Of course, Malawi is not a prime destination for game watching. Neighbouring countries like Tanzania and Zambia offer areas with a much wider variation of wildlife than can be found in Malawi. Still, a short visit to a reserve seemed in place. If not for the wildlife, then at least for the nature, the landscapes, and the possibility of a walking safari. So it was, that we boarded a pickup truck in Rumphi. It seemed pretty full already, but of course, full is a very relative concept. The floor was already full of all kinds of cargo, then there were people on the floor, on the sides, on the roof. Plus, of course, the passengers in front of the car. When we left, I thought we would be driving straight to the south - but of course, that was a very naive idea. Every time we stopped, more people joined, more bags and boxes were added to the pickup truck. And when nothing more fitted into the back, they just lowered the rear side of the truck, and put more cargo on top of that. Since I had been sitting on the rear side, I now had to hold on to one of the ropes I saw nearby - hoping it was attached well to something strong. Sunset was spectacular, and we ended up driving well into the darkness before arriving at the turn-off for Vwaza. There, we were assigned a cabin, and prepared a basic dinner on a fire - without a clue of our surrounding area. We would find out the next morning.
Despite the stories of elephants roaming around the cabins, I saw a lake without much water left when the early morning sunlight unveiled the surrounding area. Lots of birds, warthogs, and deer - but at least initially, no elephants. Just after leaving the cabin, a group of monkeys ran to the fireplace and started feasting on the leftovers of dinner. There appeared to be other visitors, and together with a guide and an armed guard, we started an early walk to explore Vwaza. We saw kudus, impalas, and many birds, termite hill buzzing with activity inside, and several interesting trees before we crossed a dry riverbed using a hippo-trail: this is where hippos cross. Later, we reached the shore of lake Kazuni. Here, we clearly saw that the wet season had not started yet. Very dry earth, with wide cracks in it, where our guide explained would normally be water. We did see enormous footprints in the earth: elephants.
Walking along the shore, we saw still more birds, and a little further away, pods of hippos. These enormous animals are often like icebergs: they are among the largest mammals, yet mostly only show their ears and the upper part of their heads. The trained guide was able to spot a crocodile from a long distance, basking in the sun. We continued our loop to see impala, but were secretly scanning the horizon to see if the herds of elephant were already coming in. After all, we could see huge heaps of animal dung everywhere, and our guide quickly analyzed almost all of them as recent (not more than a day old). Looking back at lake Kazuni, the hills, the trees surrounding it, it became clear that coming here was a good decision. The thrill of a walking safari, the typical landscape, the many animals around - even when the elephants did not show up at all, we were still satisfied and would have loved to stay another day. Other adventures, however, were around the corner.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve (Malawi). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve.
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