Sighting: Malawi Guide Training: 2-15 March 2009
Location: Mvuu Camp
Date: March 2009
Observers: Wikus Swanepoel
Our second guide training course for Malawi for 2009 again started at Mvuu Camp and then travelled through the southern and central parts of Malawi visiting all the major tourist locations. It was another spectacular experience with a bit more history included this time as well.
At Mvuu Camp we again started with First Aid training, this time including some other Wilderness Safaris staff - various heads of departments and camp managers - giving us a total of 15 people finishing the Red Cross Basic First Aid.
We did this over two days and then had an extra day so we used the time to go explore the southern side of the Liwonde National Park - Chinguni Hills. It was good to get in an area of the Park where we virtually never go. We were affected a little by the rain and didn't have too many mammal sightings so instead we could focus on wild flowers and geology.
The next day we left the park heading downstream along the Shire River by speed-boat and then driving through to Gaia House at the Cape Maclear Peninsula on Lake Malawi. On one of the two days there we managed to go inspect Mumbo and Domwe Islands again. We were lucky to have great weather and the views we had across the Lake were amazing. This time around we could also see the changes that had been made to Mumbo; a new deck, beach showers, main area upgrade ... I didn't think it was possible but it's even more stunning on the island now!
After two lovely days we went on to Dzalanyama, central Malawi's birding hotspot. We had only one night and Miombo birding isn't always the easiest, but we did manage to see Miombo Rock-Thrush, Souza's Shrike, Olive Sunbird, Mountain Wagtail, Pale Hornbill and Red-Throated Twinspot amongst others.
From there we headed to Dedza Mountain, one of the five highest places in the country. As a result it generally received plenty of rainfall, but yet again we were very lucky with the weather and not only could we go for a long walk, but we were also rewarded with great views across the area. Here we had enough electricity to finish the Malawi Induction as well as Environmental Awareness lecture components of the course.
Then it was on to Zomba, staying at Zomba Forest Lodge. ZFL is renowned for its great food and it didn't disappoint. We were here for two nights and managed to finish our geology lessons - this being the perfect place to talk about rock and crystal formations. On top of it all we had some great birding as well with White-Winged Apalis, Pallid Honeyguide and White-Eared Barbet being the highlights.
After Zomba it was on to Mulanje Mountain, the highest mountain in south-central Africa at 3002m. En route there we made a few stops, the most interesting one being the house and graves of a colonial farmer called William Livingstone. This is the place where Malawi's fight for independence began. John Chilembwe (who is considered the first Malawian martyr) decapitated William on this farm because of his brutality towards his workers. John was himself killed only a few days later but his actions definitely started adding momentum to the rebellion which eventually lead to independence in 1963/64. From that very informative visit we went to Blantyre and onwards to Likhubula - Mount Mulanje.
At Likhubula we completed more history lectures and also had some time to get to the waterfall. From here we headed to Lujeri Tea Estate and here we had more great walks, scenery, birds and lessons. Even though we could have stayed in the Mulanje area for a week we had to leave and our last day involved heading back to Mvuu for the final lectures and a dinner together before saying goodbye.
This trip had a great impact on all the guides' lives. They saw plenty of new places and the majesty of these places made a life changing impact. Together we identified 68 different wildflower species, everyone saw lifers (new birds) and we covered an area bigger than what most Malawians see in a lifetime.
It was an honour to be part of something like this and we hope to keep building on this great experience.