Malawi as stated before is primarily for the birds and the beaches of Lake Malawi. But I was pleasantly surprised. But a Prince well that one was something else.
So we start in Lilongwe, city, loud, gritty, enough said. I quickly dashed off to Liwonde National Park. I had completely forgotten about the 500 Elephants project. They are moving 500 Elephants from Liwonde NP and Majete Game Reserve, slightly overpopulated, to Nkhotakhota NP were Elephants had been poached out. Now a national park and protected they are hoping to re-introduce not only the Elephants but Cape Buffalo, Wart Hogs and many more herbivores. I managed to get the tail end of the capture. They darted small family groups to make the transition a bit more acceptable. On my way out I even managed to see them load some of the elephants. Of course no photos but that was do to the presence of a certain prince, who knew. Mvuu Lodge was right on the river and the campsite was great. The birds were brilliant even a few endangered. And as a bonus on my way in I purchased some homemade Baobab Jam. Pretty good, tart and great with meat.
(And for those of you so inclined here are a couple good organizations to check out. H.E.L.P http://www.helpchildren.org; http://www.childreninthewilderness.com; and one of the staff members at Mvuu has her own organization http://www.angelsacrossafrica.org).
From Liwonde I headed further south to Lengwe National Park. Again full of wonderful birds and ample opportunity to just sit and watch. No driving was necessary the camp was full of life and laundry. Had the camp to myself for a couple days was great. And just in case all the bird watching hadn’t completely relaxed me from 2 months of driving Cape McClear on Lake Malawi would certainly do the job. It was a nice break from the at dawn wake ups to catch the cats before they fall fast asleep.
Cape McClear most people stay at Fat Monkeys but I chose Eagle’s Nest and had an exceptional time. I mean my camp site was right on the beach, can’t complain about that. And no matter the request Martin, Sam at the bar or Isaac would happily help out. Like Kapenta, a local small fish. Often served deep fried in corn meal. A great lunch snack Sam managed to procure and the chef fried fresh with a twist of lemon. Oh this little buggers are addicting and go great with a beer or cider!
I couldn’t avoid swimming in Lake Malawi or go on a catamaran trip to swim with the cichlids. I joined Pauline and Bruce and we enjoyed a great morning on the boat. They swim right unto you and nibble on pieces of bread. At times they get a wee bit overzealous and take a nip at your fingers. Alas I left the water camera on shore, not my brightest moment! But I managed a couple above water shots. They have hundreds of variations and remains protected as part of the National Park around Thumbi Island.
The other amazing thing are the African Fish Eagles. Normally they come when whistled at and grab a fresh fish as a token of appreciation. The wind was not cooperating and as such neither were the birds. But thanks to Martin and his faithful Red Patches, the little dingy boat that could, I was able to get some amazing photos nonetheless. Thanks Martin!
Then there are the small and large crawlers around camp, lizards.
And the sunsets. I left fully refreshed and the reigning Tsoro champion, Isaac keep practicing, lol!
The only bad thing about my time there were the blasted vervet monkey’s. Again I was robbed of a breakfast. Perfectly soft boiled eggs in a kettle. I just turned around to grab the salt and the little %*$& had cracked on open, as it was still hot and had his filthy grubby paws all over my perfectly soft yolk. He took of with the other egg tossing it between his paws as it was still hot. Not a fan! They may look cute and all that but they are on my naughty list.
I began my way up along the coast of Lake Malawi with my next stop at Bua Camp in Nkhotakhota NP. Again didn’t make the connection until I arrived that I was going to were the elephants were being released. Amy arrival the whole of the 500 elephants were settling in at a sanctuary before they were to be released into the NP. The local herd of 28 were in for a rude awakening! A beautiful park that will no doubt thrive with more herbivores and the elephant. The camp has numerous sitting spots along the river. It will be no doubt an amazing site to see all those elephants coming in for a drink. And they do great walks around the park. I joined Natasha for a great morning walk and conversation with our guides. Bushbucks and trumpeter hornbills and of course crocodiles. The trumpeter hornbills were too quick for me to snap a shot but I shall see many more in Tanzania, I hope. From Bua I headed to Chinteche with a quick stop in Senga Bay to check in at Cool Runnings if Vincent/Nikita or Pierre/Trisha had made it that far up. Sadly the only two campers that had been there left prior to my arrival that morning.
Chinteche is in the norther aspect of Lake Malawi and to my surprise after I settled in and enjoying a glimpse of the Olympics Nikita and Vincent appear. Yay! Quick catch up and off for a swim. We also run into Thomas and Barbara whom I had met in Mvuu. Austrian duo of a quartet that went their own ways after a wonderful hike from Nyika to Livingstonia. The added benefit to meeting up with Vincent and Nikita is that Nikita is wealth of travel information. Although my plans had to be altered due to her info it was better to know before hand then once there that many of the roads and borders I had planned on didn’t exist. Especially since I had planned on going to Nyika NP via route that turns out was a hikers trail. Don’t think Springbok would be welcome, I have no doubt he’d make it though.
I went off on my way to Nyika prepared for a road like no other, which it was not. The road was great. Some sections not the best but the climb up 2.5 KM was stunning. Now the weather that was not great. I left Chinteche with a light drizzle. Thrilled Springbok would get a decent cleaning the drizzle quickly turned into a torrential downpour and the roads turned into rivers. I had a stop over in Mzuzu for diesel and meds to prevent and Schistosomiasis after swimming in Lake Malawi, just in case. The rain finally started to let up leaving the dirt trail up to Nyika unmarred. Thankfully, those roads would have been rough and muddy and I’m sure I’d be stuck if it had continued to rain. Nyika NP is a mind boggler. Yes it’s in Malawi, yes Malawi is in Africa but they have Lupins and alpine flowers and conifers and mist over the damns and scottish highlands with gazelles. Needless to say I had a hard time wrapping my brain around what I was seeing. But the rain brought a mist over the rolling hills. Many had been recently burnt as controlled fires to prevent poachers and bee-farmers from burning sections unnecessarily. But the tall grasses that remained with the hills and the mist and the damns. It was all amazing. Oh and bloody cold! Not enough layers. Again I had the camp to myself and the attendant. Hot water at the ready and a fire every evening and morning. Not to mention a wood burning stove. I arranged for a night drive to get the lay of the land. I was losing a day as I had to back track to go further north and spend a night in Livingstonia in order to make the Tanzania border is a timely fashion.
My quick drive before the night drive I managed to find Stanley’s Bustard, Jackals and Zebra’s. Nyika plateau is swimming with life and continues to grow until all the alpine flowers are in bloom at the end of September and all the herbivores in hundreds come back up to the plateau. They started their journey as the large groups of Zebra, Eland, Roan, Bushbucks and Reedbucks. The Zebra are identical to the Cape Mountain but are called something I can’t remember. The night drive yielded, you guessed it, birds. The night jar in particular. Que the photo montage.
My full day I drove all over the plateau and was lucky to catch a Bustard in full display mode with his throat balloon and booming call to woo the ladies. Too bad he didn’t realize the ladies were across the dirt road and about a block away. That evening I enjoyed dinner as a small herd of Zebra with a very young foal come into camp and get within 10 meters of me. Followed by Reedbuck and Bushbuck, all aware I was there sitting next to the fire but felt assured enough to graze peacefully. I fell asleep listening to the Zebra graze and a not-so distant Hyena whoop. I only found tracks of Hyena. As much as I wanted to find them they did not appear. The hyena on the plateau are hunters as there are no lions to steal from. And then there are the leopards. Nyika has a healthy population of leopards but those cats are truly elusive and hide in the bush as there are few worthy trees. Pine forests are plenty from when the British had plans to turn the area in to a paper mill. The country acquired it’s independence before it happened and now is cutting them down. They are a encroacher species and endanger the indigenous species much like the fern that has popped up everywhere after the fires. Apart from the pine forests the British also built damns to fish.
My last morning I was up at first light to make the arduous journey to Livingstonia. I had just finished recalling how at Mana Pools when I had to leave a day early a leopard presented itself. I laughed to myself at such thing happening a second time. But as I made the next turn I quickly saw a disappearing leopard butt and tail. Unbelievable. Again. What are the odds. I drove slowly to where it had crossed and starred longingly to find any sign of it. Binoculars at the ready I sat for a minute. Then without reason I thought well lets back up a little bit just in case. I glanced at the rear view mirror and then the side mirror and their he was. Behind me starring as if to say, bugger she turned around. At that moment he stood there watching me watch him, again I think it was a him. I quickly snapped a few photos as he crossed the dirt road and disappeared again. I mustered the fasted 10 point turn I could in the hope of just catching one more glimpse of this magnificent animal. I stopped where he had hopped over the dirt and looked through the binoculars. At that moment the light shone upon him and his golden pelage was illuminated, stunning as he looked straight at me. What a moment. I blindly fumbled for my camera and he quickly trotted away. Just wow! I sat there for a few moments just taking it all in. How lucky, how unbelievable lucky.
That leopard high kept me in good staid as the road to Livingstonia was the funnest road thus far. A rocky then dirt climb up the hill side with endless hairpin turns. Love these types of roads. You just have to take it slow and wide turns and no worries. It was a fun ride up and the few from the Camp was worth every turn. You could see the falls from the swing. And the food, all locally grown in their own garden, amazing. And to make things better Vincent and Nikita with two new friends showed up again. Fun night ensued and plans laid out for my crossing to Tanzania and their eventual crossing with hopes of meeting as out paths crossed with me heading west to east and them east to west across Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Here’s hoping.
And this picture was a surprise when I was reviewing photos. Is it just me or does this look like one of the angry birds characters?