Cyclone Aftermath at Mkulumadzi

Cyclone Aftermath at Mkulumadzi

Malawi was recently hit by the tail end of Cyclone Idai, which caused torrential rains that led to the Shire River bursting its banks and causing untold damage and loss of life in the surrounding villages.

In the process, Mkulumadzi Lodge also experienced significant flooding and damage. Willie Shuma, manager at Nsefu Camp, was at Mkulumadzi at the time and was completely flabbergasted at the speed at which the water came up. It was rising a foot an hour for several hours and took everyone completely by surprise.


Mkulumadzi was actually closed for some maintenance work at the time and thankfully no injuries were sustained by any of the team, however, the lodge was under a significant amount of water.


Since then, the water has receded and everyone has been hard at work restoring the beautiful lodge back to its original state. There have been fans and mbaola’s (traditional African charcoal burners) blowing and burning in the rooms to get them dry. Brooms, mops and scrubbing brushes aplenty, followed by teams of painters, carpenters and electricians. It is amazing that despite what the lodge looked like a few weeks ago, it is now back to how it should be and is ready and rearing for guests to arrive.

Just prior to all of this drama, Mkulumadzi was fortunate to have Wes Hartmann from Earthwatch stay at the lodge. While there, he took some incredible aerial images of the area and has very kindly given these to us to share with you all, as well as some incredibly interesting additional information about the use of drones in a wildlife area:

“Drones have become increasingly popular among civilians and scientists alike. It allows us to venture into new areas and capture the world from fresh perspectives. However, the rapid development and commercialization of aerial technology has left legislators and observational scientists lagging behind.

10Photo © Wes Hartmann

While our new airborne abilities give scientists great observational power in reaching previously inaccessible places, Uncle Ben’s words have never rung truer “with great power, comes great responsibility.” And in truth, scientists have neglected their responsibility to understand animal responses to droning and consequently failed in forming appropriate protocols which guide one’s flight procedure and observational studies. By conducting my masters research in Malawi’s Majete Wildlife Reserve, I hope to quantify how African elephants (Loxodonta africana) react to the presence of a Drone.

8Photo © Wes Hartmann

Ultimately, this research should produce a droning protocol for all eager pilots to adhere to whilst observing and filming elephants from above. The protocol aims to dictate how high, fast and close to an elephant one should fly. The robust nature of this study will include the ‘category’ of the elephant one is filming. Thus far there have been notable differences between droning a breeding herd, comprised of females and young offspring, and lone adult bull elephants.

12Photo © Wes Hartmann

With statistically backed rules for flight, future drone pilots can be sure they are ethically observing one of the world’s most charismatic mammals.”

Contact Mkulumadzi
Tel. +265 (0) 999 970 002/3