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Malawi/Madagascar Trip Report

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Oct 31st, 2007, 03:50 PM
  #1
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Malawi/Madagascar Trip Report

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/Slidesho...9&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...8&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...1&conn_speed=1

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...3&conn_speed=1


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Oct 31st, 2007, 03:55 PM
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Sorry cannot get into any of the albums... in fact they are not there !!!?

Percy
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Oct 31st, 2007, 07:01 PM
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Sounds like a very interesting trip. Please fix your link to the pics, really want to see them! And interested in hearing about Madagascar also.
Thanks!
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Oct 31st, 2007, 08:18 PM
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Thank you for your post. We are headed to Madagascar April of 2008. We await your trip report. It is much appreciated. Although we are visiting friends it will be a challenge as we do not speak much French.
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Oct 31st, 2007, 09:18 PM
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Hi gatoratlarge

Saw a show on Animal Planet about the Kruger Park rescue team moving sable antelope in Malawi from A to B and I would love to see them in those numbers, 100's and 100's of them. A gameviewing moment on TV that I just cannot forget! That alone would be worth the trip!

Kind regards

Kaye
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Oct 31st, 2007, 09:59 PM
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Also could not get into your Kodakgallery.
regards - tom
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Nov 1st, 2007, 08:05 AM
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Sorry bout that---will fix the link AND add a Madagascar trip report as promised...

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...Uy=vt7wfh&Ux=0

Hope this works...addressing the comment about the Sable antelope, they were shy but we still spotted large herds of sable in the rhino sanctuary, perhaps 40-60...something like that. I had only seen a lone sable at Hwange in Zim and Vumbura before....the females are a beautiful chestnut/reddish color and the males are very handsome...I never got a great picture of them in numbers but we saw them...the second link works---can't seem to delete the first...
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Nov 1st, 2007, 08:28 AM
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Thanks, great report. I visited Malawi and Madagascar on separate trips, but it looks like you managed a nice itinerary to visit both.

Did you get to any of the national parks in Madagascar -- Baobab Alley is wonderful, but its only an hour or so south from Kirindy, where I saw the widest variety of lemurs (and even saw a fossa, Madagascar's largest carnivore).

Looking forward to your report on Madagascar.

Michael
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Nov 1st, 2007, 08:37 AM
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Your link works -- I had forgotten about the kids selling mice-on-a-stick -- we saw several on the way from Lilongwe to Lake Malawi.

What is the first animal in the black rhino sanctuary -- looks like a forest hog (I didn't realize they had them in Malawi).

Michael
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Nov 1st, 2007, 09:04 AM
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Very cool report. We don't get many tales from Malawi on this board.
Did WS make your reservations for the Ilaha ferry, or did you arrange those on your own?
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Nov 1st, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Beautiful pictures! Thanks!
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Nov 1st, 2007, 10:19 AM
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Pics/Madagascar Trip Report:

We used Cortez Travel for this leg...getting around Madagascar is not easy and the air travel was pretty inefficient but this was my second trip to MAD and there were certain places I wanted to see...Moroansetra was one and Morondava was the other.

So after a night in Tana (the Indian Ocean Games were going on so our arrival was treated with a military band and red carpet)we took a flight to Moroansetra near the Mousouala (may have the spelling wrong) Peninsula. We stayed at a beautiful place in a coconut plantation right on the beach. Nosy Mangabe looking like something right out of Jurassic Park or the Island of Dr. Moreau or even Pirates of the Caribbean just off in the Antongil Bay.

This is the rainiest part of Madagascar and it lived up to its billing at times but we managed to see some great things in the area. The whales are a real highlight...we saw more than a dozen and could have really emphasized this but chose to view them between the Peninsula and Nosy Mangabe (sort of along the way). We probably saw a dozen or more but at times they are breaching all over the bay---we saw this from a distance) the Peninsula was beautiful and you'll likely see the red ruffed lemur although the ones we spotted were high in the canopy.

On Nosy Mangabe we spotted several varieties of lemur including the Black adn White ruffed but not without a pretty slippery hike on the slopes.

The highlight for me was a night Aye Aye spotting tour with guide Julian. I can't brag on him enough. We've been a lot of places but what a treat to be with Julian. His enthusiasm was contageous--he offered to catch almost anything we spotted (not necessary) and would take off running with the spot light shouting "Fosa! Fosa!" We plied the dark river under an incredible sky full of stars and when we finally got where we were going I could hear the surf crashing against the beach...we spotted snakes and frogs and chameleans, fosa's and the aye aye...it was a real highlight of Moroansetra.

Back to Tana for a night and then a day trip to Baobab Alley. We were unable to see it at sunset or sunrise but it was still a great sight. Unfortunately, people have kind of taken up sitting at both ends and children come running for tip money with captured chameleons, etc...not quite a "spiritual" experience with all the comotion. I did have to laugh when a road grader was abandoned or parked right in the middle of the alley...I mean travel half way around the world for a photo op and there sites a big abondoned rig!

We had a great lunch at the Baobab Cafe and the town looked like a nice spot for a few days or R&R. A good many French tourists seemed to view it that way. ALways amazed where Europeans will round up the entire family and visit kids in tow---we think it's so far away and exotic. They make it look routine. Here are the pics...hope you enjoy:

http://www.kodakgallery.com/Slidesho...Uy=g9omox&Ux=0
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Nov 1st, 2007, 10:39 AM
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Have read Malawi only. Your photos show Malawi is excellent for wildlife action, not just scenery and relaxation. I had thought scenery and relaxation were the big drawing cards of Malawi. The croc pictures are an outstanding collection. From crocs to hippos and those fiesty water splashing eles, you really caught the daily rhythm of these creatures. Then to have sable and roan that were visible and photographable!

From your pre-trip planning, did you know all these animals would likely be there?

Must one nearly drown and be rescued like a tuna (or however you put it) to get to Mumbo Island? Did you see a lot of animals on Mumbo Island?

At which location(s) did you see most of these animals?

The only criticism and scorn you will get is from jealousy of a unique combination of destinations.
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Nov 1st, 2007, 10:58 AM
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ATD-Adventure Travel Desk arranged the Malawi portion, Cortez Travel the Madagascar portion. I think they both did a good job...Wilderness I believe booked the Ilala Owner's Cabin which is a great way to slow down, read a book, have a few beers on the top deck, watch the lake go by and see how commerce works on Lake Malawi...a day and a half aboard was fun...not for everyone as I said but we dug it.

About Kirindy---unfortunately due to airline schedules, we simply could not get an overnight in Morondava so Kirindy was just out of reach. We did get a streaking glimpse of a Fosa in Omroansetra with Julian...that little area was chock full of animals...I probably saw a lot more lemurs going to Fort Dauphin and Berendy and Perinet and Ranamafana last time but this was really enjoyable as well...

PS me and my pop are not in the least bit able to speak French but where there's a will, there's a way! It was really not too much of a problem, just takes a little patience on both parts---ours and there's : )
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Nov 1st, 2007, 11:11 AM
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LOL thnaks for the response. I had not really known what to expect but Mvuu (Liwonde NP) was the location for almost all the animals. It was a great place perhaps the best place we've been for crocs and hippos...Elles were abundant too and the matriarchal (?) were sort of skittish with the babies so they moved off fairly quick---the bulls were much more relaxed and we were able to watch a young one wreslte and play fight with one of his elders----the large tusked bull elephant was totally relaxed and quite dignified. We did not want to go to Africa and not see wildlife so hearing this was the best wildlife destination in Malawi, were stayed four nights. it always goes too fast...

The "pigs" were, I think, Red River Hogs---perhaps Bush pigs or forest hogs? I was surprised to see these and I did not get a good picture as they were on the move---the entire family moving between a lot of brush. That really did surprise me.

One other observation is that there is remarkable mopane forests in the park and especially the rhino sanctuary---I guess a sign that elles are not overpopulated---I remember in parts of Botswana near Linyanti and it looked like a war zone with the trees downed and decimated. Really a beautiful landscape.

Only thing missing are predators. We really didn't see any. Lions are said to be back in the park but very skittish and low in numbers...
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Nov 1st, 2007, 11:21 AM
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Sorry for all the posts---just trying to answer some of the questions...Mumbo Island had tons of fish eagles which are beautiful to see...the cichlids and snorkelling is fantastic and just right off your room and around the giant boulders...also saw an otter or two playing around in the lagoon...apparently a croc had floated over on a giant island of weeds/vegetation that floated over and stopped against the island recently---they had to tow this mass of weeds off with a boat---so while we were there, there was a section of island off limits as park personnel tried to shoot it (it's within the L Malawi NP).

Nearby Domwe Island apparently has some wildlife like monkeys and even duikers. You do not have to kayak to Mumbo and unless youre pretty good at it---I'd just take the boat that carried our luggage. The best kayaking is around Mumbo Island anyhow exploring the caves, etc...no need kayak over at all but just something I thought we'd try (bad idea! : )
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Nov 1st, 2007, 11:32 AM
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Just looked at your Madagascar pics. Again, beautiful! I like the people shots in all your albums. Thanks!
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Nov 1st, 2007, 12:11 PM
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Can you estimate how much you spent on average per day? We are trying to budget for our trip. The photos were so professional thank you! Were any those snakes poisonous? Maybe I don't want to know. April can't arrive soon enough for us.
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Nov 1st, 2007, 12:25 PM
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Thanks very much---I can try to estimate. It was about $1770 per person for a week...that may sound like a lot or not much...air seemed about the best way to get here to there within the country...overall MAD was fairly cheap.

Thanks for the compliments on the pics---I don't have a particularly good camera but i play around with them and crop them on picasa.

By the way, the snakes were NOT poisonous---I actually think there aren't any poisonous snakes in MAD. None threatening to humans that I am aware of...Julian would pull up a rotting log like he knew where they lived!
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Nov 1st, 2007, 12:33 PM
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Great photos and posting. Interesting place to visit. Will add it to my list.

-GrannyJoan
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