I joined the group in Blantyre after a great week of teaching in Mauritius. I hadn't spoken with them in a few weeks, but I just had to have faith, and a back up plan. I spent one night in Johannesburg on my way through and enjoyed a night at a lodge and a lunar eclipse. The next day I took a comfortable 3 hour flight into Blantyre, complete with a meal and a glass of wine. American airline companies have nothing on the rest of the world it seems. After a long, hot wait outside of the customs building I was through and excited to be back in Malawi. I collected my bags, exchanged some Rand for Kwatcha, and headed outside to await the arrival of the Landie. My last contact was 14 days prior, and I knew they had recently stopped into the Lake of Stars Festival on Lake Malawi. As I watched the remainder of my fellow passengers depart, a shred of doubt began to creep into my mind. But, an hour after my arrival a dusty Land Rover, driven by two tired, even dustier fellows pulled up to the small airport entryway. I was overwhelmingly excited, and equally shocked to see them. They quickly remarked on my polished, very clean appearance and immediately wanted to plunge me into life on the road in southern Africa. I assured them my intention was to be just as dusty by the end of the day, and off we went.
We set up camp just outside the park the first night and the next day met with the main steward from African Parks who provided us with a guide that had recently seen the klipspringer. He was to assist during our time in the field and revisit places the elusive klipspringer had last been seen. Our team spent time on foot but it was very hot, so we decided to spend three days driving the area to cover more ground and revisit locations of recent klipspringer sightings. I piloted my drone over the hills on two occasions to survey the habitat of the antelope, and managed to only have it drop out of the air one time. Success. The footage didn't reveal any klipspringer, but the hills are beautiful and it is always fun to fly. Camera traps were placed in two locations,both rocky outcrops on the hill, but we didn't have much luck capturing the camera-shy klipspringer. After a week in Liwonde viewing vast amounts of other wildlife, we hadn't had one klipspringer sighting. We had found hair and dung, and heard about sightings from other visitors, but we left for Lake Malawi slightly disappointed. I would highly recommend the campsite at Mvuu Lodge in Liwonde though - the pool is wonderful, the staff are friendly and you can watch the sunset and elephants across the Shire River. An excellent way to end a day of field work, and get in touch with your inner Tolkien!
If you're interested, here is the final report from our work in Liwonde National Park.