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Tuesday, 28 January 2020

The Upper Shire Waterways

The Shire River drains Lake Malawi to the south. With the giant lake as its headwaters, the Shire is already a muscular river at its origin, Mangochi. It is the north-south axis of southern Malawi, and through history has functioned as an umbilical cord of the evolving country.

People and trade goods, formative influences on the region, travelled up this silver ribbon of water - Eastern traders and ivory hunters,Portuguese explorers, Zulu impi, Arab slavers and their arch enemy, the Scots missionary explorer often credited with laying the groundwork for the country that was to become modern Malawi, Dr David Livingstone. He was, in turn, followed by a stream of missionaries and businessmen.

Heading south from the Lake, the Shire River spreads into a lake of its own making, shallow Lake Malombe, before picking up speed across the uneven floor of the Great Rift. From Lake Malombe to almost the outskirts of the town of Liwonde, the river cuts through the western edge of Liwonde National Park.The river is at once the focus and mainstay of the park. In the wet season, when roads are impassable, the Shire provides access to the Park on powerboats and specially designed riverboats. In the dry, its strong perennial waters provide green flood plains of winter forage and water for the parks animals. 

Mvuu Lodge is built on the most spectacular riverbank site in the park, with views fringed with palm, fig and fever trees against the distant backdrop of the blue Rift Valley wall. Elephants splash knee deep in reeds, and hippo honk and yawn in the shallows. Secreted elsewhere in the woodlands and thickets behind the lodge are the rest of the Big Five, but with four hundred species of birds already recorded in the park, you might not have time to look for them!