November 2012 trip report

Rachel Floreen writes:

We just took a trip through the central/southern region of Malawi in November 2012. Here are a few comments and corrections we noted as we traveled:

ZOMBA AREA
– Bethel Books and Coffee Shop is closed
– Botanical Gardens has an entrance fee. (MWK200 for 2 adults and 1 toddler in 1 car – not sure how they calculated it.)
– There is a small Shoprite located opposite the taxi stand
– The WESM office location is actually just SOUTH of the Anglican church, rather than after it and further up the hill.
– WESM doesn’t currently have any maps of Lake Chilwa for sale.
– We arranged a 24-hour photo trip for 1 person to Lake Chilwa through the WESM office. Suggestion: if you have certain expectations (like getting somewhere at sunrise), be sure to make them very clear or your guides will take you on their own tour.
– According to a fisherman on Lake Chilwa, there are 17 villages on Chisi Island.
– Zomba plateau is being notably affected by logging and unmanaged forest fires. This is especially noticeable when driving or hiking between Williams Falls and Chagwa Dam.
– Zomba Forest Lodge is under new management and being completely renovated by the couple that used to run Ntchisi Forest Lodge. They hoped to reopen mid-2013. New contact info available at http://www.zombaforestlodge.com.
– The owner of the Zomba Trout Farm is building a cramped dorm and a cafeteria that will add more options, but not more atmosphere.

LIWONDE AREA
– At the Mvuu camping area, we were told that they do not have a self-catering kitchen or refrigerator (but they were re-roofing the main dining area). They do have a grill at each campsite and the staff will bring wood. If you’re desperate, you can ask the cook at Mvuu Camp to put something in the refrigerator for you.
– We paid $30 per person for the boat ride, and the same for a game drive, booked thru Mvuu. A game drive into the rhino sanctuary is an additional $5 per person. They have about 14 black rhinos now.
– There is very little shade at Mvuu for camping during the hot season.
– Meals served at Mvuu Camp are at fixed times and have fixed menus.
– We checked the prices at the two camps just outside the park:
Bushman’s Baobabs. “New chalet”: $60 pp. Safari tent: $45 pp. A-Frame: $25 pp. Dormitory: $15 pp. Camping: $7.50 pp. Safari Drive: $25 pp. Safari Canoe: $20 pp. Safari Boat: $30 pp. Safari Walk: $20 pp.
Liwonde Safari Camp. Camping: $7.50 pp. Dormitory: $10 pp. Safari Tent: single $30, double $45. Safari Walk (1 hr): $5. Safari Drive: 3.5 hrs $25, all day $65. Safari Boat: $35. Safari Village Walk (1 hr): $5.

DOMWE ISLAND (Lake Malawi National Park)
– We can confirm the “heavy corrugation” on the road to Cape Maclear. We can also confirm that Domwe Island is worth it!
– “The staff on Domwe Island cannot cook for you,” we were told both at the Kayak Africa office and on the island. However, the two staff members were very helpful around the kitchen and were happy to wash dishes.
– Filtered drinking water is provided, as are solar-powered lights through the camp at night.
– The island has steep terrain. There is one hiking path, straight up the hill. Don’t wander off it without a machete. About 1/4 of the way up is a large rock that’s a perfect place to watch the sun set. Ask the staff for details.

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