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Found 25 results

  1. I have discovered when going through my photographs from Majete that my guide was not quite as good at bird identification as he would have had me believe. I have found several of the bird IDs that he made to subsequently be incorrect. Most of them I have managed to correct but I have not managed to get this one yet.
  2. It’s fair to say that, by just about anyone’s standards, I travel a lot. Some of it is for work and some of it is for pleasure. Actually that is misleading. I love Africa and that is where my work takes me, so really all my travel is pretty much for pleasure. Over the years I have built up a list of the places I like to stay in half a dozen countries and these tend to be the places I go back to time after time. These are also the places that I recommend to my clients. I’m always on the lookout for new places though and it is exciting for me to visit places I’ve never been before. Especially if they turn out to be somewhere that I can add to my list. When my assignment in Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley finished a couple of days early I had some time on my hands and thought it might be worth taking a look at a new lodge on Lake Malawi. What with one thing and another, mostly the power outages that seem plague Lilongwe, I was delayed and would not be able to get to the lake in time for the shuttle boat to the island. I needed an alternative. A colleague recommended Kumbali Lake Retreat, a little eco lodge on the shore of Lake Malawi. It took me a couple of hours to drive from Lilongwe to Salima where I turned north for the last twenty kilometres or so to the lodge. I had no idea what to expect but Kumbali Lake Retreat was certainly not at all what I’d imagined. Kumbali Lake Retreat is built into the side of Lifuwu Hill and on the shore of Lake Malawi. There are 4 individually thatched chalets each with private bathroom facilities, private veranda overlooking the lake and double or twin beds. For some reason I was allocated the highest chalet, which necessitated a 5 minute hike, but the views were wonderful and there was a cooling breeze which meant that mosquitoes were not a worry. There’s a charming restaurant & bar where all meals are served and a small sandy beach. The staff were all friendly and efficient and the food was outstanding. Amazing considering the simplicity of the kitchen. It’s a place where relaxing comes naturally. The phone signal is patchy at best and there is no internet, so those distractions can be set aside for the duration of your stay. You won’t be bored though. There’s great hiking, kayaks for you to explore the lake and boat trips on the lake. As well as prolific bird life you might catch sight of the indigenous Samanga Monkey. This is my kind of place and I can’t wait to go back again. I don’t mind if it’s with friends or with clients, as long as it is soon.
  3. I had a really cool sighting during my recent visit to Majete NP in Malawi. I was tracking a Gymnogene (African Harrier Hawk) as it flew overhead when it came to rest in a palm tree. It hadn't landed though, it was raiding the nests of the African Palm Swifts hidden in the tree. I watched as it moved from one nest to another, hanging there while it stole the eggs before moving on to the next. I'm sure this is something that happens every day, but I'd never seen it before.
  4. I was very pleased to see a familiar face in one of this morning's papers amongst the winners of this year’s Tusk Conservation Awards, the winner of the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa 2017 is Rian Labuschagne, a very worthy winner of this lifetime achievement award. For six years from 2010 he was the Director of Zakouma National Park in Chad. The security plan that he put in place completely transformed the situation for the park’s elephants from a point where their numbers had dropped to under 450 and herds were so stressed that they were no longer breeding, to the situation now where their population is rising and has passed 500. Were it not Rian and Lorna and African Parks, Zakouma’s elephants (and much of its other wildlife) could have been lost and with them one of Africa’s great national parks. Last year they left Zakouma and returned to work for the Frankfurt Zoological Society in the Serengeti in Tanzania, where they had been based before moving to Chad. While in Tanzania Rian helped to improve the protection one of the country’s last black rhino populations the Ngorongoro Crater and prior to that he was instrumental in seeing black rhinos reintroduced to Malawi, to the rhino sanctuary established in Liwonde NP. I’ve no doubt that he could not have done so much for the conservation of Africa’s wildlife without the help of his wife Lorna, what they have together achieved is just extraordinary. While not everyone here on ST will have the good fortune to visit Zakouma, many will be able to visit (or already have visited) Ngorongoro and the Serengeti and should you be fortunate enough to see a black rhino when you're there, it will in part be thanks to Rian’s hard work. Tusk Conservation Awards - Rian Labuschagne Rian giving a bull elephant a drink in Zakouma Here are a couple more Tusk videos and if you go to YouTube you can find more videos on the other winners and finalists at this year’s awards.
  5. Reports To read the full article click here.
  6. Samuel Kamoto My name is Samuel C. Kamoto and I am the Extension and Environmental Education Coordinator for African Parks, Majete. I am responsible for community engagement in order to build a constituency for conservation for Majete Wildlife Reserve. My job responsibilities include but are not limited to: Increasing income of resource poor households through conservation related income generating activities. Promoting Environmental Education, raise general awareness and establish an in-depth understanding of opportunities which are created by sustainable management of natural resources outside and inside the reserve. Enhancing networking with other conservation groups and organizations undertaking extension and Environmental Education activities; Developing capacity of Education & Extension staff to enable better management, implementation and monitoring of the community Program. Mainstreaming cross cutting issues such as HIV, gender, human rights, climate change in the program in partnership with other NGOs. Contributing to raising literacy levels around Majete through the Majete scholarship program to orphans and vulnerable children. Mobilizing financial resources for Community Engagement program especially on IGAs. African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of National Parks, in partnership with governments and local communities. By adopting a business approach to conservation, supported by donor funding, African Parks aim to make each park sustainable in the long-term, thereby contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation. We currently manage seven parks in six countries - Malawi, Chad, Congo, DRC, Rwanda and Zambia - with a combined area of 4.1 million hectares. To find out more about Majete, visit the relevant African Parks website here - --------------------------- What is the name of your village/local community and what is your role within it? My name is Samuel Kamoto, from Majete Mathithi Camp which is the Park headquarters. My Role: I am the Community Extension and Education Coordinator, (prior to joining AP, I worked with the department of National Parks and Wildlife for 20 years in park management and Education positions. Worked in Majete while based at Lengwe National park in the early 1980s.) How are you personally involved with African Parks? I coordinate Extension and Education activities. Working with 19 Community based organisation, (CBO), purposely established around the reserve to act as conduits for information exchange between the park and communities who are our prime stakeholders in the management of the Park. CBOs are also a channnel through which we implement various interventions to respond a number of issues such as poverty, illiteracy, health etc. Historically, what did the Majete region mean to local communities? The Majete area was historically used for agriculture, fishing and hunting. It was also a source of building materials. Although the soils of Majete Game Reserve are very shallow and stony and appear unsuitable for cultivation and settlement, fragments of pottery are found all over the reserve. It is possible that in the past the soils were better, and the area was heavily settled. As a result of poor agricultural practices the soils became poor and the people moved away and abandoned the area. Hence, as wildlife was exterminated and pushed from other parts of the lower Shire valley by increasing human population, the Majete area acted as a reserve for many species. In particular the elephant, once common throughout the Shire Valley and giving the name “Elephant Marsh”, was then confined in the Majete area. It was to protect this remnant elephant population that the Nyasaland Fauna Preservation Society, (now Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi), pushed for Majete’s protection. Largely as a result of this pressure the area around Majete Hill was declared a non hunting area in 1951 and later in 1955, a 500 Km2 Game Reserve was proclaimed. Unfortunately this reserve took no account of the need for dry season water and so in 1969 the reserve was extended to 700 Km2 to include the perennial Mkulumadzi River, Shire River and the historical Kapichira Falls. Prior to the African Parks organisation's involvement, how did the local communities benefit from Majete as a resource? I.e., collection of wood for fires, use of wildlife as a protein source etc? Communities were collecting wood and thatch grass, hunting, logging, making charcoal and fishing though this was done illegally because Majete was still a reserve governed by the National Parks and Wildlife Act, despite it being poorly managed. It was this poor management and laxity in law enforcement that the local people took advantage of and they engaged in various illegal activities as mentioned above. Growing up within the Majete area, how do you remember Majete from the past and what stories can you recall your parents/grandparents telling you about it? Can you share some of their memories, for example what wildlife they remember, what it used to be like hunting for food etc? I remember Majete as a mass of rough, stony hills with poor Brachystegia, (Miombo), woodland with a number of small streams which were drying up in rainless months. The animals were obtaining their water requirements from a stretch of the Shire River which formed the north eastern boundary of Majete and also from a stretch of the Wankulumadzi River, (now known as Mkulumadzi). Water was also held in the “Miwawa’ waterhole in the Phwazi stream. Majete was then regarded as a very difficult place to be developed as a tourist attraction because of its rugged nature but was nevertheless a sanctuary worth preserving for a number of reasons: being large enough to contain elephants and rhinoceros. The reserve was regarded as utterly useless for either agriculture or forestry. I learnt from the elders that Majete was a home of then rare Nyasa Klipspringer, (Oreotragus aceratos), which was found nowhere in Malawi but Majete. Other species which I remember seeing during my visits to Majete in the early 1980s were elephant, eland, kudu, water buck, zebra, warthog, bush pig, lion, leopard and hippopotamus. I also heard stories of wild dogs being found in the area. How did African Parks first approach local communities surrounding Majete and what were your initial thoughts about a foreign organisation coming into the area? Setting up collaborative management structures, (sharing accountability and decision making), was the first step together with sensitization meeting about the new management and what it intended to do to rehabilitate the park as well as its plans for building support and trust from the local communities. The structures were as follows: 19 CBOs established around Majete Wildlife Reserve as conduits for community engagement. All CBOs have boards and report to the boards. Majete Wildlife Reserve Association is an umbrella body for the CBOs. Reports to Joint Liaison committee. Meets quarterly. Aimed at sharing experiences, knowledge and challenges and receive reports from African Parks Majete, (APM). Joint Liaison Committee, (JLC), a multi-stakeholder technical committee plays an advisory role to APM and assists with conflict resolution and management affecting communities. Meets quarterly. Annual stakeholders meeting - attended by technocrats, tour operators and journalists. (APM makes a presentation of achievements and issues and seek inputs from stakeholders.) The initial thoughts were that government had sold the reserve to foreigners to promote tourism for the benefit of government and its partners and not for the benefit of the local people. From the beginning,how have local communities been integrated into the conservation decision making process and management of Majete? Through the structures mentioned above which are functioning very well to date, When Majete was first fenced, how were local communities affected? How quickly was the decision to fence and protect, what traditionally had been "your" area, accepted by local people and how much opposition was there initially? The local communites knew very well that they were utilising the park illegally. They knew pretty well that they were taking advantage of a weak managment and therefore there wasn't much resistance. Those affected were the ones who were involved in illegal activities in the park. What compensation was offered and by who? No compensation was made. And now, how important is it that Majete is fenced, both for surrounding communities and the wildlife and ecosystem within? For the communities: no more crop raiding. For the park , the fence protects the animals from straying out of the park and cuts the risk of being killed by local communities. The fence also helps in ensuring that poachers find it difficult to enter and get out the park illegally. Yes, they can get into the park because some of the people who were involved in construction know well how the fence functions. For management again we have created a barrier that stops animals from free ranging and therefore Majete is not 100% pristine and hence the need for active managment. How apprehensive were your communities when large animal species were reintroduced to the reserve? In the past, had such animals been a danger to local people, (whether to lives, farming, livelyhood etc.) through human vs. wildlife conflict? And what was done to reassure local people that such incidents what not occur in future? Yes people were apprehensive. The fear of having elephants raiding crops, lions and leopard attacking livestock and eating people was expressed time and again during awareness meetings that were being held prior to reintroductions. Intensive awaress meetings were organised prior to all reintroductions to dispel the fears. People were also made aware of the effectivenss of the predator proof electric fence. With time people believed in the plan because when and if there has been isolated animal break aways they have been dealt with professionally before any loss is incured. What changes have you witnessed to both the reserve itself and surrounding areas since African Parks involvement? Vegetation cover has improved greatly in general. There has been regeneration of some wooded tree species. However, with the increase in numbers of elephants, we have also witnessed their impact - particularly to riverine vegetation with species like Umbrella Acacia, (Acacia tortilis), and Baobab, (Adansonia digitata), being affected most. Animals that once lived in Majete but were poached to extinction have been re introduced. Majete is now a home to lions, elephants, rhinoceros, buffalo etc. Majete is now one of the leading tourism destinations in Malawi and stands as an excellent example of how biodiversity conservation can go hand-in-hand with rural community development. In the surrounding communites: Communites are more cooperative. No more antagonism, no more booing of scouts as they interact and walk in the surrouding villages. There are a number of sustainable community development projects being championed by communities themselves with AP just providing guidance or in some cases working capital. What benefits do communities now derive from Majete and how are such benefits, whether financial or otherwise, equally distributed? About 140,000 people live around Majete, (in roughly a 5 km band around the reserve), and it is vital that this local community derives real and tangible benefits from the Reserve in order to ensure its long term survival. Sustainable resource harvesting, (e.g. harvesting of thatching grass and reeds), is permitted within the Reserve, whilst micro-enterprises such as bee-keeping, vegetable growing, arts and craft making have been initiated in conjunction with community members - setting them on a promising road to rural development. A community-managed campsite near the entrance gate provides a regular and sustainable source of income for the community projects. AP has always placed emphasis on educational activities and programs within the areas surrounding its parks. This includes providing financial support for secondary school and tertiary students through the Majete Scholarship Fund and Environmental Education outreach programs during which pupils learn about conservation issues, their impacts and solutions to the issues. 100 students in various secondary schools are being support by the Majete Bursary. Majete is also currently paying fees for 3 university students. Selection of students for the bursary is done with the community leaders. Only orphaned and vulnerable children are selected. One of the most important benefits to local communities is employment, especially considering that each economically active person supports an average of eight people. Employment has risen ten-fold at Majete since AP took over management, from just 12 people in 2003 to over 120 permanent employees today, with many more employed on a temporary basis and in a range of support businesses. How are African Parks investing in the younger generation from local communities? What is being done regards their education, training, taking them into the reserve and sensitising them to its wildlife and ecosystems etc? Providing scholarships as mentioned above. Environmental Education – working with 35 schools around the park which include park visits and outreach programs.Students being taught how to identify environmental issues and risks, their impacts and how to respond to the issues and risks. How are your communities involved in tourism management decisions? The communites own a community campsite and participate fully in its management. AP provides oversight. All revenue generated goes to communites. There is a community visit as one of tourist activities. Visitors pay to be taken on community visits and revenue generated goes to the communities. The communities are responsible for organising the activities which include traditional dances, display of traditional houses, foods, matmaking etc. How many people from surrounding districts are directly employed in Majete? (Whether it be tourism services, security, rangers, administration etc and what positions do they hold? Already mentioned in point 13 above. How do you share your culture with international tourists? Through organised community visits as mentioned in point 15 above. What are your hopes for the future, not only for the Majete Reserve but your communities which surround it? For Majete my hope is that the reserve will maintain what it has achieved. For the communities, my hope is that they will continue to be cooperative and continue reaping the benefits resulting from professional management of Majete. The future for communities is bright. Matt's note: I recently interviewed Michael Eustace of African Parks including a number of questions about Majete Wildlife Reserve here. All photos courtesy and copyright Samuel Kamoto/African Parks. The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk.
  7. After 20 years, Cheetah have been reintroduced to Malawi. Just in time for our visit, 7 days & 8hrs until we leave for Malawi
  8. ~ These articles, primarily from sources in Malawi, detail the recent relocation from South Africa of four cheetahs to Malawi's Liwonde National Park. The Endangered Wildlife Trust and African Parks coordinated the reintroduction of cheetahs, which formerly ranged along Malawi's Shire River. The articles include images showing the process of relocating the cheetahs.
  9. Good people of Safaritalk! It's time to shed some light on what is going on in terms of wildlife and safari life in the Warm Heart of Africa, namely Malawi. A lot of us have been following the work of African Parks for many years now and they have done some extraordinary things in the name of conservation in Africa. Majete Wildlife Reserve is the first project that they took on and managed to pull off the mighty achievement of restoring and rehabilitating a depleted and barren reserve, putting it back in its former glory and providing a safe haven for all life that lives there. I work as a guide for Robin Pope Safaris, and in 2016 I was offered the opportunity to move to Majete and practice my passion and interests in this beautiful part of Africa. It has been almost a year now and I think it's time for me to share with you all the wonders that this place has to offer. I'm truly privileged to work for a company like RPS and be able to pass on their great legacy. Together with the guides, managers and the rest of the team at Mkulumadzi Lodge, we are striving everyday towards excellency in everything we do and to promote this up and coming new safari gem that is Malawi. I will let the photos speak for how the season has been: The view from our lodge over the Shire River. Majete is home to the beautiful Nyala. Big old elephant bull. Lichtensteins Hartebeests are thriving in the reserve. Nothing gets your heart pumping like a Black Rhino sighting! Waiting in line at the water hole. Our beautiful Majete lions. We now have 8 lions in the reserve. Two brothers see to the protection of the pride. This is Chimwala ( the Big Rock ) And this is Sapitwa (Don't Go There) with the pride's newest addition. Talk about a sighting! A Python that just swallowed a Warthog piglet! It's always special to see a Sable Antelope. Grysbok! A tricky one to find. Dark-Backed Weavers. Lots of Bateleur eagles. Simply beautiful beyond belief. There are plenty of leopards in Majete but they are still not habituated to people and vehicles and are not yet ready to share their secretive lives with us. We lucked out on a night drive and came across a female with two cubs, so they are obviously doing well. Mean old buff. So this has been a tiny little taste of what Majete is all about. To think that in only 14 years this place has been transformed from from an empty piece of land to a thriving wildlife reserve for Malawi to be proud of! That to me is what makes this place special. As humans we are capable of eliminating other species from the face of the Earth, but where there is heart and will, extraordinary things take place and we can give back what we have once taken out, little by little. Stay tuned for more updates from Majete and don't hesitate to get in touch to find out more about this place. Warm greetings from the Warm Heart of Africa. /Erik Nyman
  10. Has anyone got a comment on this proposed itinerary for a family trip to Malawi next year? There will be 4 of us and our initial thoughts are to go early/mid June? We like this because it’s a nice mix of the bush, the beach & a chance to see something of Malawi, plus, it’s “linear” - flying into Lilongwe & out of Blantyre so avoids back tracking. We’ll have a driver for all the transfers & to take us “sightseeing” both en-route and around Zomba. Day 1: Arrive Lilongwe airport & light-aircraft transfer to Nkhotakota (Bua River Lodge for 2 nights) – game drives, walks etc, right in the elephant translocation area. Day 3: Transfer to Salima Bay (Livingstonia Hotel) ~2½hrs - on the bank of Lake Malawi & there is a cichlid breeding centre nearby Day 4: Transfer to Mumbo Island 3-4hrs including boat transfer, 10km offshore in Lake Malawi, for 3 nights of relaxation, kayaking, sailing & snorkelling. Mua Mission cultural museum is en-route. Day 7: Transfer to Liwonde NP (Mvuu camp for 3 nights) ~4½hrs including boat transfer –game drives , boat trips, walks including in the Rhino Sanctuary Day 10: Transfer to Zomba Plateau (Zomba Forest Lodge for 2 nights) ~2½hrs – the old colonial administration centre +, from the top of the plateau, “the best views in the British Empire”. Day 12: Transfer to Majete Wildlife Reserve (Thawale Lodge for 3 nights) ~2¾hrs – a final fix of game drives , boat trips and walks. Day 15: Transfer to Blantyre airport <2hrs for international flight home All feedback appreciated Thanks
  11. To expand our 'Baboon PhotoMap' (more information on we are looking for baboon photographs from Southern Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and DRC. If you happen to have baboon images from this region which you are willing to share, please send a copy to together with your full name (so that we can acknowledge you accordingly) and the coordinates or a detailed locality description of your record. Thank you very much for your help! Yvonne​ ​​ Yvonne A. de Jong, PhD Eastern Africa Primate Diversity and Conservation Program P.O. Box 149, Nanyuki 10400, Kenya, Yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) at Diani, south coast of Kenya. Photograph by Yvonne de Jong & Tom Butynski,
  12. Visas for Malawi ­ as from 1 October 2015 As from 1 October 2015, Malawi is now implementing its new visa regime. Visas to enter Malawi are now required for nationals of those countries where Malawian¹s are required to pay for visas. These countries include, but are not limited to, the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Schengen member states (Europe), Australia and New Zealand. Please use the links below to check which nationalities require a visa. Visas for the majority of nationalities can be obtained on arrival in Malawi. Although the process at the ports of entry is currently time-consuming, even travellers arriving unaware of the new requirements armed only with their passports are having visa applications processed on arrival and are successfully entering the country. However, current official advice to avoid unnecessary inconveniences is to obtain a Malawi visa in advance of travel from the nearest Malawi Diplomatic Mission. We have updated our website as accurately as we are able with the latest contacts for those Missions For visas to be obtained on arrival it is also preferable, if possible, to take application forms (click here to download) and the items detailed in the requirements below, plus the requisite visa fee in US$ cash: Valid passport for not less than six months Two passport photos Covering letter Air ticket/Itinerary Confirmed Hotel booking Three months latest bank statements Which begs the question; who travels with 3 months bank statements?
  13. This article from the Maravi Post in Lilongwe tells of the announcement that African Parks has agreed to manage Liwonde National Park and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve in Malawi. Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi is currently managed by African Parks with a steady increase in levels of wildlife tourism.
  14. Reports To read the full article click here. To read my interview with Malawi tourism expert Chris Badger of Central African Wilderness Safaris, click here. To read my interview with Michael Eustace of African Parks about Majete Wildlife Reserve, click here. Maybe one of those might inspire you to look at a future trip to Malawi? Has anyone been already?
  15. Reports To read the full article click here. You can also read my interview with Michael Eustace from African Parks about Majete Game Reserve in Malawi, and also Chris Badger about safari tourism and wildlife conservation in Malawi.
  16. Michael Eustace. Michael Eustace was Senior General Manager of Nedcor Investment Bank in South Africa. He was born in Kenya and brought up in Rhodesia and studied Economics at the University of Cape Town. He is now retired and lives in Johannesburg. Michael was one of the founders of African Parks and is now the board chairman of Banweulu Wetlands Management, Zambia and serves on the board of Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi. To discover more about African Parks and their work, visit the website at - ----------------------- Coming from an economics background, how and when did your interest in wildlife conservation develop? I was brought up in Rhodesia and as a boy and young man I spent a lot of time in the bush. The Zambezi Valley was just wonderful and more than enough to encourage me and many others into a life-long love of wilderness. What led up to the founding of African Parks and how did you become part of its board? The decline in many of Africa’s parks was alarming and the 4 founders felt that some money and management skills could turn parks around. If you can control poaching, and only that, most parks thrive. I was only involved as a main board member in the initial years. What were the project’s initial ambitions and how were they decided upon? How have those ambitions been realized? We had fairly modest ambitions thinking that money was going to be a constraint but the major constraint turned out to be a reluctance on the part of governments to outsource the management and financing of their parks. AP are now part of the management of 8 parks in 7 countries. The parks add up to about 6 million hectares. AP has been much more successful than I ever expected. I was not involved for most of the time so can’t claim much of the glory. Malawi: Of all the places African Parks operates, (full list at, why did you personally become directly involved in Majete Wildlife Reserve, Malawi and the Bangweulu Wetlands in Zambia? Some years back AP asked me to join the Majete and Bangweulu boards. I come from an investment background and investment analysts spend their time watching what works in business and what does not and how important it is, for example, to spend wisely, to be disciplined, to think and consult, to pay attention to detail and demand high standards. These are principles that apply to most enterprises, including parks. Why was Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi, (, chosen as the first conservation partnership African Parks entered into? Anthony Hall-Martin was one of the founders and he had had a close relationship with Malawi as Conservation Director of SANParks. The Malawi parks people thought highly of him and it was largely as a result of Anthony that we became involved in Majete. The Shire River. In 2003, what state was the reserve in, both in terms of its environment and wildlife numbers? How did you identify what needed to be done in order to begin its restoration? Majete was a pristine piece of Africa with the Shire river running through it and lots of smaller rivers running into the Shire. It is hilly country with magnificent trees. There were very few animals and birds. It had been poached out. Initially we fenced off 10,000 hectares as a sanctuary and moved 2,500 animals in there. Over time, we introduced 200 elephant. It was a major exercise. The sanctuary made the control of poaching easier and we had a tourist product quicker. Once we had the whole reserve of 70,000 hectares fenced, we pulled down the sanctuary fence and the animals were able to move outside the sanctuary although many chose to stay. How has the reserve recovered since 2003? What remains to be done? We now have 7,000 animals including the Big 5. The birdlife has recovered amazingly with lots of birds having moved in, perhaps up the Shire from the Zambezi and Mozambique. We now need to find ways of making it profitable and an example to other parks in Africa. When the restoration project began, how were your activities viewed by local communities surrounding the reserve and what was done to cement relationships in which trust was established on both sides? We stopped the poaching but the locals understood that poaching was against the law and they accepted that. We have gone to great lengths to tell and show the locals what we are doing and why. We have a dedicated team to do that. Just how important have they been in achieving the objectives for Majete and what benefits are they seeing in return? The people have been supportive. We help them with education, (80 bursaries), and health and small businesses and employ over 100 people, most of whom come from the surrounding communities. We only have one foreigner, our Field Operations Manager. We pay and support the Department of National Parks and Wildlife officers who work on the reserve. Trees in Majete. How have you seen safari tourism to Majete, (and Malawi in general), develop since 2003 and what more needs to be done to ensure it becomes a sustainable revenue source funding conservation objectives and bringing tangible benefits to local communities surrounding wildlife areas? Tourism at Majete is growing strongly but it is small. We have about 7,000 tourists p.a. It is expensive to get to Malawi. The country needs to encourage a low cost airline to service Malawi. It is a 2 hour flight from Johannesburg to Blantyre but it costs twice as much as a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town, which is also 2 hours. There is lots of competition on the Cape Town route. We have a 5 Star lodge run by Robin Pope and we run a 3 Star tented camp as well as a campsite. People think that lodges are easy ways to make money but it is actually a very difficult business to make profitable. The infrastructure is expensive as is the up-keep and the running costs and the marketing costs are high. There are not a lot of people in Malawi who can afford to stay in a lodge so foreign visitors are important. We have the opportunity to offer some of the best wilderness walks in Africa. Walking is by far the best way to enjoy the smells and sounds and excitement and peace of the bush. If we offer superb walks we may be able to get visitors to stay for a week rather than a couple of nights. I think walking is a very undersold activity in Africa. There is also the potential to construct wonderful photographic hides at pumped waterholes in dry areas which will attract lots of game and birds. A really good hide is fascinating and visitors will spend all day there, in peace, rather than driving around. We can also offer leases to investors who would like a private, non-commercial lodge in Big 5 Africa, with traversing rights over 70,000 hectares. That probably has the best potential. Why fence the park? What have been both the positive and negative results of this action? When will it reach the point where wildlife management decisions will have to be taken in order to balance population numbers? There are large numbers of people living along the borders of the park. We needed to protect them and their crops from animals so a fence was essential. We are years away from having to manage the numbers but when that time comes we hope to move animals from Majete into other parks, but those parks need to be protected from poaching. AP is currently negotiating to manage and finance other parks in Malawi. In Malawi in general, what space exists outside of parks and reserves for wildlife dispersal areas and migration corridors? How close to protected areas does human encroachment reach? And what of Majete? What do the community areas outside of the fence comprise of and what hope is there for future wildlife dispersal areas etc. on this land? Malawi is very heavily populated with little space outside parks for wildlife. The priority is to control the poaching in existing parks and see that existing parks thrive without being distracted by new areas where there is little potential. Zambia: Bangweulu sunrise. What is the ten year management plan for Bangweulu Wetlands and how does African Parks intend to meet its objectives? Bangweulu needs annual funding of about $1 million. The main generator of income is likely to be from hunting. What tourism infrastructure exists in the Bangweulu Wetlands and what are the logistics of getting there? What have annual visitor numbers been since African Parks took over management and realistically is safari tourism a viable sustainable income source to fund the area’s conservation? There are 3 tourist camps but it is 8 hours drive north of Lusaka. There are very few tourists. People that visit go to see the large herds of Black Lechwe, which only occur at Bangweulu and also the Shoebills. There is some good birding at certain times. We should be able to attract more travelers going up the Great North Road to Tanzania but given that tourist lodges are only marginally profitable, I don’t see tourism being a major contributor. How can you hope to encourage more tourism to Bangweulu? It is going to be difficult. We will introduce more animals and a larger variety and increase the Shoebill population by protecting them. How different is the management of an ungazzetted wildlife area with a high incidence of human habitation compared to a gazetted reserved or park? What particular challenges does the Bangweulu Wetlands face and what has been done since African Parks took over management to alleviate said problems? This is a park that hopes to reconcile the protection of the habitat with the people who are living there. AP has controlled the poaching and improved the infrastructure in terms of staff housing, roads and bridges, airfields and communications. They have also employed a fisheries officer so as to understand the fish populations and the huge volume of fishing. AP also employed a skilled researcher so as to understand the Shoebill population and how best to look after them. Fishing is a major food source. Approximately how many people live in Bangweulu wetlands and what is their primary food source? What efforts have been/are being made to introduce sustainable farming practices which lesson the human impact on the environment and wildlife? There are about 50,000 people living at Bangweulu. Fishing is a major food source but cassava and maize is grown in the drier areas and bartered for fish. The fisheries officer understands the system and has persuaded the fisherman not to fish from December to February and that has improved the catch. The Park Manager has found a type of millet that will yield the same crop without having to cut down trees for fertilizer. How do conservation aims conflict with the needs of communities living in Bangweulu? How are the local communities involved in the conservation decision making process? Our conservation aims are to protect the needs of the communities in the long term. There may be minor short-term sacrifices but the communities understand the need to conserve for the long term. The communities are closely involved in all the decisions that are made. It is probably the most valuable Community Based Natural Resource Management area in Africa. Why have predator populations been eliminated from the wetlands and without lion, cheetah, wild dog etc, how are the numbers of traditional prey species controlled? Is it a fair observation that species that have been seen as problematical to communities have been wiped out, therefore those species that remain are those which cause less hardship for the people living there? Predators do visit from time to time but they are a danger to the locals. The area is vast… 600,000 hectares… so there is no need to control prey species as yet. There are more than 35,000 Black Lechwe but there have been double that number in the past. Lechwe are a potential food source for the people rather than predators. Tell us about the Shoebill population - what is the estimate of numbers in the wetlands area and what threats does the population face? When I first went there I was alarmed at the amount of fishing going on and felt the Shoebills must be under threat because they live on fish. We thought there were only 27 but the researcher now feels there could be as many as 200. We have put guards on some of the nests to protect them from people and from fires and that has been a success. They typically lay 2 eggs but only one chick survives so there is some scope for taking one chick from the nest and raising it separately. We have raised 2 chicks and they have learned to fish and returned of their own accord to the wild so there is optimism around increasing the population. People were taking the eggs and chicks to sell to the international market for wild birds but we have put a stop to that. Bangweulu Wetlands. How much of an impact did the loss of trophy hunting revenue have on conservation aims in the Bangweulu Wetlands? And what has been done to balance that loss with alternative funding? The loss of hunting revenue was significant and had to be replaced with donor funding. Hunting is now being allowed at Bangweulu. It is important to have a plan to reduce reliance on donor funding and controlled hunting is probably the answer. We have plans to increase the buffalo population. General: If conservation costs cannot be supported by tourism revenue alone, (and one thinks of how well prime wildlife areas are patronised compared to the examples we have discussed in the interview), what are the alternatives? How deep is the donor fund well and will it last forever? The alternative for Bangweulu is trophy hunting and in Majete it is probably private leases. There is a lot of donor money for conservation, provided it is well spent. If there is a plan to replace the donor funding with income generation then donors can see some end in sight. I would not like to rely on donor funding and want to build financing models that work and can be applied to other parks in Africa. What is your greatest concern for wildlife in Africa and why? The greatest concern is human population increases and increased population pressures on all wildlife areas. Conservation buys no votes in Africa. Parks need to be profitable. In your opinion, what is the future of Africa’s wildlife outside of protected areas, parks and reserves? Outside of parks the future for wildlife is limited. We will lose our parks if there is not more energy applied to making them profitable. Wilderness and profitability can happen together. How can you hope to protect wildlife outside of gazetted areas if the value of land is worth more per hectare without it? If any wildlife is seen as a threat to livelyhoods, to livestock and crops, to life and therefore removed? It is a problem. Land alongside the Kruger National Park is now selling at R80,000 per hectare. Communities could lease small areas around parks to private investors for lodges and parks could fence those lodges into the park which would then provide a buffer zone for the park. That is one idea but there needs to be far more work done on the macro issues of parks in Africa. There are endless degrees awarded for all manner of micro issues but nobody studies the macro issue. If we don’t protect the parks there will be no micro issues to study. The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk. This post has been promoted to an article
  17. Chris Badger Bio: Born in England in 1954. Educated in UK. First job in travel was with Exodus Expeditions in 1979-1981 doing trips and treks in Nepal, India and Pakistan - then moved on to doing trans Africa expeditions from London to Johannesburg. 1981-83 Worked as a ranger at Londolozi. 1983-1986 Worked for Afro Ventures and as a freelance guide in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. 1986 Joined Okavango Wilderness Safaris as a guide in Botswana. 1987-2014 In Malawi with Wilderness Safaris. 2014 Formed Central African Wilderness Safaris. Married to Pam. Sons: Wesley and Danny, daughter Emma. In October 2014 Wilderness Safaris sold its stake in Wilderness Safaris Malawi, the new venture being renamed Central African Wilderness Safaris. To read more, click here. You can visit Central African Wilderness Safaris at its website here - ------------------------------- Chris, you are considered to be an authority on safari tourism and conservation in Malawi: what is your background in the country and how did you come to be involved in safaris there? I was working as a guide in Botswana for several years in the 1980’s and did some freelance work for Okavango Wilderness Safaris, which became the first company in the Wilderness Safaris Group. I already knew Colin Bell, one of the founders from my time as an overland driver and I joined them full time in 1986. Colin knew Malawi from his student days and was eager to start something up there - I was keen to move on to new challenges so I did the first recce in March 1987 and then the first safari in October 1987, along with the other founding partner of the Malawi operation, Andy Egginton. What were your initial impressions of Malawi in terms of it being a viable wildlife destination? I was bowled over by the wildlife, despite having had 4 years in Botswana and before that 2 years at Londolozi - it was not so much the numbers but the variety and above all the setting. Liwonde National Park in the south where we now operate Mvuu Camp and Lodge is just spectacularly beautiful with an amazing range of habitats in a very small area - firstly the Shire, one of the great rivers of Africa, supporting huge populations of hippo, crocodile and waterbirds, fever tree thickets, mopane woodland to rival Moremi, miombo clad hills and huge floodplains - it was like the best of the Okavango delta and the Lower Zambezi all rolled into one - add large herds of elephant and sable to the mix and it was and remains comparable to the great wilderness destinations of Africa. The bird count, nearly 400 species, speaks volumes of this incredible diversity. Nyika National Park is another wild area that defies description - with a height range from 1200 to 2700 metres it has miombo woodland, the huge rolling grasslands of the iconic high Nyika and some of the rarest montane forest patches on the planet where virtually every bird is specific to this micro habitat. While the game numbers do not match other reserves there can be few more inspiring sites than the dry season concentrations of eland, (up to 300). There are also good numbers of roan antelope, Crawshay’s zebra, bushpig, reedbuck and wonderful leopard viewing. The first leopard I saw up there was a huge male at a distance and in silhouette and I made the major blunder of blurting out to my guests that it was a lioness! I quickly corrected myself when I saw the shape and the way it was moving but it was certainly big enough. Nyika National Park How did you set about realising the country’s safari tourism potential? What other options for tourists were available when you started up Central African Wilderness Safaris? From 1987 to 1993 we did only mobile safaris - usually of around 15 -21 days, covering the country from north to south - not a traditional wildlife safari but one that encompassed walking on Mount Mulanje and Zomba, relaxing on Lake Malawi and visits to Liwonde and Nyika. When we arrived the only substantial international tourism to Malawi were fly in packages from South Africa to the Southern Lakeshore - a sort of cheap alternative to Mauritius - not only did we view the lake as far more than a “beach destination” - it had culture, great diving, watersports and scenery, but we soon realised that we had a mix of destinations and experiences to offer and that the way to market the country was on its variety – I always thought it was a pity that South Africa coined the phrase, “a world in one country”, before we did because it is equally applicable to Malawi. The really exciting areas - Mulanje, Liwonde, Nyika, the Northern Lakeshore were only visited by more intrepid self drivers and overlanders - I hope what we managed to achieve was to make these wonderful areas accessible to more people. What were the early days like for you in Malawi, both personally and professionally? How difficult was it to set up a new life there and encourage business? Well personally they were a lot of fun! I loved doing safaris, the Wilderness office were superb in finding a regular flow of guests to come to Malawi so we kept busy and we lived in a magnificent, (but cheap - we had no money!!!), house on the lake near Monkey Bay and beer was half the price of anywhere else I had ever travelled. For the first few years expanding the market beyond South Africa was a challenge but we slowly managed to learn more, diversify into special interest trips such as hiking and birding, so although we grew very slowly - from 1987 to 1992, we only expanded from 6 employees with 2 vehicle to 8 with 3 vehicles, we were well placed when the government took steps to privatise the management of the tourist lodges within the parks in 1994. How was the tourism infrastructure when you started out compared to what it is now? How have you been able to grow CAWS in terms of securing concession areas, building camps and lodges etc? The infrastructure was actually not too bad - there was just not much of it! There were a few reasonable resort style hotels on the southern lakeshore but it was very simple in the National Parks with facilities built for self catering in the 1960’s but we always believed that with good guiding, food and activities we could deal with this. However the market in the early 1990s changed radically - when I left Botswana some of the smartest lodges such as Xaro and Xugana were not even en suite and had hospital type beds which we thought were brilliant!! What was deemed “posh" was not nearly as smart as a standard camping safari is nowadays!! So suddenly with the rapid improvement of facilities in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, Malawi began to look pretty basic, and without ever losing sight of the fact that the experience of a safari is far more than just the quality of the accommodation, we did need to improve infrastructure. In 1993 the government of Malawi put out the first ever private sector tender for running facilities in a national park. This was in Liwonde where the existing Mvuu Camp was a collection of mud built rondavels. We managed to win this tender. Interestingly we were at the time competing with some much larger and more financially robust companies and we believe we owe our success here to the fact that the Department of National Parks recognised our passion for conservation and had seen how we were steadily and successfully growing our Botswana business. In 1997 we were awarded the tender to run another ex government establishment - a small hotel on the northern Lakeshore-Chintheche Inn and then in 2009 Chelinda Lodge and Camp on the Nyika. Back then how did local people regard Safari tourism and how has their opinion changed during the intervening years? Safari tourism was so small in the late 1980’s that virtually everyone working in this field was a government employee - the department of National Parks ran the camps as well as managed the parks which, with the exception of Kasungu only offered self catering so there were simply very few employment opportunities and there were no careers to be had. Our model depends on great service, and consequently a high ratio of staff to guest so the first effect was more employment - Mvuu for example employs 110 people to service 50 beds – almost all our staff are not just from within Malawi but are from within the local area from poor rural communities where a little money goes a long way - as we grew we noticed that employees were opening shops, buying plots of land, starting farms, buying bicycles and running bicycle taxi businesses - so the simple power of a wage in rural Malawi is exponential - not only does it go further but our research has shown that the extended family is supported to the tune of an average of 8 - 10 per employee. Training and structured pay scales mean that staff have something to aspire to and the link between great service and personal welfare becomes apparent. So, in a nutshell, safari tourism is now seen as a genuine career path and provides employment in areas where previously no opportunities existed. However we must be honest in not overestimating its capacity to empower owing to the large population and comparatively few lodges in protected areas... For those who don’t know Malawi, what are its national parks and wildlife reserves and what does each offer the visitor in terms of possible wildlife sightings? National parks, game reserves and forest reserves make up 17% of the country – remarkable considering how small and heavily populated the country is and that the lake alone takes up 30%. I’ve already mentioned Nyika and Liwonde but there are more - Lengwe National Park in the lower Shire has the most northern population of nyala in Africa as well as our smallest antelope - the Livingstone’s suni. Majete next door is a recent conservation success story - poached out in the 80’s it was recently taken over by African Parks and completely restocked with elephant, waterbuck, impala, lion, leopard, buffalo and black rhino. Nkotakhota Game reserve in the centre of the country is a largely forested area with the wonderful Bua River flowing through it - another area that has been badly poached there are plans afoot to reintroduce more elephant as well as several antelope species and predators. Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve to the south west of Nyika is a low lying reserve with lots of water and good numbers of elephant and general game but again, is under huge pressure. What of birding? I’ve read that the white winged apalis is considered endemic to Malawi along with several other subspecies – how rewarding is a birding safari and how good are the birding guides? If this is high on one’s list of priorities, what should a specific birding itinerary consist of and why? The species list for Malawi is over 600 - this is remarkable for such a small country without a coastline. Of these there are over 70 species that will not be seen South of the Zambezi, (i.e., “Southern Africa”). A safari we did way back in 1987 with Ian Davidson and Peter Steyn as guides still holds the species count record for a trip here - 425 - but we have pushed close to this on several trips over the years - the main birding areas would be the southern forests around Blantyre, Thyolo , Zomba and Mulanje for white winged apalis, (probably easiest to find in Zomba), Thyolo alethe and green headed oriole - this list is by no means exhaustive - I just mention a few specials. Liwonde National Park and the Shire River would be a highlight - not just for the number of birds but for the profusion of rare birds which are both spectacular and easy to find here - white backed night heron, Pel’s fishing owl, osprey, bat hawk, brown breasted barbet, Bohms bee eater to name just a few. The extensive miombo woodland around Dzalanyama and the lower slopes of the Nyika might yield Stierling’s woodpecker, boulder chat, miombo rock thrush, miombo double collared sunbird and the Nyika National Park with its very specific montane habitats - both grassland and forest has a number of habitat specific species such as Fulleborn’s boubou, Sharpes akalat, bar tailed trogon and no less than 3 different types of redwinged starling. However, some of our best birding areas are under threat - many of the miombo woods and southern forests around Mulanje, Thyolo and Blantyre are being cut down for charcoal and the protected areas are under huge pressure with an ever increasing rural population. Tourism can play its part in the preservation of these threatened areas. We have some great birding guides, all of them trained by ourselves. What type of safari goer does Malawi appeal to? Malawi is not a traditional safari destination with the main focus on wildlife so we do not try to compete with places such as Zambia, Botswana and Tanzania where you can put together a trip based purely on game viewing. In Malawi it is variety that is the key - great wildlife experiences in a few select areas will be part of a larger whole which might also incorporate the lake for relaxation, culture and activities and perhaps walking and scenery on Mulanje and Thyolo. While it can be a great destination for the first timer to Africa, it particularly appeals to second or third time visitors who have got the safari out of their system and want to move on to a more holistic trip where all of the above are incorporated. Snorkelling in Lake Malawi, Mumbo Island Camp. What itinerary would you recommend which offers the first time visitor a good insight into what the country has to offer? Why? And when is the best time to visit? Well, obviously time and budget can be constraints but a really comprehensive trip would be a combination of flying to the more remote areas such as Chelinda Lodge and Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island with a road safari trip in the south of the country - something like 3 nights at Mvuu, on to the Thyolo Tea Fields for a couple of days at Huntingdon House, using this as a base to visit Mount Mulanje and then up to Mumbo Island on Lake Malawi followed by a flight to Chelinda Lodge in Nyika National Park and ending with 3 nights of luxury at Kaya Mawa. Such an itinerary incorporates wonderful game viewing, superb scenery, history, culture and "meet the people” opportunities. It is important to stress how fulfilling road transfers are in Malawi - often the high point of a trip will be the journey between various points of interest allowing the opportunity to stop in villages to meet local farmers and merchants, photo ops etc. Best time to visit - anytime between April and November - April and May are just after the rains - cool with glorious views everywhere, June and July are our winter - getting drier and cooler in the evenings with game viewing becoming better as the land dries and from August to November it becomes steadily hotter and drier. The rains between November and April should not be ignored either - there is a certain magic to travelling in the rains and it is a wonderful time for birding but you do need to be prepared to get wet!! What are the logistics of a safari in Malawi? How well is the country served by international travel connections and likewise, how easy is travel within the country? International connections have increased considerably recently with the 3 main international carriers being Kenya Airways, Ethiopian and South African. There are over 20 flights weekly to Lilongwe and around 15 to Blantyre in the south, providing easy connections via South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia to Europe and the rest of the world. Within Malawi the roads are generally in good order - in 1987 our standard 15 day trip was around 1800 kms and 800 kms of this was on challenging dirt roads. This same itinerary today has only 200 kms of dirt. While personally I rather miss the bad old roads I do also remember spending almost as much time underneath the vehicle as driving it so I suppose this is progress!! There is also now reliable air charter serving the main tourist areas at Chelinda, Likoma and the Southern Lakeshore through Ulendo Airlink so the logistics of getting around are no longer a challenge. What wildlife conservation issues have affected the country during the last 25 years and how important is tourism now in helping to protect the country’s wildlife? Our main issue is a very common one that affects much of our continent to varying degrees. We have relatively small protected areas and a high population - upward of 16 million people and steadily increasing. Being largely rural, the population is dependent on the same resources of wood and water that the game parks rely on for their survival. Present day poachers are occasionally hardened criminals running bushmeat syndicates but they might also be the sons of hunters who saw the hunting and eating of game as a birthright and a necessity for survival. Charcoal production is illegal in Malawi but the charcoal seller is merely someone trying to scratch a living. The only possible way to alleviate this pressure is in alternative income generation. We have to be realistic and we must have vigorous and unrelenting security as well but if we try to look at the long term picture then we must realise that a protected area in Malawi is simply competing with other forms of land use - it has to show itself to be the best form of land use to survive and this is where income generation, and employment from tourism comes in - we also need to emphasise what is possibly conservation’s strongest argument in a country where there is such competition for scant natural resources - that well managed protected areas can exist in perpetuity - this is not a “quick fix”. However it is not always easy to get this long term message across. A poor rural community can seldom afford the luxury of looking at either the bigger picture or the long term message when short term survival is their main concern and the politicians and decision makers seldom have the will to look at long term policies that risk short term opposition... If we are brutally honest then while we believe that we have made some sort of difference, particularly with our Mvuu model, it would be unrealistic to see safari tourism as a solution in its own right - if this were Namibia or Botswana it could be - the ratio of resource to people is so favourable there that you can realistically empower a much larger % of rural communities through safari tourism than Malawi ever could. In our many meetings with government we try to stress the holistic necessity of sound environmental management - the tree that is cut down for charcoal makes the country less scenic for tourists, threatens species diversity and particularly certain birds but it also washes away the farmers field and causes flooding where there would be none and denudes the area of fuelwood - the potholed road that I want fixed to deliver my tourists also delivers the crop to the market and the books to the school etc, etc. Wildlife viewing at Mvuu Camp, Liwonde National Park. What is the state of wildlife populations outside of protected areas in Malawi and is there any land area which could be transformed into wildlife areas/added to the current protected areas? There is very little game left outside protected areas - we simply don’t have the space - the ‘buffer zone” in Malawi seldom exists - there is no slow transition from village to park - it tends to be a fence with people one side and game on the other. There are still a couple of places left where unprotected areas link reserves - there is an area north of Liwonde between the park and Mangochi Forest Reserve that we call the “elephant corridor” as it acts as a pressure release valve for elephant moving out of the park to the forest in the dry season - there are plans afoot to incorporate the corridor and the forest reserve into a single protected area with Liwonde. In the north there is a wilderness area between Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve and Nyika National Park that has the same function for game movement that is being linked into a greater whole. Apart from these there is very little game left outside of the parks. Malawi is a country with a high median human density: how bad is the human pressure and encroachment upon protected areas and what can be done to lesson the affects? I have mentioned this above. In general the pressures are huge - greater in the south than the north but nevertheless they are a real challenge throughout Malawi. Encroachment has been limited to a few key areas such as Vwaza Marsh, Kasungu and the elephant corridor north of Liwonde but it is likely to increase without urgent action. Immediate and consistent security is needed, but clearly the long term solution has to be to better the livelihoods and quality of life of the communities around the parks. I do not believe that traditional solutions of resource sharing which might work well elsewhere, (where the protected area is huge and the community is small in number - I always quote Namibia as the most obvious example - see above), can work in Malawi. Generally the protected areas are too small and the communities surrounding too numerous for resource sharing to be possible - the needs of the community would outstrip the resources of the area to sustain them meaningfully and the end result could be disastrous - so I believe that the solution has to be to work to better livelihoods outside the protected areas to decrease the pressure on the parks. A farmer whose maize crop has failed often becomes a poacher - the best chance to stop the poaching is to ensure that the crop does not fail. Ultimately I believe that the only solution to our long term environmental challenges is a relative degree of prosperity - the population needs to stop increasing but preaching and child spacing programmes will not be effective when communities see children as wealth and an insurance against old age and cannot see a light on the horizon to end their grinding poverty. Amongst our staff we find some interesting case studies - a safari guide from a village with an average of perhaps 6-8 children per household will start to budget, realise that his wage can allow him to send his children to a decent private primary school, if he has perhaps 2 or 3 children so will plan accordingly. This will not be a doctrine we have preached from on high-it will simply be a decent living wage allowing him the luxury to think and to plan this way. I am not for a minute trying to claim any credit for this - all we try to do is to run our business - this is just a happy trickle down effect of the power of a wage in rural Malawi . What instances of human vs wildlife conflict occur in Malawi and what is being done to negate it? We have the traditional one, particularly around Liwonde, of elephant destroying crops and occasionally damaging villages - this is not because there are too many elephant - it is simply that as is their nature, elephant are attracted to certain foods growing outside of the park, particularly mangoes - in season from October to January - and the fences around the parks are seldom intact, often because poachers have stolen the wire for snares but more often because of neglect and lack of funding. We have worked closely with National Parks over the years, through our community outreach programmes, (see and Children in the Wilderness -, to try to get communities to confront the poachers in their midst who are making this problem worse. At the same time we cannot be starry eyed about these problems and think that education and bettering of livelihoods alone will solve the problem. It can take years to create both awareness and income generation in the areas surrounding the parks and if the law is not upheld in the meantime we will end up with nothing left to protect so anti-poaching and firm action to stop and reverse this encroachment will always be a critical element of this equation. Which conservation organisations are active in Malawi and what projects are they undertaking? There are a number and I am happy to say that gradually these organisations are collaborating better so that the challenges are identified and met more effectively. African Parks manage Majete Game Reserve in the Lower Shire - this is a ground breaking initiative for Malawi in that they have taken over an area that had been completely poached out and have rehabilitated it and relocated large numbers of game - elephant, lion, leopard, black rhino, waterbuck, buffalo, impala and zebra to name a few. The government of Malawi as with so many countries in Africa is always underfunded and this operation could only have been managed by an organisation such as African Parks with the expertise and the funding to make this happen. It has been far sighted of government to realistically acknowledge this fact by partnering with African Parks. Our own efforts have been assisted greatly by the Wilderness Trust- who have funded aerial surveys of Liwonde and consistently supported our efforts to protect and monitor the small black rhino population in Liwonde. The Lilongwe Wildlife Trust, do great work in a number of fields such as building capacity through training and mounting a vigorous awareness campaign in Malawi about the llegal wildlife trade. They also work very closely with local schools and with Children in the Wilderness to build conservation awareness. I should apologise in advance here to some organisations I might have failed to mention. How does Central African Wilderness Safaris interact with government authorities, other tourism stakeholders and NGOs in assisting conservation efforts? Since 1987 we have played an increasingly active role in this field. While we cannot argue that we have always had a 100% success rate we view one of our essential roles as a “catalyst for action”. Working in the protected areas of Malawi we are able to see the challenges on the ground. Doing mobile safaris around Malawi we are able to see the rates of environmental degradation so we are in a good position to gauge the challenges and this is the starting point for action. Our main partnership with government is with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife - we pay concession fees to them for our properties in Liwonde, Nyika and Chintheche and liase regularly on the problems faced - inevitably this department is underfunded so we have regular meetings to discuss what challenges are faced, what resources the department can utilise and if there is a gap in funds and resources needed, then we look at how we can help - some smaller issues such as maintenance of local roads, information given to parks on poaching etc., we handle ourselves and for more complex or expensive projects we seek outside assistance - the most obvious example of this would be the black rhino project in Liwonde where National Parks have provided extra scouts to assist with security patrols, we have covered costs for a rhino research ecologist and all the attendant costs on logistics etc and the Wilderness Trust have supplied a vehicle and financial assistance with veterinary bills etc. There are a number of unsung heroes who have assisted us too and if I have left some out I can only apologise as there have been so many but perhaps I can use this forum to give a brief mention to Dr Pete Morkel, perhaps Africa’s premier wildlife vet who has made a titanic contribution to the rhino project. Over the past 3 years we have managed to dart and medicate several snared rhino and also with Pete’s assistance inserted horn transmitters into all the rhino in Liwonde. Pete has not only paid several visits to Liwonde to assist with this - he has often dropped what he has been doing elsewhere and climbed on the next plane to Malawi at his own expense. He has also trained up local vets and helped us to build capacity to handle emergency situations. Our main effort though is in constantly trying to get the government to put conservation in its broadest sense at the very top of its development agenda. Our argument is a very simple one - without environmental conservation in all its forms - for farmland as much as for national parks, for water resources as much as for forests etc., then no other development agenda has any long term future. Conservation must be a priority, not an afterthought. One reads reports of the serious deforestation taking place in Malawi. What are your own observations on the state of the country’s forests and in your opinion, what are the causes driving it? What steps are being taken by authorities to slow down the rate and introduce more sustainable forestry management – how are they interacting with NGOs to tackle this issue? Some of the comments below are a repeat of earlier ones. It is a huge problem and the statistics are frightening. The causes are quite simple - an ever increasing population is dependent on wood as its main source of warmth and cooking - charcoal production is out of control and is not policed or regulated at all. The challenges are really the same as for poaching - the charcoal seller is not a “Mr Big” knowingly denuding an area of its tree cover - he is a poor man trying to scratch a living and I think this is one of the key problems we face in Malawi and in many other poor countries with limited economic opportunities and a fast increasing population - looking into and planning for the future is a luxury only really accessible to those with a relative degree of wealth - if you are not sure if you are going to have food on the table next Tuesday then inevitably you are going to live from day to day and not look at the long term consequences of cutting a tree down. Government and private sector together need to take the lead here. My frustration is that government often fails to give direction - there are several local NGOs involved in the planting of trees, including our own operation, but it would be more effective if we had a clear nationwide plan to buy into where we could tailor our efforts towards assisting the government in implementing a clear and well planned strategy in our particular area of operation. So my answer to your question is that in the absence of a clear government strategy there are a number of NGOs simply doing their own thing. Ours has planted 100,000 trees in a year and is now involved in the much more challenging task of trying to ensure a 70% or better survival rate. I believe this is one of our most crucial challenges and radical solutions are needed - no amount of tree planting schemes can keep up. The tourist dollar helps but the only solution is somehow to make that tree worth more standing than fallen. How important has it been to engage local communities and have their support? How have they become involved in the company’s activities for instance, what percentage of your employees are from local communities? What roles do they have, what training and opportunities for advancement do you offer? Other than employment, how do you support local communities where you operate? And just how receptive are rural/agricultural communities to wildlife conservation efforts in their areas? Of 200 employees, 193 are citizens of Malawi and of these 191 are from the local areas around our lodges. While I could claim that this was a commitment to employing locally it was not - it has simply proved to be the most practical and cost effective way of running our business. Staff living locally have their families nearby and many have their own working plots of land so in general staff are much happier if employed locally. It has taken a good deal of training to reach this stage - when we first came to Malawi there were simply no trained local staff so this ratio has become more and more local over the years. We have an in house training programme for all levels of staff with many opportunities for advancement. All our safari guides are locally trained and had no experience when they joined us. Our manager and assistant manager at Mvuu started as a waiter and a housekeeper. One of the most valuable aspects of employing locally is that we slowly get to understand what might or might not work with conservation projects in our areas of operation - it has given us an insight into the challenges that face rural communities in Malawi and what the conservation priorities are. Passion may be our starting point but without local knowledge it is often doomed to failure. Here is a story that points out the value of local knowledge - the Shire River has a problem with water hyacinth - an invasive weed. I researched this a few years ago and found out that with a simple locally made press using wood, one bolt and a plastic plumbing pipe you could make brickettes of the water hyacinth that when dry would burn quite well. This would tick 2 boxes - it would slowly rid the Shire of an invasive weed and it would lessen the pressure on the park for firewood and for charcoal. So without consulting staff or local community I forged ahead in my garden in Lilongwe.The first brickettes worked well - they cooked a little slowly and with a very gentle glow but they did the job. The next step was simply to hand the project over - “Here you are - no more problems with firewood - a simple press at virtually no cost and a self renewing supply of hyacinth”. There was absolutely no enthusiasm from the community and I when I explained this to our manager at Mvuu, he asked: “Do you know the function of a fire in a village?”, ‘Yes,” I replied, "it is to cook the maize.”, “Not only.” he replied. "It is also to provide light and in the winter, warmth. A dull glowing brickette doesn’t do that. If you‘d talked to me first I could have saved you the trouble...” Support to local communities are mentioned above - the main ones being the school at Nanthomba, the Children in the Wilderness Programme and the Root to Fruit Tree Planting project. (See my answers to 15,16.18). Your last question is an important one. How receptive are communities to wildlife conservation? In my experience it has to be directly relevant to that community in some way: does it benefit the community? Can it provide a wage, build a school, buy your produce, train your children and give them a career? If it can then the community will get on board. Rural communities do not have the luxury of enjoying the majesty of a herd of elephant crossing the river. With recent and ongoing investment in Malawi, (infrastructure, new properties, wildlife translocations etc), how do you see the future of safari tourism in the country? What needs to be done in order to bring Malawi to a greater audience and encourage more safari goers to visit? I’m cautiously optimistic despite the challenges. The world is slowly sitting up and noticing Malawi. Last year, “Lonely Planet” named us amongst their Top 5 places to see. The dedicated safari goer who regularly travels to Africa is a natural growth market for us and the fact that there are new developments and conservation initiatives allied to a greater variety of sensibly priced long haul flights makes us increasingly attractive and it is becoming much easier for potential guests and trade partners to find their way to us for their ‘annual dose of Africa.' Another selling point which I believe we need to shout from the rooftops is that the ‘trickle down’ effects of the tourist dollar are so easily seen and so hugely beneficial here. Our guests are responsible people - they are keen to have a wonderful safari but naturally want to rationalise the paradox of the expensive safari tent with the poor rural village they have driven through to get there. Do we exist in glorious isolation? Do we make any difference beyond paying a few wages? We expect to be asked if we really do “walk the walk”. My answer is always, “Come to Malawi and we’ll prove it to you!!” The views expressed therein are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Safaritalk. This post has been promoted to an article
  18. October 2014 – In an amicable agreement between both parties, Wilderness Safaris has sold its stake in Wilderness Safaris Malawi to long-time partners Chris and Pam Badger who are now the sole owners. Chris and Pam joined Wilderness Safaris in Botswana in 1986. After several years running expeditions across the Okavango and Chobe ecosystems, they exported both themselves and the Wilderness model further afield to Malawi. In the intervening 20 years they have created an exceptional collection of lodges in Malawi’s most magnificent areas – from the Shire River lowlands of Liwonde National Park, to the languid shores of Lake Malawi and the biodiversity and unique scenic splendour of the Nyika Plateau in the north of the country. Even more importantly, they have demonstrated an inherent commitment to ecotourism in its most admirable form through their extensive community and conservation work. “The sale of our share in the business allows Chris and Pam the latitude to continue their pioneering ecotourism model in this delightful south-central African country”, says Wilderness Safaris CEO, Keith Vincent. “Of course, we’re going to miss them and Chris’s impromptu harmonica sessions, but expect plenty of nostalgic catch ups at the various trade shows around the world.” This is a sentiment echoed by Chris: “Since 1986 we have been privileged to have worked and grown with the company and its unique group of people and places, always having a lot of fun and regarding our employment more as a quest than a job! We look forward to our shared commitments to conservation, community and service growing even stronger and to sharing some exciting new developments with our partners in 2015.” The new company has been rebranded as Central African Wilderness Safaris with the borassus palm silhouettes in the logo representing the distinctive fringing vegetation of the Shire River, where it all began in the early 1990s. Other than the shareholding, and the evolution in visual identity, there are no dramatic changes foreseen. According to Keith Vincent, “Wilderness Safaris remains a major supporter and supplier of this new company and continues to work jointly with the Badgers in implementing Children in the Wilderness programmes across the country. Likewise, the Wilderness Wildlife Trust remains a committed supporter of rhino conservation and other work being done under the umbrella of CAWS and we wish the Badgers every success in their next Malawi chapter.”
  19. Wilderness Safaris have announced their 6 countries summer special starting from 1st November 2013 and ending 15th April 2014 (excluding December 20th to January 10th). Minimum number of nights reduced from 6 to 5. Many accommodation rates reduced, particularly in Namibia and Zimbabwe Children staying in a family room with full paying adults receive 50% of the adult rate More info to follow
  20. Hi all. I have been lucky enough to secure a very small grant to conduct a camera trap based survey of Thuma Forest Reserve. The first ever. I hope to gauge distribution of meso carnivores and other cryptic species. I do however need to make the grant go a long way in order to get a viable sample size. Can anyone suggest a UK source which could possibly offer discounts or low cost bushnell traps? I'm looking at sourcing another 10 traps but I doubt I will manage that from this grant. Thanks Safaritalkers
  21. Having read some recent comments i thought i would collate all of Wilderness Safaris' current special offers across six southern African countries up until the 30th April 2013 Botswana Little Mombo - US$795.00 pppn Jao, Vumbura Plains, Kingspool - US$530.00 pppn Kalahari Plains, Kwetsani, Tubu Tree Camp, Chitabe, Banoka Bush Camp, Little Vumbura & Duma Tau - US$430.00 pppn Namibia Little Kulala (Sossusvlei), Serra Cafema (Kunene) - US$530.00 pppn Kulala Desert Lodge (Sossussvlei), Damaraland Camp & Doro Nawas (Damaraland), Ongava Lodge (Etosha NP) - US$295.00 pppn Zimbabwe Little Makololo (Hwange) & Ruckomechi (Mana Pools)* - US$390.00 *Ruckomechi opens on the 1st April 2013 Zambia Toka Leya & The River Club (Livingstone for Victoria Falls - US$430.00pppn South Africa iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Zululand: Rocktail Beach Camp - US$170.00pppn Malawi Mumbo Island Camp (Lake Malawi National Park), Mvuu Camp (Liwonde National Park) - US$210.00pppn Mvuu Lodge (Liwonde National Park) - US$330.00pppn Chelinda Lodge (Nyika National Park) - US$270.00pppn Flights are available at reduced rates - should you be interested in any particular combination of camps, I can give you a quote including flights.
  22. 13 nights (14 days) Northern Malawi Explorer Prices from 2,675 GBP per person based on 2 sharing excl. international flights Visit the wilds of Northern Malawi and you can view the spectacular landscape of Nyika Plateau, relax on the shores of Lake Malawi, witness the beauty of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve and experience local culture at the rural villages of Ntchisi. This trip offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy some of Malawi’s lesser known highlights. Day 1 Lilongwe, Kumbali Country Lodge Arrive at Kamuzu International Airport where you will be met by a representative from Responsible Safaris and transferred to Kumbali Country Lodge for an overnight stay. Spend the afternoon enjoying the sights and sounds of Lilongwe. Visit the nature sanctuary for a guided walk. Wander through the old town and new town where you will find a number of good restaurants, bars and activities for visitors. Go shopping at the bustling curio market, ideal for buying gifts or visit one of the famous landmarks including the tomb of the first Malawian President and a memorial tower in remembrance of soldiers who fought in the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Day 2 Lilongwe - Viphya Plateau, Luwawa Forest Lodge Depart after breakfast and head north by road to the South Viphya Forest Reserve where you will spend one night at the Luwawa Forest Lodge. The forest reserve is the second largest in the whole of Africa and the region of South Viphya is always a hive of activity. The stunning landscape rolls down towards the shores of Lake Malawi and the plateau’s montane vegetation and cooler climate is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. A range of activities are available including mountain biking, hiking and abseiling all of which can be organised by the lodge. For keen nature lovers the bird life is some of the most diverse in Malawi and includes ospreys, eagles and the lesser double collared sunbird, all taking advantage of the pine forests and expanse of Luwawa Dam. Day 3 – 5 Viphya Plateau - Nyika National Park After an early breakfast, begin the long drive north to Nyika (7hrs). The drive takes you through beautiful landscapes and gives you the chance to see roadside Malawi – something different at every turn! Arrive at Chelinda Camp your home for the next three nights in time for dinner. The camp is located within the rolling hills of Nyika Plateau and provides a wonderful base from which to experience the diversity of wildlife on show. Spend the next three days enjoying a combination of game drives and walking safaris in Nyika National Park where there can be found over 200 plant species and over 100 mammal species including Burchell’s Zebra, leopard, elephant and the stunning roan antelope. Bird watching is also excellent all year round. Day 6 – 8 Nyika National Park – Lake Malawi Northern Lake Shore After a final game drive and breakfast at the camp, head down to the lake shore to enjoy rest and relaxation at the Makuzi Beach Lodge, where you will spend the next three nights. Makuzi is a family run lodge with one of the best beaches in Malawi Less touristy, the northern lake shore is home to the Tumbuka and Tonga people, rich in culture and tradition they speak their own dialect and are some of the friendliest people in Malawi. The rugged landscape of the northern lake shore allows for stunning views over Lake Malawi with a wonderful backdrop of mountains forming the edge of the Great Rift Valley escarpment. Sandy shallow water makes for excellent snorkelling for those who enjoy water sports. Day 9 – 10 Lake Malawi - Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, Tongole Wilderness Lodge Depart Lake Malawi after breakfast and head to the Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, the oldest Reserve in Malawi, for your two night stay at the Tongole Wilderness Lodge. The Lodge was built in 2011 and offers guests a luxury wilderness retreat. Activities include canoeing and hiking for the adventurous or plunge pools and relaxation for those wanting to sit back, listen to the birds and wait for the elephants to come to the river to drink! Best explored on foot, the reserve is a bird watcher’s paradise with over 130 different species to see. Day 11 – 13 Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve - Ntchisi Leave Nkhotakota after breakfast on the unforgettable journey to Ntchisi where you will spend your final two nights at the Ntchisi Forest Lodge. Ntchisi Forest Lodge is a colonial building tucked into the hillside. Lovingly restored, the lodge is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. Days can be spent walking through the hillside villages, learning how to cook Malawian cuisine, hiking and biking in the rainforest or sitting on the lodge terrace soaking up the magnificent views. Due to its altitude Ntchisi is mosquito free so evenings are usually spent on the terrace or around the open fire sharing stories with other guests. All meals and hiking activities are included. Day 14 Ntchisi – Lilongwe Kamuzu International Airport Depart Ntchisi by road for the journey back to Lilongwe arriving at Kamuzu International Airport in time for your return flight to the UK.
  23. I am planning on conducting the 1st camera trap survey of Thuma Forest. The aim of the research is to investigate the differences in meso/large carnivore diversity between encroached and unencroached areas. We have conducted spoor and scat based mammal surveys previously but this will be the first formal research. 2012 has been an up and down year, some new donors but an increase in ivory poaching has taken up the majority of our time but my gut feeling is there is a lot in the forest which we just don't know about and this is not only very exciting but also an opportunity to identify new conservation priorities within our forests. We also intend to trial cyber tracker as a means of low dost digital mapping of poaching activity and wildIife distributions. hope to share the images we obtain with you throughout the Summer of 2013 but also put out a request for anyone who could support this with an equipment donation, if anyone knows of someone who would be in a position to donate a camera trap or other relevant equipment. The link below contains our most recent newsletter including an Xmas wish list should anyone be in a position to help. Safaritalk has long been a great supporter of our work, in facy it was through Safaritalk that i 1st became aware of WAG Malawi in 2009 and I'd like to thank you all for that. John
  24. It has all been going on at our Self Drive Safari Experience in Malawi. The reserve is a up and coming conservation area. They have recently seen the arrival of two leopards and completed a vulture count. There has also been excitment with the resident hyeana clan chasing and making an impala kill next to the tented chalets at the lodge! Book your trip today to get in on this action! http://www.bluelizar...experience.html Help to protect and conserve Malawi’s wildlife resource and local communities by visiting and staying at Malawi’s only protected area operated by African Parks! This wildlife reserve is situated in the lower Shire valley in the South West of Malawi, approximately 70kms (one and a half hour’s drive) from Blantyre’s Chileka international airport and three hours from Lake Malawi. The Malawi wildlife reserve is a unique conservation and tourist destination for all visitors. The amazing success story of recovery and restoration and the continued protection of endangered species has led this wildlife reserve in Malawi to become one of the most popular reserves in Malawi. The wildlife reserve was once a prolific wildlife refuge, however, by the late 1990’s most species of large game, including elephant, had been eradicated. The restoration of this wildlife reserve in Malawi has been a long and hard process. Restoration has included; significant infrastructure development wildlife restocking and a complete overhaul of the law enforcement and scientific monitoring function. The Malawi wildlife reserve now boosts many of the African bush species and is fast becoming a balanced ecosystem, but there is still a long way to go. The Malawi wildlife reserve offers a fantastic self-drive conservation safari experience. Blue Lizard Adventures is proud to offer clients this wonderful opportunity to visit and stay on a stunning area of conservation importance in Malawi. There are two self-drive conservation safari experiences: 1) The self-drive lodge experience: The lodge accommodation is situated within the wildlife reserve around a serene floodlit waterhole that attracts a variety of wildlife; Thawale Lodge is a peaceful haven from which to experience the majestic wildlife reserve. Completely unfenced, the camp is regularly visited by wildlife. Thawale Lodge offers six double and twin tented chalets all en-suite and each with its own private veranda overlooking the waterhole. The more luxurious chalet has a unique open air bathroom built among the rocks with a shower and a sunken bath and views of the floodlit waterhole. The chalets are spaced out to offer visitors privacy and an individual bush experience. A communal lapa (traditional lounge area) with a fully staffed kitchen is available in the centre of the camp. Fresh meals are served in the beautiful thatched bamboo restaurant and bar and there is a birding veranda looking out over the combretum forest and waterhole. Thawale is fully electrified. 2) The self-drive camping experience: This self-drive experience caters for the more budget of traveler or back to nature adventure seeker. By staying at the community campsite you are directly contributing to the improvement of livelihoods of the surrounding communities. Close to the entrance of the wildlife reserve there is a self-catering campsite which was built in 2007. It is fully equipped with a thatched bar providing cold drinks, meal and snacks, barbeque area, tent hire, toilets and hot showers. Power is provided through a solar system and two beautifully thatched hideouts offer a comfortable place to spend the night. The campsite is owned and managed by a Committee of local people from villages surrounding wildlife reserve, with assistance from the extension team of African Parks and the profits go directly to them. This experience is a self-drive conservation safari and therefore you are able to drive around the reserve in your own vehicle on your own safari. However, you must abide by the reserve rules at all times. However, there are also a number of activities which are available for clients to pre-book before they embark on the self-drive conservation safari experience: Bush and bird walk (No children less than 12 years old allowed. Minimum of 2 people required) Game Drive (Children under 5 years are free. Minimum of 2 people required) Night Drive (Minimum of 2 people required) Community Visit Hike Majete Hill (No children under 12 years old allowed) Bush Breakfast Boat Ride on the River (No children under 12 years old allowed. Minimum of 2 people required) Your own scout in your car! Please see the Blue Lizard Adventures price guide for more details.
  25. The Wildlife Action Group is looking for 300 special people to join The 300 CLUB - by donating just 3 £, Dollars or EURO each to help protect the last of Malawi's wild elephants in their natural habitat. One lucky winner will get to name an Elephant at Thuma Forest Reserve, Malawi. (Every person who donates will have their name appear in the Wildlife Action Group Hall of Fame - and all for the price of a sandwich!) Wildlife Action Group promises that 100% of your donation will go to the employment of a local Malawian man who will be part of an already established team who patrol the forest protecting elephants and other wildlife from poachers. The more scouts who can patrol the forest, the more poaching is reduced and the more elephants are saved. He needs training, kit and a simple salary to support his family in terms of food, clothes, medicine and education. So your donation as part of the 300 CLUB, will help support hard working Malawian people as well as protecting the forest and all its flora and fauna. The 300 club will be a regular campaign which will not only secure important donations but also give individual credit to those who donate (should they wish to be credited). We will publish a montage of photos of the donors (should they provide one) until the next 300 club campaign. I hope many of you will take this campaign to your hearts and if you are unable to donate yourselves then tell a friend about us. Any comments, advice or criticism welcomed!!

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