MALAWI NEWS, DECEMBER EDITION 2012

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Dear Friends of Wilderness,

 

The holidays are upon us so we are sending this newsletter off a little early to try to catch those of you who will be away over the festive season.  Remember if fuel is an issue and is making you think twice about travelling to any of our properties over Christmas, give us a buzz on 0888822398 and we will see if we can help-we don’t have unlimited stocks but we have planned for the shortages and may be able to help.  The holidays are also a great time to bank some frequent traveler points towards a free stay with us- we’ve already had several loyal guests save up enough to make a claim, remember you can travel anywhere and as long as you book through Wilderness Safaris, you’ll earn points on our scheme.

Thank you all for your support this year and we wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year.  

 

The Wilderness Safaris Team


Mvuu Camp and Mvuu Lodge

 

Flying into Mvuu after the rains-note Chinguni Hill 30 kms away!

 

Contributors: Jim, Duncan, Jimmy, Rocky  and Chris

 

Weather and Landscape:

The rains have arrived in Liwonde and with them the incredible feeling of renewal that water brings to a parched landscape. Chris Badger from our Lilongwe office was  recently at Mvuu and reports as follows:

Date 10th December “The intense build up of heat and the rolling thunderclouds was followed at about 1500 by the first fat drops, building up from a light shower to heavy sheets of rain within the hour. A quick walk around the lodge showed puddles forming in minutes and small dongas turning into streams flowing down into the lagoon. As the water flowed in from the river and out from the interior of the park a whirlpool formed under the lodge lounge as the rich muddy waters flowed into each other. The colony of white backed night heron that live opposite the lodge decided to change from their normal nocturnal routine and all flew down in broad daylight to the edge of the lagoon to feed on the influx of frogs and small fish being swept into the lagoon. We witnessed some extraordinary behaviour from a small crocodile-usually the most energy efficient of beasts and the most successful of hunters, this young one was leaping out of the water to lunge at a perching heron that was always comfortably out of range. Dinner that night was wonderful -the frogs were calling so loudly we could barely hear ourselves talking and all manner of insects including some impressively large predatory beetles flew around the paraffin lamps feasting on the newly hatched flies and flying ants.

After a beautifully cool night we awoke at 5 am for a walk. The skies were clear and the air already clean and crisp from the rain. The first noticeable feature were  the thousands of red velvet mites-these tiny spiders appear immediately after the rains and carpet the floodplains –the millipedes-until now hiding in the thickets were also everywhere.   The hundreds of impala that live around Mvuu and have endured a particularly long and harsh dry season were noticeably more active than usual, already feeding on green shoots that had appeared as if from nowhere and the younger ones were prancing about and mock fighting each other.”

 

Birds and Birding:

Click here and check out this incredible album of Mvuu birds, all spotted and photographed this month in Liwonde National Park.

 

More about the rhino operation

 

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The rhino darting and collaring team with a darted rhino

 

Last month we reported on the rhino darting and monitoring operation and  as this continued into December we would like to elaborate further on what the mission is and on what has been achieved so far. Black rhino are under huge poaching pressure all over their increasingly limited range in Africa and Liwonde’s unique population is no exception. Over the last few weeks a number of organisations and individuals have come together to put a plan in place to enhance their protection. The plan was to dart and collar  as many rhino as we could find and then  monitor them continuously to check on movements and territory. The Wilderness Trust  www.wildernesstrust.com  provided both VHF and satellite collars at considerable expense, Dr Pete Morkel, one of Africa’s most highly respected wildlife vets flew up and darted and collared the rhino as well as taking DNA samples , Krisz Gyonnyi, a  graduate student with considerable experience  in monitoring and studying black  rhino flew out from Europe to  take care of the monitoring, Bentley Palmer  from Blantyre organised funding for a temporary 3 strand fence to replace the old and ruined sanctuary fence, African Parks provided trackers and a dart gun and the  Department  of National Parks and Wildlife  supplied a team of scouts to assist in finding the rhino. In a 3 week spell of intense tracking and hard work in the blistering heat we have managed to dart and collar 7 rhino and these are now under constant satellite surveillance.

 

Wildlife in December  Some highlights

The transition from dry to wet inspired many great sightings in December-below are just a few random highlights

 

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5th December  90 elephant cross the river

 

 

Reported by Jimmy (4th December 2012)   Sanctuary A solitary Sharpe’s Grysbok-this small secretive antelope is rarely seen in the park, a herd of 160 buffalo –this is one of the biggest ever recorded on the park. Excellent views of a black rhino and calf.

Reported by Rocky (12.12.12) From the start of the day I wondered whether the 12.12.12-day could truly be a lucky day. While sitting in the lodge dining room with Justin the barman waiting for guests to come for an afternoon "tea & snack" before afternoon game drive, a female hippo walked down the lagoon. She was closely followed behind by a small animal which Justin (in the first place) thought was a warthog. Justin thought it was such a strange thing for a warthog to do, so he took another look. He called me with excitement …a baby hippo! It was such a new baby that it couldn't keep up even with its mothers slow walk. The most interesting thing was watching how well it could swim, better than it could walk on land.

Reported by Danger (Dec 15, 2012) We saw a massive herd of elephants numbering up to about 90...Smiles all around!!!

 

Some interesting bird sightings

Jimmy 4th December Western Banded Snake Eagle feeding on a side striped sand snake.

Guest comment:  ‘When I am old and grey and sit by the fire, I will remember my stay at Mvuu

Where I was happy,

Where I saw such beauty,

Where  met such great people,

Oh what memories I have”   Pauline Byrne

 


Chelinda Camp and Chelinda Lodge

Date: 12.12.12

Contributors: Chris

 

Weather and Landscape:

Following the beginning of light rains, last month, the real rains have now arrived and there can be few  places on this panet which transform  in a more spectacular fashion. The sunsets are now chrysal clear and the views immense-from Jalawe viewpoint in the north you will see Zambia (right next door) Mozambique,(over the lake to the south, and the sheer imposing mass of the Livingstone Mountains in Tanzania over the lake to the north It is still warm and sunny during the days, cloudy by late afternoon and during the evening it gets chillier.

 

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Flying into Chelinda in December                                                                Serval

 

Wildlife:

A Game drive  5th December   Chris Badger writes

“We set out at around 1600 intending to get to Chosi View Point, 10 kms away, for sunset. We managed to get only as far as Dam 3, 3 kms from Chelinda simply because we were seeing so much on the way. With the rains the Chelinda area sees an influx of game and a combination of some of the herd species from small groups into larger herds, mist noticeably eland. At one stage looking north to the grasslands between Dam 3 and Chelinda Hill we had 8 species in our field of vision-eland ( a huge herd of over 200) reedbuck, roan, zebra, bushbuck, warthog, bushpig, and side striped jackal. 

 

After stopping for hot chocolate and brandy-if you don’t know why come and visIt Nyika and feel the wonderful chill as darkness descends- the highlight of the drive were great vIews of a serval hunting in the grassland by the main road. These beautiful cats are seen less often than the leopard but are their equal in looks and hunting prowess, concentrating on smaller rodents, scrub hare, and ground birds.”


Chintheche Inn

 

Date: 19/11/2012

Contributor: Nick, Zana

 

Weather and Landscape:

The weather at Chintheche Inn: It has been sunny and warm this month at Chintheche Inn. The lake has generally been calm and it is a great time of year for sunset boat cruises and snorkeling trips to the island.

 

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A praying mantis in the garden at Chintheche

 

Wildlfe:

If you take the time to stroll around the grounds of Chintheche Inn you will find a huge amount of fascinating smaller creatures that very often go unnoticed. Two interesting creatures that are masters of disguise are the chameleon and the praying mantis. These two creatures have incredible natural adaptations which allow them to effortlessly blend into their surroundings. The chameleon has adapted to be able to rapidly change its skin colour to blend into whatever environment it finds itself in, and also when in distress to send out warning signals to any would be predators. It is amazing to watch how quickly they change their appearance. They have specially adapted eyes that move independently and swivel in all directions. This allows the chameleon to have a 360 degree view and always be on the lookout for predators.

The praying mantis looks remarkably like the sticks and leaves of the bushes and shrubs it inhabits. They are efficient hunters and feed on flies, spiders and other small insects. They get their name because of the way their front legs are held in a prayer-like pose. They move in a slow, jerky manner that resembles the natural movement of sticks and leaves. Fascinating little creatures to watch.

 

 

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Master Banda teaching a Womens Group at Livingstonia and on the balcony of the famous Stone House with Dr Lyn Dowds

 

Master Banda Visit to Livingstonia Mission December 2012

This December Master Banda was invited to make the journey to the historic Livingstonia Mission in the Northern Highlands of Malawi. He was hosted by Dr. Lyn Dowds and her family, regular guests at Chintheche Inn. Dr. Dowds was impressed with the work we have been doing to combat deforestation in our area and has expressed great interest in our Tree Nursery Project. She has met with Master and Nick at Chintheche on few occasions regarding the project and the deforestation problems they are facing at Livingstonia. Finally this December we had the opportunity to send Master to Livingstonia.Master was warmly welcomed by the Dowds family on his arrival and immediately set about his work.

Saturday: Master met with the local chiefs of the area to discuss with them the problem of deforestation and tell them about our project. He was well received and the chiefs were very excited about getting involved.

Sunday: Master was introduced to the Dean of Environmental Studies at Livingstonia University. He discussed the project with the Dean and what challenges Livingstonia faced. The Dean was very impressed and has asked Master to be a guest speaker to students in Environmental Studies at the University about tree conservation. The Dean expressed interest in incorporating into their curriculum an educational visit on conservation to Chintheche Inn for the students in the Environmental Studies department.

Monday: In the morning Master met with two government forestry officials and the estate manager of the plateau to introduce himself and tell them about the Wilderness Safaris Chintheche Inn Nursery Project. He then met with the staff at the Mission Hospital and measured two plots with them

 

Guest Comment:

 

"... the best campsite we have seen in Africa!"

“… the best welcome throughout Africa and we have been ALL over


Staff Moves

 

After 7 years with us, mainly at Mvuu Camp, Derek Kunz our group maintenance manager is moving on. Derek has been instrumental in putting in rigid systems of maintenance in all our camps and has also been involved in rebuilds, and development. Ths past year he has put in our Environmntal Monitoring and management system which allows us to evaluate how ‘green” we really are and demands of us that we are constantly revisiting our eco credentials and making sure that we practice what we preach. We will miss Derek and wish him well for his future. Sadly he is so shy we don’t have a photo of him close up….

 

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Derek being escorted out of Mvuu on his final journey with us

 


 

For more camp news: Please visit the following link and click on the camp news you are looking for,

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/news/index.jsp

 

Wilderness Safaris
P O Box 489, Bisnowaty Complex, Lilongwe

Lilongwe: T + 01 771 393 E reservations@wilderness.mw
Blantyre: T + 01  836 960  E blantyre@wilderness.mw

www.wilderness-safaris.com

www.wildernesstrust.com
www.childreninthewilderness.com