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New Years Greetings from Nkwichi!
Microphones not Re-Choired!

In an evening of joyful song in late October, twelve choirs each with twenty enthusiastic Nyanja voices, competed for the accolade of the best choir on the Mozambican shores of Lake Niassa/Malawi. The event was hosted with the goal of bringing the sixteen communities of Manda Wilderness together in a celebration of local culture, with each choir receiving musical training prior to the festival from Manda Wilderness Community Trust volunteer Jack Bennet, with years of choral experience in his native Canada.

Preparations for the event kicked off at 7 a.m. the morning of October 27th, with visitors coming on foot and boat from as far away as fifty kilometers. After enjoying the sounds of the choirs intone their best pieces, the competition wrapped up with a triumphant mass choir piece called ‘Nyanja Mama’, adapted and conducted by Jack. Over 300 voices rang out over the Lake of Stars in the largest choreographed choral group ever to hit the small town of Cobue and was so well received that the encores continued into the night, joined in by an avid audience of thousands.

A very heartfelt congratulations to Mala village Choir for winning first prize, a five-song recording session in a nearby beach town in Mozambique;  to Mcondece village for taking second prize, a video exchange with a choir in Canada; and to Chigoma village, who walked away with third place, twenty recorders, instruction book and  pitch pipe! Finally an extra-special mention to Andrew Kaiwala, Nkwichi Lodge Staff Manager, who won the Best Choirmaster prize, helped in small part by the constant invitations for Mala choir to show guests at Nkwichi the musical magnificence of the Nyanja people.

Ka-Ka-Kakoa!

Named after Lake Niassa/Malawi’s snowy white egret, Kakoa is Nkwichi’s most daring and spacious chalet to date. Designed to fit in completely with the inimitable beauty of the lakeshore nature, Kakoa has one of the best views of the lake – and with all the panoramic vistas and views, that’s saying something! Lying in bed, guests will be able to gaze out at the stars, their reflection shimmering on the lake below, while being serenaded softly to sleep by the guttural thrum of Pel’s Fishing Owl. Complete with a sensational outdoor bath and shower carved out of ancient Rift Valley rocks, Kakoa even has its own secret cave, the perfect place to hide away and tuck up with a good book while monitors and monkeys meander by.

Local hero...

At Nkwichi, we pride ourselves on ‘going local’ as much as possible – supporting, and then buying from, local producers and giving the chance of employment to as many of the local villagers as possible. Many of our staff have been here for over a decade, and have had an opportunity to learn and improve on a diverse set of skills, from carpentry to cooking. Elias Ngombe, formerly Manager of Nkwichi’s Building team, is one of five staff to recently pass their FGASA guiding qualification level 1. A father of 10 from  the village of Mbueca, Elias has lived through a lifetime of changes on the lakeshore, from Portuguese rule and the war of independence, through the years of the civil war and the continued reconstruction of society afterwards. In hiding for many of these years, Elias learned to survive in one of Africa’s wildest places, and built up a practical knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Now coupled with a theoretical learning from FGASA, Elias is ready to show off this unique environment and is a heart-warming example of the power of investing in local people, the real stars of the lake.
So long, and thanks for all the fish…

Suitably, as some argue we are currently entering the Age of Aquarius (and, Hey! The world hasn’t ended after all…), work is well underway on Litanda village’s fish farming project. In partnership with MWCT, with funding secured from the U.S. Embassy, Litanda village are striving to complete the first aquaculture project in the Lago District of Niassa Province. This ambitious initiative will see Litanda, one of Manda Wilderness’ mountain villages who, unlike their lakeshore neighbours, have very little access to fresh fish, with a regular supply of protein and a rare source of income for the village. Looked after by a proud committee of ten residents, and with assistance from a UCA, a farming NGO from Lichinga, any profits made will be poured back into the two planned ponds in order to ensure the project’s sustainability.

Baobabble

The emblematic Baobab (Adansonia digitata) tree blesses much of the countryside of the African continent and Nkwichi is lucky enough to hold one of the largest. At 29m in circumference and over 2000 years old, Nkwichi’s baobab supports life on the lake shore in numerous ways; bat guano from inside has been used as fertilizer at the Manda Wilderness Agricultural Project; nutritious milkshakes for guests are made from the sherbet-like fruit; it has even sheltered families of refugees during the civil and independence wars. Resistant to drought, fire and termites, and with bark that replenishes itself after it’s been stripped, these stupendous natural monuments, which can live up to 3,000 years old, are characteristic of the hardiness and endurance of Africa and its people. Resting under the enormous eaves, enjoying a pampered picnic lunch and pondering such ancient vitality, is one of the highlights of a stay at Nkwichi.
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