Hello there. I hope that you have had another fabulous weekend. Here in the Luangwa, we are as always nonstop but today I am going to hand you over to Mike at Kuthengo Camp. He has been battling with rising water and extreme weather but has found the time to share some stories with us. Mike over to you:
“With any story, its best to start from the beginning… In February, Jenn and I took our annual leave from camp and managed to spend some days in South Africa with Jenn’s family. We decided to fly back to Malawi early and do a road trip down to Livingstone, Zambia to see the beautiful Victoria Falls, which would be the first time Jenn would see them.
If you are a past guest of ours, you would have likely heard the campfire story that Jenn would only accept my proposal if I found her a black rhino in Liwonde… and in November 2022 I did just that! I took the opportunity to ask Jenn the big question while we were on the banks of the majestic Zambezi in Zambia, and she said yes!!!
Not long after we got back from Zambia, we packed our things and drove back down to Kuthengo Camp. Home sweet home! It was great to be back and see the amazing Kuthengo team again. We slowly started to get camp in order and found our feet again so we could take on the new season. Since we had a few days to spare, we decided to revamp and redo our wooden boat and give her a makeover. All of us were on the ground and moving furniture back into their respective rooms. We were to open on the 15th of March. But mother nature had other plans…
An uninvited guest called Freddy arrived on the 12th of March. We received heavy rains and it did not let up for 72 hours. Roads were flooded, fallen trees and animals skittish. On the 13th of March we noticed the Shire River slowly rising but we thought it wouldn’t affect us. We were very wrong. After reading all weather warnings and reading the news we knew we needed to get some extra food supplies for us and the staff as no one was sure when the weather would let up.
Between the 14th and 16th of March the river came up more than 4 meters. Our biggest concern was for tents 1 and 3 as they were closest to the river. We ended up removing all furniture items and storing them in our containers, but the water did not stop rising. We had to make the tough choice to remove the floorboards from tent 3 as they were made from soft rubber wood and could get damaged. The ground softened quickly with all the water and two trees fell.
One was at the boat points where guests are picked up and another next to tent 3. We worked day and night to make sure all staff and all tents were safe from the extreme high water. The only ones happy with the high water were the hippos and crocodiles and we were finding both in and around camp. The high river levels that we experienced was the highest ever recorded. Here is a short video I took of how the camp looked during this time.
Once the rain calmed down and the water subsided, we got to mending all the damages from electrical, water, sewage and structural. This took a few days, but we did it. We were very lucky that we did not have any major problems to deal with. The job that took the longest was to put tent 3 back together but we did it. We had all the rooms furnished and ready again for the season. There were still a few jobs that needed to be done but we couldn’t get them done until the river subsided more, so Jenn and I left the team and went up to Pumulani Lodge for 2 days to check on how they did during the cyclone and to our relief they were fine. The only thing we noticed was the elevated lake level. I left Jenn there to help open Pumulani for the season and I drove back to Kuthengo Camp.
I was so happy to get back and see the staff fresh and ready to open. We did a walk around camp, and I saw one last problem that we needed to deal with, and quick. The massive Fever Tree (Acacia xanthophloea) had shifted and started leaning directly over tent 2. It was a ticking time bomb waiting to fall. After trying to pull it back into position with some machines, ropes, and chains, we had to make yet another difficult decision to cut the tree down strategically before it falls. I called Toni (Our new Malawi Country Manager and Mkulumadzi Lodge Manager) to come up and assist with this project and he was here in camp within 2 days but, it had shifted again. The tree was leaning at such an angle that it would be close to impossible to direct it down when we cut it, so we dismantled Tent 2 completely, from the roof to the floorboards, side walls, bath, aircon units… everything had to move. Not long after the tent was out of harm’s way, the chainsaws were rattling and cutting down the tree. The tree fell and everyone ran in the opposite direction. The fuss was over and for the past few days the team has been rebuilding tent 2.
Our first guests arrived last week, and it is so good to back on track and doing what we do best, which is showing our guests the beauties of Liwonde National Park. By now your coffee is finished and I am sure your work is needing you. Have a great week ahead and we hope to see you all soon.”
Gosh what a hectic start to the year, lets hope that that is it in terms of unexpected excitement and you can now crack on with a fab season ahead. Thanks so much for sharing with us Mike.
Nothing quite so dramatic from this side to be honest, so for this week I shall bid you a very fond farewell and hope that you have a fantastic week with plenty of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after one another.