Expedition with the ethnographer towards the secret cult of Gule Wamkulu, the Big Five of Africa and the lost islands


August 10 - 21, 2023
Tour Mozambique

Tour to Tanzania Expedition Kilimanjaro climbing Great migration Serengeti Zanzibar Africa safari

Find yourself in the heart of one of the most authentic and mystical African holidays - the Zambia Likumbi Lya Mize masquerade, and witness the ceremonial dances of the Nyau brotherhood in Malawi. Live an incredible cultural experience available to a limited number of people outside the Chewa and Luvale tribes. Explore the coral reefs and discover the endemic underwater life of the Mozambican archipelago. Cultural and naturalistic immersion in the African exotic will be led by a traveling journalist and enthusiastic ethnographer.
Dates: August 10 to 21, 2023

Duration: 12 days / 11 nights

Number of participants: 7 - 12

Cost per person:
3,290 Euro subject to 11 - 12 participants,
3,490 Euro subject to 9 - 10 participants,
3,690 Euro subject to 7 - 8 participants.

Everything is included except for:
- international flight to Vilanculos (Mozambique) and back from Lusaka/Livingstone (Zambia),
- 3 regional flights,
- international medical insurance,
- visa to Mozambique (issued on arrival for USD 50);
- visa to Malawi (online for 80 Euro);
- visa to Zambia and Zimbabwe (KAZA visa for 2 countries is issued on arrival for USD 50);
- part of the lunch and dinners.

Estimated cost of Moscow - Vilanculos (Mozambique) and Lusaka/ Livingston - Moscow flight: USD 900 – 1400 (Usually bought on your own, we advise).
Estimated cost of Lilongwe (Malawi) - Lusaka (Zambia) regional flight: USD 255 (available on the airline's website).
Estimated cost of Vilanculos - Tete (Mozambique) regional flight: USD 418 (available on the airline's website).
Estimated cost of Solwezi - Lusaka regional flight: USD 210 or Lusaka - Livingstone (Zambia): USD 170 (available on the airline's website).

Single accommodation
: 480 Euro (available on all days except festival)


Day 1. August 10, 2023 (Thursday). Arrival in Vilanculos (Mozambique)

Meeting with at Vilanculos Airport (VNX) and transfer to the hotel located on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Rest and free time. Dinner.

Recommended flights: - Qatar Airways: Moscow (0:55, August 9) - Johannesburg (9:55, August 10) + Airlink: Johannesburg (11:35, August 10) - Vilanculos (13:05, August 10). Estimated cost – USD 720; - or any other international flight + Airlink flight arriving from Johannesburg to Vilanculos at 13:05 on August 10.

Accommodation: Hotel Dona Ana (or similar)
Meals included: dinner

Day 2. August 11, 2023 (Friday). Snorkeling in the Bazaruto Archipelago

The Bazaruto Archipelago consists of five idyllic islands surrounded by snow-white beaches and turquoise, crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Here palm trees give way to lush vegetation, and tiny villages hide in the shade of orange trees and cashew nuts. The surrounding waters hide one of the richest coral reefs in Africa, serving as home to turtles, dolphins, whale sharks, humpback whales, and even dugongs. After breakfast we will go by boat to the Bazaruto Island. We will be able to see many corals, turtles, stingrays and a variety of colorful fish, from tiny clown fish to large wrasse and parrotfish In the basin, protected from the waves by a reef which is one of the top ten snorkeling spots. We climb the dunes to admire the opening scenery and walk around the neighborhood. Fresh seafood will be served on the beach during lunch. Then we will visit the deserted Benguerra Island, which is home to pink flamingos. The island, which has a total of about 140 bird species, was declared as a national park in 1971. Night in hotel located on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Accommodation: Hotel Dona Ana (or similar).
Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Day 03. August 12, 2023 (Saturday). Vilanculos

Vilanculos In the morning, together with the guide we will make an excursion of Vilanculos, explore the local way of life, visit the market and the harbor and one of the Mozambican families. Then we have free time, which can be devoted to water sports or flying over the Bazaruto Archipelago by helicopter (on request), as well as souvenir shops, a walk in the cemetery of ships or on a traditional boat before sunset. Overnight at the hotel on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Accommodation: Hotel Dona Ana (or similar)
Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Day 04. August 13, 2023 (Sunday). Vilanculos - Tete

After a leisurely breakfast - transfer to the airport. At 13:55 departure to Tete, the basin of the Zambezi River, LAM Mozambique flight (TM124-126). Arrival - at 18:45. Check-in at Tete Ferry Sun 4*. Recommended flight: - LAM Mozambique TM124-126 from Vilanculos (departure 13:55, August 13) to Tete (arrival 18:45, August 13). The estimated cost is USD 418. Accommodation: Tete Ferry Sun 4* (or similar) Meals: breakfast and dinner Day 05. August 14, 2023 (Monday). Tete - Majete Reserve (Malawi) Breakfast. We cross the border with Malawi by car (2 hours on the way), and after we will go to the Majete Wildlife Reserve (about 2.5 hours more on the way) to meet the African "Big Five": lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinoceros. We stay in the chalet by the watering place, which attracts many wild animals. In the evening we will have a sunset during a boat safari on the Shire River.

Accommodation: Thawale Camp (or similar)
Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 06. August 15, 2023 (Tuesday). Majete Reserve - Malawi Lake

Early in the morning we will make another run on safari - with a breakfast stop in the bush. Then we will move to the coast of Malawi Lake, or Nyasa (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the third largest and second deepest natural lake on the continent (more than 4 hours on the way). Its crystal-clear waters contain the greatest variety of tropical fish (up to a thousand species) than any other lake in the world. These include endemic individuals for parts of the lake or even for specific bays or coastlines. There are also numerous Nile crocodiles in the surrounding area, as well as mole eagles. On the way we will see a natural geological formation dating back to the Iron Age, called Mwala wa Mfini, which literally translates as "The Rock marked with tribal scars". The whole rock is marked by local tribes who believe in the sanctity of this place. Many people believe that the stone has healing properties, and local healers make healing drugs from its components.
Then we will cruise on the picturesque lake of Malawi and visit the uninhabited islands. Night - in the lodge on the shore, on the territory of the national park.

Accommodation: Mgoza Lodge (or similar).
Meals included: breakfast

Day 07. August 16, 2023 (Wednesday). Tribes of Malawi - Gule Wamkulu ceremony - Lilongwe

After breakfast, we will move for two hours to the Kungoni Cultural and Arts Centre in Salim, founded in 1976 by Canadian missionary Claude Boucher, who devoted his life to the study, recording and preservation of Malawian culture. During the visit we learn in detail about the three main tribes of Malawi - Chewa, Ngoni and Yao, their rites of initiation, their interaction with each other and their dramatic encounter with Christianity and Islam. Then we will go to one of the local villages to see Gule Wamkulu - a ceremonial dance of the members of the Nyau brotherhood, a secret society of initiated men of the Chewa people. In 2008, UNESCO included Gule Wamkulu in a representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Dancers of Gule Wamkulu wear banana leaf costumes and masks, depicting a variety of characters from wild animals, spirits of the dead and slavers to more modern objects such as a motorcycle or helicopter. Each mask corresponds to a specific set of rules, drum beat and style of execution. The shape, color and material of the mask have a metaphorical religious meaning. As representatives of the spirit world, the Nyau dance with extraordinary energy, not only entertaining but also frightening the public. Dance is also used to communicate, uniting the human, animal, and spiritual worlds. Despite British colonial pressure and efforts by Christian missionaries to ban the practice, it retained it influence on the spiritual life of rural Chewa. The members of the Nyau continue to be responsible for the initiation of young people into adulthood and the execution of Gule Wamkulu at the end of the initiation procedure. In the evening we will drive to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, and check in the hotel (2 hours on the way).

Accommodation: Burley House by Ulendo (or similar)
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 08. August 17, 2023 (Thursday). Lilongwe - Lusaka (Zambia) - Solwezi

Transfer to the airport and flight to Lusaka. Flight - Ethiopian Airlines (operated by Malawian Airlines) ET35, departing from Lilongwe at 10:30 and arriving in the Zambian capital at 13:10. We go to a remote area of Zambezi on the Copperbelt route with a stop in the city of Solwezi for the night. Recommended flight: - Ethiopian Airlines (operated by Malawian Airlines) ET35 from Lilongwe (departure 10:30 am on August 17) to Lusaka (arrival 13:10, August 17). Estimated cost is USD 255.

Accommodation: Kansanshi Hotel (or similar)
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 09. August 18, 2023 (Friday). Solwezi - Zambezi

After breakfast we continue our way to Zambezi, where a traditional Likumbi Lya Mize Masquerade of the Luvale people takes place. In 2005, the festival was declared by UNESCO as "Masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity".

* ATTENTION! The dates of Likumbi Lya Mize are considered preliminary until they are approved by the Zambian Culture and Heritage Committee. In the case of a postponement of the ceremony beyond the approved route, visiting the festival will be replaced by a trip to Victoria Falls and rafting on Zambezi River (see alternative program days 8-12 below).

Likumbi Lya Mize - the final and most exciting stage of mukanda, a ritual initiation of boys from 8 to 12 years of age into adulthood. The ceremony begins 1-3 months before the celebration, when the boys are taken from the villages. Mukanda includes circumcision of initiates, training in survival skills, sexual behavior, religious and social values, and bravery trials. Finally, teenagers are kept in the cemetery for a while until they symbolically bury their childhood there. The final four-day ceremony includes the Makishi dance, with men wearing bright masks and costumes who the Luvala believe are not human beings but spirits of their ancestors. The audience is entertained by pantomime as the graduates return from the camp and reintegrate into their communities and families as adult men. Tonight, we may be able to catch a late-night performance on the eve of the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony. Accommodation for 2 nights in the Royal Kutachika Lodge**

** Zambezi is a rural area where only one lodge of good quality is, usually intended for heads of state and politicians attending the Likumbi Lya Mize ceremony. If the President or other dignitaries decide to take it all, they will have priority over any other existing reservations. It is necessary to be prepared for the fact that if accommodation in the lodge turns out to be impossible, accommodation will be moved to one of the local guesthouses with a lower level of comfort or camping. The difference in price will be refunded or compensated with a festive BBQ dinner.

Accommodation: Royal Kutachika Lodge or guesthouse/camping
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10. August 19, 2023 (Saturday). Main ceremony of Likumbi Lya Mize

After breakfast we will cross the Zambezi River to reach the arena of the Royal Palace, where the main ceremony of Likumbi Lya Mize will take place. Today the Makishi will step into the arena and kneel before their king. During the day we will witness numerous dances and rituals, including animal sacrifices, the significance of which will be explained by the local guide. We will be back at the lodge by sundown.

Accommodation: Royal Kutachika Lodge or guesthouse/camping
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 11. August 20, 2023 (Sunday). Zambezi - Solwezi - Lusaka

Today there is a very early rise, we take a packaged breakfast and go to the airport of Solwezi (500 km, 7 hours on the way). Departure at 16:50 by Proflight Zambia P0915 flight to Lusaka. Arrival at 18:00 to the capital of Zambia. Hotel accommodation and farewell dinner. Recommended flight: - Proflight Zambia P0915 from Solwezi (departure at 16:50, August 20) to Lusaka (arrival at 18:00, August 20). Approximate cost – USD 210.

Accommodation: Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel 4* (or similar)
Meals included: breakfast and dinner

Day 12. August 21, 2023 (Monday). Lusaka - Return flight

Breakfast. Morning transfer to Lusaka International Airport and departure at home.

Recommended flights:
- CemAir from Lusaka (departure at 11:00, August 21) to Johannesburg (arrival at 13:00, August 21), and then international return flight, or
- South African Airways from Lusaka (departure at 13:30, August 21) to Johannesburg (arrival at 15:30, August 21), and then international return flight, or
- Emirates Airlines from Lusaka (departure at 21:35, August 21) - Moscow (arrival at 14:50, August 22) (approximate cost USD 950), or - any other flight from Lusaka at any time on August 21.

Accommodation: No
Meals included: Breakfast


Day 08. August 17, 2023 (Thursday). Lilongwe - Lusaka (Zambia)
Transfer to the hotel and flight to Lusaka.

Flight - Ethiopian Airlines (operated by Malawian Airlines) ET35, departing from Lilongwe at 10:30 and arriving in the Zambian capital at 13:10. Sightseeing tour and check-in.

Accommodation: Best Western Plus Lusaka Grand Hotel 4* (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast

Day 09. August 18, 2023 (Friday). Lusaka - Livingstone

Breakfast, transfer to the airport. Flight at 10:30 to Livingstone, located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, Proflight Zambia P0704 flight. On arrival we go to explore the legendary Victoria Falls, or Mosi-oa-Tunya, as its indigenous inhabitants call it ("The Mist That Rattles"), one of the seven natural wonders of the world on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The height of the waterfall is more than 100 meters, and the length is about a kilometer. Night in the lodge with a beautiful view of the river, along the banks of which there are elephants, hippos and crocodiles.
Recommended flight: - Proflight Zambia P0704 from Lusaka (departure at 10:30 am 18 August) to Livingstone. Approximate cost – USD 170.

Accommodation: Maramba River Lodge (or similar)
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 10. August 19, 2023 (Saturday). Rafting on the Zambezi River

After breakfast we have rafting on the Zambezi River, considered one of the two best ones in the world. And although there are wild animals on the shore, we will hardly have time to see them. We have to work seriously; some thresholds have a fifth category of difficulty. This adventure we will remember for a long time! After lunch, it's time to take a walk around Livingstone and check out the gift shop. You can dine at one of the restaurants where crocodile meat is delicious.

Accommodation: Maramba River Lodge (or similar)
Meals included: breakfast and lunch

Day 11. August 20, 2023 (Sunday). Victoria Falls

Free day, allowing you to see Victoria Falls from other angles. Those wishing can cross the border and admire the wonder of nature from the side of Zimbabwe (the waterfall from there will appear completely different and in its own magnificent!), fly over the waterfall on a motor hang glider, jump from the bungee from the border bridge or fly over the ziplane.

Accommodation: Maramba River Lodge (or similar)
Meals included: Breakfast

Day 12. August 21, 2023 (Monday).

Departure Breakfast at the hotel. Transfer to Livingstone airport and fly back home.

Recommended flights: - Airlink from Livingstone (departure at 14:00, August 21) to Johannesburg (arrival 17:10 or 18:10 on August 21), and then international return flight, or
- Emirates from Livingstone (departure at 13:25, August 21) to Moscow (arrival at 14:50 or 23:50, August 22) (approximate cost USD 950), or
- Proflight Zambia from Livingstone (departure at 12:20 August 21) to Lusaka (arrival at 13:30, August 22) and then the Ethiopian Airlines from Lusaka (departure at 15:30, August 22) to Moscow (arrival at 07:40 am August 22). Approximate cost USD 760. - any other flight from Livingstone at any time in August 21.

Accommodation included: No
Meals included: Breakfast

Cost includes:

  • Double accommodation in lodges and hotels along the route;
  • comfortable transport: Medcedes Sprinter with 16 seats with air conditioning and drivers' services;
  • All transfers on the route;
  • Boats, services of pilots;
  • Meals: daily breakfasts and lunches and dinners where indicated in the program;
  • All entries to national parks and reserves, festivals, cultural centres;
  • access to attractions and activities under the program;
  • Support of traditional communities;
  • Support of local English-speaking guides;
  • Russian- and English-speaking team leader throughout the trip

Cost excludes (to be additionally paid):

  • International flights to Vilanculos (Mozambique) and back from Lusaka/Livingstone (Zambia);
  • International flight to Lilongwe (Malawi) - Lusaka (Zambia) (Estimated cost USD 255) Vilanculos- Tete in Mozambique local flight (Estimated cost – USD 418); Solwezi-Lusaka local flight (estimated cost – USD 210), or in the case of an alternative program: Lusaka - Livingstone in Zambia (estimated cost – USD 170);
  • International health insurance;
  • Mozambique visa (processed upon arrival for USD50);
  • Malawi visa (issued online for 80 Euro);
  • Zambia and Zimbabwe visa (KAZA visa for 2 countries is issued on arrival for USD 50);
  • Food not specified in the program;
  • Activity in your free time;
  • Personal expenses;
  • Tips for guides, drivers and pilots;
  • Single accommodation.

To bring along:

  • Sets of weather-appropriate clothing, including sets of light clothing (shorts, T-shirts),
  • long sleeve shirts and long pants for insect protection just in case (including for aircraft),
  • one set of warm clothes (hoodie or light windbreaker),
  • Headgear: baseball cap/hat/panama and hat swimwear/swimming trunks
  • raincoat
  • trekking closed shoes and comfortable light shoes (sneakers)
  • Mosquito net
  • Personal care products
  • Personal medications (e.g. analgesics, antiseptics, antibiotics required personally for you, antiviral, intestinal, multivitamins, rehydradron, patchs)
  • Sun and wind protection (cream)
  • Sunglasses
  • Repellents: sprays, creams
  • Large backpack for things (either a soft bag or a small suitcase),
  • Small backpack for radial exits (25 - 30 l)
  • Headlight Favorite products (chocolate, nuts)
  • Photo and video equipment, drone, spare batteries
  • Drug-resistant anti-malarial prophylaxis (you make the decision, but it is recommended, Plasmodium falciparum Stamm)
  • for Mozambique: COVID full vaccination certificate or certificate in English, French or Portuguese with negative PCR result of coronavirus test issued not more than 72 hours before departure (requirement may change)
  • for Malawi: COVID full vaccination certificate or PCR negative coronavirus test certificate issued not more than 72 hours before arrival (requirement may change)
  • for Zimbabwe: COVID Full Vaccination Certificate or Coronavirus PCR Negative Test Certificate issued no later than 48 hours before departure from first departure point (requirement may change)

Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia

Best season: June - October, December - March

Snorkel among a variety of colorful fish and turtles in the Bazaruto archipelago.

Opportunity to meet the African "big five": lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes and rhinos.

Lake Nyasa is the third largest and second deepest lake on the African continent. A large variety of tropical fish lives here, as well as Nile crocodiles.

Visiting the Gule Vamkulu ceremony in one of the local villages. Gule Vamkulu - a ceremony of initiation of young people into adulthood, accompanied by dancing in colorful costumes consisting of masks and banana leaves. The Nyau people dance with extraordinary energy, not only entertaining, but also frightening the audience.
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