Thawale Lodge in Majete

Thawale Lodge is located in Majete Wildlife Reserve, the first protected area to be placed under African Parks management in 2003. Since then, Majete has been a Malawian success story for conservation and the people of the region. A stay at Thawale Lodge is a special experience. In the chalets you are very close to the animals even at night. You don’t even want to fall asleep, so exciting and strange are the animal sounds that effortlessly penetrate through the mosquito net and tent canvas. The roar of the lionesses hunting at night is unmistakable. Those who oversleep are to blame and will be awakened by the screaming of the monkeys the next morning at the latest. For breakfast, guests meet in the central building of the lodge, the reed-roofed restaurant. Thawale Lodge is owned by the park and thus all income from the Game Drive Lodge goes back into conservation, community projects and the salaries of the lodge staff.

Lagerfeuer auf der Lapa der Thawale Lodge im Majete Wildllife Reserve / © Foto: Georg Berg
Campfire on the lapa of Thawale Lodge in Majete Wildllife Reserve. Restaurant, meeting point before excursions and place for wildlife viewing all in one / © Photo: Georg Berg

For many years, the park was an area plundered by poachers. The turning point came in 2003 with a public-private partnership between African Parks and the Malawi Government Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). In August 2023, African Parks will celebrate 20 years of park management in Malawi. The Majete Wildlife Reserve was given new life by African Parks. When the NGO took over the reserve, the park, established back in 1955, was largely empty of wildlife. Apart from a few antelopes, there were no more wild animals, and for many years not a single tourist had shown up. Not good conditions, neither for the conservation of species nor for the people in the villages around Majete.

Elefantenherde mit Jungtieren an einer künstlichen Wasserstelle am Restaurant der Thawale Lodge / © Foto: Georg Berg
Herd of elephants with young animals at an artificial watering hole at the restaurant of Thawale Lodge / © Photo: Georg Berg

Twenty years later, Majete Wildlife Reserve is a flagship project in Malawi and Thawale Lodge is an attractive place for visitors to observe wildlife life up close. After the successful reintroduction of the wildlife, Majete Wildlife Reserve was for a long time the only place in Malawi where the Big Five could be spotted. Thawale Lodge is located in the middle of this resurrected wildlife wonderland. The camp is unfenced, allowing the animals of Majete Wildlife Reserve to roam through day and night.Thawale means natural pan in the local language Chichewa, which fills with water after the rainy season.

Zelt-Chalets, Thawale Lodge, Majete Wilflife Reserve / © Foto: Georg Berg
Tent chalets, Thawale Lodge, Majete Wilflife Reserve / © Photo: Georg Berg

Tent chalets and family accommodation

Majete Wildlife Reserve is located about 70 kilometers from Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre. The park has become a popular excursion and vacation destination for locals and expats alike. In April and May, immediately after the end of the rainy season, the park is lush green, and from July onwards brown tones predominate. The forest and bush thins out and wildlife viewing becomes easier. Thawale Lodge’s conservation model: 100 percent of revenue goes directly back into the reserve and surrounding communities. On the grounds of Thawale Lodge, there are eight tented chalets and two two-bedroom family chalets with en-suite bathrooms, a living room and a veranda. From all the lodgings you can watch the baboons screeching loudly among the bushes and trees in the early morning. Elephants can also be seen from time to time. At night, it is not uncommon to hear lions roaring loudly as they hunt. Their calls are so insistent that you can feel them in the pit of your stomach. Separated from them only by a house wall, these are wonderful nature experiences in the Malawian bush.

Badezimmer mit Blick in das Buschland im Majete Wildlife Reserve, Thawale Lodge / © Foto: Georg Berg
Bathroom overlooking the bush at Majete Wildlife Reserve, Thawale Lodge. In the shade of the house a lion likes to snooze / © Photo: Georg Berg

Lapa with waterhole and animal procession

For breakfast, lunch and dinner, guests gather in a central dining area with an open-air bar. Thethatched-roof restaurant lapa pavilion looks out onto a highly visible area of tall trees. A watering hole has been created right next to the terrace. It attracts many animals, including whole herds of elephants, but also lions, antelopes, wild dogs and warthogs. Very close to the lapa there is also a vantage point for bird watching. When it gets really hot in the African summer, there is a natural pool for the guests of Thawale Lodge. The pool area is fenced in, unlike the rest of the area, so you only have to share this watering hole with the cichlids native to Malawi.

Poolanlage Thawale Lodge. Der Naturteich für die Lodge Gäste ist eingezäunt, während das übrige Gelände nicht durch Zäune vom Majete Wildlife Reserve getrennt ist / © Foto: Georg Berg
Thawale Lodge Pool Area. The natural pond for the lodge guests is fenced, while the rest of the area is not separated by fences from the Majete Wildlife Reserve / © Photo: Georg Berg.

Game Drive in Majete Wildlife Reserve

Game viewing at Majete Wildlife Reserve is very good. Especially in recent years, there has been great progress in stabilizing the cheetah population. For example, three males were translocated from South Africa in 2021 and the first cheetahs were born in the park. African wild dogs were successfully reintroduced after an absence of 60 years. The lion population in Majete Reserve is also developing very well. Already 14 lions wear radio collars so that their behavior and movement patterns in the group can be tracked.

Tierärztin Dagmar Mayer engagiert sich im Majete Wildlife Reserve und betreut die medizinische Versorgung von Wildtieren / © Foto: Georg Berg
Veterinarian Dagmar Mayer is engaged in the Majete Wildlife Reserve and supervises the medical care of wild animals / © Photo: Georg Berg

On game drives in Majete Wildlife Reserve, you learn a lot about monitoring in the park. For example, lions can be clearly identified by the dot pattern of their whiskers. By photo analysis and comparison of the so-called whisker spot patterns, more than 30 lions could already be clearly identified. In 2023, the Majete Wildlife Reserve will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the collaboration between African Parks and the Malawi Government Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW). One of the greatest successes is certainly the poaching of rhinos, elephants and other particularly endangered species, which has stopped since 2003. The promotion and development of the adjacent village communities is another focus of the successful park management. Park manager John Adendorff on dealing with poachers, communicating with village communities and the dangerous work of rangers.

Chamäleon gesichtet auf einem Game Drive bei Nacht im Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi / © Foto: Georg Berg
Chameleon spotted on a game drive at night in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi / © Photo: Georg Berg

Malawi as a travel destination in Africa

The landlocked country of Malawi in Southeast Africa, also called the Warm Heart of Africa, is still considered an insider tip for Africa travelers. In regional comparison, Malawi is a safe and peaceful country. The country’s landscape is dominated by Lake Malawi, the tenth largest lake in the world. In the total of five national parks, successful wildlife management has been practiced for several years and biodiversity has increased enormously. Nevertheless, the population of Malawi suffers from poverty. A controlled growth in tourism is also creating income opportunities in rural areas and improving the livelihoods of families. The country’s parks and wildlife reserves also contribute to job creation. When visiting one of the national parks, it is also worthwhile to look at the diversity and creativity of the community projects. Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve have been under the management of African Parks for many years. Thawale Lodge offers accommodation in the middle of the park. More information about African Parks and the Majete Wildlife Reserve. For planning a trip to Malawi, the website Tourism in Malawi also helps. For an overview of all the stories about Malawi, visit the Malawi country page.

The research trip was supported in Malawi by the Ministry of Tourism

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