Weather and Landscape
While temperatures are warm during the day, mornings and nights have become chilly in Liwonde. The floodplains are continuing to dry up as are the waterholes in the forest. Due to the colder weather, some of the nocturnal animals have been less active in a bid to stay warm and conserve energy. However, the combination of clear skies at this time along with vegetation that is slowly drying up allows for greater visibility across the floodplains.
Now that it is noticeably getting hotter and drier by the week, the elephant sightings around the river are picking up. The elephants are usually sighted in and around the river on almost a daily basis as they come down to feed on the fever trees and common reed grasses which fringe the Shire.
Our boat safaris are the best way to get up close and personal with these grey giants. During one river cruise last week, Frank and Julius came across a herd of 80 elephants swimming opposite Mvuu. Our lucky guests were able to enjoy the spectacle for more than half an hour.
On a recent game drive, our guide, Angel, and his guests enjoyed the rare sighting of a black rhino crossing the road in front of them. On the same game drive, they spotted six bushpigs and a small herd of buffalo. On other walks and drives into the same area, guests have seen large breeding herds of up to 30 sable. A herd of around 100 buffalo was seen in the mopane woodlands. As the surface water in the area continues to dry up, the Lichtenstein's hartebeest will be drawn to the winter waterholes, along with myriad other wildlife.
On the predatory front, several of our guests enjoyed wonderful sightings of Titus, the dominant male lion in the area. On one occasion, the guests spotted Titus while having a bush dinner. The following day, he was found sleeping on the side of the airstrip in the comfort of some shade.
On the smaller side of the scale, we did enjoy a number of African civet sightings. We found a civet feeding on millipedes late on evening. Millipedes form the bulk of a civet's diet, and what makes this interesting is the fact that millipedes excrete alkaloids in defence, more commonly known as hydrogen cyanide. Civets are able to stomach these toxic secretions, and one can clearly see the millipede exoskeletons in civet scats.
Birds and Birding
African fish-eagles have been seen regularly flying over the Shire - "cartwheeling across the sky" as one of the managers Christopher describes it - in a renewal of their pair bonds. Pel's fishing-owls have been repeatedly spotted on the west bank, near the Natal mahogany trees downstream from camp. They have also been seen upstream around the cormorant breeding colony. Black-crowned and white-backed night-herons are frequently sighted in the riverine vegetation in particular, around the Lodge Lagoon. A pair of Verreaux's eagle-owls was spotted several times flying out of a baobab tree close to the main road during the day.
Other birding highlights include:
More than 100 African skimmers were seen resting on a sandbank close to Chinguni Hills during a boat safari. An African scops-owl was seen just before dark during a game drive on Sable Road. Matthews spotted a flock of 30 Lillian's lovebirds in Southern Ntangai, fairly close to camp.
The Children in the Wilderness Team (CITW) at Mvuu recently launched their new tree nursery based at Nanthomba School. CITW invited village headmen Kwenji and Ligwang'a, lodge managers and the founder of H.E.L.P Malawi to attend the launch. Three local primary schools were involved and helped to fill 200 seed pots with soil and seeds.
"A most beautiful place with such an abundance of wildlife. Very good sightings of Pel's fishing-owl and palm-nut vultures. Great tours with Henry. Thank you so much!"
Staff in Camp
Guides: Matthews, McCloud, Danger, David, Patrick, Duncan, Justin, Henry and George.
Newsletter by Henry, Patrick, Christopher and Frank.