Birding trips to Lake Chilwa

I am currently attached to the Zomba branch of the WESM (Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi; tel: 01 526212. email: and would like to let you know we are now offering birdwatching trips to Lake Chilwa.

The advertising material is as follows:

What to expect:

A local guide will meet you at Khanda village where you will walk to the harbour (15 minutes). From here the guide will take you out in a plank boat, and you will sail around the community and the village sanctuary. Depending on your interests, the guide will point out bird species and show you how local fishermen work on Lake Chilwa.

Getting there and back:

Khanda Village is located in Zomba District, 25 kilometers (15,5 miles) from Zomba town. If you have your own vehicle you can follow the route as described below from the WESM Zomba office to Khanda Community Home Based Care (HBC) centre where a guide will meet you.

Route description:

Turn right at Jokala township (9km from WESM Zomba office). Turn left at crossroad (13.5km from the main road) and continue until you reach Khanda Community HBC centre on your left.

If you do not have your own vehicle, we can arrange for transportation from WESM’s office in Zomba to Khanda for a fee of 3000 kwacha.

Note that during the rainy season the area can be muddy and it is therefore advisable to bring a raincoat or an umbrella and wear gumboots (gumboots can be borrowed from Khanda Bird Hunting Club upon request).

Practical information:

A bird watching trip lasts for approximately four hours (including transportation from Zomba). We charge a fee of 900 kwacha per person. While 100 kwacha goes to the Bird Hunting Association (BHA), and 200 goes to WESM, the remaining 600 kwacha is allocated specifically to Khanda Bird Hunting club for maintenance of boats and local income generating activities.

When to go:

Bird watching is open throughout the year every day of the week. It is advisable to go early in the morning (between 7 and 9 am), since birds are nesting in the reedy areas and feeding in the small pools inside the designated sanctuary wherefrom they fly out in the morning.

Note that the best time to go bird watching is in the rainy season (from December to April) when birds are migrating. Nevertheless, you will be able to see birds such as Storks, King Fisher, Pelicans, Gallinules, Herons, Flamingos, Eagles, Harriers, Geese Ibises, Ducks, Egrets, and Jacanas all year around.


The Lake Chilwa wetland has since 1997 been the first and only Ramsar site in Malawi, as it contains large populations of waterfowl of international importance. Since the summer of 2006, Khanda Bird Hunting club has offered, with support from the Wildlife & Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), bird watching trips on Lake Chilwa. The well-vegetated and in parts rather marshy shore is a birdwatchers’ paradise, supporting a great variety of herons, waders and other shorebirds. Khanda Bird Hunting Club is one of 20 Bird Hunting Clubs around Lake Chilwa. The club is established on local initiative with the aim of legalizing hunting through sustainable management. Thus, bird watching trips have offered an alternative means to traditional hunting for the local people of Khanda, who traditionally depend on bird hunting.

Jan Nikkelborg


2 thoughts on “Birding trips to Lake Chilwa

  1. Alan Woolley says:

    I note that you posted the information about birding trips on Lake Chilwa nearly 2 years ago. Are you still organising these? My wife and I will be in Zomba for a few days at the end of May beginning of June. I would very much like to go on one of your trips, having always regretted that I did no birding during the month I camped on Chilwa Island in the 1960s

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