Mvuu means hippo in the local language and the lodge is aptly named.
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge: Our full report
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge is a comfortable tented lodge set back from the banks of the Shire River in Malawi's Liwonde National Park. It overlooks a lily-covered lagoon (an old oxbow lake) where game can very often be seen coming down to drink.
Most guests arrive at Mvuu Lodge by boat and reach the main area via a long, raised wooden walkway, designed to let smaller game move freely through the camp. Though during the dry season it is also possible to access the park by road from the southern Chinguni Gate.
The main dining/bar area, at the far end of the walkway, is raised on a high deck beneath a tall thatched roof, overlooking the lagoon. A large bar and a comfortable seating area with sofas and chairs (complete with a selection of nature books and magazines, and the ubiquitous game of Malawi bao) make this a great place to relax during the day. Most meals are taken in the dining area here, although the occasional meal may be staged in an unexpected location.
This same walkway leads back (via a spectacular loo-with-a-view!) to the refreshing swimming pool, set in a large deck dotted with sunloungers. Mvuu Lodge also has a firepit area, surrounded by a low 'ha-ha' – a stone wall with a deep ditch on the far side: an effective barrier to the elephants that wander through the camp, but close enough to give an exciting viewing experience. This is a popular spot for guests to meet in the evening with a drink.
Mvuu Wilderness Lodge has eight tented rooms, constructed from solid poles with canvas walls and dark polished floors. Each is raised on a deck with an outdoor seating area set with directors' chairs, a table and a free-standing hammock, and a view over the lagoon.
Central to each room is an enormous double bed surrounded by a walk-in mosquito net. Each room has plenty of canvas windows, draped with calico curtains, allowing a cool breeze through the room even on the hottest of days – and privacy at night.
Three of the tents (numbers 6,7 & 8) are larger than the others, with an indoor seating area between the bedroom and the bathroom. Here you will find two cane armchairs and a low coffee table with information about the camp and the surrounding area. Then they have an open-plan bathroom and outside shower. In the centre of the bathroom, two ceramic basins are set into a carved wooden counter top and a large mirror is suspended from the ceiling.
The honeymoon tent has an outdoor covered bathroom with a sunken bath, as well as a thatch-shaded gazebo down a sandy pathway, where a few comfy chairs overlook the lagoon.
The remaining four tents have enclosed, stone-walled bathrooms, which are separate from the bedroom. Each has a sunken bath with a shower over it and a flush toilet, as well as a spacious, stand-alone outside shower.
Activities at Mvuu Lodge centre on the Shire River. The lodge has a great covered boat, perfect for drifting down the river, where sightings of hippos and crocodiles are virtually guaranteed, as well as elephant coming to the water to drink. On our recent visit, in November 2013, we managed to get particularly close to one very large crocodile, before it slithered off the bank into the water.
Back on land, there are guided walks with an armed scout, as well as day and night game drives. Elephant, impala, warthog and baboons are often seen, along with large herds of waterbuck grazing on the riverbank, and the birdlife is plentiful. Less common are sable, kudu and bushbuck. Liwonde is not known for its cats, although lion are very occasionally seen at the far eastern end of the park.
On an early-morning walk our guide took us to some porcupine burrows, where there was lots of fresh evidence of porcupine, although we were not lucky enough to see one. That same evening we had a lovely sighting of a couple of sable antelope on a game drive. It is also now possible to go rhino tracking with the scouts. This costs US$80 per person, requires a minimum of three and is best booked in advance.
It's also possible to visit a local village, either by bike or on foot, with a guide from the lodge.
Our viewMvuu Wilderness Lodge is a comfortable lodge in a lovely part of the Liwonde National Park. It's a great place to come for birding and river activities. The game viewing is good, if you discount the lack of predators, although it doesn't have the density or variation of game that you'll find in larger parks, like Zambia's South Luangwa.
Ideal length of stay: 3 - 4 nights
Directions: Guests arriving by air take a one-hour flight from Lilongwe, or 35 minutes from Blantyre, to Mvuu Wilderness Lodge’s airstrip, which is five minutes’ drive from the lodge. Alternatively, guests are driven to the river from Lilongwe (4 hours) or Blantyre (3 hours), then taken by boat to the lodge. During the rainy season (November to April), guests are transferred by boat one hour down the river to Hippo Point Lodge, from where they are driven onwards by road.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Wilderness Safaris
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: When we visited Mvuu in October 2014, the food was enjoyable but not exceptional.
We were served a surprise breakfast whilst out on a morning boat trip. After about an hour pottering up the river, our guide tied the boat to a tree. Out of a hamper he pulled jars of cereal and some fresh fruit salad, while his assistant took out a portable gas stove and cooked eggs and bacon to order and made toast. To drink, there was fruit juice, tea and coffee. It was a lovely spot for breakfast, watching the wildlife around us with water lapping under the boat.
Lunch, a choice of two dishes, is served in the main area. On our first day, we had a choice of chicken kebabs or vegetable quiche served with a selection of salads. The following day there were fish cakes or vegetable lasagna. Dessert was a coconut pancake with syrup.
Our first dinner was shared with other guests around one large table. We started with gazpacho soup served with homemade breadsticks. The main course was beef fillet served with potatoes and fresh vegetables, followed by a delicious chocolate tart and cream.
The second evening we were the only guests in camp so we were served dinner by candlelight on the deck of our tent. We had tomato tart as a starter, followed by pork fillet with baby potatoes and vegetables, and rounded off with a tasty fruit crumble and cream.
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included at Mvuu. Expect to pay around US$3 for a glass of wine, or U$20–35 per bottle; US$2 for a bottle of beer; US$1 for soft drinks, and US$3 for spirits.
Further dining info: Room service is available on request at Mvuu Wilderness Lodge.
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of six years are welcome at Mvuu.
Property’s age restrictions: Mvuu welcomes children of six years and above. But there is a minimum age of 12 for walking.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities available, although the swimming pool is a draw for children during the heat of the day. Babysitting can be offered from house keeping and they will do short childrens nature walks.
Generally recommended for children: Mvuu Lodge is suitable for children 12 years and older.
Notes: With plenty of elephants around, and other big game, children should be carefully supervised at all times.
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is solar electricity in the tents and a generator in the main area and the kitchen. There are plug points for charging batteries in the main area.
Communications: There is no WiFi at the lodge and cellphone reception is patchy.
TV & radio: There are no TVs.
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: Borehole water is fine for washing and filtered drinking water is provided in the tents.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: All of the managers are first-aid trained. The nearest doctor is at a clinic in Liwonde, an hour’s drive away, and the nearest hospital at Zomba, two hours’ drive away. Serious emergency cases can be airlifted to hospital in either Blantyre or Lilongwe.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a park ranger based in the camp and there are unarmed night watchmen on duty at night.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers outside the tents as well as in the main areas.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Laundry is included and is hand washed and charcoal ironed.
Money: There is a safe in each of the rooms. The lodge does not offer currency exchange
Accepted payment on location: Cash is welcomes for any extras, in US dollars, UK sterling, euros, Malawi kwacha or SA rands. Alternatively, Visa and Mastercard are accepted, with no surcharge.