A safari along the Shire River

We sit in the boat, cruising down the river on a hot afternoon. Our guide turns off the motor and we quietly drift along the river. Crocodiles slip down from the river bank to cool off in the water, buck jump along in the distance and herons and fish eagles swoop around. We all sit in awe, whispering to one another while sipping on our sun downers. A big bump against the side of the boat causes the boat to tilt and we gasp in surprise, almost jumping into each others laps.
“Whoops,” says our guide.
“Whoops?!”
“That’s just a hippo, came up for a breath of air in the wrong place. Shame,” he says with a smile.
We laugh. Our laughter is filled with unease, surprise and the joy of a new experience – A river Safari.

Spending time in the bush is, for me, a perfect way to reconnect with nature and self. In the main, it’s far from the busyness of every day life and more often than not an opportunity for a digital detox. Mornings and evenings are best spent watching the sun rise or set while on a safari. While visiting Mvuu Lodge and camp in the Liwonde National Park, Malawi, this included a river safari along the Shire River, which was a first for me.

River safari boats.

The Liwonde National Park is in the southern part of Malawi. It’s 548 square kilometres of woodlands and savannah with the Shire River running through part of it. The park is managed by African Parks, in partnership with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, and has been crucial in its wildlife conservation efforts through translocations, the preservation of habitat and bringing poaching under control in the park.

We saw many hippos in the water and around the boat. You don’t always get to see the hippos on a safari because they would rather be in the water and not lumbering outside in the heat.

The sun was pumping hotter that normal because the area was in the midst of a heat wave. This didn’t stop the crocodiles on the banks of the river. They were in their element, still as a statue but monitoring us through those glassy eyes.
Bush buck
This majestic look of this Fish Eagle enjoying the sunset like the rest of us was a sight to see. It almost felt as though the moment needed some background music to accompany it.
Snack time – roasted peanuts.
The beauty of travelling in Africa, is that there is always a bit of home wherever you go.
All smiles despite a hot sunset!
A magnificent African sunset on the Shire River, Malawi.

While there, we stayed at the Mvuu camp which has lovely rooms, a lapa for dining and socilaising and an opportunity to lounge by the pool when not on one of the guided activities such as birding, river cruises, safaris and nature walks.

Lounging by the pool.

Night time brought with it a variety of activity right outside our doors. An elephant out for a walk tugs at the high tree branches for its midnight snack; the sound of laughing hippos drawing closer and closer; and the early morning bird calls summoning you to the early morning game drive. The insects are also out and about at night, so you will need that bug repellent!

Early morning game drive

The following morning, we rose bright and early for a game drive. We had learnt that a few days before out visit, our fellow South Africans – Rhinos – were translocated from Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. We didn’t spot them on our evening or morning safari but you know how it is when you first move to an area. You’re still quietly getting to know the area without being too extra.

This is likely my favourite lioness photo on the blog. It seems so determined and yet at the same time, carefree.
Morning drink
We interrupted a vulture poking around after a kill. It was sad but also nature.
I love seeing buffalo but on most of my safari trips at best I might catch a glimpse of them or it’s so dark that I only hear them in the background. On my first big 5 safari, we tracked a herd being chased by two male lions which was epic. The buffalo won.

The river safari was by far one of my favourite ways to explore game on a trip. I think you often get caught up in seeing all big five. While that is always fantastic find, there is so much to experience and learn about all the animals on a game drive. It reminded me of what one of the botanists said to us on our spring flower trip, “don’t just take a picture of the colourful flowers, look beyond and see the beauty around them, too.

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