What made Malawi memorable for me (Luxury Travel Review)

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Elephants were a common sight at Mkulumadzi

Mkulumadzi, the sole property in Majete Game Reserve, the recently reborn only Big Five game park in Malawi on the Lower Shire River; and Pumulani, on the western side of the Nankumba Peninsula at the edge of the Lake Malawi National Park, were sister properties designed for Robin Pope Safaris by G. Hooft Graafland, a Dutch architect. These innovative world class luxury lodges sat gently upon the land, each guest accommodation custom designed to fit into the topographic elements of its environment, and covered with a roof of endemic vegetation to help offset its own carbon footprint and regulate inside temperatures.

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Samuel Chihana pours a sundowner drinks for us

While the properties had their distinct character best adapted to their purpose, both were decorated in an elegantly understated contemporary style that offered optimum comfort without ever distracting from their breathtaking surroundings. Each had its own trademark feature. At Mkulumadzi, the wilderness lodge, it was the impressively engineered 88 meter (290 foot) suspension foot bridge that led across the river to the property’s entrance. It never failed to deliver new game viewing opportunities and make me feel like an explorer of a bygone era.

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The traditional dhow sailed around the lake

At Pumulani, the lakeside beach lodge, the unique feature was the authentic, hand built wooden dhow with a triangular sail, reminiscent of the days when Arab traders plied the waters of the lake, always ready to take me on a breakfast or sunset cruise. And best of all, along with exceptional memories I took away the satisfaction to have experienced two properties in harmony with my responsible tourism ethos. But that was no surprise. On one of my early visits to Zambia many years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Robin and Jo, the founders of Robin Pope Safaris. It was a conversation that went a long way to opening my mind to the power of responsible tourism as a tool for sustainable development in Africa and beyond.

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The lodge was reached via a suspension footbridge over the Mkulumadzi River

These two premier properties, relatively recently opened in a country still in the early stages of development were an ideal opportunity to experience first hand the contribution that the presence of my fellow tourists and I were making to the protection of previously at risk wilderness areas, while helping to alleviate poverty through good local employment practices, and the involvement of the local communities. I was delighted to hear that Pumulani was recognized as Malawi’s leading hotel at the 2011 and 2012 World Travel Awards.

 

Extract from What made Malawi memorable for me

Luxury Travel Review

12th May 2014

 

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