It’s Monday 25th March 2013 and a trip down the Shire River!

Hope the weekend went well and you are ready for the week ahead. This week we will hear from an old friend of RPS, David Marsh who visited Mkulumadzi Lodge for the first time. Over to you David

“No-one had prepared me for the stunning views from the escarpment as you look over the Shire River valley on the road from Blantyre to Majete Game Reserve.  Sam had met me at the airport, and I was on my way to spend a few days at Mkulumadzi.  I also didn’t quite know what to expect when we got there, having read about the drama with the bridge a few days before.  I needn’t have worried, the bridge was in full working order and also provides a stunning approach to the lodge.

Approach to the lodge, crossing the Mkulumadzi River.Shire River view from the lodge

 

 

 

 

On the first day there was a very dark storm to the north for most of the afternoon.  The rain didn’t reach us from the sky, but within hours the two rivers, the Mkulumadzi and the Shire, had each risen about two metres, and the crocs that slept on the bank opposite the lodge had to find an alternative resting place.  A day later, the waters had past, and the river levels were down again.

Managing the water levels at this time of the year is obviously a challenge.  We went out for a boat ride on the lake formed above the down-stream hydro-electric dam, only to find that the water level was below the rocks, because the dam gates had been lowered so as to clean the sluices of all the debris that gets washed down.  But the water was rising, and only an hour later we were out for our sunset cruise. Much excitement for Sam and Samuel because we saw about eight rock pratincoles at one time.  I’m told these birds are rare in Majete, and rarer still to see so many.  True or not, it makes you feel like a privileged spectator.  While waiting for the water to rise we watched an osprey, protected in the UK and very hard to see, but here, clearly visible, fishing and eating its catch at the top of a tall pole.

More Rock Pratincolesindex_clip_image004

 

 

 

 

I love watching birds, but can never identify them from one day to the next, and certainly not from one safari to another.  However, I’m pretty sure that the pygmy kingfisher we saw on our first outing, even before we got to the bridge, was a first for me.   Also unusual were the eight eagle owls we saw on a single night drive, all in the space of a few kilometres.

Boehm’s Bee-eater are another rare bird, which I first saw in a single thicket of trees in Southern Tanzania.  Here in Majete they seemed to be everywhere, and one afternoon a large feeding party was active outside my room, perching in the sunshine and swooping out to catch the insects.  Also common is the Palm-nut vulture.  With its white plumage and black wings it’s really far too beautiful to be called a vulture.

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Despite being a wonderful place for birds, people come to Majete hoping to see mammals, and especially the big five, all recently restored to the reserve by African Parks.  Nyala and sable were first for me.  We found very fresh evidence of black rhino in a couple of places, but no luck with a sighting.  Elephants were also much in evidence, and we finally found a very relaxed family group.  The three Majete lions, two males and a (lucky?) female were also nearby.  The other car (isn’t it always the other car) saw them briefly by daylight near a hide, but despite doing lots of bird watching while waiting in the same hide, we missed them because they must have been sleeping just out of sight.  However, that evening persistence paid off and we found them.

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Best photos came from two hippos; a young male testing his strength with a wiser old male.  Lots of great open mouth shots and no-one need know that there was little aggression involved this time.

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One last thing to say, apart from the stunning chalets, is that the food was fantastic, and the staff were always friendly and helpful – just like the other RPS properties I’ve been lucky enough to visit.  So it was with sadness we climbed back up the escarpment ready for the onward journey.

Thanks for sharing that with us David, some great pictures! Well thats it for now! Have a great week.

emily

 

 

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