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Malawi/Madagascar Trip Report

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Sorry for the delay---have been back since August but frankly had forgotten how useful this forum was prior to departure----after I had returned, I had abandoned ho!

First off, our itinerary went like this:

US to JoBurg---overnight
JoBurg to Blantyre, Malawi overland to Mvuu
Mvuu Lodge for four nights
overland to Cape McLear, two nights at Mumbo Island
Ilala Freighter overnight to Kaya Mawa for three nights
small plane to Lilongwe
Lilongwe to JoBurg overnight
depart for Tana, Madagascar overnight
Fly to Moroansetra for three nights/Nosy Mangabe and the Mousuola Peninsula
flight to Tana overnight
fly to Morondava to Baobab Alley back to Tana
Tana to Mauritius to JoBurg overnight to US...

Before anyone heaps criticism and scorn, this is NOT a natural combination by any means...this was our eighth trip to Africa though and I was bound and determined to see Madagascar while I was "close"...I loved it. I was fine with it...but I can imagine few others would do it this way and that is understandable...

Mvuu was simply beautiful...a wide, palm lined African river with as many hippos as anywhere I've been....huge crocs were easy to see and were quite active---I viewed crocs mating in the lagoon right off our room's balcony. One large croc took off after another smaller one on land as I read a book out on the porch...bird life is amazing and I marvelled at what you could log if you sat in one place for a little while...Elephants are also very good and one young bull appeared in the path as we walked back to our room causing us to run for our lives(imagine hearing the crashing of brush and looking up and seeing all bull elephant with a weak little torch)...the same bull got frisky on the walking safari the next day and the guide had to unload about five rounds to scare him back...quite thrilling lol! All's well, that ends well, we say.

We arrived in the night and what a feeling to cross that dark river under starlight---really magic. no real predators to speak of but loads of sable more than anywhere else we've been. Also glimpsed Roan and red river hogs...no rhino although they're in a fenced reserve...rarely seen from what I was able to gather.

Lake Malawi is incredibly beautiful. The kayak ride to Mumbo can be perilous as "seas" can be quite rough...my dad and I barely made it out of the lagoon before capsizing and had to be pulled into the boat like a pair of tunas.

Mumbo is idylic---a croc had taken up residence and therefore parts of the island were off limits for swimming/snorkeling...it was a great place to kayak about and see the beautiful cychlid fish. Two days is plenty unless you really want to relax and unwind...Kayak Africa runs it/partnering with Wilderness...I thought they weren't quite up to service standards as Wilderness but the place is too beautiful to worry much about that. The winds can really be strong and pick up and drop off with little rhyme or reason...

The Ilala was quite fun---it would definitely not be for everyone. No offense, but the scene is sort of "Eurotrash backpacker" --- I mean that in the best possible way lol just budget backpackers (guarding the good chairs jealously on the top deck) drinking beer and watching the lakeshore go by...they've got great tales of their travels and even some drama (one guy had an argument with his wife at Monkey Bay and drank himself into a stupor---the staff made sure he didn't roll off the upper deck by strategically placing chairs along the rail---but alas they made up when she turned up onto the boat and got off in Mozambique to travel some more. I enjoyed "slummin'" on the Ilala---the beer was cold, the lakeshore beautiful and the engine lulled you into relaxation...the Owner's Cabin was perfectly fine as was the food. It was late as predicted...we were to arrive in the afternoon but instead departed crawling over burlap sacks of goods at 2A....how beautiful to motor around the perimeter of Likoma Island under starlight...

Kaya Mawa was as quirky and interesting as I had hoped. Our chalet was named for a Black Dog, one of the owners departed pets and it was buried somewhere underneath...a cross marked his final resting place. It was here that the "Warm Heart of Africa" slogan for Malawi especially took hold...children ran and waved along the shoreline whenever we strruck out by boat....even adults waved wildy as if we were long lost relatives as they bathed. We were awakened by the gentle surf and then the muffled noises of children at play and bathing on the bgeach as their mothers washed clothes and dishes. The church is beautiful and the music wonderful...I would say three (we did three) or four nights would do it...unless unwinding and total relaxation is your bag...we were discouraged from going over the Mozambique from here....the message was a lot of trouble for basically what you see by not going through the "border" hassles...it is tantalizingly close however...just there...

We had some luggage issues as we probably brough too much so a bag was left behind...Wilderness was great to make sure it reached us however...a very good outfit.

I'll attach Madagascar tomorrow but here are some pic links:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?&mode=fromsite&collid=19963664405.493503264505.1193870533959&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?&mode=fromsite&collid=19963664405.748750954505.1193870610898&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?&mode=fromsite&collid=19963664405.443192954505.1193870671901&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slideshow.jsp?&mode=fromsite&collid=19963664405.703535954505.1193870713343&conn_speed=1

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