbill, Brown-headed Parrot, Racket-tailed Roller, Meves’s Starling, Woodland Kingfisher, Tropical Boubou, Brown-breasted Barbet, Böhm’s and Little Bee-eater, Lilian’s Lovebird, Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Pale Batis, Black-eared Seedeater, Collared Palm Thrush, Green Twinspot, range-restricted and monotypic Vincent’s Bunting, Racket-tailed Roller, Pale-billed Hornbill and many more!
We will return to the lodge after our drive for a scrumptious lunch and a siesta. There is also a fantastic swimming pool if you would rather have a splash than a nap. We will get together for coffee or a soda in the mid-afternoon and then set off on our afternoon game drive again, this time targeting a different part of the park.
There are many mammal species in the park, with a total population of about 12,000 individuals. Specific species that we will target include some of the 800 African Elephant, African Buffalo, Black Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Common Eland, Waterbuck, the endangered Roan and Sable Antelope, the lichtensteinii subspecies of Hartebeest, Impala, Bushbuck, Common Warthog, Greater Kudu, Vervet and Yellow Baboon. If we are very lucky we might even see one of the introduced predators, and smaller ones like Serval and Side-striped Jackal could be ticked too.
Liwonde also boasts more than 1,000 vascular plant species, with many colourful ones blooming at different times of the year. The orchid Microcoelia ornithocephala is nearly endemic to the park, and there are also acacias, miombo, fever trees, palms and sausage trees.
On the way back to the lodge dusk will be upon us, and we could see some crepuscular and nocturnal fauna species. This could include Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, African Scops Owl, Thick-tailed Greater Galago, African Civet, Central African Large-spotted Genet and Scrub Hare.
We will return to camp after our activity and enjoy our last excellent dinner here. We will then walk to our tents, listening for the sounds of frogs, Hippopotamus and perhaps even Spotted Hyaenas calling, before settling in for the night. Tomorrow the next part of our adventure starts!
Transfer to Dzalanyama Forest Reserve
Today we will start with an early boat cruise on the Shire river. The landscape changes quite a bit when you cruise the river in the morning, and the light is just wonderful for photography. We hope to see many species of fauna on our boat trip this morning.
We will return to camp for breakfast, and then we will check out. We will then say goodbye to the wonderful staff at Mvuu and cross back over the Shire river to the car park. We will pack the vehicle and set off in a northwesterly direction.
Our drive will take about 5 hours, and on the way we will stop to stretch our legs, and also make a nice long lunch stop.
We should reach the Dzalanyama forest reserve in the mid-afternoon. Meaning “place of animals” in the local Chichewa language, Dzalanyama was gazetted as long ago as 1922 and covers about 990 km2 of extensive Brachystegia woodlands. It is famous for being the best tract of miombo in all of Malawi, and is a must-see for birders, as over 300 species have been recorded here.
Our lodge is set overlooking the Makata river among some stunning trees, which attract a wide variety of birds, butterflies and even the occasional mammal. It is a quiet, safe, comfortable place to relax and unwind, and of course, watch birds!
In the late afternoon we will go out for a short birding walk around the lodge area, getting ourselves acquainted with the habitat here. The vegetation in the reserve is dominated by miombo, which is a Swahili word for the genus of tree named Brachystegia. This distinctive habitat is only found in the southern central part of Africa and is home to very distinctive avifauna.
We will return to the lodge to relax, have dinner, update our lists and sit around the fire, chatting about our time so far and maybe planning some future trips to exotic places on the planet. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow we do some “miombo birding”!
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve
We have a full day to enjoy all the scenery and birds that Dzalanyama can offer.
We will have an early breakfast and then hop into the vehicle, crossing the river and heading deeper into the reserve. We will do a combination of driving and (mostly) walking, searching for our targets here. We will return to the lodge for lunch and some time to relax in the heat of the day, and then head out again in the afternoon.
Miombo is notoriously difficult to bird in, as it can be deadly quiet for hours and then suddenly become ridiculously busy as a foraging bird party passes through at speed. Every birder that has spent time in miombo has a story of how many different species he or she has seen in a specific bird party, with number easily ranging from 15 to 20!
Our targets today include Stierling’s Woodpecker, Miombo Pied Barbet, African Spotted Creeper, White-breasted Cuckooshrike, Retz’s Helmetshrike, African Golden Oriole, Boulder Chat, Souza’s Shrike, Miombo Rock Thrush, Pale-billed Hornbill, Schalow’s Turaco, Miombo Scrub Robin, Reichard’s and Black-eared Seedeater, Striped and Wood Pipit, White-tailed Blue and Böhm’s Flycatcher, Anchieta’s, Shelley’s and Western Violet-backed Sunbird, Yellow-bellied and Southern Hyliota, Stierling’s Wren-warbler, Olive-headed Weaver, Rufous-bellied and Miombo Tit, and Red-capped Crombec.
Raptors are also well represented in the reserve, and we could see Bateleur, Ovambo and Black Sparrowhawk, African Cuckoo-hawk, African Harrier-hawk, Black-chested Snake Eagle, Wahlberg’s Eagle, Lizard Buzzard, Shikra and Augur Buzzard.
Other birds we could see include Lesser Seedcracker (with some luck!), Red-necked Spurfowl, Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, African Green Pigeon, Thick-billed and Klaas’s Cuckoo, Swallow-tailed, Little and European Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, Green Wood Hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, Lesser, Scaly-throated and Greater Honeyguide, Green-backed Honeybird, Bearded and Cardinal Woodpecker, Chinspot Batis, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brubru, Black Cuckooshrike, African Paradise Flycatcher, Yellow-bellied and Green-capped Eremomela, Violet-backed Starling, White-browed Scrub Robin, Red-headed Weaver, African Firefinch, Yellow-fronted and Brimstone Canary, Cabanis’s Bunting and many others.
We will return to the lodge after our exciting day in the miombo, looking for European, Fiery-necked, Square-tailed and Freckled Nightjar on the road.
Then we will once again enjoy a wonderful home-cooked dinner, update our lists and relax into the evening.
Dzalanyama to Nyika National Park
This morning we will start with an early breakfast and do some birding around the lodge if we still need some specific species.
We will then check out, pack the vehicle and make our way to Kamuzu International Airport, about 2 and a half hours to the northeast.
We will drive through the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, and we’ll quickly realise why people say it is like a miniature version of the country itself. It is chaotic but colourful, filled with friendly people, and full of contrasts. While Blantyre is the commercial hotpot of Malawi, Lilongwe is the seat of the governmental and public institutions. It has a population of about 1 million people and is located along the Lilongwe river, at an altitude of 1,050 m (3,440 ft) above sea level, on a plateau in the centre of the country, forming part of the East African Rift Valley.
Once at the airport situated to the north of the city we will board a charter plane to Nyika National Park where we will stay for three nights.
Nyika National Park is without doubt one of the most beautiful parks in the southern half of Africa. The park extends into Zambia and offers grassland and forest birding of note, most of it at elevations of between 2,100 and 2,200 m (6,900 and 7,200 ft) above sea level.
Upon touching down at Nyika’s airstrip we will meet the local guide and drive to our accommodation, the brilliantly located Chelinda Lodge, with hopefully some natural light left, meet the friendly staff and check in.
Chelinda Lodge offers a luxurious highland experience in, and stunning views of, Nyika’s rolling grasslands, which are often dotted with large herds of rare antelope. A pocket of Hagenia woodland and a forest backdrop perfectly shelters this idyllic, upland stone-and-timber lodge.
We will get together after a tiring day of travelling, stand on the beautiful deck for a while, and then enjoy some of the excellent cuisine the Chelinda team always serve up. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep; tomorrow we explore Nyika properly!
Nyika National Park
We will have a full day to enjoy Nyika today.
We will enjoy an early breakfast and then set off to explore the park in a 4×4 vehicle on a morning game drive. As we leave the lodge our expert local guide will keep us interested with some facts about this beautiful park.
A large area of the Nyika plateau, around 3,134 km2 (1,210 sq mi), makes up the wonderful montane Nyika National Park, the largest area of mountain grassland left on the continent. It was proclaimed in 1966 and is Malawi’s largest conservation area. The name Nyika means “where the water comes from”, as the plateau’s elevation makes it wetter than the surrounding areas. In fact, there is simply no place like Nyika in all of Malawi – rolling grasslands, often covered in mist, not another person in sight… This is heaven!
Nyika is deeply loved by every single person that visits here, and there are many reasons for this. Apart from the obvious beautiful landscape, Nyika offers something for every nature lover, from botanists to birders to general wildlife naturalists.
From a flora perspective, the persistent moisture on the plateau (and in the park) results in many different species of prolific wild flowers in the park. The flora of the park include gladioli, delphiniums, lobelia, and ‘red hot pokers’. The plateau is also home to around 200 species of orchids (that flower in January and February), and groves of dense montane forests also dot the undulating montane scenery.
Luckily for us Nyika is not only about beautiful landscapes and beautiful flowers, as the park also boasts a bird list of more than 400 species. However this figure includes many species only found on the lower slopes of the park where Brachystegia dominates, an area inaccessible to tourists that we will not visit.
We will still pick up some very special and range-restricted species on our drives and walks in the park. This could include Denham’s Bustard, Wattled Crane, Secretarybird, Pallid Harrier, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Long-crested Eagle, Lizard and European Honey Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, African Black Duck, Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl, Red-winged Francolin, Montane Widowbird, Sharpe’s Akalat, Bar-tailed Trogon, Montane Nightjar, Olive-flanked Ground Robin, White-chested Alethe, Sharpe’s Greenbul, Moustached Tinkerbird, African Hill Babbler, Fülleborn’s Boubou, Waller’s and Slender-billed Starling, Dusky Turtle Dove, Mountain Yellow and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Chapin’s and Brown-headed Apalis, Black-lored, Trilling and Churring Cisticola, Bertram’s and Baglafecht Weaver, White-headed Saw-wing, Red-rumped, Angolan and Blue Swallow, and Whyte’s Double-collared, Bronzy, Green-headed, Malachite and Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Yellow-crowned Canary and many other species.
After hopefully seeing some local and special “Nyika species”, we will return to Chelinda for a wonderful lunch and some time to relax. We will go on another game drive in the afternoon, to a different portion of the park. We will also undertake several walks into the forest patches in search of some special birds, and not just use the vehicle.
After our exciting drive we will return the lodge to freshen up. We will then get together on the viewing deck for sundowner drinks, followed by another top class dinner. Then we are off to our cabins for a good night’s rest. Remember to stand on your deck outside your room tonight and just take in the landscape around you… Also, look up! The night sky in northern Malawi is truly spectacular.
Nyika National Park
We will have another full day to enjoy Nyika’s beauty and fauna and flora today. We will once again enjoy breakfast in the lodge dining room and then set off on our morning game drive. We will return for lunch and a short siesta, and then go on another drive in the afternoon.
From a mammal point of view, the park attracts large numbers of special antelopes and ungulates, including Common Eland, Roan Antelope, the crawshayi subspecies of Plains Zebra, Southern Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Klipspringer, altitude-loving African Elephant, and apparently the highest concentration of Leopard in all of central Africa! Smaller mammals include Common Warthog, Bushpig, Slender Mongoose, small cats and even porcupine. We will certainly hope to see some of the 100+ species that have been recorded in the park. It is super easy to spot mammals in Nyika due to the open nature of the plateau, although if we venture into one of the thicket or forest areas it might be more difficult.
Apart from the special bird species that Nyika is famous for, we could also see several others, including African Hawk-eagle, Spotted Eagle-owl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Black-winged Kite, Western Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier, Crowned Hornbill, African Olive Pigeon, Giant Kingfisher, Crested Barbet, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Abyssinian Thrush, Black-browed Greenbul, Cape Robin-chat, the isolata subspecies of Rufous-naped Lark, the taxonomically challenging winterbottomi subspecies of African Pipit (“Jackson’s Pipit”), White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Bar-throated Apalis, Cape (Malawi) Batis, and Wailing and Wing-snapping Cisticola.
Other attractions inside the park include waterfalls, the most impressive being Chisanga Falls where the North Rukuru river falls off the plateau, neolithic rock shelters, trout pools and even a “magic lake”. There are also mountain bike trails and fly-fishing for the active among us.
After another great day on safari we will return to the lodge of our final dinner here in Nyika. You will have realised by now why we love this country and its parks so much; it really is a special place that deserves to be much higher on every nature lovers’ list of countries to visit.
*Please note: on one of the evenings there is an optional Night Drive, where we will go in search of the varied nocturnal wildlife that live around Chelinda. Birds that we could spot on this drive include Montane and Pennant-winged Nightjar, and several owl species.
Nyika to Lake Malawi
We will wake up and again enjoy breakfast on the deck, with stunning views for company.We will then unfortunately have to pack our bags and check out, saying goodbye to the superb staff at Chelinda as we go.
We will be transported to the airstrip where we will undertake another charter flight back to the Kamuzu International Aiport outside Lilongwe.
Here we will jump into our vehicle again and head towards the exciting last location of our trip, the world famous Lake Malawi. Our drive will take 3 to 4 hours, and on the way we will stop for lunch.
We will also stop at a secret spot to look for another target bird for the trip, the notoriously shy East Coast Akalat. Other birds we could see on the way include Brown Snake Eagle, Yellow-billed Kite, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Burchell’s Coucal and many others.
We will then continue to Lake Malawi. No other country is so dominated by a single natural feature like Malawi; in fact, the country is also known as ‘the land of the lake”. The lake is 580 km (360 mi) long and 75 km (47 mi) wide in places, and covers more than 15% of Malawi’s surface. It is the fourth largest fresh water lake in the world by volume, the ninth largest lake in the world by area, and the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. It is undoubtedly the most beautiful of all of Africa’s lakes and the focal point of Malawi’s tourism industry.
We will reach Cape Maclear, where our lodge’s reception is, and unpack and check in. Then we will cross about 10 km of water by boat to our home for tonight, Mumbo Island Camp. The area we are in is actually part of the 95km2 Lake Malawi National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the incredible underwater species diversity.
Mumbo Island is an ecotourist’s dream. Measuring just one square kilometre across, this remote islet is virtually uninhabited and covered with pristine miombo forests interspersed with ancient fig and Baobab trees. It is surrounded by the calm, crystal clear waters of Lake Malawi, where we can swim and snorkel amidst schools of vividly coloured tropical fish. We may also encounter the island’s sole mammal inhabitant – playful and curious Spotted-necked Otters.
We will have some time to just relax and take in our beautiful surroundings. No visit to Mumbo Island is complete without taking the opportunity to just relax and unwind. The sense of peace and tranquillity, provided by the island’s location, makes it the perfect place to simply lie back and take in the breathtaking scenery of Lake Malawi. Whether it be swinging in the hammock on your private deck overlooking the lake; reading a book in the comfy shaded lounge deck; or learning to play the local game of bawo, Mumbo Island is a place where you can experience total relaxation. It is the perfect way to end our fantastic Malawi birding tour!
We will get together in the evening for a fantastic dinner, where we hopefully will have some locally sourced fish right out of the lake! Then we are off to bed and a good night’s rest.
We will start our day with breakfast and then the day’s plan is entirely up to you. There are several activities to choose from here a Mumbo Island, so the sky is the limit.
We could choose to do some kayaking… The protected waters of the Lake Malawi National Park bring kayaking within reach of anyone, irrespective of fitness or experience. The two-person kayaks are large and stable, and the guides are local residents with an intimate knowledge of the area. You could also kayak alone with a guide if you have a sense of adventure! Kayak around the island or further afield to nearby Domwe and other granitic islands, and see if you can spot some African Fish Eagle, Gull-billed Tern, Lesser Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck, Dwarf Bittern, Black Coucal, Pied Kingfisher, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Eastern Golden Weaver and many others.
Or you could opt for some snorkelling, and a chance to spot some of Lake Malawi’s most famous residents, the cichlid fish. There are at least 900 cichlid (pronounced “sicklids”) species in these waters, that’s more than all the fish species of Europe and North American combined! Furthermore, the vast majority of them are endemic to Lake Malawi! They are incredibly beautiful, colourful and evolutionary interesting fish that have unfortunately become popular with aquarium owners the world over. Everyone will get together for a seafood lunch back at the lodge and some down time, before another afternoon activity.
This afternoon it might be a good idea to go for a hike! Five different, well-marked nature trails weave their way through the massive granite boulders that constitute the island. The island is heavily wooded, hosting Baobab and several species of Ficus, Sterculia, Khaya, Albizia and Brachystegia trees. There are no venomous snakes or dangerous animals on Mumbo, so we can walk anywhere with confidence and will be rewarded with magnificent views and maybe some interesting fauna species.
We will once again get together for a scrumptious farewell dinner in the dining area and socialise long into the evening, having made friends for life on this amazing adventure. Then we are off to bed for a final night’s sleep under African skies.
Transfer to Lilongwe and Departure
And so an amazing Malawi birding tour, unfortunately, comes to an end. After breakfast, we will say our goodbyes to the wonderful staff at Mumbo Island Camp and cross the clear waters of Lake Malawi to reach our vehicle at Cape Maclear. It will take about 4 hours to reach Kamuzu International Airport outside Lilongwe.
We will say our final goodbyes at the airport after an amazing African birding safari. We will wish each other well and continue on our onward journey or homeward flights. Hope we see you again soon!
*Please note: extensions to other parks in Malawi, or to Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana or Namibia can easily be arranged. Please contact us and we will gladly assist.
Do you have a quick question about this birding tour? Speak to a specialist at