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  • Photograph of Pel's Fishing Owl

    Pel's Fishing Owl by Chris Townend.

    MALAWI

    Best Wildlife in Malawi

    Mammals
    African Elephant, Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Eland, Impala, Greater Kudu, Nyala, Roan, Sable, Suni, Common Waterbuck, Burchell’s Zebra, Yellow Baboon, Mitis, Samango and Vervet Monkeys, Lesser Bushbaby, Large Spotted Genet and Four-toed Elephant Shrew. Also a chance of Leopard, Spotted Hyaena and South African Porcupine.

    Birds

    Specialities
    The near-endemic Yellow-throated (Bar-throated) Apalis, White-backed Night Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Lesser Jacana, African Skimmer, Lilian’s Lovebird, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Half-collared Kingfisher, Boehm’s Bee-eater, Racket-tailed Roller, Pale-billed Hornbill, Brown-breasted and Whyte's Barbets, Stierling's Woodpecker, Blue Swallow, Souza's Shrike, Boehm's and Livingstone's Flycatchers, Collared Palm Thrush, Arnot's and Boulder Chats, Miombo Rock Thrush, East Coast and Sharpe’s Akalats, Thyolo and White-chested Alethes, Olive-flanked Robin Chat, White-winged Apalis, Green-headed Oriole, (White-winged) Babbling Starling, Anchieta’s, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted and Shelley's Sunbirds, Bertram's and Olive-headed Weavers, and Red-faced Crimsonwing. Also a chance of Buff-spotted and Red-chested Flufftails, Wattled Crane, Locustfinch and Lesser Seedcracker.

    Others
    Black and Goliath Herons, African Fish and Martial Eagles, Denham’s Bustard, and hornbills including Southern Ground, as well as Helmeted Guineafowl, African Darter, Hadada Ibis, storks, Hamerkop, Osprey, Palm-nut Vulture, Bateleur, Augur Buzzard, Amur Falcon (Nov-Mar), Dickinson's Kestrel, Black Crake, Blacksmith and Long-toed Plovers, Black-winged Stilt, African Jacana, doves, Brown-headed and Brown-necked Parrots, Livingstone’s, Purple-crested and Schalow’s Turacos, cuckoos, Spotted and Verreaux’s Eagle Owls, African Wood Owl, Red-faced Mousebird, Bar-tailed and Narina’s Trogons, kingfishers including Giant, bee-eaters including Southern Carmine, rollers including Lilac-breasted, Hoopoe, Green Woodhoopoe, barbets, tinkerbirds, honeyguides, woodpeckers, African Broadbill, Cape (Malawi) and Pale Batises, Retz’s and White Helmetshrikes, Black-fronted, Grey-headed and Sulphur-breasted Bushshrikes, Brubru, African Golden Oriole, African Paradise Flycatcher, White-headed Sawwing, greenbuls, eremomelas, crombecs, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Southern and Yellow-bellied Hyliotas, flycatchers including Collared (Nov-Mar), White-starred Robin, robin chats, Orange Ground Thrush, Spotted Creeper, starlings, Red-billed Oxpecker, sunbirds, buntings, canaries, Chestnut-backed Sparrow Weaver, weavers including Southern Brown-throated, widowbirds, Green-backed and Peters’s Twinspots, and Eastern Paradise Whydah. Also a chance of African Pygmy Goose, Saddle-billed Stork, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Finfoot and Greater Painted Snipe.

    Reptiles
    Nile Crocodile.

    Fish
    There are about a thousand species of fish in Lake Malawi - a world record for one lake – and most of them are brightly coloured cichlids.

    Invertebrates
    The huge, billowing plumes of what look like smoke above the surface of Lake Malawi (mostly between December and February during the rainy season) are actually composed of billions of midges or ‘Lake Flies’ as they are more popularly known.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Malawi

    Best Times for Wildlife in Malawi

    The beginning of the rainy season, which usually lasts from December to February, is the best time for birds because they are starting to nest then and are at their most active and attractive. Late November-early December is usually the peak time but October is better if combining Malawi with South Luangwa NP in Zambia since this normally coincides with the Southern Carmine Bee-eater nesting season.

    Recommended Books etc. for Malawi

    Birds of Malawi: A supplement to Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa by K Newman et al. Southern, 1992.

    SASOL Birds of Southern Africa by I Sinclair et al. C Struik, 2011 (Fourth Edition).

    Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by I Sinclair and P Ryan. C Struik, 2011 (Second Edition).

    Newman's Birds by Colour by K Newman. C Struik, 2011 (Third Edition).

    Newman's Birds of Southern Africa by K and V Newman. C Struik, 2010 (Tenth Edition).

    Roberts Bird Guide edited by H Chittenden. Africa Geographic, 2007.

    Southern African Birdfinder by C Cohen and C Spottiswoode. New Holland Publishers, 2005.

    Stuarts' Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa by C and M Stuart. Random House Struik, 2015 (Revised Edition).

    The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2015 (Second Revised Edition).

    The Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals by J Kingdon. Bloomsbury, 2016 (Second Edition).


    Apps etc.

    eGuide to Mammals of Southern Africa

    Kingdon eGuide to African Mammals.

    Audubon African Wildlife.

    SASOL eBirds of Southern Africa.

    Newman's Birds of Southern Africa.

    Roberts Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa.

    Where to watch birds in Africa by N Wheatley. Helm, 1995.

    Don’t know which country/countries to visit in Africa? Then it may be worth considering taking a look at this book, written by this website’s author. It is many years old of course but it still provides a starting point, an overview and a guiding light to the best birds and the best places to look for them on the continent, and could save hours of searching for similar information on the internet. However, it is important to check more up-to-date sources for sites which have been opened up, sites and species which have been discovered, lodges that have been built etc. since the book was published.

    Trip Reports for Malawi

    Many trip reports, some for Malawi, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Malawi. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Malawi' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Malawi

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Malawi

    Some Organized Tours to Malawi

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and they are popular with people with partners with different interests. Individuals, partners and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more for a custom tour than an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who run organized tours to Malawi include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.