Africa often makes headlines, but usually exclusively for its negative sides: hunger, war, disease, dictatorships and human rights abuses. I do not deny that this is part of Africa, but there is much more than that. I realized it during this journey between Malawi and Zambia. If we reverse the coin, we find that it is full of colors and scents, inhabited by peoples with ancient customs and cultures, perhaps some a little bizarre and strange to our eyes but certainly fascinating.
As soon as you get off the plane, the first sensation that runs over your skin is that of having been catapulted into another world, as if you had gone back at least a few decades. Everyday life flows in simplicity and people are humble and smiling with anyone in front of them.
In this article, I will try to tell you what I saw and experienced firsthand in Africa during a trip between Malawi and Zambia with Africa Wild Trucks. We chose to travel during the green season (from December to March), the moment of the year in which the landscape is reborn thanks to the rains, passing from drought to the intense green of the vegetation. Africa awakens and comes back to life. This is also one good season to spot animals seen that the puppies approach the pools of water to refresh themselves.
Malawi: Mulanje and tea cultivation
After nearly 24 hours of travelling, I arrived in Mulanje, a small village in the south of Malawi, on the slopes of the famous Mount Mulanje, where we will relax for a few days at a friend's house, before leaving for the big trip. Twenty percent of the territory of Malawi corresponds to the Lake Niassa, which is precisely the third largest lake in Africa. It may be for its mild climate, or for the large lake, but for the Malawians the cultivation of tea is the tradition par excellence. Large expanses of tea which, with its small leaves, light up the landscape of the area with an intense green. All the hills around Mount Mulanje are covered with tea plants. It is like a green sea in the middle of which those who work there every day can be seen walking.
Tea cultivation in Malawi has very ancient origins and it is precisely in this area that the first plantations in all of Africa were concentrated. At the end of the 19th century, the British imported the first tea leaves and camellia from India. In 1928 the Satemwa Estate was founded which is the oldest family-run plantation in Malawi.
But in Mulanje we also met the human face of Africa, that slap in the face that oxygenates your heart and mind. Indeed, our journey has brought us to know the reality ofFOMO non-profit association, acronym of Friends of Mulanje Orphans, which for many years has welcomed orphaned children to guarantee them education, school education and assistance for basic needs. Photographs will probably be able to tell you more than words can. Smiles, courage, determination, will and curiosity. This I have seen in the eyes of the children of the Mulanje school.
Zambia and Kafue National Park
After some relaxation and big laughs with company you rarely find on a trip, we leave for Zambia in the direction of the Kafue National Park. Kafue is the largest national park in Zambia, which takes its name from the river of the same name that flows through it, and also one of the largest in the world. As many as 55 different species of animals live in this huge park that is worth a visit. For photography enthusiasts, this park is the ideal place to deal with nature photography. On the map, the park doesn't seem so far away, but in reality we need much more time, perhaps due to the bumpy roads, or because every kilometer is a fairy tale to take pictures and relax under a green baobab tree with the chirping of millions of different species of birds whirling in the blue sky of Africa. This journey between Malawi and Zambia turns out to be a surprise in every single kilometer travelled.
We spent five days in this huge natural park to be able to observe the various habitats that characterize it, from the marshy lands called "dambo" to the Busanga plains which are an excellent observation post. Kafue National Park is a privileged place for the safari, perhaps one of the best in Africa, and it is for this reason that we have chosen to dedicate more time to it. With an average of 2 safaris a day, we managed to spot numerous animals such as Impalas, Lions, Leopards and above all millions of different species of birds with their many colours.
A travel itinerary between Malawi and Zambia allows you to include numerous safaris with the aim of spotting animals and getting to know the wildest part of Africa, far from the chaos of tourists and coastal resorts.
Just during the safaris, Africa teaches you the art of patience. Nothing is taken for granted or rushed. Africa offers emotions to those who have the courage to know how to wait, which is now very difficult for us Westerners. And so, at sunset and at sunrise, I waited for the spectacle of nature to offer itself to my eyes in order to be able to immortalize it with steady hands but a heart trembling with joy.
The Lower Zambezi National Park and Victoria Falls
After Kafue National Park we headed to the Lower Zambezi National Park, still in Zambia. This country represents wild Africa, less traveled by tourists, authentic in its traditions and well preserved at an environmental level. In addition to the safari drive, we sailed for a stretch on the Zambezi River which runs along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, giving us the opportunity for wonderful sightings of large animals such as elephants and hippos. Here too the birdlife is precious, thanks to about 350 species recorded in the area. In this park there is the possibility of going on safaris at night, another interesting challenge for us photographers who love to visit the same place with as many light conditions as possible.
A trip between Malawi and Zambia must include a magical place like that of Victoria Falls, one of the reasons why I decided to explore this area of the African continent. These waterfalls, thanks to 110 meters of jump and a width of 1700 meters, are one of the most majestic in the world. A very loud rumbling sound that silences you and a series of plays of light and rainbows that mesmerize the eyes. Livingstone himself, a missionary explorer who discovered them, defined them as "the most extraordinary spectacle ever seen in Africa". The Victoria Falls divide Zambia from Zimbabwe and interrupt the long course of the Zambezi River in its impetuous course towards the Indian Ocean. In addition to photographing them during the day and at night, I was able to admire them from above, one of the moments of my life that I will hardly forget.
Needless to say I both went home with sickness of Africa, that disease that strikes anyone who has let this wonderful continent enter into every single fiber of his body. I review the photographs taken and feel again that shiver down my spine that has accompanied me throughout the journey. You cannot forget Africa because it is life in its purest and most primordial essence. And I feel I love this life with the taste of Africa to the core.