How a Galvestonian became an honorary consul and nature safari guide in Africa
How does a 40-year-old Galvestonian working at The Bryan Museum, a repository of western Americana, become honorary consul for the Republic of Malawi, deep in the heart of the African continent?
Ask Jordan Price, director of marketing and membership at the island museum, and he’ll tell you with such enthusiasm for his beloved Malawi you’ll soon be wishing to join him on a spring birding safari.
Price came to Malawi from his native California after a stint in the Peace Corps in the tiny African nation of Lesotho.
“At the end of your two-year Peace Corps tour, you’re offered a place as a Peace Corps Response volunteer,” Price said. “I was offered Uganda and Malawi and I’d heard good things about it so I chose Malawi.
“I just fell in love with this beautiful little country.”
Malawi, in southeast Africa, is relatively small, about the size of Pennsylvania, long and narrow and landlocked, and distinguished by its unique geography.
“It’s in the middle of the Great Rift Valley with a lake, Lake Malawi, stretching 352 miles along its eastern border and 2,300-feet deep,” Price said.
The clashing of tectonic plates along the Rift Valley have given Malawi dramatic mountains as well, some as high as 10,000 feet.
Price lived in a tent inside a national park for a year during his Response volunteer year, and spent that time cultivating contacts with locals, learning all he could about the culture, the landscape and Malawi’s rich population of wildlife, including its extraordinarily rich birdlife, he said.
“There are 650 species of birds, a ton of diversity in this small country,” he said. To put that in perspective, there are about 1,000 bird species in the United States.
“Ten years post-independence, the government set aside 11 percent of the land for conservation,” he said.
Malawi boasts five national parks and five game reserves with an abundance of elephants, hippos, zebra, rhinos and other wildlife.
Malawi, a democracy that was previously a British colony, is widely overlooked as a tourism site despite being ranked as one of the safest places in Africa to travel. Price works on two fronts to get the word out about its natural and cultural riches. In addition to serving as the first ever honorary consul for the country, appointed by the Malawi government and approved by the U.S. State Department, Price is the exclusive North American agent for British company Orbis Expeditions, supporting Malawian enterprise through organized tours and wildlife safaris.
“I pick the destinations, lodges and guides for trips,” Price said.
He has enlisted Malawian friends to engage and educate tour members.
An April wildlife viewing safari will begin with lodging in a 1930s British manor house in the middle of a 10-acre tea and coffee farm, Price said.
From there, travelers will embark on Liwonde National Park on the southernmost end of Lake Malawi with its resident 800 elephants and 2,000 hippos.
Birdwatchers can revel in sightings of hundreds of bird species, including the African fish eagle, abundant pied kingfisher and other, rarer water birds like Pel’s fishing owl and the white-backed night heron.
“My trips are for people who love birds and also love wildlife,” Price said. “They want to see birds in comfort while spending their downtime eating local foods and drinking local tea and coffee, people who are curious about nature and culture.”
Price’s diplomatic duties are to promote tourism and trade and to develop cross-cultural awareness between Americans and Malawi.
“We want people to see Malawi not just as a place to send money,” he said.
Price sends official thank you letters to all merchants he comes across selling Malawian goods, such as coffee, tea and sugar, the country’s main exports. Wholesome Natural Cane Sugar at Whole Foods and Fairtrade Turbinado Raw Cane Sugar at H-E-B, for example, are imported from Malawian companies.
In mid-March, the Malawian ambassador will visit Galveston and Price is arranging talks at local churches and schools as well as social events to welcome him.
It’s all in a day’s work for the honorary consul of the Republic of Malawi, based on the island of Galveston.