Weather and Landscape
We've had low temperatures and cloudy days at Mvuu for the most part this month, but it has warmed up a little over the last week. Whilst we had isolated rains during the first two weeks of February, the landscape remains very lush and green. There are still a few impassable water puddles on some of our game drive roads , however wildlife in the area remains accessible and seems be thriving off the abundant availability of green grass. Additionally many birds are also now breeding - making it an exciting time to visit Liwonde National Park.
Due to the increased water levels of the Shire River, we've been able to take our boats into the lodge lagoon (something which is nearly impossible during the dry season). On February 7th, David and his seven guests were exploring the quiet waters of the lagoon, when the sounds of a struggle brought their attention to a crocodile leaping at an impala. The croc attack took place right opposite Mvuu Lodge (where some of the river's crocodiles come to bask during the day).
Although less frequent, we are still seeing elephant out on the river despite the rains. Whenever we spot elephant on the river, we will get all our guests on an impromptu boat safari, so they can have a better look. Most of our elephant sightings however, take place in the mopane woodlands around the Park during game drives.
Zebra sightings have been encouraging throughout the month - usually our herds of bashful zebra scatter when they hear our approaching game vehicles, however they now seemed to have adjusted to the sound and appear more relaxed. We've spotted small zebra herds throughout the month of February, especially near the airstrip, Albizia and Masanje Road.
January 29th: We had a sighting of approximately 20 banded mongoose in camp. This is an exceptionally big group to be spotted at Mvuu. Banded mongoose generally live in permanent and cohesive groups consisting of on average 15 adults with their offspring. Group sizes in this species are the largest for all carnivores. On the same day we also spotted a ton of red velvet mites in the area. At first glance, the minute red critters dancing across the earth is stunning.
February 1st: We kicked February off with a very special sighting; one female hippo was seen with a week-old calf in a little pool in the mopane woodlands near the river. Hippo leave the pod to give birth, in order to prevent the calf from being trampled and harassed by the aggressive adult males in the pod.
February 6th and 9th: A herd of 20 sable was spotted on various occasions all around Mvuu. On January 26th, just a few weeks before, a herd of 30 sable was spotted near the staff road. The flourishing vegetation growing throughout the park (thanks to the rains) provides the elusive antelope herds with the ideal conditions for grazing and they now venture out into the open to feed more frequently.
February 18th: A southern file snake was seen near the Mvuu workshop. This snake is often much sought-after due to its rarity and beauty. It has a distinctly triangular shaped head with keeled scales. Whilst it will gladly make a meal of lizards and small vertebrates, its feeding preference is actually other snakes.
Birds and Birding
This month's birding at Mvuu has been exceptional. Pel's Fishing-Owl have been spotted closer to both the camp and lodge this month. We had a total of four fantastic sightings for the month.
February 18th: A subadult African Cuckoo Hawk was spotted opposite Mvuu Camp. This medium-sized raptor is mostly solitary and was seen flying from tree to tree with short glides. Also on the 18th, large flocks of Grey-headed Parrot were seen roosting in the baobab trees along Msanje Road.
February 26th: The cross-breeding Lapwings were displaced by the rising water levels and we're still looking for them and trying to figure out where they have ended up.
We had a very happy guest that added 69 ticks to his birding list while visiting Mvuu. All in all, we had a very good birding month, with many specials and high profile species popping up.
Children in the Wilderness and the team at Mvuu Camp and Lodge will be developing a tree nursery at Nanthomba School this year. The project will target participants of the CITW programme as well as children attending Nanthomba School and two other nearby schools. The tree nursery will be run in the form of a centre at Nanthomba, which is in the process of being constructed and approximately 80 children are expected to regularly take part. The nursery will also aim to reach 30 conservation groups in the local community. The seedlings will be raised from April 2012 and distribution will take place during the rainy season from December 2012 to January 2013. The target number of seedlings to be raised and distributed by this project is 50 000 by January 2013. Symon Chibaka (programme coordinator for CITW) explained that children from across three schools and local experts from the community will join together to not only learn more about reforestation but to also put their conservation efforts into practice.
H.E.L.P. Malawi has appointed a new Director, Mr. Wells Sakala who will be providing logistical support for the project at Nanthomba where possible. Mr. Sakala is looking forward to making a significant impact at H.E.L.P. and working in partnership with CITW Malawi.
Symon Chibaka and CITW camp director, Mathews Matewera from Mvuu, attended the annual CITW conference for 2012 in Johannesburg. The standardisation of the CITW camp curriculum was discussed by representatives from all seven regions in the Wilderness group where CITW operates. This effort is being made to ensure the clear and successful delivery of the programme despite challenges such as minimal materials and the lack of adequate specialist skills. All teaching and learning topics will come from the following areas: conservation and environmental education, culture, art and craft, health and nutrition, as well as leadership and life skills.
"Mvuu Lodge is the best eco-lodge experience we have had in 10 years in terms of the local staff. Richard is a great host (very professional), Esnala, James and David were great. Compliments to the chefs for their excellent meals! We loved it all!"
Newsletter by Samuel