Malawi is not world-known for safari, but African Parks, a non-profit conservation organization, is helping change the narrative. They apply business approach to conserving African wildlife and wild areas. They do so by collaborating tightly with the local communities and the governments. Their track record is impressive. Majete National Park is an inspiring turnaround story.
Just thirteen years ago, it was depleted of any wildlife. Poaching of rhinos and elephants was a curse. Not a single tourist dollar was flowing into the area. African Parks took over in 2003 with a long-term lease. More than 2,500 wild animals have been re-introduced including black rhinos, and elephants that now thrive in the reserve.
Today, Majete is a true Big Five park, although the bush is so dense that we can hardly see more than the elephants, and hundreds of beautiful antilopes. Employment in the area has also risen more than ten-fold since 2003, with research centers opening and a few lodges attracting more and more tourists every year.
Our base for the night is the incredibly remote Mkulumadzi Lodge. We reach it by crossing on foot a little suspended bridge, a metaphor for our time here, all isolated, left to pause and observe. At night, from our enormous room looking over the river, we spot the shiny eyes of at least ten crocodiles staring in our direction, less than 30m away from our balcony. I finally fall asleep peacefully to the sound of mama hippo. This place is pure bliss. We are almost alone and Mother Nature has rarely felt so powerful.
Stanley, our warm Malawian guide who has been working with Robin Pope Safaris across Africa, takes us on an early morning safari the next day, delighting us with endless tales of wildlife regeneration.
I take pride in finding the first group of elephants at the end of the safari, just when we thought we would leave without seeing any.