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“Best experience in Africa”
Review of Bua River Lodge

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Bua River Lodge
Reviewed July 7, 2014

This was our best experience in Africa so far – I guess we’re a bit biased by the fact that we ended up getting engaged here, but it really is a special place. John picked us up from Lozi and drove us into Nkhotakota Forest reserve and to his lodge in the Malawian forest bush. When we arrived the staff took our bags and greeted us with cold orange juice and wet flannels, which was lovely after a long journey on Malawian public transport with its usual delays. We had sundowners overlooking the rapids while spotting crocodiles. We stayed our first night at Hillside B which is a lovely spacious tent on a platform overlooking the bush. We were guided from our room to the lodge by candle lanterns and were treated to a wonderful meal in the candlelit lodge under the African stars. John and his staff were very accommodating in catering for my partner’s dietary requirements which we both really appreciated.

The next day, John had arranged for us to do an overnight camping walking safari. We were taken to a confluence in the river and did the tough walk for 5 hours, supported by our scout and park ranger, stopping along the way with our lovely packed lunch that they prepared for us. On this we saw a variety of birds, frogs, monkeys, baboons and crocodiles. Elephants and other larger game are found rarely here, due to the vastness of the park, and the plague of poaching typical of Malawian national parks. When we arrived at our destination we had found that John and his team had prepared camp for us by a lake in the river where elephants had been recently. They had even made a campsite shower with hot water! We had a roaring camp fire and after some sundowners we were treated to an amazing 3 course dinner prepared over a bush fire by Hussain, our marvellous chef. After we had our fill with a perfectly cooked steak I decided now was the time to pop the question – and she said yes!

In the morning we had another slightly easier walk back to the lodge. Here I found out that my partner had upgraded us to the Island room for my birthday! This place was pure luxury in the African bush – approached by a bridge, a huge tented room, a balcony overlooking the river, and large decked outdoor shower and toilet area. We planned on staying here as much as possible. John and his team catered easily for this, providing us afternoon tea and scones and also breakfast the morning after on our balcony. My birthday dinner was set up on the viewing deck under the stars and lanterns, and as ever the food was perfect.

We are so indebted to John and his team for providing an experience that could not have been better. This isn’t a lodge that tries to bring western ideals to Malawi, but John and his team work hard to create an amazing personally tailored experience in the African bush, the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun, stars and wildlife.

Room Tip: Every room is good value for money. The more you spend the better they are.
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  • Stayed: May 2014, traveled as a couple
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Thank Jonarthan T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded July 9, 2014

Wow! Thank you so much. It was wonderful having you both here. I am delighted the overnight camping was so successful ;) It is our mission to make every guest feel special and to accommodate their requirements as much as possible. Bua River Lodge tries to feel like a home away from home. All our best wishes for your future.

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45 - 51 of 108 reviews

Reviewed May 23, 2014 via mobile

This is our favourite get away. My family love coming here as it is great fishing, stunning river and John has built the perfect lodge that is eco friendly and has a variety of accommodation to fit all budgets. The staff are friendly and helpful and we love the food. To us the bua is a hidden gem that shouldn't be missed.

  • Stayed: May 2014
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1  Thank Lara P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 21, 2014

I stayed here for a weekend in March but wish I could have stayed much, much longer. The place is beautiful and an idyllic retreat immersed in the forest. The staff were lovely and really attentive and I felt well looked after throughout. I did a great, short walking tour through the forest and down to the river which was well worth it - the guide was friendly and had a brilliant knowledge of the forest, and although we didn't see any elephants or other animals (it was rainy season), it was still really enjoyable. I would definitely love to come back one day outside of the rainy season and do one of the more adventurous tours with overnight camping in the wild, which sounded fantastic. The main lodge itself is a great hang out and you could easily spend hours relaxing there watching the monkeys and looking out over the river (as a side note, the lodge also seems like a good place if you are a keen bird watcher - I saw bee eaters, hornbills and a fish eagle among others). My room was small but perfect and clean with hot showers and amazing value (the island looked like an awesome place to stay if you are not on a tight budget). As a heads-up, there is no electricity or phone signal here - but I felt that just adds to the peacefulness and charm of the place. The food was really delicious, such a treat after so much nsima and great value considering how difficult it must have been to get hold of some of these ingredients in Malawi.
Overall I could not recommend Bua Lodge highly enough and I really hope to come back one day. My only regret is not being able to stay longer!
Thanks John and the rest of the team!
Katie

  • Stayed: March 2014, traveled solo
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1  Thank Katie G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded July 9, 2014

Thank you very much for your very kind review. I hope that you will be able to get back to visit us one day and take the overnight bush camping experience in as well. Perhaps by then we will have multi-night safaris into the heart of the reserve.

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Reviewed May 19, 2014 via mobile

We had a wonderful stay at the bua river lodge campsite! The campsite is somewhat hard to get to, but the minibus to lozi trading centre and the entrance to nkhotakota wildlife reserve by bicycle taxi was an interesting experience! The owner can also pick you up from nhkotakota town but you have to contact him at least one day in advance because there is no telephone connection at the lodge. He told us that he checks his telephone at least once a day! The stay was great and we felt very welcomed by the owner even tough we were camping! Great food and a fun walking safari. Clean facilities. Cheers!

Stayed: April 2014, traveled as a couple
1  Thank zonnetje30
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 13, 2014

Stayed at this owner run lodge numerous times whilst working in the area and always left feeling refreshed and looking forward to my return. Fishing for Mpasa in the Bua River, having sundowners with John Dickinson the owner or watching the elephants feed on the reeds in the riverbed in front of my tent, there are so many great memories.
This lodge is a must if you are traveling up or down the lakeshore and looking for a stopover or worthy diversion. Great for a mid week break or weekend getaway from Lilongwe.
With African Parks set to take over management of this reserve there are great things to come and this destination can only get better!

Stayed: August 2013, traveled as a couple
1  Thank Zane V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 27, 2014

Many reviewers have commented on how relaxing Bua River is, and they are absolutely right. We arrived towards the end of the Long Rains so there was plenty of water in the river and the surrounding forest was very dense and green. This had pluses and minuses: scenically fantastic, but the chances of seeing any serious animals was rendered very low. And so it proved to be.

Still, we were in the middle of a long trip so we decided to stay in the campsite for two nights, catering for ourselves, but with the use of the lodge which was great. The campsite has plenty of level pitches, brick built braais and a shower block with (a miracle in Malawi) hot showers.

We did a morning game drive, lots of birds and monkeys but not much else so we returned to the lodge and just chilled. It certainly is a beautiful and relaxing spot and the sunset walk along the river was a great experience.

John is building a solid reputation at Bua River but there are some negatives. The camp shower block has a huge colony of bats. This is very interesting from a natural point of view and the sight of the bats leaving at sunset is fantastic. Of course the staff do work hard to keep things clean, but it is a BIG colony.

We also got bitten to death. There are tiny black flies which are small enough to get through the fly mesh on the tent.Boy do they bite, we were covered.

But Hey, this is Africa. We enjoyed our stay at Bua River Camp, we relaxed, we had some off road fun in the Landy and we slept like logs lulled by the sound of the river.

Go! Enjoy!

Room Tip: They have cut a new road into the Park. Bua RIver is well signposted but the new entrances is about...
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  • Stayed: April 2014, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank Andrew W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded May 12, 2014

Many thanks for taking the time to write a review and for you comments. The bats are indeed an issue, one which we fully intend to deal with as soon as we can find a non-destructive way of moving them. Since the colony has been there from the '80's, it may be a case of demolishing the whole structure and rebuilding in a less "bat-friendly"style!

As for the biting flies, I would like to emphasize that in the over 4 years we have been open, this is only the fourth time that the issue has been reported to us. Three times from three different rooms (and curiously only one person in the room being affected) and this time from the camp site. We do not believe these flies have any lasting harmful effects, although we do fully realize that for the victim at the time, the bites are very uncomfortable.

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Reviewed March 7, 2014

John, the owner, goes out of his way to make your stay a relaxing and enjoyable one. The staff are really attentive and have clearly been carefully chosen and well trained. This was my first experience of luxury camping and, given the location and the quality of the accommodation, I feel my time and money were well spent.

  • Stayed: February 2014, traveled solo
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1  Thank Peregrin770
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
buariverlodge, Owner at Bua River Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded May 12, 2014

We do appreciate your kind comments. Thanks very much for taking the time to review Bua River Lodge.

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Additional Information about Bua River Lodge

Address: 10 km Off the Main M5 Salima To Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Malawi
Location: Malawi > Central Region > Nkhotakota
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free Parking Restaurant Room Service
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Nkhotakota
Price Range: $55 - $95 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Bua River Lodge is a small and unique, owner-managed lodge, where you are sure to feel at home and guaranteed to relax. We are receiving very favourable reviews, commenting on the beauty of the location, excellence of service, friendliness of the staff, comfort of the rooms and quality of the food.The lodge is located just two kilometres inside the eastern boundary of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, making access by saloon car, even during the rains, quite straightforward. The reserve, covering 1,800,000 Hectares, is the third largest protected area in Malawi and one of the least known. Largely miombo woodland, the reserve falls from around 1,000 m. above sea level to just 600 metres in the east. The beautiful Bua River, the second longest in the country, on whose banks Bua River Lodge is located, bisects the Reserve.The reserve is very much a wilderness area. Apart from the main M18 road, which runs through the reserve, only one motorable track exists. North of the river, there are no tracks at all.There is a considerable diversity of wildlife, including a healthy elephant population, buffalo, lion and leopard, as well as roan, sable, zebra and many smaller mammals, although it must be said that the wildlife is difficult to observe. Over 200 species of birds are listed, including Finfoot, Palm Nut Vulture and Black Stork. It is likely that Pel’s Fishing Owl also occurs.Bua River Lodge offers high quality tented accommodation at moderate prices, with three categories, Island, Riverside and Hillside, priced to suit most budgets. Currently, six units are available, consisting of purpose-made canvas safari tents, pitched on extensive wooden decks, shaded by thatched roofs. Each tent is pitched well away from the others, providing a degree of seclusion found in few other lodges in Malawi. On your own private deck you neither overlook your neighbours, nor are you overlooked. All you can see is the wilderness and the river! The Island tents, offering even more seclusion, are reached by a bridge and you have the option of breakfast on your deck and a personalized “butler” service.The accommodation comprises two luxury Island tents, measuring 6.5 x 4.5 metres, one twin-bedded, one with a queen size bed; two Riverside tents, 4.5 x 3.5 metres, one double, one twin; and two Hillside tents, 3.5 x 3.2 metres, also double and twin. All tents are well appointed with cane armchairs and occasional tables on the extensive decks, bedside tables and shelves. Bed linen is of high quality cotton and quilts will keep you warm on cool winter nights. All tents have open-air, but very private, en-suite facilities, with waterless toilet, wash basins and hot showers.The main camp site is serviced with hot showers and flushing toilets, a shaded deck with eating area, a barbecue, dishwashing facilities and a laundry area. Recently opened, a “wild” camp site less than a kilometre upstream from the main lodge offers a wilderness camping experience, with basic facilities. Overlooking a quiet, forest-fringed pool in the river, it is situated on the edge of a major elephant track.Two rooms near the camp site offer comfortable, clean, budget accommodation for backpackers.The main lodge, housing the restaurant, bar, reading and reception areas, is unique in Malawi. Built entirely of timber and thatch, right on the banks of the river, it has three main levels for dining and relaxation, as well as an upper viewing deck. Completely open sided, it provides shade and a cool breeze during the heat of the day, but you can dine under the stars in the evening on the open lower deck, or sit around the fire in the boma on cool, winter nights.Three delicious meals per day are provided within the price: a full breakfast, with fruit salad and cereal; a salad-based lunch; and a three-course dinner, with a vegetarian alternative. There is a well stocked bar offering beers and minerals, spirits and wines. A small selection of bottled South African wines is available.Lighting throughout relies primarily on paraffin lanterns although small solar powered LED lamps are used to provide illumination in the bathrooms and front decks of the tents and the Island and Riverside tents now have bright solar powered lamps inside. Taking the path back to your room after dinner, lit by the flickering flames of the lanterns is a magical experience. But bring a torch!Given the nature of the terrain and the density of the vegetation, vehicle-based wildlife viewing is generally unrewarding. Walking safaris are offered, with a trained and armed game ranger. Walks are tailored to the wishes of the guests, varying from short strolls along the river to a nearby waterfall, to all-day hikes, a combined vehicle safari and ascent of Chipata Mountain in the west of the reserve and, eventually, overnight safaris with fly camps. Sundowners at strategic points along the river are a particular highlight for many of our guests. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Bua River Lodge Malawi/Nkhotakota

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