Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve 

Malawi’s oldest and largest reserve, Nkhotakota is an untouched wilderness of rugged scenery and historic wildlife return.

Experience Nkhotakota

Beneath the Chipata Mountain, a vast network of rivers weaves through wooded hills, nourishing the dense miombo forests that make up Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.

Nkhotakota is an unspoilt place of diversity that has been recreated through one of the most significant translocation initiatives in conservation history – 520 elephants were moved from Liwonde and Majete to make their home in this reserve.

Visitors can experience this stunning wild space in a multitude of ways, whether on the road as herds of elephants emerge from the trees, on foot trekking through the forest to reach little-seen areas, or in a canoe, drifting down the reserve’s spectacular rivers. Aside from elephant, game sightings include buffalo, eland, impala, kudu, sable, waterbuck zebra and warthog and over 320 bird species. Predators such as leopard or hyaena may be glimpsed by the lucky.

Self-drive through Nkhotakota

Nkhotakota is open from 06h00 to 18h00 daily. All visitors can enter via Bua Gate to explore the reserve on an 8km road network.

Available For: Day Visitors; Livezi Bush Camp

Game Drives

Day visitors can book a game drive through the reserve in a 10-seat game-viewing vehicle. The experience can include a fascinating talk at the Environmental Education Centre.

Photo credit Bua River Lodge

Guided Nature Walks

Nkhotakota offers ranger-guided day walks led by a scout – these must be booked in advance.

Man at the top of Chipata Mountain looking down from the mountain in Nkhotakota

Climb Chipata Mountain

A hike up the nearby Chipata Mountain is an exciting challenge. At an elevation of 1,633 metres above seal level, Chipata offers breathtaking views and a unique Afromontane forest ecosystem to explore.

Birding Safaris

There are 324 bird species in Nkhotakota, and bird walks are the best way to see them. Day visitors can book through the reserve, while all lodges inside the reserve also offer this activity.

Visitor Centre

The Visitor Centre comprises the Environmental Education Centre and Mphatso Restaurant. The Environmental Education Centre aims to promote the understanding of the values of wildlife conservation to all visitors.

Mphatso Restaurant and Coffee Shop

Enjoy delicious meals, refreshing drinks and hot coffee in the restaurant, in the cosy outdoor dining area – or take it to go, and enjoy it on a picnic blanket somewhere with a stunning view. Open on weekdays; advance bookings for weekends required.

Where We Are

Nkhotakota is in east-central Malawi, a few kilometres from Lake Malawi

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Getting Here

The reserve is about 3 hours’ drive (200km) from Lilongwe and 5.5 hours (400km) from Blantyre 

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The Weather

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500 Elephants – and More

In one of the largest translocations in history, 500 elephants (and 2,000 other animals) were moved into the reserve, restoring its wildlife – and hope

Where to Stay

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and its environs boast renovated lodges and impressively situated campsites that welcome explorers and guests in increasing numbers.

Visiting Nkhotakota is one of the best ways to support communities, wildlife conservation and the long-term success of Africa’s wild areas. Choose from the different accommodation options available below and enjoy a spectacular wildlife experience.

Livezi Bush Camp

Tucked away inside the reserve, this self-catering tented camp lies on the banks of the Livezi River and offers a perfect escape close to nature with optimal tranquillity and stunning views.

View looking out from room at Tongole Lodge

Tongole Wilderness Lodge

This luxurious lodge, located in the heart of Nkhotakota, provides a truly exceptional wilderness experience with breathtaking views over the beautiful Bua River. Activities include bush walks, drives, hiking, birding and cultural visits.

Bua River Lodge

Set discreetly on the banks of the Bua River, this eco-friendly lodge offers comfortable en-suite tented chalets with outdoor showers, private veranda and breathtaking views. Guided nature walks, home-cooked food, and wildlife on your doorstep all make for a memorable visit.

view of the pool and outside of the rafiki safari lodge

Rafiki Safari Lodge

Owner-run Rafiki Safari Camp boasts spacious, en-suite safari units, each with a private veranda, providing safari accommodation as well as full camping facilities

About Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

At 1,800km2, Nkhotakota is the oldest and largest wildlife reserve in Malawi, as well as one of its wildest and most unspoilt. It is a place of remarkable contrasts, from rolling hills to treacherous cliffs, gently lapping pools of the Bua River to spectacular rapids, and peaceful woodland glades to thick forest. Miombo woodland is interspersed with grassland and cut through by several rivers, while Chipata Mountain provides an evergreen forest, a place to hike and a scenic backdrop.

Thanks to reintroductions in 2016, 2017 and 2022, game viewing is excellent, from herds of elephant to buffalo, eland, impala, kudu, waterbuck, warthog, sable, zebra, and hartebeest. With 324 bird species, Nkhotakota is classified as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. These include specials like the palmnut vulture, pale-billed hornbill and miombo pied barbet.