More Malawian magic can be found in Vwaza Marshes National Park.
Founded in 1965 this superb haven has an abundance of all kinds on animals, including more than 500 elephants and 400 hippos. There is also plenty of birds and antelope, and a few hyenas, buffalos, zebras and crocodiles to be found.
Centred around Lake Kazuni, the National Park is accessed via Rumphi, with the gate entrance reached by taking one of the irregular pick-ups some 30kms down a dirt track. It took us over 2 hours!
juvenile male kudus
Entrance fees are K750 for foreigners and K150 for locals. There is accommodation in chalets for K10000, basic huts for K5000 or you can camp for K1500. Although there is no local shops to the park, basic produce might be available – we are told there are currently some tomatoes for sale and soft drinks and basic breakfasts at the lodge. Each hut has iss own braai (bbq pit) and pots and pans are also available on request. Rasta Fire and i are only here for an overnighter as we have other missions, so we just take 2 loaves of bread, peanut butter, margerine and a couple of bottles of water with Sobo pineapple cordial.
We are greeted at the huts by Ranger Godwyn who shows us to the huts and offers 2-3 hour walking tours at K1500 per person early mornings and afternoons. He walks us across to the chalet area which is right by the lakeside and is insistent i don’t get within a kilometre of the elephant or hippos. These are dangerous beasts he informs me and tells me a charging elephant can come at some 40kms per hour and that hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. Even with my monster 300mm lens i can hardly see anything.
Godwyn informs us that a private group are coming into the camp and we will have to return off to the huts when they arrive. Why we can’t all share and watch together is not clear.
Being a somewhat naughty boy i sneak off for a more private shooting, and come 5.30ish in the evening i am rewarded with some 30 elephants coming down to the lake for a drinking session. A complete magical breathtaking traditional African moment! I creep low and quiet and get within some 200 metres of the herd. Poor Godwyn comes over somewhat disturbed. He reprimands me for being so close and says his boss saw me and I have put him in quite a predicament. I explain that i was just being naughty and it wasn’t his fault that i ignored the limits of safety, but he doesn’t seem very reassured.
a few of the park's 400+ hippos
We hear the hippos and elephants pass by, but with no moon out till 2am we see little.
Lucky Godwyn then has the pleasure of guiding myself and two Israelis for a 6am wander around the neighbouring marshlands. The area is teeming with both antelope including impala, kudos and elans, hippos back in the water and trails from crocodiles.
elan at dawn
Godwyn gets an armed escort - with an M16
With time restraints we are forced to leave by 9am the next morning thus missing the sunning of the hippos who come to sunbath in the early afternoon.
elephants at sunset
It’s a beautiful setting and well worth an extended visit. Godwyn informs me they are expecting delivery of a 4wd for deeper exploration into the park in the next few months.