Well hello there how are you? Here in the Luangwa, having confidently announced that I felt that most of the rain was over, guess what… The heavens opened last night, and we received the almightiest downpour with huge thunder, lightning and rain able to find any gap in any roof and drip through. This morning is green, muddy and beautiful. However, this week we are zooming down to Mkulumadzi where we are hearing from Toni and Noline who are our new team on the ground over there. So, Toni and Noline over to you:
“Noline and I are the new kids at Mkulumadzi and this week has been all about the hustle and bustle of preparing the Lodge for the season ahead.
The thatching team have done incredible work with the Lodge roof, shinnying up and down their ladders, turning a mountain of grass cut in the dry season into a lovely, fresh and fragrant finished product.
This was one of the larger jobs that needed to get completed in the ‘off season’ and the team have had to dodge around daily storms with cyclone Freddy lurking and another cyclone waiting to come in from the Indian Ocean.
The term ‘off season’ is misleading, as really it is a busy time for the team with all the projects that need completing, the excitement of staff leaving and arriving in shifts to take their annual leave and visit their families. Each vehicle returning is full of freshly rested faces ready to laugh at shared stories from home and the inevitable tales of what has happened in the bush while they have been gone.
The months Mkulumadzi closes coincide with the peak of the rains. On one hand there is the speculation and debate over whether they will be early or late, when it is best to start various projects, what will the best time be to maintain roads, what will the Shire and the Mkulumadzi rivers do this year…
Out in the bush many of the animals are raising young, taking advantage of the abundance of this time of year. The vegetation is a deep emerald, green colour and the grass is chest high. The Insects are out in their greatest, wildest, noisiest numbers and the wildflowers are at their peak.
Very often the rainy season is when we take our annual leave and there is always a sense of missing out on one of the most exciting times of the year …FOMO! But not this year, this year we get to stay and enjoy it all.
Recently we have had the resident leopard kill a young waterbuck in camp and drag it through camp to a quiet place. The baboons have had to be on their toes with this young leopard having moved in. They love to loiter with intent around the lodge, but they know there is the real possibility of being a troop member less at any time, so we hear them barking with righteous indignation at one side of the camp or the other several times a day at real or imagined danger.
With camp being relatively quiet and the weather having been very warm two warthogs have taken to coming down to the Manager’s house for a wallow in the birdbath at midday, the time a pig most needs to cool down. In fact, the bushpig have also been seen on foot, in broad daylight, up near the rapids upstream from the lodge in the deep shade of a stand of Tamarind trees where we stood looking at each other, only meters apart.
The same heat has seen us having a swim in the pool overlooking the Shire River on the hottest days and we have quickly learned to take our binoculars with, as we regularly see game come down to the water’s edge, opposite, to drink. During one swim a crocodile took a baboon and swam off with several other crocodiles in hot pursuit, it cannot be easy being a baboon around these parts, luckily, we have a steady supply.
In the last couple of weeks part of our mission has been to explore Majete to familiarize ourselves with the roads and routes and to get to know what the Reserve has to offer. Good work if you can get it!
This afternoon’s drive yielded a large pack of Wild Dog coming down the road in the opposite direction to us as the sun was setting. We were on a narrow track with no other vehicles to be seen and with thick bush on either side of us, so they trotted up to the car, paused to have a bit of a look at us from the front of our Landcruiser and again from the back, all without a sound, nobody breathed a word. The whole sighting happened in absolute silence. Unforgettable, especially for one of our colleagues who had never seen them before.
After looking in at one of the hides, we drove home after dark with the spotlight and saw no less than fourteen owls, mostly Spotted Eagle-Owls, before tramping back across our suspension bridge by torchlight towards dinner.
Majete is a beautiful Reserve, and we have incredible experiences out here almost daily, sometimes action packed and exciting, often tranquil, and quietly spellbinding and it makes us remember how lucky we are to work out here, living these wonderful moments in nature.
Even as I sit here, writing this, there is a nighttime thunderstorm brewing and I wonder how the river will be in the morning, but it is great sleeping weather!
Our days are marked by the passing of rain and sun and the seasons, and it really does feel like every day is Saturday…”
Wow, thanks Toni and Noline! This all sounds incredible, and we are excited to hear more from you as the season progresses. I feel that this pretty much covers things and I should not hold you any longer but instead bid you all a very fond farewell and hope that you have a fabulous week ahead with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.