December 2016, Lilongwe, Malawi: In 1993, Central African Wilderness Safaris (CAWS) entered into Malawi’s first ever private-public partnership to manage the tourist facilities in Liwonde National Park, the country’s premier wilderness area. Now 23 years later, the company has signed a new lease to operate Mvuu Camp and Lodge for the next 15 years.
From 1993 onwards, this ground-breaking agreement led the way for all similar agreements which followed. Since then, the Government of Malawi has continuously benefited from regular and increasing lease fee payments and CAWS has consistently developed and improved the facilities at Mvuu Camp and Lodge.
Mvuu Camp serves as a great value for money destination for couples, groups and families while 16 bedded Mvuu Lodge offers understated luxury and an incredible wilderness experience. It was evident right from the start of CAWS’ tenure that Liwonde National Park truly is one of the most spectacular wildlife areas in Africa with the magnificent Shire River as its lifeline, and a wondrous array of palms, mopane woodlands, floodplains and forests. The park is also home to an abundance of flora and fauna, including over 400 species of birds.
At the time CAWS signed its first lease, the park was under huge pressure from increasing rural communities living in close proximity to its boundaries. Poaching was rife and encroachment was a constant challenge. In the late 1990s, the park’s lion population which was estimated at 40 in 1987 had all but disappeared. The lives of elephants were constantly lost and poachers’ snares took a large toll on the sable, impala and warthog populations. The Department of National Parks, supported on occasion by Frankfurt Zoological Society, IFAW, the J&B Circle and the Wilderness Trust, fought a constant uphill battle against this onslaught and often CAWS’ investment in this wonderful area looked like a huge leap of faith into a potentially disastrous future.
All of this changed in September 2015, when in another ground-breaking move, the Government of Malawi engaged the services of African Parks (https://www.african-parks.org) to manage the park. With an already impressive track record in Malawi from their rehabilitation of Majete Game Reserve, the African Parks team bring the expertise and resources needed to turn the park around and this is being achieved remarkably quickly with the rebuilding of the boundary fence as well as vigorous and effective anti-poaching. Plans are afoot to reintroduce predators to the park and effectively manage the biomass of this unique area.