It’s Monday 7th June 2010 and some news from Majete

After months of planning and working through the necessary protocol things are starting to happen on our lodge site in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi.

Finally we can start to transform the image from our heads, which has undergone much tweaking and perfecting, to something tangible on the ground.

The building team has been on site for two months now and after much initial briefing about the dangers of crocodile and hippo in the river and elephant and buffalo lurking on the banks, construction is underway.

Elephants, Majete, MalawiElephants, Majete Game Reserve, Malawi

The lodge will consist of eight spacious individual chalets, each with a lounge area, bedroom, bathroom and private deck onto the riverbank. The main lodge will be an open fronted space maximizing the beautiful river views and taking advantage of some cool shade on the forested banks. Then there are the working parts, tactically hidden and set away from the lodge, consisting of stores, offices and staff accommodation. The whole operation is to be powered by solar energy with a back up generator for the power greedy cold rooms and tumble dryers.

There’s no doubt that the lodge promises to be magnificent and unique, but it’s the site itself, set on the banks of the middle Shire River, which is truly mind-blowing.

The location is on a remote triangle formed by the confluence of the Shire and Mkulumadzi Rivers a few kilometers upstream from where the Shire plunges dramatically through the Kapichira Falls. You could hardly get more idyllic; the riverbanks are heavily shaded by giant leadwoods, marulas, star chestnuts and wild mangos. The individual chalets and main lodge building will be blended into this riverine forest, each with a private view onto the turbulent Shire which, thanks to its pristine beauty and sheer volume of water, dominates the setting.

From a builders perspective you could call this job a logistical nightmare. Choosing a remote site which is accessed by a long bush track and materials are carried by hand and head through a river is bewildering to most of the team who suggested numerous less challenging and less spectacular places to build a lodge before realizing that their complaints fell on deaf ears.

Robin Pope Safaris have secured 7000ha of private concession within the 70,000 ha Majete reserve. This exclusive use area is bisected by the Shire and Mkulumadzi Rivers and holds the highest density of mammals and birds in the park.

The endless expanse of woodland is an impressive sight when looking over the treetops from atop one of the granite outcrops and when on foot one gets the effect of being in a living cathedral with pillar like tree trunks supporting the towering canopy in the patches of more mature woodland.

This atmospheric parkland is inhabited by large numbers of elephant and herds of buffalo rest in the deep shade, pointing shiny wet noses at you as the vehicle passes them by.

Buffalo, Majete Game Reserve, Malawi

In the more open Terminalia and Combretum woodlands sightings of eland, sable antelope and Lichtensteins hartebeest are not uncommon. Black rhino are more elusive and usually require a little luck or a lot of patience before being rewarded with a sighting.

Africa’s northernmost population of Nyala pick their way through the thickets fringing the waterways. These antelope are quite relaxed in the presence of vehicles and the handsome males are especially photogenic whilst performing an exaggerated strutting display that establishes hierarchy.

Zebra, Majete Game Reserve, Malawi

The reserve boasts several special bird species, including a breeding population of Rock Pratincole which inhabits rocky islands in the Shire River.

A few miombo woodland specials such as Arnotts’ chat, White-breasted Cuckooshrike and Racket-tailed Rollers can be spotted and Pels Fishing Owl inhabit the riparian forest of the Shire and Mkulumadzi systems.

The wildlife experience promises to be very rewarding as well as being unique enough to earn Majete that rare tag of being somewhere ‘different’.

Majete is a conservation success story, mostly due to the efforts of the dynamic African Parks Network. African Parks is a not for profit organization specialising in the management and rehabilitation of National Parks, Game Reserves and other important conservation areas in Africa. More on the Majete story and other parks under their management can be found at www.african-parks.org

We will leave you with a photo of ‘Buzz’ our pet bushbaby and self-appointed site foreman (night shift). He generally makes a nuisance of himself by chewing up architects drawings and stealing anything small enough to drag into his nest box!

Expect further updates on our progress later this year, until then……….

Mark and Jenna

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