It has been a busy start to the year with the team getting out and about to some of the Lodges that we haven’t been to in recent months. This trip was particularly special and one to remember.
We headed to the South of Malawi as we had a lot to get through and see, so we had an itinerary packed with places to visit. Our trainee guide, Kennedy, was in for a treat and he didn’t even know what was about to hit him. Questions were at the ready for our journey South, we were throwing him in the deep end on his first ‘official’ guiding tour. Safe to say he is getting there and will be at the top of his game in no time.
Our first call and look around was to Ku Chawe, a lovely Lodge that sits on the edge of the Zomba Plateau. With panoramic views of the valley, you can enjoy the glorious scenes around you. Settle into your spacious and comfortable room where each has a spectacular view, over the Plateau or beautiful gardens. The Plateau is truly one of the most breath-taking spots Malawi has to offer.
Next, we headed further up the plateau to Zomba Forest Lodge. A first time for us and of course we got a little lost on the way, a missed turn and an encounter with a village playing football, we soon figured out our original pathway was, in fact, the right one, and we were only a mere 200 metres from the Lodge when we took a wrong turn; we will pretend that we wanted to keep Kennedy on his toes ?.
Zomba Forest Lodge is a quaint colonial cottage nestled into Zomba mountain. Tom and Petal, the owners, were down to earth, quirky and friendly and very proud of their gorgeous little retreat; and so they should be. If you want intimacy and a cosy relaxed atmosphere, then here is the perfect destination for you. With no access to power, you can totally switch off, relax and enjoy what the gorgeous Zomba Plateau has to offer. Relish in the beautiful gardens or take a hike on one of the many walking trails around the area.
After a lovely afternoon of site inspections, we headed to Game Haven, ready for a cold drink, some yummy food and set to arrive just in time to see the sun setting too. We settled into our rooms, the executive rooms are basic but very comfy and we also got a quick sneak peek at the luxury cottages and self-catering family cottages. Something for everyone here whether you are travelling solo, as a couple, with friends or family.
The main area looks out onto beautifully manicured lawns where you will often see the local residents enjoying a morning or afternoon graze; although wild they will get close to you, keep that drink and bowl of peanuts a fair distance away; you never know just how friendly they feel like being on the day (remember they are still wild, friendly, but wild). We enjoyed a glass of (much needed) wine, watched the sunset over the lawns and enjoyed a delicious ‘home cooked’ dinner. It’s the perfect spot to spend a few days to relax and unwind, enjoy a game drive or enjoy a walk or mountain bike ride. There is something here for everyone and all in one very convenient location.
With full bellies we were ready to turn in for the night, we had another exciting couple of days to look forward to and couldn’t wait for what was in store.
An early start, we inhaled a full English breakfast and felt re-fuelled and ready for the journey to Majete Wildlife Reserve. A bit of a bumpy ride but only 2 and a half hours from Blantyre we made it in good time and were met by the Mkulumadzi team at the main gate who would take us onto the Lodge.
Majete Game Reserve is the only reserve in Malawi with the Big 5, and we are delighted to say we got to see 4 out of the 5. This, included the Black Rhino, a moment that will be engrained into us forever; it was magical. The bush itself very dense so makes for spotting any of those spectacular animals a little harder but when you do find them it’s every bit worth it.
Once in the park, it was about a half hour drive from the main gate to Mkulumadzi, which we all know is a game drive in itself. When we stopped thinking we had arrived but with no lodge in site, we headed towards what we described as an exciting challenge, a footbridge that sat high above the rapids of the Mkulumadzi River. It is very safe but does swing from side to side slightly so if you are scared of heights then stay close to your guide – you will make it to the other side in one piece and feel a slight sense of achievement every time you hit land.
From the minute we arrived to the minute we left, we felt like part of the Mkulumadzi family. The rooms are big and spacious, and each looks out onto the Shire River, sit on your balcony and take in the glorious views and at night as you lie in the comfy bed the sound of rapids send you into a coma – it was heavenly.
Heading out on our first drive, we noticed how the landscape is somewhat different to most safaris we have been on, the bush is thick and at this time of year flourishes. It really is perfect for those elusive rhino, leopard and it is pretty hard to spot the ellies too – but that’s what the professionals are for right? and they sure didn’t disappoint.
Settling into our sundowners, this was a great opportunity to get some time to chat to our scout (who works with African Parks), passionate about what they do and have achieved so far, is inspiring, if you want any details on conservation these guys are the ones to sit down and talk to. In the midst of learning about the translocation success story and mid-sip into a G&T, we heard the deep and powerful grunt of a lion. I have. Never seen a team pack up a drinks station so quickly, do we even remember how we made it to the vehicle, it all happened so quick. We ventured off and although it was getting dark, we were feeling positive (these sightings never get old). Turning the corner onto a different road, was a male lion sat in the middle of the road, obstructing any way past. He was a little timid and headed into the dense bush soon after, but we did manage to get a good sighting (missed that all important picture opportunity, unfortunately).
Our second day was the one to remember, we went in search of the rhino and we found a gorgeous young male, he was deep in the bush (this is a favourite for them of course) and we sat and enjoyed his company for about 10 minutes before he disappeared into his comfort – he was GLORIOUS and the rest of the day we were on a high. From then it just got better, and we got a lovely sighting of a large ‘friendly’ Ellie and even came across a couple of lone buffalo. We missed the leopard but 4 out of 5 isn’t bad and we were thrilled at the experience.
Majete Wildlife Reserve is spectacular, the views over the reserve are possibly some of the most glorious views we have seen in Malawi. Head up one of the hills and the sundowners are peaceful with no one else in sight, just you the wild and a strong G&T – it is a great way to end a day spent in the bush.
We can safely say it was a weekend to remember, Malawi has so much to offer and we are proud to call it home. We look forward to the next adventure…watch this space!
If you would like to visit any of these destinations contact us to find out more.