Situated to the east of Kasungu National Park, Nkhotakota covers a huge area of escarpment wilderness, from the uplifted lip of the Central African Plateau (with the highest point, Chipata Mountain, at 1,638 m) on the western side, down a series of jumbled slopes and ridges to the Lake shore plain (at 500–600 m). Numerous drainage lines join three major north-easterly flowing rivers: the Dwangwa (on the northern boundary), the Bua and the Kaombe. Woodland (mostly miombo) is the main vegetation-type and there is some fine riparian forest along the major rivers. A small patch of mid-altitude rainforest (44 ha) occurs on Chipata Mountain.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Some 280 species have been recorded, but further exploration is likely to increase this figure considerably. The Zambezian biome species include Ploceus olivaceiceps; only three Afrotropical Highlands species, one of which is also of the Tanzania–Malawi mountains EBA, occur on Chipata Mountain, while another three are seasonal visitors or vagrants (see Tables 2 and 3). The elusive Falco fasciinucha has been recorded twice from Chipata Mountain; its status is uncertain, but extensive suitable habitat exists and it may breed.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: the reserve held important populations of Panthera leo (VU), Tragelaphus oryx (LR/cd), Kobus ellipsiprymnus (LR/cd), Redunca arundinum (LR/cd) and Hippotragus niger (LR/cd), but poaching levels have increased recently. The bat Triaenops persicus is known from nowhere else in Malawi.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 05/03/2021.