Vanessa Homewood | Thursday, May 24, 2018
“Great expedition for folks comfortable with camping”
We could not have been taken better care of by our Earthwatch people. We ate very well, and they did everything possible to keep us comfortable, informed, engaged, and safe. The accommodation is in comfortable but basic tents, and the *flush* toilets are in a sturdy block, with solar powered hot water (deluxe!). The only down side is that there are bugs aplenty, especially after the rain, and especially in the evening when the lights are on. They're not dangerous, just a pain when they start falling all over you in the shower.
But don't let that put you off - this is just to set expectations. The chance to learn about an inspiring conservation success, as well the vital research work that is being done, makes it well worth it It's also a chance to see a lot of African wildlife in the raw. We spent time doing driving transects to count wild animals, but my favorite was sitting at waterholes for 12 hrs. It gave me a chance to watch wildlife relatively unaffected by our presence (some were more wary than others). It was satisfying to get the full cycle of wary approach, drinking (and wallowing in the case of the many warthogs), to happy departure.
We also got to go to a "local" school (I use quotes, as it was a couple of hours drive away, on the other side of the park), and spend time with the kids. The Principal was doing a great job of teaching them the importance of conservation, so they presented a variety of performances that were very thoughtful on this theme. It was great to have the expectations of who would be educating who turned on its head so satisfyingly!
One other word of awareness when considering this trip (apart from being friendly with bugs), is that it is not a physically easy trip. We did get out and do some walking in the heat, and at any time, you have to be able to climb a tree, relatively quickly. We had to scramble into the truck at one point when a rhino was spotted - it was an abundance of caution, but a good reminder of the safety requirements. Remember our Earthwatch guardians have to make sure we're up safely first before they can get up, so it can be serious.
After the trip, I took a few days in the 5 star luxury of the lodge in the nature reserve, which was awesome and I'd highly recommend it. I even had a bush baby come and stay overnight in the rafters of my hut which was delightful. Other folks took trips to Lake Malawi and into the highlands, and everyone enjoyed themselves. Malawi is a hidden gem in Africa - the incredibly friendly people hide a tragic history in their smiles, but the multitude of aid agencies’ billboards speak to the fundamental problems they face. Spending time getting to know the country, their challenges, and the animals is a great way to help.