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Majete National Park is one of the greatest conservation success stories and Mkulumadzi lodge is helping write its pages to greatness. The park suffered from extreme poaching in the 1980s and 90s but the African Parks Network and Malawi government have been working hard to reintroduce and protect native species for generations to come—and it’s working! As of this summer, it is once again a big five park with all the wildlife and beauty of the other major parks in Southern Africa but without the tourists. There are only two lodges in the entire park so the chances of having other safari vehicles whizzing by or crowding around an animal sighting are virtually non-existent. And when it comes to luxury lodges and outfitters, Robin Pope’s Mkulumadzi is the one and only.
Majete National park is 70,000 sq kilometers and Mkulumadzi owns 7,000 hectares for a feeling of total exclusivity. The lodge takes its same from its prime location, where the peaceful Mkulumadzi river flows into the raging Shire river.
Our suite was complete with a canopy bed, plush seating areas, and sparkling bath fixtures–but the most impressive feature of all? A missing wall. Not separated from nature with panes of glass, the room invited in the breeze from the Mkulumadzi river and sounds of the bush…all with the comforts of a honeymoon suite.
Robin Pope Safaris is renowned in Africa for their walking safaris and with the untouched nature of Majete, it couldn’t have been a better place to get in touch with nature’s nuances. Our guide Samuel with his ear to ear Malawian smile was the most passionate and informed guide for our walk. Following the tracks of black rhino, tasting the wild basil, and learning about the inner-workings of termite mounds, we walked into the sunset.
Whether on a walk or drive, it’s hard not to notice the magnificent Large Leaf Star Chestnut trees. Their flowering branches and white bark get your attention but its story is what stands out in our mind. The tree is actually very sensitive to light and produces this chalky coating as a form of sunblock—the problem is elephants like to scrap their tusks against it, exposing it to sun damage. Who knew trees couldn’t get sunburned?
The next morning we headed out on a game drive with our fearless guide, Chris. Crossing rivers and scaling mountains, he taught us not just about the nature but the fascinating lineage of being a fourth-generation English Malawian.
Not commonly seen in most African parks, we spotted the elusive Sable. How gorgeous are those tremendous horns?
Buffalo generally roam in herds but when you see an old male on his own he’s usually lost his rank in the group and been cast out for good. From years of fighting and old age, every mark, scar, and hoof seemed to have a story to tell.
Game drives are an expected element of any lodge but Mkulumadzi adds river safaris to the mix. We set out with a lovely British family taking in the peaceful bird life and the wild reptiles.
We stopped to watch these two crocs sitting on the cool rocks before the heat of the day. We assumed they were flashing their pearly whites for intimidation but as it turns out, keeping their mouths agape is form of self-powered air-conditioning.
Having adored our river safari and our walking safari, we decided to combo them on our last morning. Samuel took us for a walk along the water for little extra bonding with birds and our favorite, the hippos. We actually saw a pair of hippos mating…they must have been on honeymoon.
Let us know which animal is you favorite in the comments below (yes, one word comments are totally accepted and loved as much as any other).
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12. A list of everything we packed