Travel Information

When to visit

The region has three distinct seasons. The best time to visit is the dry season from April to October, as game is easier to spot during this period.


The seasons are: 


November – March 

This is the rainy season during which there are spectacular storms off Lake Malawi and the escarpment. Temperatures are typically hot and wet and the humidity peaks during January and February. The bush is a lot thicker at this time and as a result, it can be difficult to spot game. However, Nkhotakota comes to life with many of the plants flowering over this period. Most of the mammals have young providing some lovely game viewing and migratory birds move through the area. The turbulent flow of the rivers in the park provides a mesmerising spectacle for those who just want to relax in the beautiful setting.


April – August

The rains begin to end in April and by May temperatures are cool in the morning, particularly along the rivers and in higher areas of the reserve. During this time of year be sure to bring along some warm clothes. The vegetation is still lush and many species of animal are active all day.  This is the perfect time of year to go up Chipata Mountain as the temperatures are cool and the views are at their best until late June. 


September – October 

This is the hottest time of the year and many visitors choose to combine time in the park with visits to Lake Malawi nearby for some water sport or time at the beach. This time of year provides some of the best game viewing as the vegetation is thin and mammals are drawn to water points in the core game viewing areas. 

Need to know

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is open from 6am to 6pm daily. All visitors should go through Bua Gate to enter the reserve.


Currently people visiting the reserve must organise their own vehicle or organise transport with lodges in the park as park management does not organise game drives or transfers from the gate to lodges. Motorbikes and bicycles are not permitted to enter the reserve (unless passing through on the public road (M18) from Kasungu to Nkhotakota).


Fees for Day visitors and Vehicles are:

  • Malawi Citizen: MK450
  • Malawi Residents: US$7
  • None Residents: US$10
  • All children under 12 enter: Free


Fees for Vehicles entering the reserve are:

  • For vehicles less then 2000 kg: US$3
  • Vehicles 2000-5000 kg: US$5
  • Vehicles over 5000 kg: US$15 


To hire a scout for a walk costs US$10 (maximum group size of 6 per scout). It is best to book scouts in advance if you are not using lodge activities as there are only a limited number available. For more information, contact: nkhotakota@african-parks.org

Health essentials

Health care in Malawi is generally poor with limited supplies of medications. It is advisable for any visitor to Malawi to contact their doctor or travel clinic at least eight weeks prior to travel for up-to-date advice on the vaccination requirements and health precautions. It is also recommended that travellers take appropriate medical insurance for their holiday. 


Malawi is a malaria area and it is advisable that visitors take recommended prophylaxis medication prescribed by a doctor. While on anti-malarial medication it is still recommended that the necessary precautions are taken to avoid getting bitten (use insect repellents, and wear long sleeves and pants in the evenings and mornings). 


Tsetse flies can be a problem in certain parts of the reserve. Tsetse flies tend to be attracted to dark colours so it is advisable that visitors wear khaki and lighter colours and make use of insect repellents.


We advise against drinking tap water unless it is boiled or filtered. Bottled water is widely available in Malawi. 

Travel essentials

Chichewa and English are the recognised national Languages in Malawi. In rural areas Chichewa tends to dominate. However, in most areas English is common and in tourism areas it is widely used. If you plan to travel in areas that are not on the main tourist routes a simple handbook containing a few Chichewa phrase words or even a smart phone app may be useful. Handbooks can be purchased on arrival into Malawi at book shops in Blantyre and Lilongwe. Some useful phrases can be found on: http://www.malawitourism.com/pages/content/index.asp?PageID=153


In September 2015 Malawi introduced visa requirements for all countries that impose visa requirements on Malawi. It is advisable to obtain your visa in advance, however for most nations visas can be purchased at most major entry points to the country. A basic 30-day visitor’s visa (which can be extended) costs US$75. There are a range of other visas available including multi- entry visas. For more information visit: http://www.foreignaffairs.gov.mw/ and http://www.immigration.gov.mw/


Passports must have a validity of at least six months from the day of entry into Malawi.


The local currency is the Malawian Kwacha. Some tourism facilities accept foreign currency but Malawi does not have a dual economy. Exchange bureaus are available in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Credit Card facilities are becoming more common, with Visa card being the most widely accepted, however the use of cards is still not common across Malawi so check with accommodation before visiting.  ATMs are available in most major towns around Malawi. Currently the largest denomination is MK1000 (roughly US$1.50) so for major purchases withdrawal of cash can be a problem. For an idea of current exchange rates, visit http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/


When travelling to Nkhotakota consider combining your trip with time on the shores of Lake Malawi and don’t forget to bring binoculars as this greatly enhances bird watching and game viewing.


Check weather sites in advance to make sure you have appropriate clothing--remember that Malawians dress very modestly and it is respectful to dress appropriately, particularly in rural areas or when visiting communities around the park.  


When travelling alone or at night from one place to another always have someone who is expecting you to arrive. 


SIM cards and phone credit can be purchased cheaply in Malawi and can be bought in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Malawi has very good phone coverage and internet coverage. However, bear in mind that internet is very slow. 


Malawi is subject to regular power failures, due to load shedding, a torch or headlamp will be a handy addition to your kit. 


Tipping is not expected in Malawi and amounts are generally fairly modest. As a guide the minimum wage in Malawi is roughly MK1000 per day (US$1.50) and a coco-colar costs MK250-400 (US$0.50)


Two useful websites for visiting Malawi are: http://www.malawitourism.com/ and www.tripadvisor.com


Safety essentials

Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa and is a relatively safe country totravel in. However, visitors should take the normal safety precautions whilst travelling. Do not carry large amounts of money when walking around, and make sure your valuable items are securely locked away or on you at all times. Road travel can be dangerous at times, so always be on the lookout for other vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians and avoid travelling at night. Always visit your travel advisory websites before travel for latest updates on safe travel in Malawi.

How to get there

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is located approximately three hours from Lilongwe. It is about 10km off the M5 which follows the shores of Lake Malawi. People should avoid driving on the roads at night as chances of accidents increase dramatically after dark.


To get from Lilongwe to Nkhotakota the fastest route is via Salima and up the lake road passing through Nkhotakota Town and then turning off 12km later and following a dirt road for 10km to Bua Gate. This route is clearly sign posted. 


For Guests coming from Blantyre and southern Malawi the fastest route is up the lake road from Balaka and then through Salima. From there follow the same route as coming from Lilongwe.


For guests coming from Northern Malawi, the best route is to come down from Mzuzu to Dwangwa. 40km south of Dwangwa, turn right off the tar and proceed 10km to Bua gate. This route is clearly sign posted. 


For guests who prefer to fly, international flights land at either Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, which is the closest international airport or Chileka International Airport in Blantyre in southern Malawi. For those traveling to parks and reserves in southern Malawi it often makes sense to come in at one airport and fly out from the other to save return trips.  South African Airways, Air Malawi, Kenyan Airways and Ethiopian Airlines all fly into Malawi. Ulendo air charters operate out of Lilongwe and may be contacted for any charter requirements while in Malawi. For more information, go to http://www.flyulendo.com/


© Mike Dexter
© Bua River Lodge


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