Our small group assembled with two local guides on one side of the large metal gates that separated our campsite from the village outside. They gave us a rundown about what to expect from the tour we were taking at Kande Beach that morning. We would visit their village, a medical clinic and a school. As they explained everything the noise from a crowd gathered on the other side of the gates got more frantic. People shouted at each other in a language we couldn’t understand but it was clear that we were going into this crowd that were excited to see us because they know that tourists like us provide a valuable income stream to their community. It was intimidating but not wholly unexpected.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa which of course makes it one of the poorest on Earth. It is also known for being one of the most welcoming and friendliest countries on the continent and thus has earned the nickname ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’. We were coming from Zambia which is also known for being very poor and very friendly. I didn’t detect any major difference in friendliness and hospitality from one side of the border to the other but the difference in standard of living was obvious.
The sun had already set as we wearily finished putting up our tents on the banks of the Luangwa River. We had just completed a 9-hour drive from Lusaka and were looking forward to a cold beer at the bar. Suddenly a tree full of baboons next to us went crazy with barking sounds, quickly joined by anxious calls from birds and nearby vervet monkeys. I’d spent enough time in the bush to know they were alarm calling and this could mean that some of them had spotted a predator nearby.