It’s Monday 24th March 2008 and let’s meet Chris and Joanne


It’s Monday 24th March 2008 and let’s meet Chris and Joanne

Chris and Joanne Early on this week we had a visit from Pumulani’s new management couple Chris and Joanne. They have been in Malawi for almost a month, getting ready for the grand opening in June. When a new lodge opens there is a lot of training and development of systems that needs to be in place before the actual guests arrive. Chris and Joanne came to spend a few days at Nkwali to gain experience in an RPS camp, see behind the scenes for some operational guidelines and have a little fun while they were here!

I took the opportunity for a quick chat with Chris and Joanne to see what Pumulani is like in the final run up before opening (and hopefully convince them that I should be a guinea pig in all the staff training!).  Both Chris and Joanne have been in the tourism industry for several years and have racked up lots of very handy experience in South Africa and Botswana. Their previous jobs have included everything from lodge management, reservations, to predator monitoring and game relocation. They had been offered several jobs throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, and we’re very excited that they chose Pumulani. One of the deal clinchers was the opportunity to work with Robin Pope Safaris in a new environment.

Chris and Joanne are very excited about the challenge of opening a brand new lodge … it’s already become their baby! Since they’ve spent a month on site, I asked them to give me an impression of what Pumulani is like (which you may not be able to see from the photos).

Villa at PumulaniFishing on the lake

The villas are scattered along the hillside and incorporated into the natural surroundings. The roofs are covered in grass so it’s difficult to see another villa from your private balcony. This gives you the feeling that you are the only person on the lake. All of the villas are unique and based on the sails of a dhow with few straight walls. As Pumulani is in a National Park World Heritage Site the gardens have been kept in their natural state.

We were joking that the pied kingfisher should be included in the Pumulani logo – they are always around and busy fishing. The fish eagle is a ubiquitous presence – their calls accompany you from the time you wake up to bed time. Joanne has been enjoying the great diversity of birds and has been exploring the hillsides developing a bird list for the rooms.

Pied KingffisherKayaking

Amongst all the different activities available at Lake Malawi, Chris and Joanne have enjoyed kayaking the most. They can be found bobbing along at the end of almost every work day. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake about 3-4 m below and watch all the beautiful freshwater fish (in case you didn’t want to get too wet snorkeling). They’re planning to have an all day snorkeling trip to the Aquarium for the guests. This is a wonderful snorkeling spot just off Thumbi Island, a short boat trip away and I’m sure you can guess why it’s called the Aquarium!

There have been a lot of chances for Chris and Joanne to get to know the local population – many of whom will make up the staff at Pumulani. They both agree that it is no exaggeration to call Malawi the friendliest nation in Africa. A senior police officer personally greeted them on arrival (which has never happened in any other international airport!). While having the privilege of living and working in such an amazing locale they are keen to start some community projects. While these take time to find out exactly what is needed (and wanted!), they have ideas ranging from Health Clinics targeted at children under 5 to sponsoring students and assisting the local schools. We’ll keep you posted once their research is complete.

FishSmiling Malawians

Their visit to South Luangwa wasn’t all work and no play – we did let them get out on a game drive or two! And the Luangwa big four were out on show – they saw lion, elephant, buffalo and a leopard with cubs. Emily and I were debating whether we can add Robin as the fifth to make up the Luangwa Big Five (as a unique person, he is rather endangered).

Speaking of Robin, he is now back in the valley and is busy catching up with everything that was going on in his absence. Here’s a short story from the man himself:

On my resupply mission to Nsefu and Tena by boat on Thursday I had some interesting sightings. The first was my first confirmed Giant Kingfisher nest in the river bank with the adults in attendance. I was able to gently nose the boat into the bank close by and sit and watch. The female made repeated flights away from the nest and directly back into the hole. The hole in the bank was reasonably large and one can see tramlines which the feet have made at the entrance. The difference in coloration of the birds is quite distinct although the picture not very sharp. I shall have to sign up to a Dave Rogers photo safari.

Giant  kingfishersGiant kingfisher nest

The other interesting observation was of a number of dugout canoes drawn up on one of the tributaries. They are all quite genuine and operational, although the one on the left’s automatic bailer has not been functioning very well. A young crocodile had taken up residence in this canoe as it provided a most suitable swimming pool with good sunbathing possibilities on the side.

Dugout canoesCattle egrets in formation

On the return voyage the little boat was “skipping along” – planing fast but perfectly trimmed almost on an air bubble.  One of the staff in the front pointed back over my shoulder and about three arms lengths away were three cattle egrets in formation behind the boat. They continued beside the boat for close to four hundred yards before lifting away. Whilst enjoying the magic of the moment and, quite unlike me, I remembered my camera and managed two swift one handed shots.Some hunting clans believe that egrets are a good omen.

Thanks Robin! I for one can’t wait for Pumulani to open (my offer of guinea pig hasn’t been taken too seriously) and wish Chris and Joanne lots of fun and success!

Enjoy Easter Monday.
Cheers

Fiona

Water skiiing at Pumulani

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