2012 was the year in which Malawi truly arrived as a premier safari destination. Country-specialist operator Robin Pope Safaris, which has two luxurious Malawi properties and a third in the pipeline, has seen bookings surge, with unprecedented interest in the country.
The chief reason for this sharp increase in visitor numbers is Majete Wildlife Reserve. In August 2012, the re-introduction of a lion population gave Majete the much-prized Big Five-status – a boast no other park in Malawi can make. The lions’ arrival capped a remarkable ten-year turnaround for the park, one overseen by the philanthropic African Parks Network and part-funded by Robin Pope Safaris. The 70,000-hectare Majete had suffered extensive poaching in the ‘80s and ‘90s, losing huge percentages of its mammals.
But it has now been re-fenced, had its law-enforcement teams re-trained and re-equipped, seen its infrastructure vastly improved and been re-stocked with over 2,500 animals. And, in the shape of Robin Pope Safaris’ Mkulumadzi, open since 2011, there’s now an upmarket accommodation option. Using top-quality guides, Mkulumadzi offers game drives, bush walks and safari boat trips from its oh-so-chic chalets.
Previously, the majority of Malawi visitors only frequented Lake Malawi for its beaches, water sports and incredible diving. Visitors to upmarket beachside lodges like Robin Pope Safaris’ Pumulani – stylish villas with private decks, plus a pool and fine restaurant, set just above the lake’s southern tip – tended to safari in Zambia or Zimbabwe, and then come to Malawi. Not any longer. Malawi is now a viable, top-quality safari destination in its own right.
The momentum is set to continue into 2013, too, thanks to a hugely significant and high-profile anniversary. 19 March 2013 is the bicentenary – i.e. the would-be 200th birthday – of the celebrated Scottish explorer David Livingstone, inextricably linked with this area of Southern Africa.
In a pioneering journey, Livingstone journeyed up the Shire River and then, via Liwonde, Malawi’s biggest park and a place where Robin Pope Safaris is building its newest property, on to Lake Malawi. One of his greatest discoveries, Livingstone coined the huge body of water’s most-used nickname: the Lake of Stars. To mark the anniversary, Robin Pope Safaris has put together a brand-new Livingstone-themed itinerary for 2013:
Find the ‘Lake of Stars’ like Livingstone
Starting in Blantyre, a town named after the explorer’s Scottish birthplace, Robin Pope Safaris’ special itinerary retraces David Livingstone’s pioneering adventures and discoveries in Malawi. It includes safari activities by the Shire River and in Liwonde National Park, which he travelled along and through respectively, and concludes at Lake Malawi, the water Livingstone discovered and christened the ‘Lake of Stars’. Available from March 2013, the 10-night trip costs from £2,352 pp (two sharing), including transfers, full board and most activities. Flights are extra.
For more information on Malawi and Robin Pope Safaris, visit www.robinpopesafaris.net.