More Elephant Encounters at Lifupa Lodge, Kasungu, Malawi
Oh, you will see Elephants at Lifupa!” was the promise I was holding to when I left my first stop in Malawi, Ntchisi Rain Forest. It was now my fourth day and jet lag was a distant past. According to the entrance register, I was the only visitor at one of its largest parks, Lifupa National Park. Off season Africa is not so busy I mused. From my resort hut I eyed a large multi generation herd of elephants grazing across the lagoon while hippos lazed in the foreground. With that reality of wild Africa a mere pond away, closer elephant encounters were tops on my Lifupa list. Later that afternoon and totally unexpectedly mixed in with my birding was the rear view of an elephant browsing away the remaining light on the edge of the resort grounds. The contrast of massive wild among the meekest creatures was noted. Remarkable in proportion, but I prefer faces, please. That hind view had me hankering for a full frontal. Be careful what you wish for, a personal encounter in the wild was just around the corner.
The day before I had signed up for the only safari available. The tour vehicles were not operational so I opted for the only alternative, a Ranger walk around the man made lagoon facing the resort. I was wondering how this means of transport could remotely compare with other safaris with jaunty four wheel drives offering top down views and obviously ease of departure when bulls get territorial.
Rising at 6, I checked out the bird scene on the local grounds waiting to meet the Ranger. Birding can easily fill in while waiting for the main event, a walk to see one of the largest mammals on earth. The bush was alive with twitters, territorial calls, flashes of colour, Africas reward for making the predawn effort and my life list was growing by leaps. The Ranger was a no show, he got a ride to Lilongwe for his monthly shopping the program organizer informed so I was on my own. She added that there was a bull elephant around the staff headquarters all night. “They are not very friendly” she casually added reminding me that elephants aren’t pets. Within mere minutes, sometime between monitoring a gaggle of guinea fowl and sighting one of Africa’s kaleidoscopic sunbirds I found myself staring into the bush, this time straight into the eyes of the aforementioned bull elephant. With ears flapping declaring its territory at me. After retreating a few hundred yards, heart pumping outside of my mortal self it seemed, I dared to grab a rear view glance, praying the elephant was not breathing on my neck hair. Luckily, a mutual backoff had resulted. With relief I approached the hut complex where staff took time off to witness two young elephants moving through the yard with a third hanging back reluctantly. I blinked. Although the elephant experience was beginning to look like an everyday life at Lifupa, I was pleased to see a few others joining me in the wildlife shoot. During my breakfast the three meandered, paused, browsed and edged cautiously across the yard where I learned later an elephant bathing pool had been improvised years before. One playfully kicked at a wading pranticole to see it flutter up and return further along the waters edge. I learned at lunch from my driver that the bull elephant was the same one that had kept him up all night, browsing and snorting and smashing the underbrush with no care to the human sleepers inside the staff accommodation. Although the lack of a working roadster confined park offerings to the immediate pedestrian area, things were working out on foot. Lunch entertainment was a repeat of the earlier meal, two elephants across the water, the younger entertained with water antics as it swam along the shore with the larger elephant guarding the ground. When the youngster finally emerged it playfully chased a dik dik. When it returned to the pool in the same far off spot and swam the entire route all over again, this time to disappear in the bush with a small elephant group.
The heat of the day had me retreating to my cottage, reemerging in the late afternoon, hopeful for more bird species and a few pachyderms to round out my last eve and I was not disappointed with either.
As I tucked my self into bed that second night I remembered I had been confidently told I would see elephants at Lifupa, and Lifupa did not disappoint. Next, come the last evening encounter.
For more on Malawi adventures, see also: