The luxurious Mkulumadzi Lodge is set at the confluence of two rivers in Malawi's Majete Reserve,...
Mkulumadzi Lodge: Our full report
Overlooking tumbling rapids at the confluence of the Shire and Mkulumadzi (sometimes written 'Mkurumadzi', or even 'Mukulumadzi') rivers, is Mkulumadzi - owned by Robin Pope Safaris. It's a smart camp in a newly revitalised reserve and is located in 7,000 hectares of private concession. It is built very solidly, to a high specification and incorporates some innovative 'eco' ideas.
Majete Wildlife Reserve was proclaimed in 1955 and covers 700km2. In 2003 it was taken under the management of The African Parks Network, who have done great work to ensure the long-term viability of the park and its wildlife. (Read more about African Parks here...)
On arrival at Mkulumadzi guests cross a suspension bridge over the Mkulumadzi River. The main area is spacious with a high thatched roof and one side is completely open to the river – supported by huge old leadwood trunks. It has an indoor and outdoor dining area, a bar, with bar stools lining it, and seating areas on different levels, all with views of the river. It is tastefully decorated and accessorized in a classic and contemporary style. There is also a small curio shop and a swimming pool to the side, surrounded by a wooden deck with sunbeds and umbrellas.
There are eight chalets at Mkulumadzi, all built on a high riverbank overlooking the Shire River, shaded by giant leadwood and wild mango trees. They are all spread quite far apart ensuring total privacy. Six are designed for two people and in each of these a large, kingsize bed stands at the centre of the room, surrounded by a walk-in mosquito net. Two of these chalets can be converted to twin-bedded units; the others must be doubles. Inside the mosquito net is an innovative air-conditioning unit which re-circulates the cool air, and thus uses so little electricity that it can be run by the lodge's solar-generated electricity. It only cools the air within the mosquito net and not the whole room. In a corner of the room is a built in seating area around a low coffee table. Behind the concrete headboard is a storage area for clothing with shelves and hanging space. There is also a stocked minibar and tea and coffee making facilities. The rooms are furnished in a contemporary style using locally sourced materials.
Each chalet at Mkulumadzi (except one) has a vegetated roof planted with indigenous succulents and grasses. This helps them to blend into the environment and also keeps the rooms cool in summer. By contract, the honeymoon suite, has a traditional high thatched roof.
On either side of the main lounge/dining room area are two two-bedroomed family chalets. A central lounge area separates the bedrooms, and each has its own en-suite bathroom, making the chalets very suitable for two couples, or families to share.
The focus of Mkulumadzi's rooms is the view, and one side of the room is largely open with the bed in front of it. This faces out across a partially shaded wooden deck to an impressive view of the river beyond. Spaces rather than windows are inset into this wall, so nothing obstructs the view. At night, to close up the room, cream coloured curtains are drawn inside, as canvas blinds are rolled-down outside.
The en-suite bathroom is again very spacious. There are twin washbasins set on a long concrete plinth beneath a lovely long mirror; a very large shower which is partially open to the outside with river views; and a slightly sunken bath beside a large window – which folds back to open up the bathroom. Bathrobes and toiletries are provided.
In common with Robin Pope Safari’s usual style, activities at Mkulumadzi are very flexible – with walking safaris a feature and always on offer. The valley of the shallow Mkulumadzi River is a particularly good venue for these. There is a good network of all-weather game-drive roads, and night drives are also possible. There are also two hides on the concession overlooking a waterhole.
On a recent visit here (November 2013) on a morning game drive we saw elephant, buffalo, sable and nyala. That evening we went in search of the resident lion (which had been seen the night before) as well as the elusive black rhino. Unfortunately we were not lucky enough to see either.
Morning and afternoon boat trips on the Shire River are a relaxing way to view game from Mkulumadzi. The river opens out into a lake just above the Kapichira Falls – the edges of which are a lovely place to explore in the lodge's motorboat (which has a shade cover.)
Majete’s birdlife is good, with a real variety of dry-land habitats, from miombo woodlands to small kopjies. Riverine woodlands line some of the waterways – which themselves vary from a placid lake to sections of bubbling rapids and ephemeral tributaries.
One big attraction at Mkulumadzi is the guiding. All the guides are top class experienced guides who have been trained to Robin Pope's high standards.
Our ViewWe really like Mkulumadzi – it’s a stylish camp with spacious, well built chalets. Although it only opened in July 2011, it is already receiving great reviews from our travellers and has raised the bar for safari camps in Malawi. Majete Reserve itself is rugged and, like the antelope species found here, interesting and quite unusual. It will be a new park for most visitors, so ideal for those who want to trail-blaze. It does boast the Big Five, and now that the lion are becoming more habituated and relaxed they are more frequently seen.
Ideal length of stay: A stay of 3 to 4 nights at Mkulumadzi is ideal, especially as it's a distance from any other safari camp – and in a park that's quite unlike any other. It would be natural to combine Mkulumadzi with Robin Pope Safaris's other camps in Zambia's South Luangwa: Nkwali, Tena Tena and Nsefu, and Pumulani beside Lake Malawi. In July 2014 RPS are also opening a camp in the Liwonde National Park - Miyala Camp.
Directions: Mkulumadzi is about 70km southwest of Malawi's second city, Blantyre – which is linked to Lilongwe and Johannesburg by direct scheduled flights. It's about two hours' transfer from Blantyre to Majete, on a good tarred road; this is quite a varied and spectacular trip down the escarpment, and a great way to arrive. There is also an airstrip in the Park (Majete airstrip), which is a 45-minute game drive from the camp.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Full Board
Food quality: The food at Mkulumadzi was some of the best we had in Malawi. During our recent visit (November 2013) we enjoyed the following meals:
- Breakfast is a buffet of cereals, fresh fruit, a selection of cheeses and cold meats, home made pastries and fresh fruit juice. A cooked breakfast is also available. This was very welcome after an early morning walk.
- Lunch was a choice of butternut, feta and mint salad, or chicken kebabs with sweet chili sauce and a side salad. Desert was either crème caramel or a very tasty cheesecake with berry compote.
- Afternoon tea/coffee and cake are served in the main area at about 3.30pm before heading out on an afternoon activity.
- On return we were served a three course dinner. We had a butternut phyllo tart starter and for the main course we were offered a choice of Thai green chicken curry served with basmati rice (a vegetarian curry was also available) or lamb chops served with potatoes and baby vegetables. Desert was a tasty panacota served with berry compote.
Dining style: Mixture of group dining and individual tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: All local drinks, including beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks are included; vintage wines, champagne or imported spirits would be charged as extra.
Further dining info: Private dinners are available on request.
Attitude towards children: Mkulumadzi accepts children of all ages.
Property’s age restrictions: There is no age restriction.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities here for children, however there is a swimming pool to keep children occupied during the day. A member of staff will look after children in the evening free of charge (a tip will be welcome), however parents must be aware that they are not professionally trained child-minders.
Equipment: Mkulumadzi has a baby cot as well as baby monitors. At the time of our visit (November 2013) we were told that highchairs would be arriving during 2014.
Generally recommended for children: We think Mkulumadzi is suitable for children from 10 years old. There are no activities to entertain young children here and children under the age of 12 are not allowed to do a walking safari
Power supply: Solar Power
Power supply notes: There is solar electricity in all the rooms. Each room has a 220-volt battery so there are plug points for charging as well. There is a back up generator.
Communications: There's a satellite system for communications in an emergency, including an internet connection, but no phones in the rooms. There is no WiFi and no cellphone reception.
TV & radio: There are no radios or TVs here.
Water supply notes: The borehole water is filtered and is fine to drink. Bottled water is provided free of charge. There is hot and cold running water available 24 hours a day.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: For minor ailments there is a private clinic 45 minutes drive away. For more serious cases the closest hospital would be two hours' drive away, in Blantyre, or a short flight away.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: There is a park ranger based permanently in the camp and there is always staff on duty. At night all guests are escorted after dark.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in the main areas but not at the chalets. There are waterpumps to pump water from the river and firebreaks around the camp.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service in included.
Money: There is a safe in each of the rooms. The camp is unable to exchange money.
Accepted payment on location: Credit cards are not accepted in camp, however cash is accepted in Malawi Kwacha, UK pounds, US dollars and Euros.