Tongole Wilderness Lodge from above, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

The Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve sits on the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment. Hilly and covered in dense miombo woodland, this beautiful park is bisected by two permanent rivers that flow into Lake Malawi.

The tree-covered hills are dotted with occasional grassy openings and seasonal river gullies, whilst the south-west of the park is dominated by Chipata Mountain – a peak home to Afromontane forest and blue monkeys.

In spite of this beautiful landscape, for many years, the park was left almost unprotected and vulnerable to poachers. Once home to large populations of lions and elephants, Nkhotakota was almost devoid of large mammals by the turn of the millennium. Recently, however, things have begun to change, with the reintroduction of key species.

Track through Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

Why visit Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve

  • Experience a pioneering conservation project, managed by African Parks
  • Hike through the park’s vast swathes of beautiful miombo woodland
  • Visit waterfalls and canoe on the swirling Bua River
  • Stay at the stunning Tongole Wilderness Lodge
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Looking out over Bua River from Tongole, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi

Conservation success of African Parks

African Parks took over management of the reserve in 2015, ending decades of non-existent law enforcement and poaching. Quickly, they restored the park’s infrastructure and started to protect its boundaries, paving the way for the recovery of its wildlife. In 2016, one of the greatest animal translocations of modern times began with over 500 elephants and 1,200 other large herbivores translocated to the park. This huge project increased the elephant population tenfold and transforming the ecosystem.

Despite this incredible success, Nkhotakota still faces huge long-term challenges. Additional infrastructure is needed and the animals need to adjust to the environment. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve currently offers a beautiful wilderness experience and a unique conservation story, but it is yet to become a safari destination.

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Tongole Wilderness Lodge from above, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
Tongole Wilderness Lodge

Tongole Wilderness Lodge

Overlooking the Bua River in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Tongole Wilderness Lodge is true to its name.

With just five river-facing suites and surrounded by 180,000 hectares of rugged hills and miombo woodland, the lodge offers complete seclusion in one of Malawi’s least visited parks.

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A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Chris Johnston

Chris is the Conde Nast Traveller chosen Specialist for Africa.

25 years ago, my first trip to Africa took on a life of its own. I planned for three months, I stayed for two years. Whilst there, I was mistaken for a priest, attacked by sharks and arrested. Yet the countless, clattering journeys opened my eyes to the beauty of the landscapes and the grace of the people. My recent trips are undoubtedly more comfortable, but the welcome is as warm as ever and the best experiences are still those I never see coming.

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