By: Eutychus Yamikani….
The shire river drains Lake Malawi to the south with the giant lake as its head waters; the Shire is already a muscular river at its origin, Mangochi (travelmalawi.com).
It is the north-south axis of southern Malawi and through history it has functioned as a 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, Dr David Livingstone, often credited with laying the groundwork for the country that was to become modern Malawi.
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 a shallow Lake Malombe, before picking up speed across the uneven floor of the Great Rift Valley.
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 west season, when roads are impassable, the Shire provides access to the park on powerboats and specially designed riverboats.
In the dry season, its strong perennial waters provide green flood plains of winter forage and water for the parks animals .
Mvuu Lodge (trans: Hippopotamus 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 hippos 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.
Liwonde, Rhino and translocation (taking stock of success) Liwonde, when Livingstone was still exploring the areas, was known as a hunting paradise by the locals.
Rare elephant hunting classics were written about the prolific wildlife on the Shire’s riverbanks as early as 1868.
This resulted in the loss of nearly all larger mammal species by the turn of the century.
With Malawi’s independence wiser counsel prevailed; conservation became the target.
Liwonde as unique riverine areas was declared a National park in 1979 and ambitious translocation started into the park of many of the original species.
In the late nineties a breeding pair of black rhino was re-introduced and there are more than five of that species.
Other species too have multiplied very successfully to the extent that Liwonde now supplies animals to the newest conservation areas in Malawi, such as Majete.
And now in a remarkable conservation turnaround and awake of illegal elephant poaching for its tusk, Malawi will come the first country in southern Africa to conduct a biggest translocation of elephant.
When To Visit..
Malawi is always beautiful. The cooler months (May to August/September) are more comfortable for travelers from the northern hemisphere, but the lush, green summer (November to April) is also a good time to visit if due care is taken to avoid mosquito bites. May and June combine the best of both seasons-cooler, still green with great visibility-and are especially good for photography.