Magazine article The Spectator

Sounds of Africa

Magazine article The Spectator

Sounds of Africa

Article excerpt

Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde, Malawi

I arrived at the jetty in pitch darkness. A boat was waiting to ferry me across the river. On the other side I was handed a refreshing drink and asked to sign a waiver form exempting the management from legal action by my next of kin if I was attacked by wild animals during my stay. Then I was shown to my tent.

The ranger led me along a sandy path across open bush. It was a bit of a hike. My tent was ten yards from a lagoon, explained the ranger, when we got there. That peculiar slapping and splashing noise was the sound of crocodiles snatching at fish, he said.

Beside my bed was an aerosol can of insecticide. This was to be fired at any nasty insects encroaching on my tent. Next to that was a red plastic trumpet attached to an aerosol can. That was the air horn and strictly for emergencies. And beside that was a drum made from animal skin. In half an hour I must beat this to summon a guard to escort me back to the open-air restaurant for supper.

So when had a guest last had recourse to the air horn? A fortnight ago, said the ranger.

A succession of blasts had sent him sprinting over with an armed guard. Two young Englishwomen were staying in the tent. One was lying on the porch in a dead faint. The other was hiding in the toilet, paralysed with terror. And on the floor beside the bed was a small spider, deafened by the blast from the air horn, which the women had in their panic mistaken for the insecticide.

Half an hour later I dutifully beat a tattoo on the drum and a guard arrived to take me to dinner. As we walked, he flickered his torch anxiously at the surrounding darkness as if an animal might attack from any direction and at any moment. But we made it in one piece and I was welcomed to the openair dinner table next to a wood fire.

Besides myself, there were two other guests, a Dutch couple, also newly arrived.

They were questioning the ranger closely about their safety. I, however, was sceptical. I'm not an expert on the subject, but I didn't think there were too many dangerous animals left in Malawi, now one of the most densely populated countries in Africa.

But during the dessert the ranger said he could hear an elephant lurking quite near.

And soon we could see a more solid shape in the blackness and then the elephant came wandering into the lamplight and stood not ten yards away, swinging his trunk and contemplating us. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.