Mango Stealing Elephants

Can you believe we have been in Malawi for over a month now?  Some days the time here flies by and it seems like we haven’t been here as long, and other days go by slower and it seems like it surely has been a month.  While some days are long and almost always challenging, I can see God working in this place, in us personally and in our relationship.  Being in Africa brings things to light that are often covered up at home by distractions.  We really have learned so much while we have been here, professionally and personally.

Due to our busy schedules and internet going in and out here, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would have liked, but now that we are in the swing of things I’m hoping I can pick it back up! 

Two weeks ago Andrew and I went on our first vacation abroad together to Zambia!  Coming to Malawi is obviously traveling abroad, but we’re working everyday so even when we are having fun, it’s far from a vacation.

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We stayed at Croc Valley Camp in the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and had a great time!  We were able to go on 4 safaris and saw some amazing animals as well as sunrises and sunsets.  Our tent was right on the river so we could easily hear hippos talking to one another from the river below.  I love Croc Valley because so many animals wander in and out of the camp.  Monkeys played on our tent and even stole my orange juice and scones from the breakfast buffet! The first night we were there, an elephant was eating a tree about 7 feet away from our tent!  I kept trying to poke my head outside to get a better look at him (my eyesight is bad as it is, and it was dark!), but Andrew quickly put a stop to that!  We watched him walk around our tent and munch on some trees until the guards at Croc Valley shooed him away.  They used little sling shots with rocks in them to persuade the elephants to leave and stop munching on the trees around the property.  If they didn’t there would be no trees left!

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Every morning we woke up around 5AM to watch the sunrise and head out for our early morning game drive.  Just as the sun was rising, the elephants that live nearby would be making their way back across the river and towards the center of the park.  They had to cross back because every night as the sun would go down, the elephants would cross the river right by our tent to go to the villages andsteal mangoes!! Who knew…elephants LOVE mangoes!  As you can imagine, this makes the villagers quite upset, as they grow the mangoes because they, in fact, also like to eat mangoes.  In an attempt to keep the villagers from killing or hurting the thieving elephants, they have been giving guns that shoot chili powder.  The elephants don’t like the smell of the powder so they leave and head to a village that they hope doesn’t have chili guns. 

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During one of our last game drives, we still hadn’t seen any lions and our guide was determined to show us these great animals.  He took us deep into the park and literally tracked the lions by finding their paw prints in the dirt.  We finally found 3 male lions way out in the park and it was well worth the long trek!  They were truly majestic and we were able to get almost uncomfortably close to them.  While we were parked and sitting next to them, Andrew stood up to take his hoodie off which got one of the lions attention.  He sat straight up and stared right at Andrew with the biggest yellow eyes.  Our guide then said, “oh, try not to move, they might attack.”  That information might have been useful beforehand!  But, luckily we came away uneaten and fully in awe of these powerful animals. 

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Being in Zambia was such a needed break from the congestion of Lilongwe.  It was so nice to relax and just be in nature without hearing any car horns or music playing.  I know that experience was one we will treasure forever. 

One last note:  We have been monitoring the situation in Kenya as we have two good friends there right now, and are happy to say that our friends are safe and so are we.  Everything is very quiet here in Malawi and we haven’t felt the least bit unsafe.  Please pray for our neighboring country in the North.

Saying Goodbye to Luangwa

January 6, 2013

This morning at breakfast, Shah, the owner of Croc Valley Camp spoke to us about his business. Initially, Shah owned a crocodile farm where he sold crocodiles. Once new laws were enacted to stop the killing of hippos (which was what Shah was feeding his crocs), Shah decided to turn Croc Valley into a camp. Shah said his business is quite lucrative, but it floods sometimes and it’s not as easy job.

An aspect of Croc Valley’s business that I really like, is that a portion of Croc Valley’s profit goes to the community.  Some of it goes to the wildlife association that protects the parks and the animals, and some goes to Project Luangwa that builds schools for the nearby villages.  Shah reminded me of Sam at Cool Runnings who also gave much of her time and money to help the community.  Shah also talked about trying to develop secondary markets in Luangwa, which really interested me.  Right now Luangwa only has tourism as a market and because of this Croc Valley has a huge distribution problem.  With virtually no supply chain, it’s extremely difficult to get supplies that they need out to Croc Valley.  I think that getting some kind of secondary market in South Luangwa is much harder than it sounds, but would prove extremely rewarding for the community.

After we ate an early breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Zambia.  We drove another 6 hours back to Lilongwe.

Once we returned to the World Camp house, Kathryn and I began to brainstorm business ideas for Zambia.  There is so much opportunity here!  When we crossed over into Zambia from Malawi, there was an immediate change.  More cars, more phone lines in the city, and the people seemed to be dressed in newer clothes.  The people in Zambia were still poverty stricken, but it seems like progress is being made and they are moving in the right direction.  Billboards advertise the consequences of domestic violence and child abuse and advocate against corruption.  Zambia in general seems like a much more progressive place than Malawi.  There are still mud huts and thatched roofs and rows and rows of maize, but Zambia seems to be actively trying to improve its citizen’s standard of living.  Malawi seems almost stuck and unable to move forward.  I suppose a lot of the reason that Zambia is doing better than Malawi is due to tourism bringing money into the country.  Malawi has poached so many of its animals that safaris there are almost nonexistent.   While the Zambia’s tourism seems to be mainly focused on safaris, I think they could expand the safari lodges and differentiate the lodges from one another.   I believe that if Zambia can introduce some kind of secondary market, the Zambian safaris could rival those of Kenya and South Africa.

I hated to say goodbye to lovely Zambia, but am excited for the rest of what my journey has in store for me.

Finding Peace in Zambia

January 5, 2013

This morning we woke up bright and early at 5:00AM to eat a light breakfast and head out on another safari! When I walked outside of our cabin, I spotted an elephant hanging out in the camp ground, about 100 feet away.  An elephant!!  Animals wander in and out of Croc Valley.  Monkeys climb on the roof and hippos take a dip in the pool in the dry season.  My kinda place!

Elephant taking a peak at us

Elephant taking a peak at us

The first safari was amazing.  Even better than the night before.  We saw a leopard sitting in a tree taking a little (cat) nap.  He was absolutely stunning.  He would stretch and get resituated and lay back down so gracefully on this big limb.  At one point he opened his eyes and I was lucky enough to get a great picture of him.

Leopard

Leopard

The only disappointing this about this safari was that I wanted more.  I wanted to sit among the animals and watch them all day.  See where they go and how they spend their time and catch their food.  I could’ve spent all day there.

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Hangin with the elephants

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Pretty little bird

Lions napping

Lions napping

After the first safari we came back to the lodge.  I laid in a hammock by the river and listened to the hippos talk.  It was wonderful and refreshing to be immersed in wildlife.  After afternoon tea, we headed back out for another safari that was equally as wonderful.  Minus the bugs. At night the bugs are attracted to the light that the safari guide shines in order to spot animals eyes.  Since I was sitting right behind our safari guide, I got quite a few bugs on me.  We didn’t see any lions tonight, but we did get to another leopard. The leopard we saw tonight walked right in front of our jeep!  He was so graceful and strong.

Leopard walking by

Leopard walking by

Mommy and Baby Elephant

Mommy and Baby Elephant

I’m not ready to leave this peaceful place tomorrow morning.

South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park