Nkhotakota is a town and one of the districts in the Central Region of Malawi. It is one of the main ports on Lake Malawi. The best lakeside accommodation options can be found about 18km south of the town, close to the village Mbalame, where the golden sand beach stretches far and wide.
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is the oldest and largest reserve in Malawi, encompassing 1,800 km2. It once contained as many as 1500 elephants but after decades of lawlessness and poaching, the population was reduced to fewer than 100 individuals by 2015, and other key species had largely been hunted out. Upon assuming management of Nkhotakota in 2015, African Parks immediately began preparing for what would become one of the world’s largest wildlife translocations to breathe life back into the reserve. By August 2017, the park had received over 500 elephants and 2,000 other animals from two other parks in Malawi. Now, poaching has become a thing of the past. On your visit, you can expect spectacular scenery and minimal tourists to share it with.
Where to Stay
We have listed some accommodation places in this area. If these don't suit you, we are more than happy to create your custom tour with your priorities.
Tongole Wilderness Lodge
Tongole Wilderness Lodge is the only high-end lodge in the Nkhotakota Reserve. With breathtaking views over the beautiful Bua River, it provides a truly exceptional experience. Indulge in the luxurious, open-plan suites that offer the perfect retreat to relax after an exciting day of exploration. The dining experience at Tongole is often rated as ‘the best in the country’!
Exclusive Tongole comprises five open-fronted river view suites.
The central relaxation areas feature several secluded and elevated areas where guests find privacy and enjoy drinks with stunning river views and sunsets over the mountains. They can relax by the shaded pool deck on comfy loungers, share experiences and make new friends around the fire and under the African star-studded canopy.
Tongole is accessible by air from April – November in the dry season. The airstrip, managed by African Parks, is located just 3km from the lodge. Flying time from Lilongwe is approx. 30 min and charters are bookable with Ulendo Safaris. Road transfers from Lilongwe takes up to three and a half hours to Tongole and about five hours using the shore road from Blantyre.
Tongole Wilderness Lodge is dedicated to operating its business in the most sustainable way possible and with commitment to a positive impact on the surrounding communities. The lodge provides significant training and employment opportunities in a very poor region of the country. The safari activities were carefully selected so as to have a low environmental impact and protect this pristine region. Tongole Lodge was built with locally sourced, sustainable materials and self-sustainable systems like solar power generation. Finally, at the heart of the Tongole Wilderness Lodge is The Tongole Foundation: a community uplift charity, that provides hope and pride in this beautiful area.
Bua River Lodge
Find this lodge nestled within the vast Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Malawi’s oldest and largest national park, a protected area managed by African Parks. Surrounded by miombo woodland on the edge of the Bua River, you will find complete escapism and immersion into the African wilderness. As the seasonal river ebbs and flows, crocodiles bask in the sun, fish eagles soar majestically overhead, and elephants roam free.
From the moment you arrive and wander down to the lodge by the river, feel the troubles of the world slip away and enter this bubble of tranquillity. Directly in front of you, the Bua River either rushes by or presents a unique sculptured rock landscape in the dry season. The reds and golds of the rising or setting sun are reflected in the river’s pools.
Several spacious luxury tents are available. They accommodate 2-3 people. The price includes accommodation, all meals, tea/coffee throughout the day, a sun-downer walk, and a morning walk.
Using fresh seasonal produce purchased from the surrounding communities, the creative cooks produce fusion dishes, mixing Malawian, African, and European favorites.
In the evening, you can relax by the camp fire that casts a warm orange glow. Apart from the sounds of the river and the forest, there is complete silence. The stars shine brightly, and the moon casts a gentle glow on the nearby water. During the wet season, fireflies dance and delight.
Bua River Lodge's staff will show you the true spirit of the warm heart of Africa - you will never wish to leave.
Rafiki Safari Camp
Set adjacent to the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, owner-run Rafiki Safari Camp is a safari lodge where you can have an authentic wilderness experience.
It boasts spacious, en-suite safari units, each with a private verandah, as well as full camping facilities. All accommodation is family-friendly. There is a beautiful boma to while away the evenings, listening to crickets chirping, night-jars calling, and maybe the occasional elephant making itself known. The lodge and campsite are self-sustainable, solar-powered, and eco-friendly.
The luxury accommodation is finished with electric fans, cotton percale fabric linen, and towels. The bedrooms are as “mosquito-proof” as possible, with gauze sashes on the windows and canopied mosquito nets over the beds. Guests have full access to the boma which offers an honesty bar, a plunge pool, sunset drinks around a fire (weather permitting), afternoon tea and coffee, and a restaurant with home-cooked meals made from locally-sourced organic produce.
With five individual safari units, the campsites can accommodate up to fourteen guests looking to immerse themselves in nature. Children are welcome. The campsites are set in natural bush, amongst indigenous trees. Each campsite has its own braai/barbeque, shaded/waterproof area, and is within a short walking distance of the ablution block. Hot and cold water is available, along with flushing toilets and dishwashing facilities. Power points are available for recharging phones, computers, and fridges/freezers can also be provided if required.
Fish Eagle Bay Lodge
Fish Eagle Bay Lodge is situated in the Central District of Malawi on a spectacular sandy beach in Mbalame village, Nkhotakota.
It offers en-suite accommodation in beautiful white-washed, thatched chalets with views of Lake Malawi. The atmosphere at Fish Eagle Bay is peaceful and enables one to connect with nature and reflect on the meaning of life!
The lodge offers four B&B chalets and two self-catering chalets.
It has a restaurant and bar, where you can eat fresh fish from the lake. It is ideal if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, enjoy a spacious beach, and spend a relaxing holiday. And if you want to combine your stay with more adventurous activities, Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is only a 20-minute drive away.
Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge
Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge has 12 deluxe rooms, 9 superior rooms, 3 family rooms, 2 self-catering apartments, and a beautiful evergreen campsite, right on more than 200 meters of fine, very clean sandy beach.
One 6-bed dormitory with shared facilities is available at lower rates.
The secure campsite has its own beach, car park, tiled hot showers, WCs, and a kitchen shelter. Spacious safari tents with camp beds are available for hire.
The inside and outside restaurant areas all face the beachfront of Lake Malawi. A variety of international and local Malawian dishes are available. The chefs use local produce either grown at the lodge or traded with fishermen and inhabitants of the surrounding villages. It is an ever-evolving menu with the aim of using the freshest local ingredients to create simple yet delicious dishes. Meat and milk products are sourced in Lilongwe from established and certified suppliers.
The conference room and conference hall can seat up to 35 and 200 people respectively. In its spacious garden, the Lodge can cater to up to 100 people for special events like conferences, garden parties, weddings, and more.
Nkhotakota Safari Lodge
The lodge is situated on the shores of Lake Malawi at a beautiful and secluded sandy beach. Built between mature indigenous trees with stunning lake views, it can be described as luxurious and friendly.
The quiet site is perfect for romantic and relaxing breaks but for those wishing to do a bit of work it is covered by TNM’s fast (4G) mobile network internet service. There is also a back-up generator so that you can do ‘business-as-usual’ during power cuts on the national grid.
Three different types of rooms are available: beach chalets (standard room, superior rooms and deluxe chalets.
The lakeside restaurant serves seasonal fish and vegetables, traditional Malawian and international cuisine that are guaranteed to keep your taste buds tantalised. The restaurant is one of the best along the lakeshore with an ever changing international menu designed by the head chef. Its staff can put on a braai (barbeque) on request.
The bar offers a wide selection of fine wines, ciders, beers and soft drinks. Satellite TV can be obtained for live coverage of major sporting events and world news.
Your fitness regime doesn’t have to take a back seat while you are on holiday. Get your heart pumping with beach volleyball or by jogging on the beach. Look after your mind by walking along the beach, doing beach yoga, or just relaxing under the trees.
Walking safaris: Explore Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve’s bush on foot with one of the many experienced guides eager to share their wildlife knowledge.
Hiking: Hike up Chipata Mountain for spectacular, elevated views of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Birdwatching: About 280 species birds inhabit Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. You can spot various types of kingfisher, eagles, hornbills and herons amongst many others. Join an experienced and passionate guide who is sure to add to your bird knowledge, or grab your own binoculars.
Relax on the beach: If you opted to stay at one of the lakeside lodges, you can soak in the views of Lake Malawi, while sunbathing in the soft sand, reading a good book or spending quality time with your fellow travelers. Sunsets are especially beautiful.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is the dry season between April and October, as the game is easier to spot during this period. November to March is the rainy season when spectacular storms can be admired at Lake Malawi and the escarpment.