So, as you may have seen, the team have been exploring our very own ‘Warm Heart of Africa’. So far, we’ve conquered Mulanje, Liwonde, Kuti, Zomba, Blue Zebra, Satemwa and Mumbo Island, so this time we decided to head up north and explore the treasures of the up and coming Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
A group of us left Lilongwe at 10:30 am and by 1 pm we were settled onto the Khonde with the lovely Sandy and Chris, laughing away with a beer in hand and homemade pâté, dips and snacks, whilst we took in the beautiful surroundings.
Situated just outside the reserve, owner-run and eco-friendly Rafiki Safari Camp has 6 en-suite tented chalets (and a campsite).
The whole camp is solar-powered meaning hot water and lights all day long, and water is sourced from their borehole and perfectly safe to drink.
The rooms are clean and spacious with very comfortable beds, private decks, fans, and the showers are hot, with great water pressure. The main camp area, or boma as they call it, is a beautiful spot with fantastic views of the bush below, comfortable couches, a fire pit and a gorgeous swimming pool.
Don’t be put off by the fact that the camp is outside the reserve, in fact, that is what makes this camp even more wonderful, with the freedom to roam the bush around camp and some lovely walks to be done down to the river for a spot of catch-and-release fishing or just a special sitting spot for sipping on a G&T as the sun goes down.
After our arrival and catch-ups, we settled into our rooms and sat down to a delicious chicken curry lunch with all the trimmings, prepared by Sandy herself, and the homemade bread was inhaled by everyone in a matter of minutes.
We soon had packed a small cooler box and, with fishing tackle in hand, we set off on our little walk down to the Bua River to try our hand at fly fishing (spotting a porcupine on our way down!). The boys gave it a good go with no luck, whilst us girls perched on a rock and enjoyed the view of the sun setting on another sh*t day in Africa.
That evening we wrapped up warm as the winter chill had properly set in, and began our preparations for dinner. Due to the pandemic, we were self-catering so the braai was lit and we all snuggled into the comfy sofas in the boma and listened to the sounds of the bush around us as the boys did what they do best and cooked the nyama (meat) with the assistance of the super friendly and helpful staff members.
Soon we were tucked up in our comfy beds but not before catching a glimpse of the resident bush pigs that nest in front of our room.
That next morning, we had a breakfast of champions and set off for a game drive in Malawi’s oldest and largest wildlife reserve. Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve stretches from the crest of the Great Rift Valley, all the way to within a few kilometres of Lake Malawi, it spans over 1800 square kilometres and, under African Parks management, the entire perimeter has been fenced to safeguard the wildlife.
If you are an avid reader of our blogs or follow us on social media, I’m sure you will have seen us rave about the 500 Elephant project conducted by African Parks in 2016 where they repopulated the heavily poached out Nkhotakota with translocation of over 1400 plains game and a record-breaking 500+ elephants from Majete Wildlife Reserve and Liwonde National Park to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
Nkhotakota is made up mainly of miombo woodland and dense forest, and the growing elephant population here is slowly breaking down some of the bush density, opening access to deeper parts of the park and paving way for new habitats and therefore new species to be introduced in the future – an exciting prospect considering how African Parks has turned the other two wildlife areas under their management into game-rich parks (Majete a big 5 park with cheetah, and Liwonde, almost a big 5 park, without leopard (for now) but with a cheetah!).
The woodland habitat here gives itself perfectly to the Malawi birdlife, and homes over 280 species including the palm-nut vulture, Taita falcon, giant kingfisher, Böhm’s bee-eater, martial eagle and olive-headed weaver to name a few. Some key species we spotted on our game drive were a racket-tailed roller, striated heron and African hawk-eagle on our game drive and enjoyed a stroll down to the impressive Bua River before making our way back to camp via the education centre.
Activities that can be experienced in the reserve include game drives, walking safaris, birding safaris, educational centre visits and canoes safaris on the Bua River.
After our lunch, we ventured out on another walk to a different spot on the river for some more fishing and another impressive sunset. The land surrounding Rafiki and the fact that the lodge is raised above this natural paradise is one of the things that makes this place so special, ultimate peace and tranquillity can be found here with the freedom to explore and immerse yourself in the bush.
The other thing making this camp special is the warm and wonderful owners Chris and Sandy, they are so welcoming, friendly, generous and ready for a laugh, and the feedback we have received from guests we have sent there always rave about their hospitality. That evening Sandy made us the most exquisite ox-tail stew and brought with her, her homemade limoncello, we ate, drank and were merry round the campfire, agreeing with each other that Rafiki will be on our list of favourite weekend spots for some downtime and enjoyment.