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Hello again my friends,

Welcome to Liwonde!

After our frustrating day of travel we spent the next couple of days enjoying African wildlife at Liwonde National Park. Liwonde is located in the southern part of Malawi along the Shire River. It is known for its large elephant herds and hippo population. The last time I saw elephants was in Kruger a few months ago, so it was definitely time to see some more.

When we arrived at Mvuu Lodge, we decided to quickly set up our tables and chairs and have a late lunch. Gert placed some slices of bread on the table and went back to the truck to get the rest of the ingredients. As he was digging around in the truck a large group of monkeys arrived and circled the table. As I stood there watching and thinking how cute they were, one jumped up on the table, snatched the slices of bread, and ran away. He stopped 50m from the car, looked back at us, stuffed the bread in his mouth, gave us the finger, and then ran off. I was shocked at such behavior! These monkeys were rude!

This wasn't the culprit-but you get the idea

Careful not to repeat our mistakes, we made our next sandwiches in the truck. As we began to eat them, our friends showed up again. Gert stood up and tried to scare them off, but they were not at all intimidated. The male monkey, and the obvious pack leader, stepped forward and sat directly in front of Gert. The showdown had begun. Gert began to eat his sandwich slowly as he locked eyes with the monkey. The monkey, obviously finding the sandwich or Gert appealing (or both), became aroused and started playing with himself. The match continued like this, Gert with his sandwich and the monkey with himself, for what seemed like ages. Of course I was dying of laughter and disgust at the same time. The match ended anti-climatically when Gert finished his sandwich and walked away. I will never know who actually won that match, but one thing is for sure- we definitely haven’t evolved as much as we think…well, at least males haven’t 🙂

Later on in the evening, we headed out on an ocean safari. We shared a boat with a really nice older couple and a local guide named Henry. As we took our seats in the boat I noticed the couple had an impressive amount of gear-binoculars and multiple cameras with mega zoom lenses the size of my arm (yes, I stared in envy). I suddenly felt like an amateur and was wondering if this couple might work for National Geographic or something. Come to find out they were actually very serious bird watchers, or birders for short. Throughout my life I have known people that like birds, have birds, and actually look like birds, but I have never really met serious birdwatchers before. The boat pulled away from the pier and we began our tour down the river very…very… slowly. The slow speed, I later figured out, was imperative for spotting those elusive birds. About 10 minutes into our tour and only 200m from the pier I couldn’t help but think this was not going to be the type of boat safari I had in mind.

Look at those birds!

As we continued our slow journey down the river, both the guide and the ‘birders’ began enthusiastically yelling out random bird names like Black Breasted One-footed Fly-Eagle and the Two-toned Hippity-hop Fishing Owl. As I contemplated these bizarre bird names, I also started to wonder if I would ever be a serious birdwatcher like these people. I mean, sure, I like birds (well, except for my family’s three parrots…trust me, they are eeeeevil), and I like that Alfred Hitchcock movie, but I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to be a serious birder. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when I jumped up and yelled, “HIPPOS!” Adrenaline pumped through my veins and into my trigger finger in nanoseconds as I began to snap one picture after another of these magnificent creatures. After the 50th photo, I stopped and looked around the boat. Silence. No one seemed to be interested in my hippos. Apparently, hippos and other assorted large animals, like elephants and crocodiles, don’t take as much skill to spot. It was then I realized that no, I would never truly be a serious birder.

HIPPOS!

Crocodile!

The boat ride continued like this for the next two hours- everyone spotting birds and me spotting the big and much more interesting animals.

At the end, the boat pulled into the pier against a backdrop of a perfectly painted African sunset. I may not ever be a serious birder, but I will forever be a serious nature lover.

After our long day of traveling and activities, I happily retired to my room for some much needed sleep. I quickly snuggled into bed and began to think of how lovely and quiet nature was at night. Just then, I heard a hippo call in the nearby river. Awww, goodnight Mr. Hippo, I said quietly with a smile. But then, Mrs. Hippo joined in, followed by their kids, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors. It was an endless tirade of Hippo calls. Then I heard a monkey crying, and the nocturnal birds and insects joined in for good measure. It was a lullaby I hadn’t expected and honestly, after ten minutes, did not want. Who ever said the phrase in the ‘calm of the night’ had obviously never been to Africa.

Baby Elephant!

We left Liwonde the next morning a little tired. On our drive out I finally spotted some elephants! Liwonde really is a wonderful park to visit and is perfect for families, serious birders, or regular nature lovers like me. We were on the road again, this time heading north towards Lake Malawi. Looking forward to sharing my next adventure with you!

Until then, travel well and travel often!

Maia

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