The Story of Nkhotakota

Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is Malawi’s Cinderella story, making a turn-around in conservation preserving the heritage of the Warm Heart of Africa. And you get to be a part of its journey….

Boasting newly translocated elephant, sable, kudu, buffalo, waterbuck, impala and warthog, Nkhotakota also is home to some 280 bird species making it one of Malawis most important bird sanctuaries. Spanning a vast 1,800 km2 , the reserve stretches from the crest of the Great Rift Valley to within a few kilometers of the shores of Lake Malawi. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve lies beneath the Chipata Mountain range and is characterised by a vast network of meandering rivers weaving through wooded hills and dense miombo forests, to make what is truly another of Africa’s oases.

Nkhotakota once boasted 1,500 elephants, however, the area has been subject to decades of poaching and timber harvesting, degrading natural habitat and depleting key mammal species. Poverty has devastated Malawi’s poorest communities. When African Parks took over management in 2015, fewer than 100 elephants remained. However, Nkhotakota National Park is Malawi’s Cinderella story in the making. In July 2016 and August 2017, 520 elephants along with more than 1,400 game animals were moved from Liwonde and Majete as part of a historic translocation initiative to restore Nkhotakota and poise it to become one of Malawi’s most important sanctuaries for wildlife.

Picture conservation as a three-legged pot, the legs represent the environment, tourism and the community, if any one of these fails, the pot falls over. Taking care of all three legs, ensures sustainable, conscious growth.

Tourism creates jobs within the rural diaspora. This means locals can find better employment opportunities, wages and living conditions, closer to home, whilst keeping families together and sustaining traditions. This is a concept very close to Rafiki’s Safari Camp’s heart and we have done our best to ensure our staff are locally sourced.

Recognising this too, African Parks has constructed a perimeter fence after consultation with surrounding villagers, headmans and Chiefs. Along with strigent law enforcement and resources for scouts, this ensures protection of Nkhotakota’s wildlife and avoids human-wildlife conflict thus protecting the surrounding communities. A 19,000 ha sanctuary area in the core of the reserve has been fenced to allow for the safe reintroduction of species. Vehicles, roads and radios have all been upgraded to improve park management. Law Enforcement and Community (communites who live around the reserve have worked with rangers) teams have collected hundreds of wire traps, filled in pit traps and confiscated illegal firearms to protect wildife. Additionally, African Parks and WESM work with local communities addressing areas of need and promoting sustainable livelihoods. This includes proving “at-risk” students with scholarships from the park to continue their education, childrens Wildlife Clubs, a community radio programme, assisting with boreholes and a firearm amnesty programme.

The future for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and for the surrounding communities is certainly bright, and Rafiki Safari Camp is ecstatic to be a part of it.

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