All creatures great and small

by Jourdan Fairchild in ,


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After the adventures of yesterday, I felt ready for anything. But what I saw today and last night was mesmerizing. Why? Animals! So many African animals! Last night, we went on a night safari in the Liwonde National Park that overlooks a stretch of the Shire River. I felt like we’d been dropped into one of the nature shows my husband loves to watch.From our jeep, we spotted nocturnal animals like porcupines, plus more rare sightings of three bush creatures: a bush baby, bush pig, and bush buck. So many of these species were totally new to me, and we were seeing them in their natural habitat, rather than at a zoo. It was a beautiful thing. Did I mention the hippo mama and baby we saw just 20 feet from our car? That was enough to make Colleen and GoGo jump (hippos can be incredibly dangerous). The night ended with a bang when Amanda killed this poisonous baboon spider in our mosquito netting. She saved me!The fun continued the next morning as I dragged myself out of bed just after the sun rose for a private nature walk (with an armed guard to protect us from charging elephants and hippos). On the way, I was greeted my hungry warthogs and adorable veret monkeys. My guide, Duncan, filled my brain with dozens and dozens of facts about the trees, flowers, and animals—even elephant dung (which can be collected and used to make paper, among many things) along our path. How about this sausage tree, named for the fruit that hangs from it? Hilarious!The leaves and bark from certain trees are believed to help with fertility, strength, and a host of other health issues. One tree, the Moringa tree, is known as the Miracle tree, and you can even find Moringa powder in local pharmacies. After my walk, we took a boat safari along the river, spotting hippos, crocodiles, and fish eagles.And then Duncan spotted the most magnificent animal I’ve ever seen, the African elephant. He was in the bush, so Duncan cut the motor as we quietly floated closer. This park is home to more than 800 elephants, but you’re never guaranteed a sighting. We patiently waited for him to make a move, and when he did, all I can say is WOW. He moved so slowly, gracefully, and softly as he munched on grasses while a bird perched on his back. He knew we were watching him, and he gave us a great show.How do you follow up such an awesome experience? With another giant, beautiful natural creation! We didn’t plan on this one either. Our driver, Willie, had mentioned that on the way to Blantyre, there’s a tree with a root system that doesn’t end. We had to see it to believe it. It’s the only Banyan tree in Malawi, and it’s located on the campus of an Anglican school, so luckily, it’s protected. I couldn’t quite capture the tree’s size and beauty in photos, but it measures the length of two football fields. I can just imagine local children running through it, climbing, swinging, and exclaiming.

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