AfricIan

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  1. Many thanks for the Goshawk confirmation @inyathi, I’m pleased I managed to get the ID so close. I’ve never considered myself a birder (& still don’t) but armed with my copy of Newman’s I’m definitely getting better. I think the only time we’ve seen Nyala before this trip was in Hluhluwe/Umfolozi so it was great to get reacquainted. As you and @Caracal say they are very attractive animals – my favourite is the adolescent male, that partway coloration is particularly attractive. I'm also pleased you've enjoyed the non-wildlife aspects of the trip, I did wonder how much to include but decided that as safari is the Swahili word for journey then it was reasonable to cover the whole.
  2. Thanks to all for your likes and especially to @TonyQ, @Atravelynn, @douglaswise, @Towlersonsafari & @Alexander33 for your comments, hopefully I'll be able to relive some of this trip by reading the accounts of your own trips to Malawi in the future . Malawi, as you've seen, is a very varied & picturesque country and African Parks are doing a great job in building up its national parks so I don't think it should be thought of as a beach add-on to a safari in Zambia any more, it can definitely stand on its own now. We packed a lot into our fortnight but because distances are relatively small we never felt there was too much travelling. Although we had Eric driving us, if you discount getting stuck on Zomba then there wasn't any part of the trip that couldn't be done as a self-drive - indeed from Mumbo to Liwonde to Zomba to Majete our track was mirrored by a couple of French travel agents who were "route recceing" in a standard Toyota Corolla saloon (though they went up Zomba with a guide in his vehicle not the Toyota!).
  3. This morning it was time to stretch our legs again and our amble took us past the airstrip where preparations were well advanced for the elephant capture team who were due in about 3 weeks time. As is normal, the wildlife sees you well before you see them and most sightings are of a rapidly departing rear-end but this eland & waterbuck at least gave us the courtesy of a look The main gate to the park has a “visitor centre” with a small swimming pool & restaurant for day visitors and Thawale are quite happy to run you down there & come to pick you up so son daughter & I took the opportunity for a bit of a splash round – they’ll even put drinks etc on your Thawale tab. I didn’t take my camera with me (basic error #15!) so I missed out on photographing the little birds that were flying down & “belly flopping” into the water before flying off again. For the afternoon activity we opted for the boat again, reasoning that the guest who was with us on our first day had said he'd had some good sightings then we might be as lucky. It was still relatively quiet (apart from the noise of the outboard!) but we did see this raptor which from its colouration and orange/red beak & legs is a Goshawk, probably a Gabar or Dark Chanting. Plus Egyptian geese, Kudu pair, adolescent Nyala and what I’m sure Jimmy said was a Juvenile Palm-nut Vulture Finishing with a Warthog playing chase the egret Although the lodge waterhole is floodlit, all the power is turned off at ~10/11pm so we don’t really know what was occurring right outside our tent at about 2am – there was lion roaring, elephant trumpeting, baboon barking + lots of other noises so it was with a little trepidation we headed over to the lodge just as dawn was breaking, only to discover said noises were right outside daughter & son’s tent and also right outside tents 4 & 5!! - we can’t all have all been right and is a clear demonstration of how well sound carries at night. Anyway, Jimmy thought he knew where the lions might be so, on the last morning of our trip, we headed off to the west and sure enough we soon came across some tracks walking down the road in the same direction we were and very soon after, a tantalising glimpse. When African Parks reintroduced lions into Majete in 2012, they brought in two male and two female lions from South Africa. Sadly one of the females died during the flight, but the other three lions flourished with a litter of cubs being born in 2013 and another litter just last year. The original two males are still calling the shots although, as Jimmy explained, one was much less “vehicle friendly” and despite us staying well back, he soon moved off the road into the bush where he was clearly much more in his comfort zone. Both lions were calling regularly and Jimmy thought they were trying to locate one of the females that had moved away from the pride to have her cubs. The other male was quite happy with our presence behind, even pausing for a bit of a sit-down. As we hung back, the second male came back out of the bush to join his “bro” and they continued to pad off down the road, eventually heading into the bush Our drive continued with many of the "usual suspects" Adolescent Nyala Although it's a bit harsh to class a Sable as a "usual suspect" Bushbuck Sparing Impala - you could tell it wasn't serious because they kept stopping to look round! Kudu Whilst over breakfast an Eland came down to the waterhole for a drink so ended our time in Majete and indeed Malawi as we started the long drag back home. Blantyre airport is less than 2 hrs away from Majete, where we said farewell & thank you to Eric and reflected on what had, for us, been a different sort of Safari. Thanks for staying with me, I've enjoyed reliving (most of) the trip with you all. I can now get back to catching up on what everyone else has been upto!
  4. It's 7 years ago now (don't the years just fly by!) since we stayed at Porini Amboseli & Porini Lion in the Mara but I don't recognise the Porini camps are really rather basic statement. unless your rep was talking about their bush camps which I understand are much simpler - though we've not stopped in any. As regards their "main camps, OK there aren't gold plated taps on the sunken bath (actually there isn't a bath at all) but there were flush loos, plenty of hot water in the very efficient bucket showers, the tents were spacious, beds were very comfortable (complete with hot-water bottle!) and the food was fine - in short, everything you need without going overboard on the luxuries. Our guides were great, including at Amboseli, coming round during our after-lunch rest time to see if we wanted to go & see a couple of cheetah that had just been spotted & we saw lots (have a look at my older archived photographs). Unless standards have dropped dramatically I'd be more than happy to stop there again.
  5. Stepping back to the missing image at the end of post #20 for a moment, it's still not displaying for me at home but does display on my PC at work (during my lunchtime ). Both systems are PC, Windows 10 & Chrome - even more bizarre! Anyway, today is another day and this mornings mission was to head east & north, following the river upstream on a hunt for some cats that Jimmy thought were in that area. Passing this nice male Nyala en-route It didn’t take too long before Jimmy picked up some tracks but their makers weren’t proving very co-operative with the tracks heading one way then another then back again. I think we’d gone round one particular loop about 4 times before Jimmy asked if we’d had enough. We’re not quitters though so round we went again and just as we were rejoining the main track totally confused by the tracks, a cacophony of baboon alarm calls revealed that we weren’t alone: Persistence pays off, mission accomplished! Back at the lodge, the buffalo herd decided it was time for a breakfast drink at the waterhole Thawale’s “standard” offering is out early, returning 8:30/9:00 ish for breakfast then going out again from ~4pm and although I’d initially thought only two “activities” a day was a bit on the light side, there was plenty to see during the day as there was a pretty constant stream of visitors to the waterhole although a waterbuck decided the bird bath was a safer option!. Does anyone know what causes the blue metallic sheen on the tusk? Female Nyala The animals seemed quite happy walking through the camp, typified by this Nyala my son spotted walking between their tent & ours. Whilst away from the camp: Bohm’s Bee-eater And after dark we ended the day with what I think is a Spotted Eagle Owl and a serval (again, I think) with her kitten They both look more interested in what was happening behind us!
  6. Next morning there was time to check out the locals before a trip into Zomba town for visit to the fabrics shop & the crafts market. Souvenirs and enough fabric to clothe a large village duly purchased it was time to hit the road once more, stopping just after Blantyre for this view over the Lower Shire valley – Majete is at/just off the right hand side of the photo, the bright green areas across the centre ground are sugar cane. Our base for Majete was Thawale Lodge – a nice camp set round a floodlit waterhole. Accommodation is in these large "safari" tents, set on concrete plinths with porch out front (ideal for just sitting and reading/watching the activities at the waterhole) and a brick en-suite behind. (Photo courtesy of son's iPhone which doesn't do shooting into the sun too well) . There is a fairly constant supply of animals coming to drink at the waterhole just in front of the lodge & tents and even as we were discussing our options for later in the day we had visits from Sable and both female & male Nyala before we headed out with guide Jimmy for a boat trip. In truth, boat trips in Majete are not as good as Liwonde, mainly due to the speed of the river meaning the engine is working hard against the flow so it's not a peaceful trip and the wildlife gets plenty of notice of your arrival. This evening was particularly quiet with only this Waterbuck catching the eye. A fellow guest who accompanied us on the boat said they'd had much more to see the previous evening but "that's the way the cookie crumbles" sometimes and tomorrow is another day....
  7. Many thanks all, I’m pleased you’re enjoying our wander round central/southern Malawi. @Zim Girl , @Atravelynn – I was aware that Sable could be found in Liwonde & Majete and it was a real bonus to have seen them when they weren’t either disappearing at a great rate of knots or just getting a glimpse of them hiding in an impenetrable forest. As @inyathi mentioned, Nkhotakota used to have lots of Sable and African Parks have indeed translocated some from Liwonde & Majete this year. Obviously our “difficulties” at the start of the trip meant we didn’t see as much of Nkhotakota as we’d hoped but it’s a very picturesque part & African Parks are doing a great job of building it up again. I hope there are plans for more cheetah to be translocated, assumin this guinea pig continues to do well. - they actually moved 5 from various parks in South Africa but unfortunately one died. The others were due to be released pretty much as we were leaving Liwonde. I’m not at all sure what’s gone wrong with the last photo in post #20 – when I clicked on it, it jumped me to the Flickr album as expected but then that blanked out as well but if you click on it in the Flickr album then it zoomed as normal. I replaced the image in the Flickr album & all seemed OK and now if I click the photo outline in the ST post then it jumps to Flickr and displays – Quite bizarre! Thanks @TonyQ , @Towlersonsafari, @optig – It is indeed a beautiful country – the only thing we’ve missed out on are the rhino & big cats but keep reading…… Finally, a big thank you @inyathi for all the bird Ids, especially the White-backed Night Heron – I don’t think I’d have got that in a million years! Whilst the beak is typically fish-eater, I’d ruled out heron as they have long necks & legs don’t they? I hadn’t considered it might be hunched-up/crouching down to avoid being seen. I would also concur with your thoughts it is a great place to go if you are looking to go somewhere a bit different. Also, because it’s a relatively compact country it’s a good place to go if you are, time limited as it doesn’t take too long to travel between places unless you want to visit both north & south. Coincidentally, a former colleague was there in April, primarily so his wife could visit where her father & mother met/got married. They took in Nyika and also had a fire in the evening (even in April). It was their first visit to “safari” Africa but I got the feeling it might well not be their last!
  8. Thanks all, for our last morning we were back into the Rhino sanctuary where once again no one seemed to be willing to come out into clear sight! I think this is a Banded Snake Eagle Once again, the Rhino proved elusive but it was now time to make the short trip back across the river African Darter where Eric was waiting to take us over to Zomba and the Zomba Forest Lodge. To-date, we’d had the expected warm (as far as we were concerned!) dry weather but the Zomba plateau has is own microclimate and this was the vista from the porch when we arrived! Zomba Forest Lodge is a simple place with no electricity but very comfortable and the gardens & surrounding woods cry out to be explored, even in the mist/drizzle/rain. Tom & Petal's hospitality is superb and once it got dark it was home-from-home sitting & chatting round the fire (yes really) with a nice glass (or two) of red. Hopefully the sun will return tomorrow! Next day did dawn much improved although the cloud base was still very low – it was rain free however, enabling me to wander round the garden. Our plan was to head up onto the plateau and walk some of the trails but the previous days rains meant this is as far as our vehicle made it, a Land Rover it is not! We weren’t too far from where Eric was going to park up so he walked up to the junction with the path to the top of the hill & sent us on our way whilst he set off to find help to extract the vehicle. Although we’d taken waterproofs they weren’t needed & the views improved as we headed upwards The lodge had done a packed lunch for us, which we’d left in the vehicle so, getting peckish, we headed back down - where this guy had come from or where he was going to I’ve no idea, we couldn’t see any sign of a path or trail and he must have crossed our track at some point. When we got back to the vehicle it hadn’t moved but Eric had indeed found help and insisted that they didn’t need any help from us & we should just make ourselves comfortable & eat our lunch. Yes, that is a person behind the back wheel! We weren’t going to sit eating our lunch watching them get even muddier than they already were so took our lunch and headed back up the track to where we could sit and it wasn’t long after we finished when the sound of an engine told us that some progress had indeed been made. Looking at the state of the track afterwards, it was clear that attempting to go up wasn’t a sensible option so after thanking our impromptu road crew, we about turned & spent the rest of the afternoon taking in the views once described as the best in the British Empire & waterfalls. Then it was back to the Lodge, the fireside, good food, conversation & a nice red wine,
  9. Our early morning activity today was a walk and it was nice to stretch our legs although I managed to stretch one a bit too much climbing out of Dr. Livingstone’s Tree – an old baobab that had been partially killed by a strangler fig, leaving a cavity inside big enough for 3-4 people! The strangler fig post-dates Livingstone but legend has it that he camped under the baobab whilst working his way up the Shire in his quest to find the source of the Nile. This might be a Harrier Hawk but equally, could be a juvenile of any number of other raptors and we also came across this Kudu horn, not from the one we’d seen yesterday but clearly had been lost not that long ago - I was amazed at how heavy it was. After breakfast it was out on the boat, with lots of ele interaction, Malachite & Grey-headed Kingfisher, marauding Water Monitor, Hippo and a number of birds I’m not certain of (or haven’t a clue!) ID anyone? And this one? White-breasted Cormorant, Open-billed Stork, Reed Cormorant? We were joined by a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows – I thought they were just hitching a ride but in fact they were nest building under the roof of the boat so were pretty chilled characters! We’d seen a large group of ele’s earlier but they now looked to be heading to the river so when Sanuel asked if we wanted to head back to camp or go over to the elephants there was unanimous agreement (& it wasn’t to go to camp!) Do elephants play “blow egret”? Back at our chalet, this Cardinal Woodpecker (?) was disturbing the early afternoon peace & quiet. I’d been chatting to Samuel about the Elephant translocation & the introduction of Cheetah into the park & I’d said I was surprised about the Cheetah as the environment didn’t seem particularly suited - as you’ll have seen from the photographs, all around Mvuu being quite heavily wooded. Samuel explained that the southern part of the park is much more open & in African Parks opinion, almost ideally suited to them. He also said that one animal had been released and was “doing well” but although radio-collared, the details weren’t being made available to the guides. That’s understandable but when I said we’d quite like to go and look Samuel was all in favour and as our companions from the Lodge had now come to the end of their stay it was going to be just us in the back of the Landy. Before we left though we were witness to a snatch & grab at tea – Patrick, our waiter, had noticed that Vicky had always scraped the cream etc off her deserts & cake and had bought out a plate of 3 date balls for her instead. Having taken one, she then made the classic mistake of putting the plate down only for a flash of browns to leap onto the table, grab the two remaining balls & head into the tree where it just sat there, date ball in each “hand” trying to figure out which one to eat first! It’s a long old drive down to the cheetah release area and although we could see the pre-release boma through the trees, of the cheetah itself there wasn’t a sign but then it was always going to be a long shot – the odds on finding 1 animal in ~50 sq.km of park aren’t good but if you don’t try…. Again, I’m not sure of this raptor But we were rewarded with another great sundowner sunset and a Rock Python & rapidly departing Porcupine on the way back And the end of another very enjoyable day.
  10. Thanks all & sorry this instalment has taken so long in coming. Thanks @Treepol for your comments, the range of things to see and do was one of the main drivers behind choosing Malawi for this trip. Put me in a Land Rover/Cruiser in a game reserve & I’m happy for days but we wanted “something for everyone” and the itinerary fitted that remit. So, Liwonde. As an international rate guest in Mvuu Camp you get 3 activities per day, first thing in the morning for a couple of hours, back ~8am for breakfast then out again ~9:30 until ~midday, then lunch, rest-up then out again ~4 with dinner ~8:30pm. There are, of course, biscuits with your early morning tea/coffee, cakes with your afternoon tea/coffee & nibbles with your sundowners, starve you most definitely do not! For your activities you can game drive, walk or boat according to your wishes and for today we opted for 3 game drives, the early morning one going into the Rhino sanctuary. Samuel is really hot on the birdlife in Liwonde but unfortunately I'm not very diligent in writing things down so I hope these are Grey-headed Parrots: which were closely followed by this Verreaux's Eagle Owl. The pink eyelids are a real giveaway but it looks very fluffy so I’m thinking a juvenile This old Dagga boy was waiting for us at one of the waterholes and it’s always said if you wait at a waterhole something will turn up Then the buffalo herd arrived but once they spotted us, they stopped behind the treeline. A gap in the trees was just big enough to spot this Sable and as I continued to pan round he appeared on the other side of the thicket. I'd just managed to work out that he looked a bit different when all was revealed and the majesty of those horns was revealed as they headed back into the trees Later, a female Kudu Then, like busses, no sooner do you see your first Bohm’s Bee-eater then two of them turn up!! Down by the river the Waterbuck relax & the Elephants play This male Kudu has clearly been in a bit of a tussle The afternoon yielded more Kudu, elephant and Warthog plus this raptor which I think is some sort of Hawk Eagle but can’t be any more precise than that. Whilst another stunning sunset ended a pretty good day - although we didn't catch a glimpse of a Rhino, there was plenty else to keep us happy
  11. Thanks @Alexander33 & yes, Malawi is a very picturesque country and very varied, more of which later as our "tour" continues. Thanks also to everyone for their Likes The morning boat from Mumbo took us back to the mainland and Eric for the short run down to Liwonde where we were staying at Mvuu Camp. Both Mvuu (Hippo) Camp and it’s neighbouring (& more upmarket) Lodge are on the banks of the wide and tranquil Shire river, our road route taking us to the far bank & a short boat ride across. “Camp” is a bit of a misnomer as the accommodation is in comfortable stonewalled chalets with front porch and en-suite at the back (whereas the Lodge accommodation is in tents). The camp is relatively large but the chalets are well spaced and the number of fellow guests is only really apparent at mealtimes. We arrived in time for slightly late lunch and introduction to Samuel who was to be our guide for the whole of our stay. Over lunch Samuel has asked if we were OK with a couple of other guests, who were staying at the Lodge, joining us and suggested heading out on the boat for our first activity. With that sorted, we settled into our chalets Before heading out onto the river, passing this example of poor dental hygiene And a couple of eles peacefully grazing This Grey-headed Kingfisher was unusually close to the water and Samuel wondered if it had a nest nearby, it certainly wasn’t disturbed by our presence Or the patrolling Water Monitor I tried to get this Grey Heron “standing” on the crocs back but couldn’t quite get the angle! Then as the light turned “golden” a Waterbuck posed In an earlier post I said I’d probably be asking for bird ID’s but I’m pretty confident with these as: 1) Hadeda Ibis, 2) African Wattled Lapwing (with Giant & Cattle Egrets in the background) 3) Giant Kingfisher Before, as the early Hippo started leaving the water, we settled back to enjoy our sundowners Apologies for today's short chapter, hopefully I'll get a bit more time soon!
  12. Thanks @ForWildlife, that's good enough for me, adult male boomslang it was then.
  13. Thanks for your comments @Travelynn & to @ForWildlife for thoughts on the snake ID. Without a picture it’s not going to be easy - we were able to find images of both mamba & boomslang that show the right sort of bright green colouration without any dark markings that fit with what he saw (for about 10 seconds!) although he doesn’t remember any yellowish underbelly either so does that rule out the boomslang? Geographical distribution notwithstanding, I don’t suppose we’ll ever know now. Mumbo Mumbo is a “deserted” island about 7km off Cape McClear at the southern end of Lake Malawi and our arrival took us, unknowingly at the time, past what was to be our home for the next 3 nights. It really is an idyllic place - I’m not one for lazing on the beach, even with a good selection of reading material on the Kindle (other e-readers are available) but Mumbo caters for all. The food was excellent with mealtimes being announced by the “croaking” of a large hollow wooden frog! If you wanted to crash out on the loungers then fine but swimming in the (certificated Bilharzia free) bay was great even in the early winter time we were there. Son & I spent a lot of time snorkelling amongst the plentiful & colourful Malawi cichlids and also kayaking round the two bays near the camp. It’s about a 45 minute paddle right round the island or, for the really intrepid, it’s possible to kayak out to & back from the mainland. There are also a number of easy to follow walking trails over & round the island. There isn’t much in the way of “land” wildlife but there are a few quite reasonable sized Water Monitor Lizards and lots of little Rainbow Skinks running about It was quite breezy at our “hut” first thing but by late morning the wind had dropped to nothing & the lake was as flat as the proverbial mill-pond and a lot clearer than any mill-pond I’ve seen. The sunset boat trips round the island were really magical and took us past the haunts of pied kingfisher and 3 pairs of fish eagle. Whilst back on our deck each morning there was always someone looking to help clean up the pre-breakfast cookie crumbs Can you tell we really liked Mumbo , now on to Liwonde.
  14. Nkhotakota 2 Our original thinking for our full day was to take a vehicle upstream and then walk back to the lodge but the loss of that day meant that wasn’t going to be possible so with Andrew and guide Zuma we took a shorter walk upstream. I’ll probably be asking for lots of bird ID help later but I can recognise a Hammerkop when I see one! Before reaching the cascades where we had some fascinating tales from both Andrew & Zuma of their “previous lives” as villagers, poachers and, in Andrews case, “poacher turned gamekeeper”. And of course the obligatory team photo! The river isn’t quite as benign and pleasant as it looks however Back at our tent, this youngster is one of the first to have been born to the translocated elephants Meanwhile “over in the other tent”, a long thin green snake poked its head out from under the shower decking just as son was about to freshen up after our walk. Treating it with due caution he backed off and said snake shot up into the trees & disappeared. No pictures but a look through the snake book over lunch revealed it was almost certainly a green mamba – definitely not to be messed with! So, whilst we didn’t get much chance to get out away from the lodge and we didn’t see much of the other translocated wildlife, it was well worth heading back to Nkhotakota, it’s still an unspoilt wilderness and somewhere to get out on foot in. After things settle down following this years translocation programme then there should also be a lot more of the bigger animals to see. We had a night at the Livingstonia Hotel in Selima next and there isn’t really a lot to report, although the children had a huge double roomed “suite”, Vicky & I had to make do with a bit of a “cupboard with a bed in it”. It is on a nice beach & the food was OK rather than anything special - although everyone was friendly enough it gave the impression of struggling to maintain the colonial era grandeur it undoubtedly once had. We weren’t too sad to hit the road again the next morning and continue the game of “spot the widest load” we’d started the previous afternoon: The winner! A short detour off the main road took us to the Mua Mission and museum – A fascinating presentation of the cultures of the Chewa, Ngoni and Yao peoples including a display of masks and other cultural artefacts. There is also a fine art & sculpture showroom & I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this rather bizarre carving. Then it was back on the road to the southern end of the lake and our rather laid back boat ride out to Mumbo Island.
  15. NKhotakota There are a few pre-translocation elephants left in the park and one, that is often seen around the Bua River Lodge, has been the named Alfala – it wasn’t long before he put in an appearance. Bua River Lodge is a very nice place. The tents are spacious with great views out over the river, beds are comfortable and the open shower works well once you master the art of setting the rather coarse controls. The staff are all very friendly, we always had plenty of good food to eat with meals being served on the main deck overlooking the river. Our tents were accessed via a “one-person-at-a-time” rope suspension bridge (that Vicky just loved ) over to the “Island” and are rather remote from the main lodge but each tent gets a walkie-talkie radio to contact other tents or the main lodge and you are escorted to and fro once it gets dark. The “Island” tents have some great views up & down the river, which was still running well By this stage it was lunchtime so we headed back to the main lodge, lunch taking slightly longer than anticipated whilst Alfala checked out the kitchen! Any thoughts we had of going back to our tents were knocked on the head as some of the new translocated elephants turned up and a couple of bushbuck seemed very interested in something, before Alfala decided to check-out the main entrance whilst down at the river there was more elephant action Finally, a “grand finale” from Alfala. He's got a much shortened trunk, couresy of a snare in the "bad-old-days" but it doesn't appear to hinder him that much: Alfala in action He and the other elephants then moved upstream a bit and the timestanp on my camera told us it was ~4:30 – where had the afternoon gone! There wasn’t time for much else but as we had Park Ranger Andrew with us we headed out for a short stroll downstream and enjoyed our sundowners sitting on the rocks by the river. Things are looking up

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