Shenton Safaris

Canoeing with elephants in Malawi

The Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve is an untouched and pristine wilderness area in central Malawi. It is Malawi’s oldest and least-developed protected area and is widely considered to be one of the country’s last remaining unexploited natural habitats.

Safari activities within the reserve tend to focus on low environmental impact, non-motorised experiences, allowing visitors to fully enjoy the tranquillity of the environment and observe the natural behaviour of its wildlife without disturbance.

At 1 800 square kilometres, the vast size of this reserve means that it remains relatively undiscovered and its diverse wildlife can easily retreat into the dense miombo woodlands. This creates a certain mystery and magic to the region and makes each sighting all the more special for visitors.

Along the beautiful Bua River, meandering through the reserve, visitors are often delighted by sightings of antelope, monkeys and elephants coming down to drink at the leafy riverbank. During an early morning canoe safari guests to the Tongole Wilderness Lodge were recently thrilled by a spectacular sighting of a breeding herd of elephants. The group of delighted onlookers sat watching from their canoes at a safe distance, as the herd peacefully fed and continued with their usual social interactions.


Guest Janet Poole said, “We had just started canoeing when a glance across and down river revealed an amazing sight – a herd of elephants starting to emerge from the bush!! We proceeded very slowly down river to observe the herd more closely. We got as near as we could without disturbing the elephants, who seemed oblivious to us. It was a staggering sight, there were two large females and several younger ones, and one female had a baby with her. We sat in our canoes and watched these gentle, peaceful behemoths browse for an hour or more, some had a dust bath whilst we watched, others just ate or drank from the river. Eventually they all gently moved off into the bush, fading into the trees, without a backward glance until the river bank was empty. One could still hear them for a short while then all was quiet as if they had not even been there. It was a privilege to be a part of such a wonderful sighting, and made more special by seeing it all from a canoe.”

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The lodge organises a range of incredible safari activities and it’s partly thanks to their responsible and eco-friendly ethos that this unspoilt and unique area may be enjoyed by present visitors and future generations to come. To find out more, visit Tongole.


© Janet Poole

Naturally Africa Collection

The Naturally Africa Collection is comprised of a carefully selected portfolio of eco-lodges and responsible safari operators. Each member of the collection provides unique and unparalleled safari experiences and together we offer innovative and unforgettable African journeys.

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