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Sorry this report has taken so long to get started but being as its roots were laid in 2013 then a couple of months is a mere blink of an eye!  So, back in 2013, we got a very intriguing proposal for a tour of Malawi from Mary-Anne Bartlett of Art Safari, who specialise in running group painting holidays in Africa & many other places.  Although we didn’t take it up at the time, heading off to Madagascar instead, we kept it “on-file” as a future possible.  After “bit of a financial windfall” and very nearly 25 years after our first taste of Africa, we thought it might be nice to have a “family” holiday again, so offered our not-so-very youngsters a “one-off, never to be repeated offer” of a free holiday - not surprisingly they jumped at the chance!.  I came up with 4 possibilities, including the original Malawi trip and in a democratic “single transferable vote” ballot, the Malawi trip won in the first round. After a few discussions with Mary-Anne and Lareine who runs Close Encounters Africa,the tailor-made division of Art Safari, we arrived at the ”almost silver jubilee” itinerary below, leaving LHR on the evening of 2nd June.

Day 1: Arrive Lilongwe airport & light-aircraft transfer to Nkhotakota (Bua River Lodge - 2 nights).
Day 3: Transfer to Salima Bay (Livingstonia Hotel 1 night).
Day 4: Transfer to Mumbo Island (3 nights). 
Day 7: Transfer to Liwonde NP (Mvuu camp for 3 nights).
Day 10: Transfer to Zomba Plateau (Zomba Forest Lodge for 2 nights). 
Day 12: Transfer to Majete Wildlife Reserve (Thawale Lodge for 3 nights).
Day 15: Transfer to Blantyre airport for international flight home.

So, late afternoon on the 2nd June saw 2 cars converge at the long stay T2 car park for our Ethiopian Airlines flight from Heathrow via Addis Ababa to Lilongwe and after a perfectly acceptable & on-time pair of flights we were met airside by a representative from Ulando Airlink who sped us through the multitude of checks that is Malawian immigration. After collecting our bags, sorting what we were going to take with us on the light aircraft to Nkhotakota  & changing some money we met Eric from local agents Land & Lake Safaris who was taking the rest of our luggage and would be our driver/guide after Nkhotakota in a couple of days time.
Formalities done, we had time for a quick drink before, we were taken out to meet Stuart, pilot of the “shoe-box with wings” for our hop over to the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve. 



Although none of us are great fans of light aircraft this was as smooth & pleasant a flight as it gets 






and soon the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve



and Bua River were underneath us.



before we banked round to land at the airstrip. And yes, that airstrip is as short, sloping & tree lined as it looks!



Unfortunately, this is where things unravelled in a big way as, and the more eagle eyed amongst you may have already noticed this on the above picture, there was no-one to meet us!  Initial thoughts were well, that’s OK, perhaps there are some elephants on the track or they’ve had a puncture, we’ll wait a bit, but after ~½hr it was clear that no-one was coming. This, though was just the start as there was no mobile phone signal on the airstrip and just to compound things, Stuart was anticipating heading off to the south of Lake Malawi after dropping us off, ready for an early flight the following morning.  This meant we’d taken off from the long tarmac runway at Lilongwe with a heavy fuel load and wouldn’t be able to take off from the short sloping dirt strip we were on with that fuel load & 4 adult passengers :(
It was clearly time for some creative thinking but the best we could come up with was for Stuart to take off, climb until he had radio/mobile reception, try to contact someone and arrange for us to be picked up & taken to the lodge however if he couldn’t do that he would fly back to Lilongwe & come back again having taken fuel out or swapped aircraft & take us back to Lilongwe.
With this “plan” in place, Stuart departed and circled above us for ~30min before heading off to the south so as the shadows lengthened and only a distant warthog family for company we waited….






Time elapses very slowly when you are standing out in the middle of nowhere and previous experience of being out in the bush counts for nothing when you’re there on your own, constantly looking round and listening out for the rustle of leaves or, more optimistically, first hint of an engine noise but suddenly the familiar shape of a safari Land Rover appeared from the opposite direction we were expecting and as it got closer we all let out a huge sign of relief. 




Our relief was somewhat short lived however as the occupants of the Landy knew nothing about us!  It transpired that they were from Tongole Lodge (George, intern at Tongole & William, new guide) and, having no guests stopping, had taken the opportunity to go and do a bit of fishing and were heading back to the Lodge when they spotted us on the airstrip & came to investigate. They were quick to offer to take us to Tongole Lodge where although they didn’t have mobile phone reception they did have internet access so we could attempt to contact the outside world.
After a very welcome cold drink and with Skype & WhatsApp attempts proving fruitless, George offered to drive us over to Bua River Lodge (on the other side of the park!) and about half way there, as dusk was falling, a cloud of dust heralded the arrival of Sam Kamoto (African Parks Nkhotakota Park Manager) who had received a call (from David Kelly, Tongole Lodge Manager who was in Lilongwe & hence in mobile phone contact) to say that we were stranded on the airfield. Sam who at the time was in Nkhotakota town, some 1hrs drive away, had immediately dropped everything to come and pick us up and take us to the main gate where, apparently, we were to be picked up by the Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge & taken there for the night.  Sam also said that according to the Park records, neither Bua River or Tongole Lodges were due to have guests but being as neither George or William had anything better to do, had never been over to Bua River Lodge and it was pretty much on-the way, we opted to call by on the way and allow Sam to get back to finish off his work. By this time it was pitch dark and sure enough Bua River was empty with only Godfrey the manager there on his own. Clearly we couldn’t stay there so we headed to the gate but, once again, there was no sign of anyone to pick us up!  Unlike the airstrip however, the gate staff were still there to tell us that Sam had told them on his way out that the Pottery Lodge were on their way and would be with us “soon”.  Sure enough, it wasn’t too long before the roar of a big diesel disturbed the peace and in a scene reminiscent of “Close Encounters” a bank of intense white lights pierced the darkness to announce the arrival of Harold in his ex.Berlin Fire Truck! 
After saying a heartfelt thank-you to George & William, we all piled over into the truck for the 1hr journey to the Lodge where, absolutely exhausted and nerves shredded, we ended our first day in Malawi - As the old “New Labour” slogan went, things can only get better!!

Edited by AfricIan
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I've been really looking forward to this report and learning of your impressions of Malawi @AfricIan but what an unfortunate start!


Probably makes for a good dinner party conversation though!


Look forward to finding out more about Malawi's parks.

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Wow, I always worry about "Will somebody be there?" - very unpleasant when the answer is "No" at an airstrip like that. Looking forward to this report - I know next to nothing about Malawi.

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argh - what an awful start that your stay was never recorded and you were left on your own at the airport, not knowing if anyone would ever pick you up. very kind of the Tongole Lodge staff to check out what your situation was. did you ever find out why your stay at the Bua River lodge was never recorded? i hope you got your funds returned!


as you say, things can only get better. 

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As Michael says we have all had that thought at some time..... where are they? Usually the vehicle is under the trees keeping in the shade or can be heard coming, but this? Terrifying. How lucky someone spotted you and the messages finally got through. You must have felt very vulnerable.


I have no doubt there has been a lot of communication between you and the trip organisres about this but for now, you are there and safe at last. Looking forward to hearing about the rest of the trip and hoping that the logistics etc work a little better for the rest of it.


You are here reporting it so you made it home, hopefully in one piece.! :)

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Wow. What a start. Can't wait to hear the rest. 

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Many thanks for all the Likes & to @Caracal, @michael-ibk, @Kitsafari, @wilddog& @kilopascal for your comments. Yes, we live to tell the tale but it's not an experience any of us would like to repeat anytime soon!


So, onto Day 2:  The Nkhotakota Pottery Lodge is a nice place,






being situated right on the beach and we’d had a very nice meal the previous evening although we were all too tired and twitchy to enjoy it.  Under other circumstances we could happily have stayed there but it wasn’t what we’d come to Malawi for and  I must admit that I was rather abrupt with Memory from Land & Lake who had phoned during dinner to suggest that we stayed at the Pottery for 2 nights before moving on down the lakeshore :(.  By breakfast Eric was waiting for us, having driven part way down the previous evening and the rest earlier that morning, with the news that we could, if we wished, now stop at Bua River that evening.  Given that it had been closed with no staff the previous afternoon we were more than a little apprehensive but as we had specifically wanted to visit Nkotakota to see the results of the translocation programme we said we would at least go and check it out.  After thanking Harold and his son Chris for “rescuing us” and Harolds wife Chipo for feeding us so well we headed back to the Wildlife Reserve and Bua River Lodge, passing our transport for the previous evening on our way.



Bua River Lodge was indeed open with a full complement of staff when we got there and after looking at our rooms we could see no reason why we shouldn’t stay so Eric headed off, arranging to pick us up after lunch the following day. I’m not going to comment any further on what happened on that first day, we effectively lost a day of our holiday and even now, 2 months down the line, we’re no clearer who was at fault nor is there much prospect of finding out.  I do know that there are a lot of people we have to be thankful to and who stepped in to engineer a resolution to a problem that was not of their making - Our Malawi trip starts now :rolleyes: 

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There are a few pre-translocation elephants left in the park and one, that is often seen around the Bua River Lodge, has been the named Alfala – it wasn’t long before he put in an appearance.



Bua River Lodge is a very nice place.  The tents are spacious with great views out over the river, beds are comfortable and the open shower works well once you master the art of setting the rather coarse controls. The staff are all very friendly, we always had plenty of good food to eat with meals being served on the main deck overlooking the river. Our tents were accessed via a “one-person-at-a-time” rope suspension bridge (that Vicky just loved :blink:) over to the “Island” and are rather remote from the main lodge but each tent gets a walkie-talkie radio to contact other tents or the main lodge and you are escorted to and fro once it gets dark.







The “Island” tents have some great views up & down the river, which was still running well







By this stage it was lunchtime so we headed back to the main lodge, lunch taking slightly longer than anticipated whilst Alfala checked out the kitchen!



Any thoughts we had of going back to our tents were knocked on the head as some of the new translocated elephants turned up





and a couple of bushbuck seemed very interested in something,



before Alfala decided to check-out the main entrance




whilst down at the river there was more elephant action











Finally, a “grand finale” from Alfala. He's got a much shortened trunk, couresy of a snare in the "bad-old-days" but it doesn't appear to hinder him that much:


Alfala in action


He and the other elephants then moved upstream a bit and the timestanp on my camera told us it was ~4:30 – where had the afternoon gone!  There wasn’t time for much else but as we had Park Ranger Andrew with us we headed out for a short stroll downstream and enjoyed our sundowners sitting on the rocks by the river. Things are looking up :rolleyes:




Edited by AfricIan
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Nkhotakota 2

Our original thinking for our full day was to take a vehicle upstream and then walk back to the lodge but the loss of that day meant that wasn’t going to be possible so with Andrew and guide Zuma we took a shorter walk upstream.
I’ll probably be asking for lots of bird ID help later but I can recognise a Hammerkop when I see one!



Before reaching the cascades where we had some fascinating tales from both Andrew & Zuma of their “previous lives” as villagers, poachers and, in Andrews case, “poacher turned gamekeeper”.








And of course the obligatory team photo!



The river isn’t quite as benign and pleasant as it looks however



Back at our tent, this youngster is one of the first to have been born to the translocated elephants



Meanwhile “over in the other tent”, a long thin green snake poked its head out from under the shower decking just as son was about to freshen up after our walk.  Treating it with due caution he backed off and said snake shot up into the trees & disappeared.  No pictures but a look through the snake book over lunch revealed it was almost certainly a green mamba – definitely not to be messed with!


So, whilst we didn’t get much chance to get out away from the lodge and we didn’t see much of the other translocated wildlife, it was well worth heading back to Nkhotakota, it’s still an unspoilt wilderness and somewhere to get out on foot in.  After things settle down following this years translocation programme then there should also be a lot more of the bigger animals to see.


We had a night at the Livingstonia Hotel in Selima next and there isn’t really a lot to report, although the children had a huge double roomed “suite”, Vicky & I had to make do with a bit of a “cupboard with a bed in it”. It is on a nice beach & the food was OK rather than anything special - although everyone was friendly enough it gave the impression of struggling to maintain the colonial era grandeur it undoubtedly once had.
We weren’t too sad to hit the road again the next morning and continue the game of “spot the widest load” we’d started the previous afternoon:






The winner!


A short detour off the main road took us to the Mua Mission and museum – A fascinating presentation of  the cultures of the Chewa, Ngoni and Yao peoples including a display of masks and other cultural artefacts. 



There is also a fine art & sculpture showroom & I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this rather bizarre carving. 



Then it was back on the road to the southern end of the lake and our rather laid back boat ride out to Mumbo Island.




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Nhkotakota looks wonderful! The snake can't have been a green mamba as they only occur in the southern parts of Malawi. It was most likely a snake of the Philotamnus genus (bush snakes) who are often brilliantly green coloured. It could also have been a male boomslang (and probably was if the snake was longer than about 1m). Keep it coming, great report!

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That is a vehicle to get one's attention.  The lack of it had to be even more attention grabbing.  I bet you were relieved to be picked up at last.  It would have been a shame to miss such a charming place.  Let the meandering begin!

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Thanks for your comments @Travelynn & to @ForWildlife for thoughts on the snake ID. Without a picture it’s not going to be easy - we were able to find images of both mamba & boomslang that show the right sort of bright green colouration without any dark markings that fit with what he saw (for about 10 seconds!) although he doesn’t remember any yellowish underbelly either so does that rule out the boomslang?  Geographical distribution notwithstanding, I don’t suppose we’ll ever know now.


Mumbo is a “deserted” island about 7km off Cape McClear at the southern end of Lake Malawi and our arrival took us, unknowingly at the time, past what was to be our home for the next 3 nights.





It really is an idyllic place - I’m not one for lazing on the beach, even with a good selection of reading material on the Kindle (other e-readers are available) but Mumbo caters for all. The food was excellent with mealtimes being announced by the “croaking” of a large hollow wooden frog!  If you wanted to crash out on the loungers then fine but swimming in the (certificated Bilharzia free) bay was great even in the early winter time we were there.  Son & I spent a lot of time snorkelling amongst the plentiful & colourful Malawi cichlids and also kayaking round the two bays near the camp.  It’s about a 45 minute paddle right round the island or, for the really intrepid, it’s possible to kayak out to & back from the mainland. There are also a number of easy to follow walking trails over & round the island.





There isn’t much in the way of “land” wildlife but there are a few quite reasonable sized Water Monitor Lizards and lots of little Rainbow Skinks running about






It was quite breezy at our “hut” first thing but by late morning the wind had dropped to nothing & the lake was as flat as the proverbial mill-pond and a lot clearer than any mill-pond I’ve seen. The sunset boat trips round the island were really magical and took us past the haunts of pied kingfisher and 3 pairs of fish eagle.


























Whilst back on our deck each morning there was always someone looking to help clean up the pre-breakfast cookie crumbs









Can you tell we really liked Mumbo :rolleyes::rolleyes:, now on to Liwonde.

Edited by AfricIan
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@Africlan Beautiful pictures again! Size would rule out bush snakes, location rules out green mamba. Adult male boomslangs can have solid green bellies, they'r very variable in colour.

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Thoroughly enjoying this report about an area we don't hear much about. Beautiful landscapes. After your rough start, it looks like you settled into your groove. 


Looking forward to more!

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Thanks @Alexander33 & yes, Malawi is a very picturesque country and very varied, more of which later as our "tour" continues.  Thanks also to everyone for their Likes


The morning boat from Mumbo took us back to the mainland and Eric for the short run down to Liwonde where we were staying at Mvuu Camp.  Both Mvuu (Hippo) Camp and it’s neighbouring (& more upmarket) Lodge are on the banks of the wide and tranquil Shire river, our road route taking us to the far bank & a short boat ride across.  “Camp” is a bit of a misnomer as the accommodation is in comfortable stonewalled chalets with front porch and en-suite at the back (whereas the Lodge accommodation is in tents). The camp is relatively large but the chalets are well spaced and the number of fellow guests is only really apparent at mealtimes.  We arrived in time for slightly late lunch and introduction to Samuel who was to be our guide for the whole of our stay.  Over lunch Samuel has asked if we were OK with a couple of other guests, who were staying at the Lodge, joining us and suggested heading out on the boat for our first activity.
With that sorted, we settled into our chalets






Before heading out onto the river, passing this example of poor dental hygiene



And a couple of eles peacefully grazing





This Grey-headed Kingfisher was unusually close to the water and Samuel wondered if it had a nest nearby, it certainly wasn’t disturbed by our presence


Or the patrolling Water Monitor


I tried to get this Grey Heron “standing” on the crocs back but couldn’t quite get the angle!



Then as the light turned “golden” a Waterbuck posed



In an earlier post I said I’d probably be asking for bird ID’s but I’m pretty confident with these as:
1) Hadeda Ibis, 


2) African Wattled Lapwing (with Giant & Cattle Egrets in the background)


3) Giant Kingfisher


Before, as the early Hippo started leaving the water, we settled back to enjoy our sundowners



Apologies for today's short chapter, hopefully I'll get a bit more time soon!

Edited by AfricIan
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@AfricIan thanks so much for this interesting TR on little-known Malawi. I can see how your family enjoyed the trip, despite the unfortunate start at the deserted airstrip and the green snake in the shower! I have heard that the birds in Malawi are remarkable and that certainly seems to be true based on your photos so far.

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Thanks all & sorry this instalment has taken so long in coming.  Thanks @Treepol for your comments, the range of things to see and do was one of the main drivers behind choosing Malawi for this trip.  Put me in a Land Rover/Cruiser in a game reserve & I’m happy for days but we wanted “something for everyone” and the itinerary fitted that remit.

So, Liwonde. As an international rate guest in Mvuu Camp you get 3 activities per day, first thing in the morning for a couple of hours, back ~8am for breakfast then out again ~9:30 until ~midday, then lunch, rest-up then out again ~4 with dinner ~8:30pm.  There are, of course, biscuits with your early morning tea/coffee, cakes with your afternoon tea/coffee & nibbles with your sundowners, starve you most definitely do not!  

For your activities you can game drive, walk or boat according to your wishes and for today we opted for 3 game drives, the early morning one going into the Rhino sanctuary.  Samuel is really hot on the birdlife in Liwonde but unfortunately I'm not very diligent in writing things down so I hope these are Grey-headed Parrots:



which were closely followed by this Verreaux's Eagle Owl.  The pink eyelids are a real giveaway but it looks very fluffy so I’m thinking a juvenile





This old Dagga boy was waiting for us at one of the waterholes



and it’s always said if you wait at a waterhole something will turn up







Then the buffalo herd arrived but once they spotted us, they stopped behind the treeline.





A gap in the trees was just big enough to spot this Sable and as I continued to pan round he appeared on the other side of the thicket.





I'd just managed to work out that he looked a bit different when all was revealed and the majesty of those horns was revealed as they headed back into the trees





Later, a female Kudu




Then, like busses, no sooner do you see your first Bohm’s Bee-eater then two of them turn up!!





Down by the river the Waterbuck relax & the Elephants play







This male Kudu has clearly been in a bit of a tussle




The afternoon yielded more Kudu, elephant  and Warthog








plus this raptor which I think is some sort of Hawk Eagle but can’t be any more precise than that.



Whilst another stunning sunset ended a pretty good day - although we didn't catch a glimpse of a Rhino, there was plenty else to keep us happy 




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Our early morning activity today was a walk and it was nice to stretch our legs although I managed to stretch one a bit too much climbing out of Dr. Livingstone’s Tree – an old baobab that had been partially killed by a strangler fig, leaving a cavity inside big enough for 3-4 people!  The strangler fig post-dates Livingstone but legend has it that he camped under the baobab whilst working his way up the Shire in his quest to find the source of the Nile.

This might be a Harrier Hawk but equally, could be a juvenile of any number of other raptors


and we also came across this Kudu horn, not from the one we’d seen yesterday but clearly had been lost not that long ago - I was amazed at how heavy it was.


After breakfast it was out on the boat, with lots of ele interaction, Malachite & Grey-headed Kingfisher, marauding Water Monitor, Hippo and a number of birds I’m not certain of (or haven’t a clue!)












ID anyone?







And this one?




White-breasted Cormorant, 



Open-billed Stork,



Reed Cormorant?



We were joined by a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows – I thought they were just hitching a ride but in fact they were nest building under the roof of the boat so were pretty chilled characters!





We’d seen a large group of ele’s earlier but they now looked to be heading to the river so when Sanuel asked if we wanted to head back to camp or go over to the elephants there was unanimous agreement (& it wasn’t to go to camp!)







Do elephants play “blow egret”?












Back at our chalet, this Cardinal Woodpecker (?) was disturbing the early afternoon peace & quiet.




I’d been chatting to Samuel about the Elephant translocation & the introduction of Cheetah into the park & I’d said I was surprised about the Cheetah as the environment didn’t seem particularly suited - as you’ll have seen from the photographs, all around Mvuu being quite heavily wooded.  Samuel explained that the southern part of the park is much more open & in African Parks opinion, almost ideally suited to them.  He also said that one animal had been released and was “doing well” but although radio-collared, the details weren’t being made available to the guides.  That’s understandable but when I said we’d quite like to go and look Samuel was all in favour and as our companions from the Lodge had now come to the end of their stay it was going to be just us in the back of the Landy.
Before we left though we were witness to a snatch & grab at tea – Patrick, our waiter, had noticed that Vicky had always scraped the cream etc off her deserts & cake and had bought out a plate of 3 date balls for her instead.  Having taken one, she then made the classic mistake of putting the plate down only for a flash of browns to leap onto the table, grab the two remaining balls & head into the tree where it just sat there, date ball in each “hand” trying to figure out which one to eat first!



It’s a long old drive down to the cheetah release area and although we could see the pre-release boma through the trees, of the cheetah itself there wasn’t a sign but then it was always going to be a long shot – the odds on finding 1 animal in ~50 sq.km of park aren’t good but if you don’t try…. 



Again, I’m not sure of this raptor

But we were rewarded with another great sundowner sunset and a Rock Python & rapidly departing Porcupine on the way back








And the end of another very enjoyable day.

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Thanks all, for our last morning we were back into the Rhino sanctuary where once again no one seemed to be willing to come out into clear sight!















I think this is a Banded Snake Eagle

Once again, the Rhino proved elusive but it was now time to make the short trip back across the river 







African Darter




where Eric was waiting to take us over to Zomba and the Zomba Forest Lodge.  
To-date, we’d had the expected warm (as far as we were concerned!) dry weather but the Zomba plateau has is own microclimate and this was the vista from the porch when we arrived!


Zomba Forest Lodge is a simple place with no electricity but very comfortable and the gardens & surrounding woods cry out to be explored, even in the mist/drizzle/rain. Tom & Petal's hospitality is superb and once it got dark it was home-from-home sitting & chatting round the fire (yes really) with a nice glass (or two) of red.  Hopefully the sun will return tomorrow!

Next day did dawn much improved although the cloud base was still very low – it was rain free however, enabling me to wander round the garden.








Our plan was to head up onto the plateau and walk some of the trails but the previous days rains meant this is as far as our vehicle made it, a Land Rover it is not!



We weren’t too far from where Eric was going to park up so he walked up to the junction with the path to the top of the hill & sent us on our way whilst he set off to find help to extract the vehicle. Although we’d taken waterproofs they weren’t needed & the views improved as we headed upwards










The lodge had done a packed lunch for us, which we’d left in the vehicle so, getting peckish, we headed back down - where this guy had come from or where he was going to I’ve no idea, we couldn’t see any sign of a path or trail and he must have crossed our track at some point.




When we got back to the vehicle it hadn’t moved but Eric had indeed found help and insisted that they didn’t need any help from us & we should just make ourselves comfortable & eat our lunch. 



Yes, that is a person behind the back wheel!

We weren’t going to sit eating our lunch watching them get even muddier than they already were so took our lunch and headed back up the track to where we could sit and it wasn’t long after we finished when the sound of an engine told us that some progress had indeed been made.
Looking at the state of the track afterwards, it was clear that attempting to go up wasn’t a sensible option so after thanking our impromptu road crew, we about turned & spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the views once described as the best in the British Empire & waterfalls.

















Then it was back to the Lodge, the fireside, good food, conversation & a nice red wine, 

Edited by AfricIan
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Really enjoying this report on Malawi - very interesting.

Nice picture of the 3 Sable in post 18 and lovely scenery shots above.

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It seems likea beautiful and varied country. You saw a good selection of wildlife, and your photos are excellent.

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 He also said that one animal had been released and was “doing well”

I hope there are plans for more cheetah to be translocated, assumin this guinea pig continues to do well.  Were the sable a surprise or is Malawi known for sable?  Very nice to see them.

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What a fascinating report so far @AfricIan a beautiful country

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@AfricIan Very interesting report, Malawi is a very beautiful country, the only place on your itinerary that I’ve been to is Liwonde and that was a long time ago, so I’ve enjoyed reading about the other places you went as well as seeing what Liwonde is like now. Great to see those sables and the buffalos in Liwonde, I was there in the wet season and they were having major floods in the region so we weren’t able to get around the park that easily. Good to see the wire-tailed swallows are still nesting on the boat. I’m not too surprised that you needed a warm fire on the Zomba Plateau with the weather like that; the landscape in a couple of your shots is quite reminiscent of the Nyika Plateau though the latter is much bigger and higher, at Chelinda Lodge there which is at around 7,500ft / 2,228M all of the rooms have log fires and they’re very welcome on a chilly evening especially when it’s wet. Despite the unfortunate start this is a good advert for Malawi, a country that gets overlooked in favour of its neighbours with their better known national parks. I hope that all of the recent developments in Liwonde and Nkhotkota will help to change that. It’s such a beautiful, diverse and friendly country that I think for anyone who has been on a couple of safaris already, it is a great place to go if you are looking to go somewhere a bit different.


@Atravelynn I have just read this evening while writing this that Liwonde had the highest density of sable in Africa, all of Malawi's parks have suffered a good deal of poaching, populations of all antelopes have I would assume suffered declines, however Liwonde has remained a stronghold for sable, probably in part due the construction of the rhino sanctuary in 1992. Various antelope species that would have ended up inside the sanctuary have been kept safe from poaching allowing their numbers to build up, also Liwonde hasn't had a population of lions for some years so there's not much predation. I've no doubt now that African Parks are running Liwonde and the whole park is fenced it will once again have the highest density of sables in Africa, all of Malawi's parks have some sable, but I've not seen them anywhere in Malawi. I would guess after Liwonde, Majete is probably the best place to see them, in the past Nkhotakota would have had a large population but I presume numbers now are pretty low, but they should increase again, if their numbers need boosting I've no doubt AP will move some there.


I’m not absolutely 100% certain of all of the birds but I’ve had a go at identifying them.


Bottom of post 12  I think the scruffy looking male weaver is probably a village weaver also called spot backed, I presume the female is the same, followed by white-winged cliff chat and African pied wagtail but I suspect you knew the last two and just hadn’t named them.


Post 16 your hawk eagle looks to me like it’s an immature martial eagle.


Post 18 I think you’re right they look like grey-headed parrots


Post 19 you are correct the hawk is a Harrier hawk or gymnogene, then after the malachite kingfisher is a spur-winged lapwing (Vanellus spinosus) often called spur-winged plover, as part of the attempt to standardise bird names all members of the genus Vanellus were quite recently renamed lapwings, however people often still refer to the ones that used to be called plovers as plovers.  After the grey-headed kingfisher is a white-backed night heron that’s a great sighting as these are not easy birds to see. I think the woodpecker could possibly be a golden-tailed because of the pale yellow spots, the raptor looks like a snake eagle and I would suggest western banded.


Post 20 the eagle is an African hawk eagle.

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