Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

13 Days Luxury Malawi Safari
Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

This park has open borders with the well-known Luangwa Valley in Zambia. Although wildlife numbers on the Malawi side are not the same due to poaching, all big safari animals are present. Four of the Big Five are resident; rhino is the exception. The center of tourist activity is Lake Kazuni, which is home to more than 500 hippo living in 17 pods.

​Wildlife & Animals – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Although right at the entrance gate, Lake Kazuni feels like the heart of the park. Hippos and crocodiles are a constant presence. Around 2,000 buffalo and 300 elephant are thought to be resident. Herds of elephants can often be seen drinking and bathing in the lake – it’s not uncommon to see collected herds numbering more than 100 animals – and buffalo are usually nearby on the floodplains.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Wildlife Highlights

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Some antelope to look out for at the lake include puku, greater kudu, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, roan and eland. Deeper in the reserve, in thick mopane woodland, there is a chance of seeing sable antelope. Although elusive, several big cats can sometimes be spotted: lion, leopard, caracal and serval.

Best Time for Wildlife Viewing

The Dry season, stretching from May to October, is the prime time for wildlife watching in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. Animals gather around the lake and other permanent water sources, and the thinner vegetation helps with wildlife spotting.

​Birds – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

With 341 species recorded, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve offers great bird-watching opportunities. Lake Kazini is an excellent place to look for water-associated birds, including ducks, storks, egrets and herons. Osprey, fish eagle and palm-nut vulture are regularly found near the water as well. The very localized white-winged babbling starling is resident in the park and can sometimes be spotted in the woodland around the camp. A guided walk to the lake is recommended to get a closer look at some of the waders.

Birding Specials–Treats for Avid Birders

(NE) near-endemic = also lives in neighboring countries

  • African grey hornbill
  • Babbling starling (NE)
  • Bennett’s woodpecker
  • Black-collared barbet
  • Böhm’s flycatcher
  • Carp’s tit
  • Chestnut-backed sparrow-weaver
  • Golden-breasted bunting
  • Greater honeyguide
  • Green-backed woodpecker
  • Grey-headed bush-shrike
  • Meyer’s parrot
  • Purple-crested turaco
  • Rufous-bellied tit
  • Senegal lapwing
  • Swainson’s spurfowl
  • White-breasted cuckoo-shrike

Best Time for Bird Watching in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve has good bird life throughout the year. However, the Wet season (from November to April) is the best time for bird watching, with migratory birds in the reserve. May to October (the Dry season) is the best time for general wildlife viewing.

Best Time To Visit – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

July to October is the part of the Dry season that is best for wildlife viewing as all water in the bush has evaporated, and animals congregate around predictable water sources. During this time, many animals come to drink at Lake Kazuni in front of the camp. October is, however, very hot so it’s not recommended for people who dislike temperature extremes.

May to October –Dry Season

  • Best time of year for wildlife viewing
  • Little rain and lots of sunshine
  • The park never gets very busy
  • The risk of malaria lessens
  • Hazy skies, and the bush looks parched
  • Uncomfortable heat in October
  • Mornings are cold from May to August

November to April –Wet Season

  • Green and fresh landscapes
  • Favorite time for birders as migratory species are present
  • There are many newborn animals
  • Wildlife viewing is not as good
  • It is very hot and humid
  • Malaria risk rises with the increase in water and mosquitoes
  • The road to the park becomes bad and 4×4 is necessary
  • Roads inside the park close after heavy rain

​Weather & Climate – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve has a warm climate with a Wet and Dry season. Its location in the tropics means that the average temperature doesn’t vary much throughout the year, although there is a notable spike in temperatures in October before the rains. Days are cooler (and it gets quite cold at night) in the Dry season from May to September.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Dry Season–May to October

The bush gets drier as the season progresses. Animals tend to congregate around the lake and other water sources. It is pleasant during the day, but the nights can get cold. Warm clothing for early morning game drives is recommended.

  • May – This is the beginning of the Dry season. The bush is still lush, but the rains fall away.
  • June & July – There is no rain and the bush is drying out. Daytime temperatures average a very pleasant 24°C/75°F. At night the mercury drops, with average temperatures around 12°C/54°F. Don’t forget to rug up for early morning drives.
  • August & September – No rainfall. The bush is starting to look parched. Temperatures are rising, and September has an average daytime temperature of 27°C/81°F. Mornings are getting less cold.
  • October – Daytime temperatures increase to an average of 29°C/84°F. Peak temperatures are higher with the heat oppressive in the middle of the day. Mornings are lovely with temperatures around 18°C/64°F. Sometimes, the first rain falls in this month. Temperatures drop after the rain.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Wet Season–November to April

In the Wet season, the sky is clear and the bush is lush. It is warm, afternoon showers are common, and thunderstorms are often spectacular in the Wet season.

  • November – The rains usually begin this month. With the bush so dry, the rain is a relief. It’s hot and humid during the day. The average temperature is 29°C/84°F. Rain mostly comes in afternoon thunderstorms, but not every day.
  • December, January, February & March – It rains most days during the wettest months, but it rarely lasts the whole day. Daytime temperatures average 27°C/81°F, but that drops to about 16°C/61°F at night and in the early morning.
  • April – The rains usually come to an end sometime in April. The landscape is lush and green in April – a lovely month to visit.

​Getting There – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is reasonably accessible, and can easily be incorporated into any itinerary of the country.

Most international visitors arrive via Lilongwe International Airport (LLW). The airport is about 26km/16mi from the capital, Lilongwe. A few international flights arrive at Chileka International Airport (BLZ), 16km/10mi from Blantyre.

Vwaza Marsh is in the north of the country, about 450km/280mi from Lilongwe and 780km/485mi from Blantyre. The drive from Lilongwe takes about 6 hours* and from Blantyre about 10 hours*. A 4WD is essential in the Wet season.

The drive from Nyika National Park to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve takes about 2 hours* and the distance is about 80km/50mi.

There are no domestic flights to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve.

*Driving times are only a rough indication. You should always consider the possibility of significant delays.

Airlines & Ticket Prices

Please check Skyscanner to see which airlines can take you to Lilongwe International Airport (LLW) or Chileka International Airport (BLZ), and what tickets would cost.

​Malaria & Safety – Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Safety

Like most game reserves and parks in Malawi, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is safe in our opinion. If you are on an organized tour, your driver-guide will look after your safety in the park. A self-drive safari in Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve is a viable option for those with some experience.

If you are travelling independently around Malawi, check the tips in the ‘Cities & Urban Areas: Safety Precautions’ link below.

For the most up-to-date information about safety in Malawi, please read the government travel advisories (see the ‘Safety & Security – Malawi’ link below).

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve Malaria & Vaccinations

You should check with a travel clinic or your local doctor regarding appropriate vaccinations. Vwaza Marsh WR lies in a malaria zone and precautions against malaria are advised. Protection includes antimalarial medication and using mosquito repellent with at least 30% DEET. Covering up in the evening is recommended – try to minimize the amount of skin exposed to mosquitoes. The risk of malaria is at its highest in the Wet season, from November to April.

Wildlife Viewing Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Wildlife viewing in Vwaza Marsh is totally safe as long as you follow your guide’s directions. You’ll find some useful tips in the ‘Wildlife Viewing Safety Precautions’ link below.

INQUIRE NOW

GENERAL INFORMATION ON A MALAWI SAFARI

 
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: All visitors to Malawi must have a valid passport with at least 4 consecutive blanks pages.  Any applicable visa and/or relevant documentation are the responsibility of the traveller.  For further information on Visa requirements visitors are advised to contact their nearest Malawi African Embassy or Consulate.
 
LANGUAGE:English
 
TIME: GMT +3
 
VOLTAGE: 220 Volts/AC50Hz. Sockets are UK style, 3 pin square plugs. Power is from the government in the city/major towns and generator with inverter back up in the Safari Lodges and Camps.
 
CURRENCY: Foreign currency must be changed at the Bank, Bureau de Change, and Hotel/Safari lodge/Camp/Resort.   Major Credit Cards, Master card, Visa, American Express, are usually accepted throughout the country.  Where credit cards are accepted, the payment will normally be recorded in US$ regardless of the card’s default currency.
 
CLOTHING: Dress is mainly informal and should be comfortable as well as practical. Something warm should be brought along for early morning and evenings. Safari clothes are available from hotels/lodges/camps.
 
BAGGAGE: Where possible, travel light. Baggage space on safari is limited to medium suitcase or soft bag per person plus reasonable amount of hand luggage. There is 15 Kilogram per person limit on all flights to the wildlife sanctuaries. Excess luggage must be stored in your arrival hotel.
 
WATER: You will find many different of opinion of what is safe and what is not. We recommend for peace of mind, to drink local Bottled Mineral water. It is important to drink plenty of water especially during the hotter months. We would recommend that guests drink at least 2 to 3 liters of water per day to limit the effects of dehydration.
 
HEALTH; East Africa is a safe and secure destination; however, it is a good idea to take a few precautions.  Kindly consult your GP or local doctor at least 6 weeks before you travel, with regards: Malaria prophylactics. East Africa is a known malaria area and preventive measures are essential. You are advised to take one of the recommended anti-malarial drugs.  Be sure to wear long sleeved shorts and trousers after sunset and spray the exposed parts of your body with a mosquito repellent spray Remember to protect yourself from direct sun rays with sunscreen cream or safari hat.
 
DIETARY REQUIREMENTS: For those guests with specific dietary requirement, please ensure we are notified prior to travel
 
GRATUITIES: As a guideline and dependent on how happy you are, we would suggest the following: The General Hotel/Lodge/Camp Staff – Approximately U$ 10.00 per person per day Driver Guides – Approximately US$ 15.00 to US$ 20.00 per person per day.
 
PHOTOGRAPHY: Please be careful when photographing public buildings, airports, bridges, the national flag and people in uniform.  Ensure that you have sought permission before photographing local people and their villages.  If in doubt, please check with your guide.

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