Weather and Landscape
As the rainy season winds up, the days at Mvuu are getting increasingly cool with occasional chilly winds. The baobab trees are losing their leaves and adding character to the surrounding floodplains. Sunsets are spectacular and turn into clear nights that are perfect for stargazing. When the moon is not full, night game drives are particularly fruitful and we tend to have some very good nocturnal animal sightings.
Game viewing has just been getting better and better! Not more than three days go by without seeing elephants at the rivers, especially the Shire River, which has attracted masses of elephants with the end of the rainy season.
One of our elephant highlights took place from the boat. Whilst on a boat cruise, we came across a breeding herd, which was being pursued by three large elephant bulls, one of them being in musth. We watched as the herd swam in the river and interacted with the three bulls. The second elephant highlight was when we came across a protective mother and her new calf not even a hundred metres from camp - we kept our distance from them as we did not want to stress the new mother.
The environment is charged with constant action as the impala begin rutting and the waterbuck population is calving. Towards the middle of the month, we witnessed two kudu giving birth to their calves almost simultaneously. Samuel, one of our guides is familiar with these two kudu and can recall seeing them from around 2007 as one of the cows is very easy to identify due to a distinct notch in her ear. Samuel has recorded four calves for this female since he first saw her, this being her fifth.
Titus the male lion has been elusive this month as we did not see him, but did find signs of his presence in the area. He seems to be hanging around the road that goes to Naifyulu Hills.
Another great sighing which thrilled our guests and guide was the sighting of an aardvark in broad daylight - pretty awesome to see these elusive critters at any time let alone in broad daylight.
The special sighting of the month goes to an opportunistic crocodile, which was seen hitching a ride and basking in the sun... on a hippo's back. It truly was an amusing encounter as both the hippo and crocodile were clearly comfortable with one another and both snoozed in the warm sun.
The Rhino Tracking Experience has begun exceptionally well and already produced some very valuable research material as well as sightings for our guests. We would like to thank all of the guests which took part in the experience that ran over the Easter Weekend. Here are some comments from some of the guests which participated in this new and exciting activity:
"We learnt so much about black rhino and their behaviour." - The Baranowski group.
"Very interesting, learnt a lot about tracking and black rhino." - The Richardson group.
The Kennedy group encountered three sets of spoor on their walk before finally being rewarded with a sighting of a mother black rhino and her calf.
This awesome activity is still available at Mvuu, and we strongly encourage all our guests to do it as it is a life changing experience for any nature lover and helps to protect Liwonde's black rhino population.
Birds and Birding
Birding has been fantastic this month at Mvuu. We had regular sightings of Lillian's Lovebird, Grey-headed Parrot, Arnot's Chat, Pel's-Fishing Owl, Brown-breasted Barbet (which are currently nesting), African Cuckoo, Jacobin Cuckoo, Bateleur, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, African Harrier-Hawk and Wahlberg's Eagle.
Henry, another Mvuu guide, spotted a Tropical Boubou chasing a grasshopper near the Mvuu Education Centre. It managed to catch the grasshopper and then proceeded to hook it to a thorn. It then flew away, only to return with a mate with whom it shared the insect as dinner.
At the beginning of the month, a huge mixed flock of White-backed Night-Herons, Red-backed Shrikes, Spur-winged Lapwings, Gull-billed Terns, Black Storks, Southern Pochards and 23 Great White Pelicans flew over Mvuu.
Palm-nut Vultures have been seen regularly, ranging from juveniles to subadults and adults. The Palm-nut Vulture is a very successful species compared to other vultures in Liwonde. White-backed Vultures are seldom seen, and White-headed Vultures were sighted last year on 20/05/2011 by Duncan Mhango and Matthews Matewere over a period of two days. A day later, our guides saw a male White-headed Vulture which was very shy sitting on a big baobab at Mkango Corner. The Liwonde National Park bird check list includes Palm-nut Vulture, Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, and White-Headed Vulture all with status of breeding resident species. Samuel Chihana states "I believe there is not enough food for vultures to thrive on in Liwonde as we do not have many predators at the moment such as lion and leopard who supply feeding material for the vultures."
The Mvuu team held a craft market over Easter to provide guests with an opportunity to browse through a variety of locally crafted goods and contribute to the income of the local community. The vendors comprised villagers that live on the outskirts of the park. The Mvuu team welcomed anyone from the community who was interested in selling their craft items. A Children in the Wilderness stall was also set up to raise awareness and some funds for the programme. The guests enjoyed having a look through everything at the stalls.
"Thank you so much for having made our trip to Mvuu so wonderful. We enjoyed the wine in the evening and really loved our breakfast in the bush - definitely a highlight in our trip. We felt really privileged and my parents were lost for words when we saw a herd of 40 elephants drinking in the river when we were on our boat safari. It was really magical, so thanks a million for everything! It's and will certainly remain my parents' favourite place in Malawi."
Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, Mc Loud, Danger, David, Patrick, Samuel, Duncan, Samuel, Justin, Henry and George.
Newsletter by Samuel and the pictures were taken by Samuel, Patrick and McLoud.