It’s Monday 17th May 2010 and the warm heart of Africa

It feels amazing to be home and back in the peace and tranquility of the Valley.

It has been an exciting week.  All the camps are looking stunning and are ready to welcome their first guests in a week from today. Robin left for Liuwa Plain and all the new caterers have arrived and are in the midst of a serious induction into Robin Pope Safaris, the Valley and Zambia. While staying at Luangwa House , they’ve been out on one or two game drives with Jacob in the South Luangwa National Park and were introduced to ‘Friday nights at Flatties’ (Flat Dogs) on Friday night. They were spoilt further with a rejuvenating massage on Saturday morning. Aren’t these girls here to work, you might ask?!! Don’t worry – they should enjoy the induction because the hard work is about to come! The caterers will know soon to which camp they will be allocated and throughout this week, there will be a mass departure of managers, guides and caterers up to their respective camps.

I have been away these last two weeks travelling to Pumulani on Lake Malawi – pure paradise, I may add! – and also on a marketing trip to Indaba in Durban and then Johannesburg. It seems as if I have been away far too long and have been missing the beautiful colours and magnificent sounds of the valley’s prolific wildlife. In Durban, I attended the Good Safari Guide Travel Awards with Jo and Rob, where we won a spectacular three awards: first we were given the Best Safari Guiding Team in Africa; second Luangwa Safari House won the Best Safari House for the second consecutive year and finally we got the second place for Best Safari Accommodation Group in Africa – I was delighted.

Malawi viewMalawi view

So I am now under pressure to get all my post-South Africa work done in time but before I focus on replying to the 73 e-mails cluttering up my inbox, I want to share my trip to Majete National Park with you, where I went to check on the developments of our new property there in the park. I also returned to Pumulani on Lake Malawi on a site visit.

Malawi roadsideMalawi roadside tomatoes

Our neighbouring country Malawi is known as the warm heart of Africa and with great reason; its people are known as some of the friendliest in Africa. On our way I was enchanted as I watched a fanfare of trade along the roadside. Here, they were selling an eclectic mix, from vegetables, animals and clothes, to tires and beautiful baskets. Women of all ages, wearing colourful clothes, walk long distances carrying all kinds of things on their head, firewood, water buckets or food. Moreover, Malawi’s landscapes are spectacular; striking misty-blue mountains abound, some short and squat, others, sharply alpine, while its neighbour might be flat-topped. Each and every one differs, making these mountains constantly fascinating.

Mark and Jena, the camp managers of our new site at Majete, drove Lucinda and I to the National Park. Unfortunately, we arrived just before the sunset, so we had no time for a game drive and instead went straight to the future camp. Just on the way there, we managed to see a Nyala (for the first time in my life – thrilling!!…) and a waterbuck!

Shire RiverHippos in the river

We parked the car on the other side of Shire River and crossed, walking through the shallow water where soon a bridge will be built. The moment we arrived, the wonderful sound of falling water refreshed me completely after the long journey. The new camp sits at the point where the Mkulumadzi and Shire rivers meet, an absolutely perfect spot. The impressive Shire River is the only out-flow from the huge Lake Malawi. It joins the lake and the basin of Lake Melombe and then spills out again and sweeps powerfully along the west side of Liwonde National Park. It then winds its way down through the Shire Highlands, along the edge of Majete Reserve, down the crashing torrents of Kapchira Falls and eventually into the serene and lush Shire Valley.

Majete National Park has very specific game, that is different from South Luangwa. Here you can find Black Rhino, Nyala, Sable Antelope, Lichtenstein Hartebeest, Eland, Suri, Rock Pratincole and Pels Fishing Owls, so it would be interesting to combine both of these national parks.

JenaMark with the foundations

Jena is very enthusiastic about the new project and she kindly shared all the details with us. The camp will open next year and will have 8 large chalets facing the Shire River. Unfortunately, apart from a pile of bricks, currently we only have the foundations for the first room which Mark proudly showed us, but I will keep you posted about the developments.

Pumulani poolPumulani beach

After this wonderful day at Majete we hit the road again straight to Pumulani. After a bumpy ride, with two flat tires and a superb lunch on the way, it was already dark by the time we reached Pumulani. Bettina and Luke kindly hosted us and offered us a drink on the restaurant balcony. I couldn’t take my eyes off the outstanding views of the sky and the lake. The sky was full of sparkling stars that reflected in the lake, and we could see the fishermen’s boats lit up. It was a truly wonderful sight… and very romantic!

Pumulani boatsFish eagle

Sails on the dhowOn the boat

The next day was full of water activities lead by our local guide Glynn. He took us to a great snorkelling spot with crystal warm water and colourful fish… I was amazed by the quality of the dive as I never thought diving could be this good in a lake! In the afternoon, we did the most popular activity there – the Dhow Cruise on the dhow at sunset.

I was hoping to get my shape back with all the water activities there but James our new chef there, ruined my plans, spoiling us completely with his wonderful cooking!

I have so much more to say but unfortunately, it will all just have to wait till next week! So until then….

Have a wonderful week!

Malawi sunset

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