Nyika National Park & surrounds
Photos Courtesy of Dana Allen
North Malawi has been described as a forgotten region. It has a different character from the rest of the country, recognisable in its scenery and its people.
Except for that part of the region which is occupied by Lake Malawi, the north is characterised by its great highlands. Most magnificent of all is the Nyika National Park, Malawi’s largest park with an area of no less than 1250 sq miles (3200 sq km). It extends across the great Nyika Plateau which is essentially a granitic dome and its environment is like none other in the whole of Africa. The name, Nyika, means "where the water comes from" and it is, indeed, one of Malawi’s most important catchment areas. The rolling scenery is at its best in the rainy season when over 200 types of orchid are in flower. The grasslands of Nyika are rich in wildflowers in other seasons.
Nyika is wonderful for trekking, mountain biking and horse riding safaris, as well as more conventional 4x4 excursions. The montane vegetation attracts large numbers of antelope from the diminutive duiker to eland and roan. Zebra are common. The park has one of the highest densities of leopard in Central Africa and there are a number of species of smaller mammals such as warthog and bushpig. Elephants and buffalo usually keep to the lower ground on the northern edge of the park but lions and elephants have recently been seen on the high plateau.
For the birdwatcher, the park has a lot to offer: over 400 species have been recorded. The rare Denham’s bustard and the wattled crane are among those to be seen, as is the red-winged francolin - endemic to Nyika.
There is such a lot to see in the vast park: waterfalls, a neolithic rock shelter, trout pools and even a ‘magic lake’ are just some of the attractions.
Where to stay: Chelinda Camp & Lodge
The forested Viphya Highlands, is a wonderful area for those seeking a combination of stunning scenery and solitude. It is an ideal area to unwind but there are also opportunities for trekking, mountain biking and various other activities.
Where to stay: Luwawa Forest Lodge
Vwasa Wildlife Reserve, an area of marsh and plain, with a few rocky outcrops, is all of 400 sq miles (1000 sq km) and lies along the Zambian border north-west of Mzuzu.
The reserve has a wonderful mix of vegetation: forest and grassland, thin woodland and marsh. It is this rich habitat which attracts a splendid range of birdlife. Nearly 300 species of birds have been recorded including stork, heron and the white-faced tree duck. Herds of thirty or forty elephants are regularly to be seen and there are large numbers of hippos. Lake Kazuni, near the main entrance to the reserve is famous for its hippos. Buffalo are present in the reserve but their roaming habits make their sightings less easy to predict. As on Nyika, there are plenty of smaller mammals.
Where to stay: Kazuni Safari Camp