$ 420 (Pps)
- Private luxury tents with river-fronting balconies
- Visit the lake where Livingstone crossed the Shire River
- Superb boating safaris are a highlight at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge
- Excellent birding, sometimes from your deck!
- Night drives through the riverine forest
- Guided daytime walking safaris
Mvuu Lodge in the Liwonde National Park is a small and very pretty luxury tented lodge, built to blend in with its environment. The setting of Mvuu Lodge is hard to beat. It lies on the edge of a lily-strewn lagoon - where elephant frequently come to drink - just off the Shire river (pronounced Shiree). Accommodation is in eight spacious en suite tented rooms. Each has its own secluded viewing platform & hammock overlooking the lagoon. And they are all hidden away in the lush riverine vegetation to ensure privacy. The first five tents are closer to the lodge and slightly smaller, with an en suite bathroom with bath and outside shower. The final three tents are further away but larger with an open plan bathroom, seaparate toilet, as well as both indoor and outdoor showers.
The thatched Mvuu Lodge is set on stilts high above the water for wonderful views. It has been designed to offer you a wonderful bush experience with an element of luxury. So there's a small swimming pool, sun deck and dining area, bar, lounge and wildlife library. All overlooking the river and lagoon. So you don’t have to stir from the deck to enjoy the wildlife and the birds on the lagoon.
Activities at Mvuu Lodge
Liwonde National Park is the prime game reserve in Malawi. It's a lush and fertile park particularly known for its elephant sightings. Plus good quantities of sable antelope and waterbuck as well. Safari activities revolve around the Shire river with its plentiful hippos and crocodiles. (Mvuu means "hippo" in Tonga. And so the name epitomises the large numbers of hippo pods that float in the river.)
Boating safaris in a covered 12-seater boat are a highlight at Mvuu. This enables you to get close to the wildlife as they drink in the river. Game drives head out in the early morning and late afternoon. Birding enthusiasts can enjoy virtually non-stop birding around Mvuu Lodge. Birding specials include Lilian’s lovebird, palmnut vulture, brown breasted barbet - even the amazing Pel’s fishing owl.
Also on offer are Bush walks (usually in the early morning) as well as bicycle trips to the local village. Many of the lodge staff come from the local village. And you can visit the school and community library. Finally Mvuu Lodge now offers rhino tracking on foot during the dry season from May to October with the dedicated rhino monitoring team, at an extra cost.
Travelling to Mvuu Wilderness Lodge
Arrival at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge depends on where you are coming from. If arriving from Lake Malawi or Lilongwe, you take the road through local villages to a short boat cruise over the river to the lodge. If coming from Blantyre, Majete or the Southern tea plantations, you will take the exhilarating boat cruise from Liwonde town (approx 40 mins). This river trip takes in 30 km of the Shire River. And it offers an excellent chance to see wildlife and birds from the get-go.
We recommend that you combine a safari at Mvuu Lodge with a safari in the South Luangwa National Park (Zambia), or perhaps Majete Game Reserve, for the best overall safari experience.
Mvuu Lodge on the map
There are eight standard tents which consist of seven twin bedded tents and one honey moon tent with a double bed and bath.
Mvuu Lodge in the beautiful Liwonde Park
Mvuu Lodge is a thoroughly charming place and much recommended, as long as you have appropriate expectations as to what to expect from the game-viewing in Liwonde . The lodge lies between the Shire river and a small ox bow lagoon. It is a traditional safari camp but thoroughly comfortable and sufficiently zooty to be combined with smarter options elsewhere in Malawi such as Pumulani or Kaya Mawa...
The main lodge at Mvuu Lodge is raised on stilts and overlooks the river with lots of comical warthogs on view from the dining and sitting areas. There’s a small swimming pool close-by. The rooms all stretch along the lagoon. The original five are closest to the main lodge and thus ideal for people who don’t want to walk so far. They are large tented rooms with an en suite bathroom in stone with bath, basin and loo inside and outdoor shower. Lovely views over the lagoon from your deck or hammock. (I reckon hammocks should be compulsory for a safari lodge – they are the perfect way to relax between safari activities!)
Tent 5 is the honeymoon tent, similar in style but with a large bathroom under thatch with a deep circular bath for two. Nice concept but somehow it didn’t really grab me. Tents 6 to 8 are the new tents, quite a bit further away, (so a bit of a hassle if you forget something and have to walk back for 10 minutes), but larger and slightly more stylish. The bathroom is semi open-plan to the bedroom (wooden divide) with an enclosed toilet, indoor shower and outdoor shower. Though I preferred the newer rooms, the original ones are also great with better lagoon views and the benefit of proximity (which is especially nice in the hot spring weather.)
Liwonde Park is Malawi’s premier wildlife reserve but the reality is that, though Liwonde Park has a variety of game, it is by no means a Big Game safari destination. You will certainly see lots of elephant, you will plenty of stunning birds and plenty of general game including the rare Sable antelope. You're also likely to see herds of buffalo and perhaps be able to track down the black rhino on foot. But you'd be very lucky to see any predators even though there are lion and leopard around.
With that mind, part of the charm of Mvuu Lodge is the diversity of game-viewing activities. It offers game drives, bush walks, game-viewing by boat, sunset cruises, village visits by bicycle (great!) and rhino tracking on foot. I loved this variety – you are not just sitting in a game vehicle all the time. After a morning of game-viewing on foot and by vehicle, we transferred to a boat to enjoy some game-viewing from the river. We even enjoyed a delicious breakfast on the boat with a chef cooking omelettes to our specification, plus some of the most delicious cinnamon rolls I have ever tasted.
Bicycling to local school from Liwonde Park
One of the most enjoyable and educational experiences during my stay at Mvuu Lodge was a visit to the local village. This is done by bicycle, cycling first 1km through the park with an armed scout at the front and your ranger at the back. Then you continue another kilometers to the village where we cycled to the primary school, met the headmaster and learnt a lot about the education system in Malawi. This was fascinating, if somewhat depressing as you realize that only the hardest-working and luckiest children can get a secondary school education. You learn how various organizations are assisting this, and other schools, include an organization called HELP Malawi, as well as Wilderness Safaris. Then we visited some of the classrooms and chatted with the kids. I met one particularly spunky young girl in Grade 7 who wants to be a lawyer when she grows up. She asked us what we did and I explained, rather condescendingly perhaps, that “ I was here to learn all about Malawi so that I could bring visitors to their beautiful country”. “On bicycles?” She drily replied with a twinkle in her eye.
Never try to get one over a kid!
I really enjoyed the experience of cycling through the Malawian countryside, saying hello to everyone. As elsewhere, people are smiling, waving hello and the villages are generally very clean.
I enjoyed my stay in Liwonde Park. I would probably combine a safari here with either the Majete Wildlife Reserve or the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia for a more 'full-on' safari.