Liwonde National Park, on the banks of Malawi’s Shire River, tributary of the mighty Zambezi, is the country’s premier safari destination. It has a rich and diverse history, from David Livingstone, who traversed the present park area while exploring Africa’s inland waters. A 32km stretch of the Shire flows through the park, and the area once offered prime hunting for big game hunters. Such as Lt Henry Faulkner who had decimated the area’s elephant population while allegedly searching for the ‘missing’ Dr Livingstone in 1867. His subsequent account, Elephant Haunts, (London 1868) became one of hunting’s greatest and rarest classics reprinted by the Royal Geographical Society and Society of Malawi in 1982.
Liwonde is famous again for its elephants, congregating seasonally in large numbers on the river banks. Rhino have been successfully reintroduced. Birdlife is prolific. Over 400 species are found in the many varied habitats found in the park.
Up to a century ago steam boats plied between Liwonde and the then Fort Johnston (Mangochi). Now again the visitor can explore the river’s quiet reaches and small lagoons by boat, to see hundreds of hippos and crocodiles. During the dry season this is by far the best way to watch the area’s animals, as they come down to the river to drink.
Liwonde has developed over thirty years from offering rustic accommodation, devoid of all but the most basic amenities, to Malawi’s first international standard safari base at Mvuu. The sanctuary, protected within the park, has allowed the re-introduction of the black rhino which despite recent setbacks at the hands of local poachers has proved a successful project. Local villagers, living adjacent to the park, benefit generously from projects encouraging conservation and income generation.
In this work, the first photographic profile of the park, Outi Maattanen-Bourke traces the success of an African conservation effort. Her work is complemented by photography from Malawi’s best-known wildlife and scenic photographers.
About the author
Outi Maattanen-Bourke lived from 1994 in Malawi which she found to be a very positive experience: the friendliness and hospitality of Malawians made it exceptionally easy to explore the country, its culture and customs. She frequently visited Liwonde National Park and the accommodation units there.
Fascinated by the behaviour of hippo and elephant on the Shire River combined with the sensual pleasures of the African bush, Outi quickly developed a deeper interest in the multiple wildlife and conservation issues affecting Liwonde.
After moving to the capital, Lilongwe, her work as a travel consultant provided a good opportunity to observe how a poor country like Malawi can develop eco-tourism as an asset, especially through partnerships between government and the private sector. Outi now lives with her family in Genoa, Italy.