Central African Wilderness Safaris - Birding by Locals
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Central African Wilderness Safaris

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    12 days 11 nights
    Availability : All year round
    Tour Details

    Most tour operators know their market well and there will not be much distress over the areas to visit and the level of accommodation needed. The simplest answer to the ideal birding trip in Malawi is a 17-day mobile trip around the whole country with one of our experienced guides using the best accommodation available. This is held in the period between late October to early December with other possibilities if required.

    The attached ‘Seasons’ document will give you an overview of the weather and local conditions. As with most parts of Africa, almost all migrant birds are summer visitors visiting between September and April, with the most complete species count being from early December to March. A birding trip outside these months is still worthwhile but the species count (you will know how important this may or may not) is likely to be less.

    When the rains arrive (usually in November), the species count is unpredictable. Generally, the heaviest rains arrive only in January and we seldom have problems with accessibility and poor road conditions. But the worst case scenario particularly in the north could be heavy rains, enough to deny access to certain spots – most particularly in the Nyika National Park.

    Nevertheless, a birding trip in February with experienced guests who have travelled in Africa before, approach the exciting trip being well geared (with a raincoat) and with an open mind.

    Departure & Return Location

    Lilongwe Kamuzu International Airport (Google Map)

    Departure & Return Location

    Blantyre Chileka International Airport (Google Map)

    Operated By

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    What to Expect
    • Highlights:National Parks and around 350 bird species.
    • Activities: Mountain Biking - Village Visit - Birding Walks - Birding - Day and Evening Game Drives - Fishing - Boat Safari - Hide Visit - Nanthomba School Visit - Guided Bush Walk
    • Difficulty:Low
    • Holiday Type: Tailor-made
    • You will visit:Lake Malawi - Nyika National Park - Viphya Mountains - Dzalanyama Forest Reserve - Liwonde National Park - Zomba
    • Trip style:Couples and groups
    • Comfort level:
    • Transportation: Depends on group size. (Land Cruiser, Rav 4 or Small Coaster Bus)
    • Physical demand: Low
    • Group size: On Demand
    • Price:
    Itinerary

    Day 1Chintheche Inn, Lake Malawi

    Arrive into Lilongwe Airport. Depart immediately for the Northern Lakeshores of Lake Malawi, the crowning jewel of this beautiful country. It is one of the largest, longest and deepest freshwater lakes in the world. Numerous fishing villages are scattered along its length but there are still vast stretches of uninhabited golden beaches. Known as ‘The Lake of Stars’, the natural beauty of Lake Malawi draws travellers from around the globe. It has more species of fish than any other freshwater lake in the world, boasting over 600 species of fish in the Lake Malawi National Park alone. The 590-kilometre-long and 85-kilometre-wide Lake is the third-largest lake in Africa, occupying one-fifth of Malawi’s total area. With a depth of 700 metres, it is incredibly deep with its lowest point reaching more than 200 metres below sea level. Visitors can look forward to spotting a myriad of wildlife in and around the lake including, hippos, crocodiles, fish eagles, and over 1000 species of brightly-coloured endemic cichlid fish.

    Overnight at Chintheche Inn

    Chintheche Inn on the western shore of Lake Malawi is known for its white sands, warm clear waters and age-old fishing villages. The area boasts some of the finest beaches on the entire lakeside and the distant Viphya Mountains form a dramatic backdrop.

    Activities:

    Mountain biking

    Ride along the Lakeshore through some of the most scenic villages in Malawi. Cycle to the top of the ridge line overlooking Chintheche and witness breath-taking views of the Lake and surrounding region. A total of eight bikes are available at the Inn for guests to use.

    Village visit

    Visit a local fishing village and immerse yourself in Malawian culture. The area surrounding Chintheche Inn is home to many small villages consisting of small collections of mud huts, whose inhabitants make a living from the area ‘s fertile soil. A tour of these villages with one of our local guides provides great insight into the livelihoods of people living in rural Africa. Our local guides ensure that these tours are enlightening yet unobtrusive. Whether spending the afternoon with an African healer or village chief, or partaking in a traditional Malawian meal with a local family, these visits will leave you touched by the warmth and friendliness of the Malawian people.

    Birding walks

    Lake Malawi attracts a number of birds which favour either the water and islands or the particular vegetation of the shore lands. Pride of place must be given to the African fish eagle, Malawi’s national bird. There are more concentrations of fish eagles here than anywhere else in the world. This magnificent bird, which has a black body with white head, neck and tail feathers, is easily spotted as it dives to take fish from just under the surface of the waters. If not seen, its loud cry will be heard as it perches on a waterside tree or skims over the lake.

    Along the lakeshore, palms attract the collared palm thrush and palm swifts, while the mighty boababs have their mottled spinetails with wonderfully swept back wings. Pied kingfishers dive to take small fish and, where there are reeds, golden and brown-throated weavers can be seen. Very prominent, especially on the off-shore islands, are white-breasted cormorants, although the reed cormorant is much less commonly seen. By far the most impressive bird, for its sheer size, found near the lake is the giant Marabou stork.

    Days 2, 3 & 4Chelinda Lodge, Nyika National Park

    Depart after an early morning breakfast for the lush grasslands of Nyika National Park (approx. 6 hours’ drive). Located along the Zambian border in northern Malawi, the Nyika National Park features forested valleys, lush woodlands, and vast grasslands. It is Malawi’s largest park extending across the great plateau which rises up to 1800 metres. Aside from conventional safaris, Nyika is wonderful for walking, mountain biking and horse riding safaris, and 4×4 excursions. It is not just the game that attracts visitors, the rolling scenery is often covered in wildflowers and in the rainy season, there are over 200 types of orchid in flower. Commonly spotted wildlife include duiker, eland, roan, leopard, zebra, lion, elephant, buffalo as well as over 400 bird species.

    3 nights at Chelinda Lodge

    Chelinda Lodge offers spacious log cabins, which have sweeping views over Nyika’s rolling grasslands, which are often dotted with large herds of roan, eland and zebra. A pocket of hagenia woodland and forest, perfectly shelters this idyllic upland camp.
    Accommodation comprises eight warm log cabins made of pine with fireplace, en-suite bathroom and an upstairs viewing area, or room for accompanying children. Two chalets are joined to form an interconnected family unit. Elevated wooden walkways link the cabins to the inviting main building, complete with outside deck for sundowners, convivial dining around a fireplace and lounge area for quiet reflection or conversation. Activities include game drives to discover the wonders of the park, informative walks, birding, and mountain biking. Visiting Chelinda Lodge is an exciting component to any visit to Malawi and, indeed, to the sub region.

    Activities:

    Mountain biking

    Mountain biking on Nyika National Park is an exhilarating way to explore the montane grasslands, get close up to wildlife and take in some of the parks stunning scenery. A range of mountain bike trails have been created to suit all levels of fitness. More information regarding individual trails (distance, duration, elevation etc.) can be found under the ‘documentation’ tab of the Chelinda Lodge

    Birding

    Nyika National Park contains over 400 species of bird, and and acts as an important refuge for range restricted species such as Black-lored and Churring cisticolas, Chapin’s Apalis, Blue Swallow, Jackson’s Pipit, Scarlet-tufted Sunbird, Yellow-browed Seedeater and Montane Widowbird. Nyika is also home to a number of endemic subspecies, such as Red-winged Francolin , Baglafecht Weaver and Rufous-naped Lark. Although a multitude of incredible bird species can be found in Nyika all year round, early summer (October and November), when the plateau is still fairly dry at the end of winter, is probably the best time for birding, as breeding activity is at its peak in the forests and grasslands and there is an influx of migratory species.

    Day and evening game drives

    Nyika National Park is home to a wealth of animal species and a game drive with one of our experienced and knowledgeable guides will allow you to see and learn about the incredible diversity of wildlife that inhabit this incredible region of Malawi. During the day you will be able to get close to large herds of various antelope species across the rolling grasslands such as eland, roan and zebra, while also stopping at patches of forest and water sources to marvel at the incredible bird-life. During the evening, game drives offer guests the chance to view many of Nyika’s more nocturnal species such as leopard, serval and hyena.

    Fishing

    ‘Catch and release’ fishing is available in any of the three dams situated close to Chelinda. These areas offer the perfect location to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of Nyika National Park, while trying to catch some of the many Rainbow Trout that can be found within the dams. Rods are available for hire and licenses can be purchased at additional cost.

    Day 5Luwawa Forest Lodge, Viphya Mountains

    We leave Nyika early today after breakfast and head south towards the Viphya Mountains (approx.3-4 hours), which run parallel to the magnificent Lake Malawi, the Viphya Mountains rise up from the Viphya Plateau in north-central Malawi. This stunning highland area encompasses forested rolling hills, vast valleys, and rocky peaks. Known for its exceptionally dramatic scenery, this remote area offers visitors a host of wonderful activities including mountain biking, horse riding, trekking, rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, fishing, and a variety of hiking trails. The mountains provide spectacular views, diverse ecosystem habitats, and abundant wildlife including bush pig, antelope, monkey, duiker and leopard. Visit the Viphya Forest, the largest manmade forest in Africa, explore the area’s towns, and spot a host of bird life. Nature lovers will delight in this scenic mountain landscape.

    Overnight at Luwawa Forest Lodge

    The lodge, situated at 1650 meters above sea level and malaria free, is nestled in an ideally situated area of the Viphya mountains, in one of the tranquil and beautiful scenic locations in the north of Malawi. There is something for everyone at the lodge including team building courses, bird watching with one of the expert guides or simply to enjoy the peace of the comfortable location.
    There are huge opportunities to explore beautiful woodland, highland plateau trails and rural Malawi life on one of the lodge’s Wilderness adventures. Guests may be interested in adventure activities or sports. The lodge offers something different to the typical African safari or beach holiday experience.

    Birding

    Birding here is surprisingly good. Anchieta´s Tchagra, Bertrand´s Weaver, African Broadbill, Whyte´s Barbet, Coppery and Anchieta´s Sunbirds have been recorded on our safaris. Blue Swallow can be very common.

    Days 6 & 7Dzalanyama Forest House

    Heading further south to Dzalanyama area, which forms a border between Malawi and Mozambique. Today’s drive will be approximately 4 hours.

    2 nights at Dzalanyama Forest House

    Dzalanyama Forest House has 4 bedrooms, 2 en-suite tented chalets, a large lounge / dining area with a fireplace and there is a gas freezer / fridge. The front deck is the perfect place to enjoy al fresco lunches and appreciate the serenity of the area. Lighting is provided by gas lamps and solar lamps. The Lodge is self-catering and guests are required to provide their own food supplies, which will be prepared by the resident cook.

    Activities:

    Birding

    This is Malawi’s prime spot for Miombo birding, the most sought after birds here include Sterling’s Woodpecker, which can be surprisingly common in places, Souza´s Shrike, Shelley`s Sunbird, Olive-headed Weaver, Spotted Creeper and Boulder Chat.

    Days 8 & 9Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde National Park

    Today, you are in for a real treat as you make your way to Liwonde National Park (approx. 5 hours’ drive), which is situated at the southern tip of Lake Malombe in southern Malawi. Although Liwonde is one of Malawi’s smaller parks, it is arguably the most popular of all the game parks in the country. Malawi’s main river, the Shire, forms its western boundary and is the reserve’s lifeblood. With plentiful wildlife including hippos, kudu, elephants, crocodiles and elephants and even black rhino, the park had become one of Malawi’s premier wildlife-viewing destinations. The birding is excellent and a favourite sighting among birdwatchers is the Pel’s fishing owl. Visitors can look forward to a wide selection of activities including excellent wildlife viewing, canoeing and boating safaris and overnight stays at well-positioned safari camps.

    2 nights at Mvuu Lodge

    Mvuu Lodge overlooks a tranquil lagoon just off the Shire River with the main lounge area set high above the water in an area of captivating variety and beauty. It has an extensive wildlife library and telescope to make the most of the exceptional bird and other life that moves around the river. Mvuu means “hippo” in Tonga and the name epitomises the large numbers of pods of these water-loving mammals that float in the river. In this lush and fertile area, an excellent diversity of animals can be seen.
    Accommodation comprises eight luxury tents, one of which is a romantic honeymoon suite. Each tent has en-suite bathroom facilities and its own deck built to look over the water. Lodge facilities include a dining room, pub, lounge area and a swimming pool.

    Activities:

    Day and night game drives

    These game drives are a great way to explore Liwonde National Park and experience its diverse selection of habitats and wildlife. During the day visit the sanctuary and the surrounding area to see sable, kudu, eland, zebra, waterbuck, impala, warthog, rhino and elephant. Enjoy ‘sundowners’ on the banks of the beautiful Shire River while watching kingfishers diving for fish, before embarking on a night drive to discover hyaena, owls, civets, genets, and various species of mongoose.

    Boat Safaris

    Enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the Shire River while on one of Central African Wilderness Safaris’ river cruises. Intimate encounters with elephant are a hallmark of this fantastic experience which enables you to get very close to these huge, majestic animals. Sip sundowners while listening to the snorts and bellows emanating from the many hippo pods scattered along the banks of the river, before witnessing striking sunsets over the river.

    Hide visit

    Get closer to the wildlife of Liwonde National Park with a visit to Mvuu’s water level wildlife hide. Watch as a variety of antelope, elephants and other species come to the waterhole to drink, just meters in front of you.
    This activity is subject to availability.

    Birding

    Liwonde National Park offers some of the best birding in Malawi. With over 400 species of bird listed within the park, Liwonde is a birders paradise, with an incredible variety of migrants arriving during rainy season. Specials include Brown-breasted Barbet, Böhm’s Bee-eater, African skimmer and Livingstone’s fly-catcher.

    Nanthomba School visit

    Take a boat across the river, jump on a bike, and cycle 30 minutes to Nanthomba School. Experience first-hand the pressures faced by both local people and Liwonde s fragile ecosystems, as you cycle through villages situated along the parks boundaries. Once at Nanthomba School be inspired by the teachers and students of this incredible community project, and learn how NGO’s such as HELP Malawi and Children in the Wilderness are helping to transform local communities and alleviate poverty by providing quality education to the children of rural Malawi.
    This activity is subject to availability. *Price is available on request.

    Guided bush walk

    Discover the intricate relationships between animals and their habitats with a guided bush walk. Find out more about insects and other smaller inhabitants of the park, while learning about trees and plants, their medicinal properties and how they are used by local communities. This walk enables you to venture off the beaten track and observe Liwonde’ s diversity of wildlife with minimal disturbances.

    Days 10 & 11Zomba Forest Lodge, Zomba

    This will be the last stop on this wonderful journey you have had through Malawi. Zomba Plateau in the southern region of Malawi. The city of Zomba formerly served as the colonial capital of the country. It is known for its Colonial architecture and its location on the southern slopes of the scenic Zomba Plateau. It serves as an excellent base for visitors to explore the surrounding area. The rugged wilderness of lush forests, glistening lakes, and cascading waterfalls lends itself to a variety of adventurous outdoor activities including, hiking, fishing, horse riding birdwatching, mountain biking and rock climbing. Visitors can explore the city’s botanical gardens and golf course, or venture further afield to the beautiful Zomba Nature Reserve.

    2 nights at Zomba Forest Lodge

    Zomba Forest Lodge is a small colonial cottage nestled on the escarpment of Zomba Mountain, just within the Forest Reserve. It lies in 20 acres of mixed woodland, home to samango and vervet monkeys, a number of antelope and a host of birds, as well as butterflies and flowers. The lodge offers lovely en-suite bedrooms, small and well appointed. Each room is comfortable, as well as stylish and tastefully decorated. The Zomba Plateau is located in close proximity to the lodge, and there is plenty to do in the area.

    Activities

    Birding

    White-winged Apalis is the most sought after bird here, but there is a good number of montane forest birds on the plateau.

    Days 12End of Itinerary

    Early morning out with your birding guide, to possibly tick off that last bird you haven’t yet seen, and then onwards to Blantyre Airport in order to catch your outbound flight departing at 13:55pm. The drive will take approximately 1.5 hours.

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