Our final stop on the trip was to Mvuu camp in Liwonde National Park. I have been very fortunate to visit the park several times before, but I am always so happy to be there. The park hugs the broad lazy Shire river and the landscape varies from sandy flood plains to dense woodland. It has a healthy population of elephants, who are the stars of the park, and seven shy black rhinos that are virtually never seen. There are also dozens of species of antelope and birds, more hippos and crocodiles than you can count, and recently, a small pride of lions. The lions have only been seen once, but the guides say they have heard them roaring.
We took a 45 minute boat ride to get to the camp (during which we saw a fish eagle, bee eater, and of course, lots of hippos), had lunch and set off on our afternoon game drive. Our experienced guide was knowledgeable. We saw impala, warthogs, kudu, sable, and a huge thirty year old crocodile (apparently they grow a meter every ten years so a three meter crocodile is 30 years old). The sunset was stunning and we enjoyed sundowners by the river. While I enjoyed the drive, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t see elephants. As we headed back to the lodge, a second guide, Danforth, used a spotlight to find nocturnal animals. We passed a small grove of trees and thick undergrowth when we slowed down. We could hear rustling and the trees nearby were being knocked about. We stopped and waited with the light shining. Our guides thought there might be an elephant in the grove. Suddenly, the animal burst forth from the grove and sprinted away from our vehicle into the darkness. I couldn’t believe it – our guide turned around excitedly – did you see it? It was a rhino. The spotter had caught it in his spotlight before it disappeared. He was smaller than I expected, but we got a good look at him as he ran. It was the first rhino I’ve seen in the wild.
We were extremely lucky to have seen him. There are six rhinos in the rhino sanctuary (you have to make special arrangements to go inside) but the one we saw escaped about six months ago.
The news spread through the camp so that we felt like celebrities at dinner – “Did you really see a rhino? Where was it? I cant believe you saw it! What did it look like?”
The family chalet we shared was right on the river. Jackson and Kevin had trouble sleeping, as the hippos and crocodiles made noise all night. As one put it, it sounded like there was a hippo in the bed next to them.
The next morning (Sandy’s Birthday!) we had an amazing boat safari as well. I desperately wanted to see elephants, not just because they are my favorite, but because Jackson had never seen them in the wild. We weren’t too far up the river when we spotted two bull elephants. One was older, larger, and had long pointed tusks. The other was younger and careful not to challenge the elder.
We watched them for awhile and then swung back to the lagoon hoping we could watch them cross the water. When we went back to the riverside, there were two other bull elephants, much smaller and younger than the first two. We watched them eat and drink but the most exciting part was when one mock charged the boat. He flapped his ears, stomped his feet, and trumpeted. Our guide assured us that he was just showing off and we weren’t in any danger. We stayed put and after a few minutes, he mock charged again, as if saying in a whiny teenage voice, get out of here!
We left them be and traveled farther up the river. We turned into another lagoon and came across a huge herd of more than 30 elephants across the water. We couldn’t get too close, but could see through the binoculars that there were several babies, including one really small one.
All in all it was a great trip to Mvuu, as always. Looking forward to the next visit… and many thanks to Kevin who took most of these pictures…